Friday, January 30, 2009

Who Gives a Care?

One of the first things newcomers to America notice is how people greet them at various places. Russian immigrants (I don't know about other cultures) are especially surprised that complete strangers care to ask, "How are you doing? or "How is it going?"

These immigrants come from a country where the burdens of communism and capitalism free industries did not require a smile or a greeting in order to sell something. Often times, the salespeople and the government workers were the rudest people. They were bad at faking it. If you ever go to Russia, you will notice that strangers do not smile or greet each other. The only people they ask the question "How you are doing?" are the people they know well and are prepared to hear you out and respond.

Now that Russia became a capitalistic country and and people have privatized government-owned businesses, a competition has been created and store clerks started acknowledging their clients if only with a smile and "how may I help you". They do not ask"How do you do?" Why? Because they don't give a care nor do most people in America that use that phrase as their greeting. It bugs me that they still ask because the only thing they expect back is "Fine." They become nervous and change the topic if someone answers otherwise as they did not plan to spend the time listening to someone's woes.

Yesterday, right before my class began, the teacher for some reason felt like asking, "So, how are your children doing?" I forgot that she really does not give a care and instead of answering "Fine", I said that they've been sick. Without making eye contact, she responded with a short, "Oh.." and continued writing something. I murmured a few more sentences and got no response. She was busy. The class was about to begin. So why ask then?

Americans, please explain something to me. If you don't give a care, why use this sentence as your greeting? Why doesn't a simple, "hello" suffice? And be honest, when you do ask a stranger this question, do you really want to know the answer?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

To Brag or Not to Brag

There comes a time in every mother's life when she starts to reap the fruits of her labor. Most usual that moment comes when her child grants her/his sleep and nerve deprived mother a first smile. When he is three days old. That smile is a result of gas to everyone but that mother. Thus, begins the milestone bragging. First time moms are especially guilty of this. There is nothing more annoying than seeing the indifference in a fellow mother's eyes when she is listening to you tell her that your baby already knows what sounds certain animals make. To her this milestone is pretty insignificant because she is on her fifth child who is learning how to read now. Now that my firstborn is reading, I understand why the fact that someone's kid let out a burp is really not that big of a deal.

So I stopped bragging about my kids' accomplishments. Well, I try not to even though I am often tempted to especially when I am listening to someone talk about what their kid (who is the same age as my kid) is able to do. I've always try to refrain from bragging about material stuff as I think it to be shallow though bragging about a sweater you got for a buck at a thrift store does not count.

What do you think? Do parents have a right to brag? How do you quench your thirst to brag about your kids? Or do you?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On Feeling Stupid

The reason why I haven't posted in a few days is because I've been occupied with something else. That something else was as pleasant as the sound of the Styrofoam rubbed on the mirror or the Chinese water torture. That something was looking for my lost cell phone that I misplaced at home. How could one loose a CELL PHONE? That thing cost me $150 and two years of bondage with the cell phone company. When I realized that it was missing, I spent countless hours digging in my brain, retracing my steps. I looked EVERYWHERE. I looked in the obvious places and not so obvious places. I even looked in the fridge, on the ceiling and in the garbage can. Yes, I was out there in the evening hours with my bright yellow rubber gloves on digging through it. If you will never read this blog again, I'll understand why. I am not sure what I would have done with it if I actually found it, but I needed to do it anyway to know whether I should seek help from a professional or not.

The more I looked, the more it was bugging me that I couldn't find it. At the risk of loosing my friendship with a very orderly friend of mine, I spilled out my anguish to her. I told her that I must have too big of a house or too small of a brain. She probably thinks its the latter. So today, five days later I come to peace with its absence.

My punishment is to go and beg the store clerk for a free phone no one else, not even a newbie tween wants and carry it around like this:

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Farewell to a Friend

Dear Friend,

The time has come that I part with you. I have mixed feelings about leaving you. You have traveled beside and in front of me for a very long time. You were one of the first to see my babies and was there when my kids needed you the most. You made all of us feel so very safe. Oh, the places we went together and memories we made. You were always up for an adventure! Never, not even once did you let me down. I relied on you and my children needed you.

