Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I realize holidays are tough for some, and I want to be sensitive to that. I really do. Holidays are not the easiest for me either. What was supposed to be a family was torn apart. Some of the hurt is healing and some of the pain is still very raw. Navigating holidays will be not be the same every time nor will the feelings that surround them.

That being said, without sounding too sugary sweet - picture-perfect sweet, I have so much to be thankful for this year. I have two wonderful parents that spent arduous years; invaluable effort, dedication, and money; raising us. And I got to celebrate Thanksgiving with them this year. I have four very unique, bursts of energy for children. I love each and every one of them. Precious gifts to me, temper tantrums, constant attention and needs, craziness and all. I was blessed with spending Thanksgiving with them. I was also blessed with spending time with some wonderful friends. I am thankful I have a roof over my head and warm shelter from the bitter cold. I am thankful I have cupboards full of food and a refrigerator full of food, even though my wallet's empty and I am still unsure how we're going to make it from month to month. The point is that we have so far. I am thankful that music, writing, and various parts of the arts have been very integral parts of my life for quite some time now. I am so thankful for my sister and the many friends from different parts of my life, some who have known me for most of my life, some for brief periods of time, and some in between.

And, I am thankful I was able to make a knock-out stuffing, even though I didn't taste it ahead of time, because of the ingredients.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Time Out for Adults

Why should 'time-outs' only be for children? Couldn't time-outs be for anyone? How about adults who might need some time to reflect or some time to calm oneself or time to oneself? Do time-outs necessarily have to be something negative?

My humble position is that time-outs do not have to be negative. And they do not need to be just for children.

The call a time-out upon oneself take a certain level of maturity to one calling a time-out upon oneself, recognizing particular needs, and attempting to meet those needs, for the benefit of everyone. Realizing and doing are two different things, however. When I am hungry, I need to eat without delay. But, I oftentimes wait too long to eat, because I am caring for others or I keep too busy. I need to work on eating regularly but especially make sure I stop to eat when hungry.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Not just Black Friday, Anymore?! Post Thanksgiving Shopping on Steroids

No one appreciates a fantastic bargain like me, especially since I am on an extremely tight budget. Christmas will be coming around soon enough, and I have my children and a some others I must, I want to give a little something. Does that make me a consumerist? I don't know. I don't necessarily have to purchase more expensive, prepackaged goods, but I like to look. Part of what has become tradition for me is to make cinnamon sugar almonds, which invariable flies out of my kitchen like hotcakes and has people salivating for more. But, I still like to shop.

When human welfare or consideration of workers are compromised, however, I rethink and reevaluate whether a bargain is really a bargain. I don't shop at certain stores because the employees or the companies from which they purchase products are paid really low wages or are treated poorly. That I am getting a huge cut in cost at someone or some other people's expenses is not alright in my book. And, I have some idea what it is like to struggle from month to month, wondering how I am going to make ends meet, okay? I want to be smart with money, just not at the sacrifice of others' well-being.

This is the first year the United States has put changed post-Thanksgiving shopping from Black Friday shopping to Post-Thanksgiving Shopping on STEROIDS. Why, oh why, are so many shops opening at 8 pm on Thanksgiving? Some people might be willing to work then, because they need the money so desperately. But, can't we offer workers a holiday on Thanksgiving, where everyone should be resting and giving thanks?! Working with irate, impatient, entitled shoppers is no way to spend Thanksgiving! And what about the shoppers? How about if we spend the rest of that day relaxing with friends or family, sleeping, or just kicking back on one's own?! Waiting until Black Friday never killed anyone.

That Thanksgiving Day shopping, that Thanksgiving Day shopping, I do not like that Thanksgiving Day shopping. I do not like it here or there. I do not like Thanksgiving Day shopping, I am.

Monday, November 25, 2013

From Missus Cellophane

I am feeling much like Missus Cellophane, with people looking right through me, walking right by me, and never knowing I'm there. But, Missus Cellophane has feelings and is feeling rather vulnerable with a rush of intense, overwhelming feelings. I feel an absolutely huge sense of responsibility to provide for my four children and me. At the same time, these children also need a sort-of stay-at-home-mom - a mom who can constantly be a shoulder for them to lean on, especially through this particularly tough, cumbersome, lengthy season in our lives. How am I supposed to work a full-time job (preferably in what I am trained to do - teaching at the university level - because that might have a chance at paying the bills and covering for some child care for the youngest two, who are too young for school) and be a fully-available mommy for my children, while I sometimes still feel intense raw feelings of betrayal and cannot come to terms with how someone who was supposed to be by my side (on my side) could not only get into bed with addiction but also turn vehemently against me? I am not marketable in academia, because I haven't been doing anything 'useful,' like publishing, attending conferences, presenting papers. In fact, them finding out any woman has young children is a nail in the coffin of any woman wanting to work/teach in academia. I am royally screwed. I might as well be Misses Cellophane. Though no one really knows I am here, this not what I want. I work my tail end off for my children, from the time the twins wake me up at 4:30 am to after the older two go to bed. I've made grown, responsible, very busy adults exhausted and utterly zapped of energy sharing with them about just part of my daily routine. Yet what I do is still not enough; I need to do more. Send help. Love, Misses Cellophane.

Challenges in Being a Mom

The only real anxiety (or anxiety attacks) I have ever experienced has been worrying about my children and whether I am doing all I should for them and whether I am being patient enough. I watched this video just a few moments ago, and hearing that other dedicated moms have felt the same way made me feel a tad less, well, I am not sure what. I would say 'better,' but the burden of being a good enough mom is always on my mind.

