Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Gong family aspirational phrase of the last 8 years: "We're going to stick to our budget this month".

Here's my current dilemma. The easiest category for me to overspend on is food. The category I always want to overspend on is entertainment. In our family, these budgets are interrelated. In an attempt to keep the food budget on track, we don't count restaurants as food but as entertainment. However, whenever we do something for entertainment (a long morning outing or evening out), I always want to have yummy food as part of it.

Peanut butter sandwiches, carrot sticks, and string cheese do not count as yummy, people.

When I say yummy, I mean the cute little bistro on the corner, or the sizzling taco stand across the street, or the Indian buffet just down the road. But if entertainment always means food, then we end up over our entertainment budget after the second weekend in the month, without really being entertained all that much.

So here's my challenge to you: Give me a list of super-delicious box lunches that I'll actually look forward to eating on our family outings. For reference, here are some things you should know about my food tastes:

1. Hold the pickles
2. Mushy makes me gag
3. I often crave hot lunch over cold
4. I'm always looking for ways to pack in fruits and veggies
5. I usually have approximately 5 seconds to prepare lunches on the day of the outing

... Go! ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

long reflections on why life is hard (or, i gave you fair warning to not read this post)

Confession: sometimes, as a parent, I sit around complaining to others about how hard it is to do ... anything ... with children.

I know you do not (or would not, as your hypothetical parent-self) do the same thing. So I'll describe how the conversation usually goes.

Me: "The other day I went to the grocery store without my kids. It was the most amazing experience ever. I smiled at everyone I saw. I wanted to sing as I zipped through each aisle."

Other person: "Wow."

Me: "Really. Everything about life is harder with kids. I feel like I could do anything now, as long as I didn't have kids with me. Pull 80-hour work weeks? At least I have the weekends off. Prepare and serve a banquet for the President? With no kids hanging on my pant legs (almost lost my PJ bottoms this morning at breakfast), Climb Everest - with no Baby Bjorn strapped to my chest? Count me in!"

Other person: "Hm."

When hard-pressed to define what, exactly, is so challenging about having children as well as maintaining any sort of alter-ego to parent, I usually drift into vague generalizations like "kids need so much" and "it's a 24-hour job" and "they decide so much of the schedule". And then that leaves me feeling ungrateful and selfish, since really kids are pretty darn awesome and I wouldn't trade this time for anything.

But sometimes you have concrete experience that remind you exactly why it is hard (if rewarding) to have children.

*cue story*

Last Saturday we took a family trip to our church's temple (about 50 minutes away). The local congregation organized a babysitting group near the temple so the adults could participate in the services while the kids played with toys, fought for seniority, and ate animal crackers.

From a big-picture view, things went pretty well. We made it on time (had to be there by 9am) and didn't forget anyone. We enjoyed the temple and the kids did well during babysitting. We had lunch as a family afterwards and then took a longer drive home to look at potential neighborhoods to buy a home, while the kids napped in the car. We stopped at a park before heading home and enjoyed the gorgeous California sunshine.

Hard Part #1: Waking up at 7am when the kids both start crying and immediately having to jump full-steam-ahead into logistics of getting 4 people awake, fed, dressed, diapered (or bathroomed), and out the door by 8:15. Not to mention back the enormous bag of accompanying diapers, wipes, water bottles, snacks, and pacifiers.

Hard Part #2: Finding a place to eat for lunch when everyone is starving and certain members of the family are loudly protesting every extra second spent in a car seat. Greasy pizza place on the corner of a main intersection, here we come!

Hard Part #3: Finishing lunch to discover that Xena has had the most disgusting blow out ever, all over her clothes and all over the diner's high chair. Gross-ness level 9/10. Clean up happens in a dingy bathroom with no changing table and me dressed up in a nice skirt.

Hard Part #4: Enjoying kids napping in the car, but hearing them immediately wake up as soon as we pull of the freeway to start looking around neighborhoods. Attempting to have serious conversations about what would make for a good area to buy while kids are crying for getting out, drinks of water, blowing noses, and listening to different songs from the backseat.

Hard Part #5: Stopping at a park to avoid total meltdown, to remember that Xena (due to #3) has no clothes on. Dress her in her jacket, my white knee highs and Genghis's jacket wrapped like a lava-lava.

Hard Part #6: Second trip back to the car during park time, this time to change Genghis's diaper. Third car diaper change of the trip. Well, second, because the blow out change was in that dingy bathroom.

Hard Part #7: Getting home and realizing we still had 3 hours until bedtime and anything close to catching our breathes.

Any that, my friends, is why doing anything as a parent is hard.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday photos

Coming home from a trip to the library.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Five things on my mind at 9:10pm on Monday night

1. We need to take out the trash bags sitting on our porch because a crow, squirrel, and pigeon have discovered them. Little do they know one is a decoy bag full of dirty diapers.

2. I love having pictures hung on our walls. This only took us six weeks to get to. Now I can finally take photos of the new apartment and post them. But I have to clean the place first. And wait for a time when there is good lighting. And remember to do it. Those three things will probably not align until at least the fourth full moon of Chinese New Year.

3. Ice cream sounds delicious.

4. I want to do a self-directed refresher course in statistics that is grounded in real data and questions, will refresh me on basic descriptive and inferential stats, and help me understand more complicated models. While I'm at it, I would like to learn a good open source program for data analysis. Nothing about this should be frustrating, only enlightening. And all completely free. And something that I will look forward to doing in the evenings more than sleeping or watching another episode of Doctor Who.

5. I just found out about a local book group that focuses on classic literature. They have read Dickens, Hawthorne, Bronte (several of them), and Wharton, to name a few. I am very excited to join in. This may trump #4 for evening activities, which probably explains why my Bachelor's degree is in English.

Bonus thought: It is really quiet in our house right now. I can hear the hum of the refrigerator and of my laptop. I like quiet.