I have to be frank with you though. Our relationship was unhealthy. I was always in control and rarely stopped to appreciate you. I used you. In fact, my use of you is what made you look the way you do and function the way you function. It might be wrong of me to say this, but I am embarrassed to show up with you in public.

I wish I pampered and took better care of you. I wish I could say I was as good of a friend to you as you were to me.

Thanks for letting me use and abuse you,


Friday, January 23, 2009

Diving Into the Germ Pool

While the country was busy acting on Obama's call to go and serve others on Monday, the rest of us with small children went to OMSI, I mean the GERM POOL. Even though we have a membership and go there about once a week anyway, we chose a day-off from school when the rest of Portland was there as well. My youngest is 9 month old which means he is in the Freud's oral stage right now. The only time this becomes a problem is when he is chewing on someones shoe or on toys at one of the many germ pool places we go. One time as I was trying to wrestle a toy out of his mouth a well-meant stranger mom said to me in a critical tone,

"But this is how they learn!"

Because I DIDN'T know that, I took the toy away from him anyway.

The stranger mom must have aliens for kids. Maybe she was a nanny and not a mom.

Because if she was a mom, she would know that moms are inherent germ stoppers. She would know why moms take away dirty toys, wash floors, throw the food away after its been dropped on the floor, do not let kids share drinks, wash kids' hands every time they touch something other than air, teach kids to close their mouth when they cough and give stranger kids the look if they don't.

They do it for selfish trying to avoid stomach flu clean up or being up all night. And of coarse because they love their offspring and want to keep them as healthy as possible.

So I dump my kids into the germ pool anyway, because I know that kids will get sick despite my vigorous efforts so they might as well enjoy the process.

Sorry, but I just couldn't resist not leaving a piece of germ humor for you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Young Politic

This morning, as my daughter was getting dressed for school, she surprised us with her knowledge of politics.

Five year old
: "Yesterday in class our teacher said that Obama is our new president."

Me: "Did you listen to him speak?"

Five year old:" Yes, but he is mean."

Me: "Did you tell your teacher that?"

Five year old: " No, but I told all the kids in my class that he is mean."

Husband: "No, Abby he is not mean, he is our president. Don't call him that."

Five year old: "Didn't you say McCain was better?"

Me: "We liked McCain better but he was not chosen to be our president."

I then went on to tell her how people elect a president in a democratic society. It is too bad she cannot vote yet because it sounds like she would make a great recruiter for the right side.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


My kids are bathed, read to, and asleep; house is vacuumed; laundry done; husband in school and its only 8 o'clock. It is QUIET and I am savoring my favorite treat:

Now if I did not have that darn critical analysis paper to write, I could just sit there and stare at the wall.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

MLK for President

Ever since I first learned about Martin Luther King Jr., I was mesmerized about his persona. How I would have loved to hear him speak in person. His passion, charisma, strong dedication to the cause are all exemplary characteristics of a leader. He was the fish that swam against the current, fighting with fierce peace for what he believed in, paying for it with his life. Living in one of the most diverse cities in the US, and teaching students from all over the world, it is hard to imagine what life was like in a deeply segregated world. Segregated water fountains, bathrooms and restaurants sound surreal. Forty years later, I wonder who he would have voted for if he was still alive. The answer might not be as obvious.

A lot has been said in comparison of King Jr. to Barack Obama, but there is one fundamental difference between them. Obama believes in basic human rights for all living, MLK believed in basic human rights for all, including the unborn.

If MLK was alive today, he would have been my choice for the president.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Favorite Toys

I am a sucker for toys that come with million little pieces. Wonderful products such as Mr. Potatohead, Barbie kitchen, the map of the USA puzzle or our most recent purchase........the ABC rubber puzzle mat. The labels "Engaging! Educational! Fun! Will keep them busy for hours!" always catch my attention.