I love them so much, so very much, and I really hope they sense and know this. How each child is different or unique matters to me; I plan on continually investing in this process of learning about my children and spending time with them. I want my children to learn to be responsible, caring people, who will be gradually become more equipped to take care of themselves and others. I want my children to be multilingual, appreciate and become better acquainted with their cultural background. I want my children to work hard as well as enjoy life. I want my children to study hard in school so that they can be financially independent someday. I hope my children will love music (and learn a musical instrument) and the arts. My hope is that they believe in God and love the Lord, always. The children ought to respect their elders, whether parents, teachers, or whomever we encounter on our outings. I am here to be their mom, not their friend or buddy. I am not here to make them into pleasure-seekers. My job is to help mold and shape their character, to love them and to help them become good people.

I am thankful for each of my darling, beloved children. They are wonderful treasures bestowed upon me, and I shall snuggle them closely.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Becoming a handy person? Maybe not, but I'll take the pat on the back

The other day, anxiety caught me by surprise. I had put off putting out applications for jobs for the 2014-2015 year to focus on my NaNoWriMo writing, and a couple of days ago, at just over 20,000 words, I realized I wasn't going to be able to cross the finish line, no matter how hard I try. I don't think the realization itself, that I wouldn't finish created the anxiety, but the sheer weight of responsibility I feel in trying to provide for my four children, no matter what, brought on the panic. I took a huge risk in focusing on writing exclusively, and perhaps I feel like I failed. The heart of the contents I poured into writing was supposed to be part of a monogram, a book, some day. So, I thought I would benefit from this writing challenge, even if I couldn't complete NaNoWriMo this year. I do not know how the book is going to happen or when, but I have to continue working hard on it and have a little faith. Until then, I need to start putting out applications for teaching positions in philosophy in an abysmally bleak job market, where my situation (I had been a stay-at-home-mom until a year or so ago) does not make me look any more marketable. My stomach is turning and restless just typing these words.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and not feeling so crappy about myself, I am going to hold my head up high and proclaim that within the last 72 hours, I accomplished one of those things I did not ever imagine learning to do: plumbing work. The other day, I repaired a leaking toilet upstairs, and tonight I repaired a leaky faucet downstairs. I am thankful for having a dad that taught me and teaches me things. I now feel more officially like a home-owner. And I am sort of, kind of, becoming a handy person, one task at a time. I may not be hired anywhere to be a plumber or a handy person, but I'm learning the ropes of taking care of my own house!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Daddy Dearest

Many are posting about gratitude daily this month.

Today, I want to share how grateful I am for my daddy. He is no perfect dad, but then again, I am no perfect daughter and I am certainly no Mary Poppins.

As far back as I can remember, in early childhood, my dad took his life responsibilities as a man, a father, and a husband seriously. Both my parents worked full time. My mom worked longer hours in the office and got home later than my dad. My dad took home life just as seriously, if not more so, as work life. He cooked dinner the nights my mom worked late and taught my sister and me how to cook. Starting at an early age, he taught us various subjects, including but not limited to: math and English.

At the very tender age of 4 and 1/2, I asked my dad permission to take piano lessons. I remember that day I asked my dad for permission clearly. We were standing next to my dad's car in the garage, when my sister was having her piano lesson in the family room, pleading with my dad to let me take lessons, too. He admonished me that lessons were expensive and I had to be willing to practice daily. I gave him my assurance I would, and, he conceded. How would he know if someone so young was capable of being that serious about learning a musical instrument? He took a risk on me, and to this day, I am so thankful he let me take lessons. A year later, I had learned all the scales and a new teacher, who was hesitant about taking on a child so young, took me because I had already learned so much. Though very busy, my dad would often sit down and listen to me practice. From that time, I had numerous years of formal training - private lessons - in piano, and I have benefited so much from those lessons.

Besides all that, my dad had a diligent life work ethic, and he passed that on to my sister and me. Though playing and relaxing were and are important, both of my parents ingrained in us that working hard in life is non-negotiable. My dad did most of the grocery shopping, did all the lawn care, grew a garden, did the family's bookkeeping, figured out how to fix the house when needed, took care of maintaining both cars, cooked, did laundry when needed, helped with dishes, took us to lessons, all while working full-time.

***
I guess perhaps I was naive. I did not know men were different from this until after I got married. Then a whole different world of how men react differently in married life and how they assume (or do not assume) responsibilities opened up. I will say that opening up was more of a rude awakening. There are plenty of men who feel that working full-time is plenty of work and that working full-time gives them a free ticket to do little to nothing else in the home or for the family. I am acquainted with many men of different ages that do not do half what my dad did and does.

***
Today, I am truly grateful for my dad and the wonderful example he set. I love and respect my daddy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Eating Well. Does that Make Me a Health Food Nazi?!

For a year to a year and a half now, I have been avoiding, as best as I can, canned foods, processed foods, and the like, not keeping it in my house and not cooking with it. Around last January, two of my (nursing) children and I went completely gluten-free, as I had good reason to believe one was gluten-sensitive. Add to that our dairy sensitivities, and we have loads of fun. Not so much. But, I will not complain, because there are people with much more comprehensive and serious dietary restrictions, and I still have access to a variety of foods.

I have to confess that I am a meat eater. Not a die hard eat-large-quantities-every-meal sort, but I do eat meat, fish, and other seafood. Eating meat from animals or sea creatures that were treated decently, humanely, was already on my radar. But, after I commented on a paper at a professional ethics conference this summer, on ethical vegetarianism, my views on the issue became firmer. Though not a convert to vegetarianism, I am not willing to trade the welfare and decent treatment of animals and sea creatures for (saving or cutting down on the) expenses.

I still enjoy food - the presentation, the taste, all of it! - very much.

Here is merely a small sample of what I have made. And some of the recipes might have been before I went with only or exclusively organic, pasture-raised, (grass-fed in the case of cows) animals.



A nice treat in the summer. Or any time. That garnish on top is fresh mango.




This is my gluten-free version. A good friend of mine, who is Celiac, fell in love with this dish at a restaurant, before she found out she's Celiac; and she asked me whether I could figure out how to make it. And so I did.









 
For a Masquerade Tea

And yes, we do have junk food in our home from time to time. Those are chips see at the far end of the photograph and cupcakes in the middle. Those are gluten-free chocolate cupcakes. Also on the table: blocks of cheese, miniature (sweet) peppers, watermelon, strawberries, grapes, blueberries. We were getting ready for a masquerade tea birthday party, celebrating my birthday as well as my firstborn's birthday.





I haven't updated my fried rice recipe in awhile, but the above link will do. The version I make now is gluten-free (the soy sauce/tamari sauce is the biggest change in making it gluten-free). And, sometimes the vegetables vary. I might not have been using pasture-raised eggs in the recipe linked above.



 

This was another request made. Could I make a Japanese Rice Omelet? Sure, why not. This recipe is gluten-free.



Healthy good can be good and not boring, mmm-kay? And? It can be cheaper than the processed, put-together food or junk food. Fresh fruit and vegetables, especially if purchased in-season, is cheaper than buying junk food or processed food. Here's a helpful article on how to eat healthy for less: How to Eat Healthy for Under $6 a Day. I will add one caveat to that article. Eating humanely treated animals or sea life is more expensive. Personally, if I cannot afford that more expensive meat, then I will not buy it. Since I have been gluten-free, I have craved meat more than previously, perhaps for some of the nutrients in those. So, I will purchase it in smaller amounts, as I can afford it.

Does the desire to eat well, take care of my body, look out for how we treat animals and sea creatures make me a food Nazi?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Still a long way to go

I haven't totally given up hope on NaNoWriMo, but I have a long uphill battle to fight to finish. I am just over 17,000 words, which gives me over 3,000 words to write a day to finish on time.

I am not sure how that is going to happen, short of some sort of miracle.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

For the love of ever changing weather

This morning, my dad and I spent some time finishing a job I started a couple of days ago, raking leaves. Part of the urgency in finishing the job is the anticipation of the snow forecast for tomorrow and Friday. That's right, I was out raking leaves in a T-shirt and jeans, with temperature in the 50's; and tomorrow's high is 37 with snow falling.


After had been raking for about an hour, my daughter said she wanted "to see what Mommy was doing." And, of course, where ever his twin sister goes, brother must go, too. Outside they came.



 2013-11-20

This was my daughter's first time sliding down the slide. She loved it so much she wanted to slide over and over again. But, she was too scared about falling or sliding too fast to go on her own.

Her brother wasn't interested in trying the slide. But, he was very interested in walking and checking out the great outdoors.

I love how the weather here is constantly changing. In the winter, one day, there's a snow blizzard; the next day, the weather's in the 50's. Even in some of the hotter summer days, where temperatures reach over 100 every day for a week or more, the weather still cools down at night, down to the 60's. Love the weather here!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

7 random things about me

#7 (7 random things about me): 1. I love to eat. Presentation, contents, and food origin matter. 2. Studying philosophy has changed my life for the better. 3. I have been blessed with relationships - friends or family - through the years, some for various seasons of life and some that have lasted through the years, moves, and life changes. 4. I have delivered 3 children into this world naturally, without any pain medication, two of whom were born 11 minutes apart. 5. I think I am the only one in my family (of origin) that has long, wavy eyelashes. 6. I have spent 6 yrs + (and counting) of my life nursing. 7. One of my secret dreams is to make it big acting and singing in musical theater.

A friend's birthday and thankful for friends

Late morning and this afternoon, I spent time celebrating a friend's birthday. She wanted to do something in addition to having lunch together. Due to an appointment that ran late in the morning, we weren't able to do much, in addition to lunch. I am glad I got to spend time with my good friend on her birthday.

Today, I am super thankful for the relationships I have had, through friends and family, throughout the years. I have had friendships that have lasted certain seasons of life and I have had friendships that have stood the test of time, moves, and life changes. In either case, I have enjoyed building and deepening relationships and walking through life with these wonderful people.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reading Bambi made the older two children cry

For tonight's bedtime reading, the girls (7 years old and 5 years old) asked me to read them Bambi, the Golden Book version. And so I did. All was well, until Bambi's mother was never to return to Bambi's side. I had read this story to the girls previously, but it has been awhile. I don't remember what their reaction was before, but this time it was very obvious. The 5 yr old's eyes were red and wet; she was trying to hide just how sad she was. The 7 yr old was also getting teary eyed.

Both asked me what had happened to Bambi's mother.

I informed them that she got shot. My 5 yr old asked, "why?" My eldest elaborated: shot by hunters. Some people like to hunt. And my 7 yr old announced that she is not interested in hunting.

***

I wonder what my 7 year old, who loves to eat meat, would think if she really understood where the meat she loves so much comes from. Just food for thought.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Pain of the Divorce Catches Me Off Guard

Though I started filing late October 2011, due to the slowness in the system here and other unpleasant hiccups, my divorce was not final until July of this year, nearly two years later. Not a day goes by where I waiver in whether this was the best decision for the children and me. However, the process of the divorce and the divorce itself have not left me unscathed. Through it, I have lost much innocence and naivete, giving me a taste of how cruel and bitter the world can be. At times, I have been left wondering whether there was ever any genuine love present in that relationship.

I gave that relationship, that marriage, everything I had. Everything. For nearly 11 years, we were married. Not getting out of the marriage was futile for the children and me. We were on a sinking ship that was going to sink, no matter what we tried to do to prevent the ship from sinking. It was a matter of whether we wanted to save ourselves or drown with the ship.