What the manufacturers should have written on these products is,
"Warning! Might end up in your coffee mug!" and "Don't be fooled, adult intervention a must!" No, it is not as obvious as the new allergy warning contains milk on the milk chocolate bar from the Cadbury chocolate company. C'mon.

After putting my little one for a nap, I decided to practice what I preached in this post and you know, be productive. So I took the puzzle mat out and my puzzle whiz and I started to actively put it together. We placed all the squares out and put in all the letters and the borders

and were left with these pieces that supposed to make up a certain animal.

This is when torture began. After about one hour and a half into it, I started to pull on my hair. I mean, how many advanced degrees does it take to put a puzzle together label of which reads "for children 3+". I bet the makers of this thing NEVER put this together themselves. Just because I bought it at a discount non-toy store, does NOT mean I should have known.

Finally, two hours later....

Before I could laminate it.

Moms, please tell me you too have a favorite toy you want to get rid of

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Because Their Mom Rocks

Today in class I learned why my kids are soooooooo smart. Ready? It is because their mom ROCKS. Not only in the "because their mom is cool, hip, the best" way. They are smart because I ROCKED all of them. Apparently, rocking a baby increases their brain size therefore making them smarter. There, mean moms.

Though I think it made me dumber.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Show Me a Productive Mom

After a very unproductive day, I was looking for an excuse to make myself feel better, and suddenly had a revelation. What if what I often consider "unproductive" is actually kinda IS productive. The general list of productive activities might include:

  • cooking
  • heavy cleaning
  • light cleaning
  • paying bills
  • doing laundry
  • putting away clean clothes
  • grocery shopping
  • organizing
  • re-organizing
  • sorting out crap from important mail
  • working
  • vacuuming car
  • something else I don't ever do but probably should

When none of the above get done, the day is considered to be a waste. But wait a minute? I didn't sit around and watched television or blogged (though God knows I wanted to) all day. Why doesn't
  • reading to kids
  • building forts
  • taking them to the park
  • singing songs
  • doing crafts
  • putting a puzzle together
  • driving across town to take them to the children's museum, the OMSI, the zoo, the community center, the swimming pool or the library
  • answering gazillion questions
  • rocking them to sleep
  • holding them after a nap
  • playing hide and seek
  • helping with homework
  • breaking up a fight
  • disciplining
  • dealing with a tantrum

count as productive?

It is because at the end of the day, NO signs of accomplishing them are seen. There is nothing to point to and say,
"See, here is what I did today. That took some work!"

And yet, these are the things that in the long run, count the most. Doing the "invisible" things parents do everyday is crucial in bringing up our children to be smart, polite, independent, honest, caring individuals. Why do we often sacrifice the opportunities to plant seeds of these qualities for doing.......housework (?). I am not saying that the activities listed in the beginning of this post aren't important or necessary. What I am saying is what is meant by this cartoon:

Because we are only humans who are raising humans, it is time to shift our perspective and understand that our powers and time are limited. While our kids are under our care, lets be productive with them. Because fifteen years later, our house will still be in need of cleaning and God willing, we'll have a lot of time to do it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Reflections on Week One of Grad School and Other Fun Cartoons

For those of you who are interested I am in school to get a Master's Degree in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) even though I am already licensed to teach English as a Second Language. I am doing this
1) because this seemed easier than majoring in say, Medieval literature
2) because I need this degree if I ever get a crazy desire to teach at a community college.

Looking at my program outline though, a lot of classes look very familiar. I am not being a brat when I tell you that this week already I was tempted to say:

Here are some other interesting things that happened.

  • Class of 20 educators had a hard time defining education. Don't tell me you knew that the word education came from the Latin word e-ducere which means to shed light, lead out. Maybe YOU should become an educator then.