So, each day, whenever people see me with two children (the two younger ones who are twins) or all four of my children (under the age of 7) and make the following comments - "you've got your hands full" or "you're busy" - my response is usually brief and perhaps a bit lighthearted: "well, they keep me out of trouble." But, the truth of the matter is that I am more at peace and am, in some sense, less busy with him not around. Though all four of my children have very different personalities and there is an element of unpredictableness with children, there are no unpleasant surprises and life is predictable in the absence of his living with us.

Through many trusting relationships and through some experience from my own relationship, I know any relationship or marriage takes plenty of work and negotiation. Even the ones that appear picture-perfect on the outside are not without their struggles and difficulties on the inside. Challenges always comes from bringing two very different people, with varying ideas, commitments, and preferences together. Everything, from whether two people should go to bed together at the same time to how meals should be consumed (together, over designated meal times, in or out, who's cooking) or when sex is happening, takes negotiation and compromises. So, in some ways, my life is easier and much less complicated than those who have a partner. I do not have to answer to someone else. I can make decisions without conflict and various complications; I can move on with conquering the tasks for the day.

I will confess that anniversaries are hard for me. When others are celebrating wedding anniversaries, it isn't that I do not want others to be joyous or that I do not celebrate with them (after all, they have survived yet another year together!), but oftentimes something hurts. Sometimes that pain is a bit more of a stab than a jab. Sometimes it feels like punch to the gut, when I wasn't expecting any hits.

Or, when acquaintances or people I do not know ask me where my husband is, what he does for a living, or why I moved here, those are tough questions to answer. Are they really interested in my story? Or, do they just want to know the quick and dirty answer?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

And the day flew by

I wish I had something profound or interesting to share, but I have nothing. Graded some papers, tended my four children, oh, and, my 7 year old performed her first solo violin recital! So exciting. Alright, I know it is not even eight o'clock in the evening, but I am cashing in the chips for the night. That 4:00/4:30 am wake up call (from the twins) comes early. Good night!

Friday, November 15, 2013

I can barely keep my eyes open

Will toothpicks help keep my eyes open? Because caffeine isn't working.

4:30 (this morning) was awhile ago. Not that that was my wake-up time of choice. That was certainly not my preference. However, two little alarm clocks wake me up routinely between 4 and 4:30 am, at least since the Daylight Savings time change. A few things here and there have kept me busy. I have four children between the ages of 2 and 7; use your wildest imagination to figure out how I might keep busy.

I have grading to do.

I am so stinking behind in writing for NaNoWriMo. At the moment, my Word document says I have written 11,800 words, and the time for NaNoWriMo is officially half over. I do not have half of the required word minimum. And, I am not ready to throw in the towel, yet.

A 7 year old's (solo) violin recital tomorrow!!


My eldest, who turned 7 years old not quite 2 months ago, is holding her first solo violin recital wherein she will be performing 17 pieces. I am so very proud of my daughter. Spent an hour or two working on her program earlier today, instead of grading papers or working on my novel. The program for tomorrow's recital is done!

Below is the Bio I wrote for her.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Catty Women: Why Can't We Just Get Along?

I don't mind a healthy dose of competition, but that is not what I am seeing amongst women these days. We're not in it to work hard and do our best, without clawing and scratching each other. I have seen it in the academic environment, where women purposefully are difficult, cold, and mean to each other. But, they seem to act different around men. What about this working mom versus stay-at-home mom banter? Working moms have two full-time jobs, one at home and one at work. Stay-at-home moms do not get paid for the multiple hats and responsibilities they attempt to juggle and do not get recognized in the working world for what they do. I've written some about it here. I have seen working moms attack stay-at-home moms for what they do (or don't do) and vice versa. I have seen moms who choose to feed their baby or babies formula attack breastfeeding moms for various reasons, and I have seen breastfeeding moms not so supportive of moms who fed their babies formula. Must we attack other people of the same gender to make ourselves feel better? Is it possible for us to encourage each other in an otherwise cut-throat competitive world? Being a mom, breastfeeding or formula-feeding, is rough and comes with loads of responsibilities and challenges. A working woman or a woman who has chosen to stay at home each faces different challenges that are difficult in varying ways. Heck, being a woman in America still isn't all that easy - women still make less than men for the same job and same qualifications (is it $.80 to every $1.00 a man makes) and women are not as easily respected as men. Can we support each other as women, in whatever we do?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

50,000 words by Nov 25th, when I didn't join until Nov 5th? Send help!

Five days into November, I decided I would try the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), wherein 50,000 words (roughly 200 pages) would be written between November 1st and the end of November. That is roughly over 2,000 words per day.

I have been writing ideas down for a book for awhile, now. So, I tried to convince myself that I wasn't coming up with all new stuff and that somehow this would be doable. Truth be told, I am pretty nervous and STRESSED.

How in the world am I going to get this writing done? I am a single parent of four small children, ranging from 2 years of age to seven years old. Two of them are potty training, so they are on potties every 3-4 hours. The same children also eat 4-6 table food meals a day. I spend 4-5 hours on the road per weekday, getting the older two children to and from school. There's the usual responsibilities: cooking, dish washing, book keeping, washing clothes, buying groceries and other necessities. Oh yes, I probably should eat somewhere in there. I won't belabor you with details of the hectic schedule we keep once the older two are home from school: getting the twins ready for bed (getting them on their potties, giving them table food, putting pajamas on them, nursing them), whilst getting the girls to work on homework, helping with violin practice, and making dinner. Oh, and did I mention that I work? Right now, I am teaching two (college) online classes.

By the time the last two children (the oldest two) go to bed, I oftentimes pass out (and fall asleep), too. Oh wait! I am not supposed to fall asleep when all the children are in bed; I should be writing. Can I write when I have fallen asleep, by process of osmosis?!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Extinct" to a 7 yr old and a 5 yr old

This morning, on the typically 35-45 minute drive to the girls' school, my 5 yr old said that she learned in preschool (in previous years) that "extinct" means to go away and never come back. I confirmed to my 5 year old and my 7 year old that for something to be 'extinct' is for all of its kind to go out of existence and to not come back. And that seemed to satisfy them as well as their curiosity.

Would be rather inconvenient and dangerous for us if certain creatures, say dinosaurs, were able to come back out of extinction.

The questions and comments my four children come up with bring smiles to me and make my day!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Making Amends, My 7 yr old's responses, and A Glimpse of Heaven



Like many recent mornings, the twins woke me up between 4 and 4:30 am, much too early for me to be giddy or well-tempered. Since I can remember, I had a reputation for being super cranky when sleep-deprived, tired, or hungry. There is a distinction between sleep-deprivation and being tired, however small the gap might be. With taking care of four small children, ranging between the ages of 2 and 7, teaching some online classes, writing, and fulfilling other responsibilities – not sleeping enough is a perpetual part of my routine and my life. Being tired can be more the result of something short-term, like not sleeping enough the night before or doing too much during a day. Back to my story, I have been grievously sleep-deprived and tired. I heard cries for going to the potties. Yes, when one twin has to go to the potty, so does the other; so, we have two potties. There were cries to nurse. The girl twin wanted her blanket and could not find it in the dark. Then her twin brother wanted his blanket. The twins wanted me to turn the lights on. I told them the sun was sleeping, their sisters were sleeping, I wanted to sleep, and the twins still needed to sleep; it was too early in the morning to get up. Then, my 7 year old started chattering, ensuring no one went back to sleep. I wanted to lie in bed; I desperately wanted to go back to sleep. Last night’s debilitating headache was still quite fresh on my mind.


Unfortunately, instead of calmly explaining to my eldest that the sun had not yet risen and that we all need to quietly go back to sleep, I reinforced my reputation for being Ms. Cranky-Pants. I offered several short-tempered responses to my 7 year old, reminding her that she herself admitted to being cranky on little sleep and chattering was keeping herself from going back to sleep as well as preventing her brother and sister from sleeping. I told my eldest that since she was not eager to go back to sleep, she could keep her twin sister and brother  company while I crawled back into my bed under the warm blankets, hoping to fall back into deep slumber, whilst the twins sat on their potties. Despite and through my impatience, my 7 year old calmly and patiently obliged.


I was not in bed for more than a few minutes when thoughts of gratitude flooded my mind and my heart. Soon, rather than slowly sinking into a dreaming state, I found myself popping out of bed to apologize to my firstborn for being short with her. I put my hand on her shoulder and then rubbed her upper back, since she responds well to touch, lovingly made eye contact with her, and offered her amends. I explicitly said I was sorry and explained why I was apologizing, not assigning blame to her in any way but taking full responsibility for what I had done. I was sorry for impatiently speaking to her, in my tiredness. I also thanked her for responding calmly and nicely. Kindness and gentleness looked back at me; my heart filled with joy and gratitude.


Not even a couple of hours later, still early, around 7:30 am, as we were getting ready for a breakfast outing, my 7 year old thanked me for apologizing to her earlier. That seemingly insignificant comment brought tears to my eyes. Right then (as well as earlier, after I apologized to her and she responded with kindness and gentleness), I caught a glimpse of the heaven, of the Lord Jesus, full of beauty, kindness, love, and forgiveness. 


***

When I told the children that I felt like I got a glimpse of heaven from this morning's exchanges, my eldest wanted to draw heaven. Here it is.



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Overwhelmed, overworked, underpaid, with a dose of a big headache, anyone?!

Alright, my original plan was to blog about something positive, something for which I am thankful. However, I have a splitting headache, which started early this morning. I have just put down two children to bed, who clearly are not sleeping. There are two other children who aren't doing what they're supposed to do. Two online classes I am teaching turned in assignments the day before yesterday, for which I have done zero grading. One of the classes has officially ended; so, I don't have much time to grade that assignment and work on final grades. I was insane enough to sign up for  NaNoWriMo four days into November; I have much catching up to do there. My refrigerator is empty of any cooked food. And, I just want to go to bed. Oh, and, I really don't want to take anything for my headache. I am in trouble.

My apologies for dumping. I'll return to more positive posting next time. I promise.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A New Queen of the Castle







My eldest, who turned 7 years old about a couple months back, upon hearing that I was working on stories for my work, wanted to help me 'work' by contributing a story. The above story and picture is penned and drawn by her, by Isabella. It says the following (with the spelling corrected below):

***

A New Queen of the Castle

a princess is sad. once upon a time in a far away land and there lived one Queen and a lot of princesses. and one bad day a witch was in the sky. she is a really bad witch. she went in the castle. she took a thing that the Queen loved. soon, the Queen found out that the witch took away her stuff. she was sad. soon a new Queen came and everyone loved her.

the end.

by Isabella.

Working Mom or Stay At Home Mom? Who wants to know?

I find it curious and interesting that questionnaires that do not 'require' or 'need' such information ask for this information. Why does a doctor's office need to differentiate whether a woman is a working mom or a stay at home mom? Does the care for that person or a child hinge or depend on what that woman allegedly does for a living?

How about this for a possibility? Woman of both sorts (and likely there are other 'categories' in which women don't fit) work really hard. Working women oftentimes work full time. If a child gets sick or if there are different arrangements for school schedules (i.e. holidays), a mom has to take time off work (to which many supervisors participate in eye-rolling and sometimes assume the mom is not as dedicated to work) or find someone and pay that person to take care of the child. They have precious little time with their children - at most a few hours, once off work - to interact with their children, participate in activities with them, before the children have to eat dinner, go through the bed-time routine and go to bed. Working outside of the home is exhausting and finding the energy to take care of everything in the home after work is challenging. These women, working women, are essentially working a minimum of two full time jobs: at work and at home. One often doesn't end at the office, and one requires being on-call 24/7.

Stay-at-home-moms have life rough, too. Who in the world came up with the image that these women sit at home, eating bonbons and watching movies? Those people ought to be slapped (back into reality). These women do not get paid (not even one pretty penny) for the work they do: laundry, cook, wash dishes, clean, tend children, take care of the yard, transport children. You know there are occupations (and titles to go with them) where people get PAID to do many of those tasks, right? Laundering services, chefs (yes, there are personal chefs out there), nannies (or babysitters or au pairs), lawn services, chauffeurs. And these women who end up attempting to reenter the work force are told that the work they did in the home does not "count." We are in the 21st century and stay-at-home moms work jobs that are pretty much thankless jobs, except to other fellow stay-at-home moms and a precious few others.

So, help me (figure out), why do these impersonal organizations want to know what a woman does for a living? Is it really that organization's business at all? Are we merely looking for other ways to pick on people?!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why did I ever go Gluten-Free?

Perhaps because I didn't get enough jabbing and pestering for standing out or being different for most of my childhood and sometimes in adulthood (for looking different; I come from an Asian background) and I wanted some more conflict? Because I wanted to try the latest fad? I wanted to be charged with being inflexible or socially awkward with food? Oh I've got it, I want to make my life more unnecessarily complicated?!

No, no, NO!

I am a single mom with four small children on an extremely tight budget and a super busy schedule. I do not need or desire any unnecessary or superfluous complications to my life. But, where the well being of the children is concerned, I am on alert.

At 15 months, I suspected one of the twins had a gluten sensitivity or allergy. I will leave it at the issue was more than just a super bad, long-lasting diaper rash. I had both twins tested for Celiac. But, their pediatrician said ahead of time, as I had read in my research previously, that negative test results would not necessarily indicate that any given individual does not have a gluten allergy or gluten sensitivities. The tests came back negative.

The next step was to go through the painstaking process of taking out the suspected allergy (for three weeks), reintroducing it and seeing how the individual reacts, and repeating the process as necessary. Since the twins were nursing, that meant I had to stop having gluten, too. I think the twins, especially one of the two, have gluten sensitivities. And, since they are still nursing, nearly a year later, I am still gluten-free, too.

This gluten-free journey has been no cup of tea. I have been told I am inflexible. I have been looked at like I am crazy. Dining with people or going out to eat with people has, at times, been inconvenient. Call me crazy for wanting my children to live well and to be well; this is the least I can do for them as their mommy.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Daylight Savings NIGHTMARE

When we turned back our clocks this past weekend, I certainly did not gain an hour of sleep, rest, or anything like that. In fact, I have lost an hour or two of sleep each night to this monster, daylight savings. My 25 month old twins have been waking up at 3:30 or 4 am, thanks to this so-called 'daylight savings.' Who or what are we saving, the dream monsters from working overtime? The twins got up at 3:30 am this morning, and guess who had to wake up with them? They were ready to nurse, to go to the potty, to play, to have some table food breakfast, to PARTY.

Why????

Daylight Savings, you and I will NEVER be kindred spirits, okay? Just so we're straight on that.

Over and out.

Is the sun shining or is it cloudy and pouring?

© Lily Chang. All rights reserved.

I have had plenty of gray and dreary days in my life lately. Thankfully the weather where I live isn't cloudy or gray much of the time. I appreciate taking the time to stop and smell the roses, literally and figuratively. This life is plagued with so many difficulties and challenges, but so much beauty and wonder surrounds us, I think.

 
 © Lily Chang. All rights reserved.

I have been enjoying the last of the autumn foliage.
© Lily Chang. All rights reserved.

Or the last of the flowers for the year.

© Lily Chang. All rights reserved.

I could stare at the colorful foliage all day. And, how it changes from day to day. Isn't that so reflective of our lives, in some ways?

 
© Lily Chang. All rights reserved.




© Lily Chang. All rights reserved.



© Lily Chang. All rights reserved.




© Lily Chang. All rights reserved.



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blackout

 2013-11-5


It was business as usual today and tonight. Evening had come and the sun was barely visible. Had a list a mile long of things to do, when suddenly a loud BANG!, followed by the electricity in the entire house going out, thwarted my plans. I just about jumped out of my skin and panicked; but, I had to feign to be the level-headed one, as a single mom of four small frightened and impressionable children. Before I had children, I had more candles than I could count; but, these days, I have very few to keep. I scrambled to light what candles I had. Then I went outside to the fuse box, with great effort and persuasion turned off and back on the master switch; nothing happened. I went back inside and out the front door to see whether any others on the street were having the same outage. I could see a neighbor a few doors down who was on his cell phone. Hollered to him and he said his electricity was out, too.

 2013-11-5

Rumor has it that a transformer located in my next door neighbor's backyard blew. A squirrel, perhaps? Heard those things can take a couple of hours or so to replace. Thankfully the electricity came on in much less time than that.

Having lights out briefly wasn't such a bad thing. A bunch of things that allegedly needed to get done didn't necessarily get done. But, we were all a bit high strung, leading up to the blackout, and the blackout did a gentle reset for us.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Musical abilities at a young age

This morning, I heard distressing news that left me worried, concerned, frustrated, and not wanting to eat even though I was hungry (my body's typical reaction to stress). Instead of allowing distress to ravage me and challenge my well-being, I tried to refocus attention to the positive stuff in my life, and much came to mind, including but not limited to: blogging, being surrounded by friends (and family), playing music, taking photographs, having four wonderful children, carrying no school loan debt (especially considering just how long I have been in school), the list goes on.

***
Anyways, music has been a huge part of my life since I was little. My parents took a huge risk by letting me start taking piano lessons at the tender age of 4 1/2. It could have been one of those momentary 'desires' that I wouldn't take seriously. What 4 1/2 year old really knows what she wants? Their risk started paying off as early as a year later. A year after I started taking piano lessons, my piano teacher told us she was leaving, because she was getting married. What? She had found us a new piano teacher, and I still clearly remember setting foot in Ms. Carter's house for the first time. It looked like a super huge house, and I remember her comment that we didn't have to take our shoes off upon entering her home. I don't remember that day being a time she would use to determine whether she would take my sister and me on as students, but I recall playing scales for her. Later she would let me know that she had not planned on taking me at such a young age (5 1/2), but since I could play all my scales already, she could not not take me. I wasn't sure what her comments really meant at that time other than I had a nice teacher that would replace the teacher that was getting married.

I started competing in piano competitions at about 7 years of age, where I won my first piano competition. And I continued to take piano lessons for over 12 years. Even though I wasn't a music major in college, a music professor agreed to let me take private piano lessons for credit. What a huge deal!! I am not saying this stuff to brag, but emphasize the importance of music in my life.

Lately, my passion is in singing, but I am not as certain of my abilities there.

***
Well, my eldest, at the age of 5, told me she really wanted to take violin lessons.

Really? Are you sure? That's a really big deal. I have to pay every month to rent a violin, and private music lessons are never cheap. For several months, she really, really insisted she wanted to take lessons. By August, on the cusp of turning 6, I gave in to her insistent request.

At the end of August of 2012, when she was still 5 years old, she started taking violin lessons. I knew little to nothing about the violin. Little did I know that I was signing up to coach her through every minute of every practice, every day. I had to make sure her bow hold was correct, her bow was sitting evenly between the bridge and the fingerboard, she attempts to play more in the upper part of the bow, that her bow hits the intended string without hitting other strings, that her other hand is pressing the correct part of the string, and so forth. Imagine coaching her through practice whilst taking care of my three other (younger) children!

Somehow she and I have survived and managed to thrive! Isabella has faithfully practiced 6 days a week, nearly every week. And, I have somehow coached her and take care of the other three without falling apart. A little over a year later, by the middle of last month, she finished learning all the songs in Suzuki Book I as well as a few other songs. She will perform in her first solo recital (with a piano accompanist playing), performing all the pieces she has learned, some 17 songs, in a little over a week. I am so proud of her.

***

video


Another child in the family who has more obviously excelled in music is one of the twins. I was taking inventory of the songs she could sing, albeit not perfectly (without missing a few words here and there), but knew pretty decently, on November 1st (the day she turned 25 months old). And she can sing 6-7 songs: The ABC song, A song in Mandarin about 2 tigers, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" in Mandarin, "These are My Glasses," "Jesus Loves Me," "Jesus Loves the Little Children," and sort of "This Little Light of Mine." Perhaps I am biased, but I am pretty impressed.

Celiac & Gluten-Sensivities, Myth or Gut-Wrenching Reality?


 
 Thank you so much, GlutenDude for this chart.

Celiac Disease and gluten-sensitivities have stirred enough commotion to have the public buzzing about it, ranging from: sit-coms poking fun of those with Celiac as being too different to be acceptable, too picky, too high-maintenance, too inflexible; to some news broadcast companies interviewing high-profile individuals who have suffered at the hands of Celiac Disease and including informative details regarding Celiac Disease and related information.

So, symptoms of sensitivities or allergies to gluten are not obvious like other allergies. A stranger or acquaintance may not see the sufferer sneezing one's head off, swelling eyes, or developing huge itchy hives. Instead, the symptoms are more unpredictable (varying from individual to individual), unnoticeable to the naked eye; likely to cause long-term damage; negative results or impact are not always immediate.

The long-term consequences include one or more of the following: destroying the lining of the small intestine, making the body's absorption of nutrients difficult, creating mind-exploding headaches or migraines, rendering a person incapable of thinking clearly, causing long-term auto-immune problems (where an individual gets sick often and may end up needing antibiotics more often than the usual person), resulting in enamel and other long-term dental damage, causing a brain fog, disrupting sleep, causing diarrhea, belly aches, and severe cramping, and as daunting as it may be, the symptoms stretch above and beyond the scope of what I can discuss here.

Will Celiac kill someone? Not right away. It's a slow and very painful, debilitating, and destructive process. Would a person rather die a slow and painful death (as one could argue occurs with a person with Celiac) or would a person prefer to die a quick, less painful death. I would venture to guess that those who have experienced the decay and destruction of one's body as a result of cancer that such a slow death is no cake. Why must we treat one with Celiac any differently?

If this is a month where we focus on giving thanks and adopt an attitude of gratitude, for those of us who do not have Celiac or sensitivities to gluten, how about if we be thankful for not having such a body-destroying problem; and, raise up those who have it with praises and support. For those of us who have it, we can support each other through this particular journey we have been given.

Life is too short to be mean and cruel towards each other or poke fun at people who are different. Call me crazy, but loving others and supporting one another is much more fulfilling and life-giving.

Today, I am thankful for everyone, as unique and special individuals

.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thankful for my 25 month old twins

2013-11-1

A huge theme this month is thankfulness and gratitude. I really need to keep that in mind today, as I am worn out, discouraged, utterly exhausted, very sleepy.

The twins turned two years old at the beginning of last month. But, the twins, especially the girl twin, started asserting her autonomy with determination sooner than later. It takes so much longer to get out the door these days, building in an extra 20-30 minutes into an already lengthy preparation process when four small children are involved. A typical day in my life is super hectic, and too many crazy busy days can wear me down. But, I do not think that has had me in tears. I suppose this past Friday might have been the straw that broke the camel's back. After picking up the girls from school and dropping by Whole Foods with all four, I got the twins on their potties and gave them their last table food meal, while I helped my eldest (7 yrs old) practice violin and listened to my second eldest share talk. I had decided earlier in the day I would give the children baths. The twins had both peed in their potties. While rushing to get things and people ready for bathing, the twins both pooped on the floor. Good thing baths were in my plan - I had to clean poop off the floor, wash the bath mat, clean poop of Christian's knees.

I am exhausted, and I am not certain of the particular reason(s). Perhaps having jam-packed days takes its toll on me. Maybe the impending drastic change in weather has something to do with it. The time change?

***
What I really want to focus on at this moment is: I am so thankful for these 25 month old twins of mine, tantrums and over-the-top autonomy assertions and all. I was blessed with an uneventful, uncomplicated twin pregnancy. I carried the twins to the full-term of 38 1/2 weeks. I had very good births and deliveries with the twins, where everything I could ask for was bestowed upon me: I was able to have both twins vaginally and naturally (without drugs), without complications, my doula was able to be present. I was able to nurse the twins and am still nursing them. The twins or any children beyond my first two children were not planned. News of my pregnancy came at a difficult time in my life and marriage, during which I asked my husband to leave our home for serious issues that impacted safety.

But, given the smoothness of the (twin) pregnancy, the wonderful support around us, the prayers made on our behalf, the wonders of the twins' deliveries, the ease in raising the twins in the first two years, I am very, very thankful.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

My brood, my parade, my zoo

Never fails. When I go out, I invariably get plenty of unsolicited comments.

"You've got your hands full." "You're busy." "Wow."

I rarely go anywhere on my own. I usually have the twins, who turned 25 months yesterday, with me. And, when the girls aren't in school, I have four children - from ages 2 to 7 - with me. Sometimes I'm pushing a stroller. Sometimes I am pulling a stroller while pushing one of those car shopping carts (the ones that look like cars in the front and have the shopping cart/basket area in the rear - the girls like to sit in the car).

This morning, I packed breakfast for the five of us and we headed to Starbucks, an outing that is fun for the children. In addition to the "you've got your hands full" comments, I got a rather kind word of encouragement. The lady was surprised so many children so close in age were so well-behaved. I do pride myself in teaching my children to have polite manners (saying 'thank you' when someone does something nice or helpful for them), exhibiting considerate behavior (whether in private or in public), and learning to be responsible.

My gut reaction to "you've got your hands full," honestly is to think that everyone probably feels pretty busy, and sometimes overwhelmed. Some talk about it, some don't. Some of it is obvious, some isn't. Insofar as having one's hands full is concerned, I'm not in any unique situation. But, I have to confess, especially now with the twins in the autonomous 'terrible two's' stage, getting out the door takes longer and involves considerably more effort. My girl-twin is far ahead of her twin brother (in milestones) and insists on doing as much as she can on her own, even if she lacks some of the coordination and physical ability to do so. She wants to put on her own underpants (over her diaper; she's not fully potty trained), her own pants (though she has trouble getting the pants over her bottom - over her diaper and underpants), and her skirt (yes, she has to wear a skirt, too). She wants to walk to the car in the garage and attempt to get into her own car seat, even though she gets distracted and wants to explore the car first and even though she needs a firm nudge to get into her seat. She wants to buckle her own seat belt, even though she can only fasten the top, but not the bottom part of the 5-point harness. At any point in the process, if I give her more assistance that she wants, she throws a huge tantrum and moving forward in the getting-ready process is seriously thwarted. Long story short, going any place takes an additional 30 minutes (to an already lengthier time frame for getting four small children ready), to give the youngest ones the autonomy they are so very excited to exercise.

But, when I am exhausted from such a lengthy preparation process and from being out way too long carting numerous bags of heavy groceries and pushing and pulling children, my thoughts to the countless, unsolicited "you've got your hands full" comments that have been thrown my way quietly fester into: so what are you going to do? May I have a quarter for every time I hear that, so such comments can actually benefit us? Are you going to volunteer some time to help us?

I smile and move away. Or I say, 'it keeps me out of trouble.'

The truth of the matter is, I love all four of my children, every single one of them. Wouldn't trade them for the world. If somehow I came across a pot of gold or suddenly became independently wealthy, I wouldn't jump to pay for nannying or babysitting help. I would hire someone to mow my law, clean my house, or something else, so that I would have more energy and ability to spend time with my children! As much as it looks like I am hosting a parade or living in a zoo to the untrained or unknowing eye, I cherish every moment I have with my brood!

Friday, November 1, 2013

I'm Single, Not Divorced, and why must you know, Ms. Nosy Parker?!

I must confess that up until recently, I did not pay much attention or care about personal data that are required for so many standard forms: medical documents, school forms, intake information. I have to admit the recent addition of the option - to the effect that 'one prefer not to answer' or share one's gender - to most forms rather intriguing. If we're being so nebulous about our gender(s), does this option extend to other facets of our lives, such as our status?

If a person was once married but is no longer married, must that person be widowed or divorced? Why can't that person be 'single'? Or why can't that person 'prefer not to answer'?

If you must feel so inclined to know a person's status that you will not sleep at night until I tell you, I was once married, but my marriage was deemed 'irretrievably broken' by relevant parties; and I am no longer married.

Does one sleep better knowing that I could not make my marriage work?

Maybe a person can then easily categorize me as 'one of those.' I had a chance at marriage, and I didn't make it work. Something big, for which I was at least partially responsible, failed. Was the marriage irretrievably broken because interest in the relationship was lost or the 'feelings' of love were gone? Or was something else at stake? An affair? Addiction? What?!

Will knowing my particular status better your life in some way or will it simply satisfy your curiosity?

If knowing will improve your life, then there is much more to know than my specific status. If the latter, sit down and have some coffee or tea with me, and we will talk.

But for now, I am "single."