  • Five language teachers (including the instructor) weren't sure on the spelling of the word knowledgeable

  • I had to write a descriptive paragraph on who my best teacher was twice this week

  • On the first day of school I was greeted with a note "Jesus Loves You" posted on the wall in front of the Help Desk. Today next to it someone added a sticky note with "So Much" on it. I was shocked if pleasantly surprised.
  • During an ice breaker activity I was introduced by a classmate as a "mother of three kids five and under who works at a high school as an ESL teacher during the day and takes classes for the graduate program during the night and her hobby is blogging. " They greeted me with a deer in the headlight look so I had to reassure them that it is not as bad as it sounds and that I really wasn't neglecting my children. Really. I hope I won't get a phone call from child services.
  • One of my instructors recited one inspirational/motivational/educational quote every 15 minutes of class.
  • The same instructor asked us to please consult with her if we want to video/cell tape her because someone tried to take a video of her using his cell phone last quarter with an intention of putting it up on youtube without her permission. She said she is rethinking her belief in using cellphones as an instructional tool in schools.
The best discovery I made today is that I after I am done with the program I will owe Uncle Sam more money than my current yearly salary. Yippee! In the meantime I have to remember the following if I want get through this:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Nerd and Proud of It

"How do you like our new bumper sticker?" I asked my husband as I handed him "I (heart) My Library" sticker we picked up at our library today.

"The nerds of the family decided it would look pretty cool on the back window of our minivan." Said I and gave him a Steve Urkel grin.

So loving libraries or reading is nerdy, an adult might ask? It is amongst many teenagers. I had more than one senior proudly tell me that they have never read a book from cover to cover and I am yet to solicit a sincere "Hurray!" after I announce to my class that we are starting to read new book. No wonder there is such an effort being made to sell reading as a cool thing to do. This effort is evident by the celebrity READ posters such as


and the most recent one from the READ campaign:

strategically hanging in the teen section of our library on the wall next to the computers.

It is obvious that the target age group of these ads are teenagers. Being an adult who is currently majorly book reading deprived, I do not understand the strong resistance to holding a paperback in hands, curling up on the couch next to a fireplace, sipping on hot tea and flying away to distant lands. Whats so nerdy about that?

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Wrong Season To Be Changing Things

Things are about to really change around here. My husband and I are both back in school. And I will no longer be able to proudly say that I am a SAHM as I am soon to return to my part time job as well.

No matter how hard I tried to prepare myself mentally and physically for the endeavors the adults of this household are about to take on, one verse from the Bible kept popping up in my mind.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens."

Only now, at this point in my life do I fully understand what Ecclesiastes meant by that.

I am writing this post as I await for my first grad class to begin at a university brand new to me. As I was driving to class, the above verse convicted me and I began to cry. I cried in anticipation of all the time I am trading being with my children for being in class and doing homework. I cried for all the hugs and kisses and teachable moments I will miss. I cried because I didn't get to see my daughter come home from school today. I cried because what I am doing is not in the best interest of my kids, but my own.

I have to be here if I want to keep my teaching license. But the truth is grad school is no place for a mom of three small children. It is the wrong season to be doing this. Just like winter is the wrong season to go outside and tan or plant flowers. When children are small, it is the wrong season for moms to be away from them. We owe this future generation all of our time and attention in hopes that when they become parents they will sow the seeds of love, care, patience onto their children. I can only hope and pray that my children will utilize the verse above in their lives better than their parents did.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mission Sort of Accomplished

Not too long ago, our team has obtained a new boss. That new person in charge is not your typical boss. He is the least experienced, least educated, and least conversant of all the team members. He never had to climb a cooperate ladder, he is a natural. He is bossy though and makes most of the decisions himself without the consideration of other team members. And he does not negotiate.

He raises his voice a lot too when he thinks something should be done immediately. He especially likes to do this after hours when his subordinates are too tired to bicker with him. And he expects people to do everything for him. He has been like that since day one.

Because his admin skills have affected productivity in more than one negative way, the more experienced members of the team have voted to demote him. It is easily said than done though as the rascal is holding tight to his current rank. This is because he has a lot going for him. His plump, round features, make him purely irresistible. Not only that, but when he grants a smile, the hearts of his fellow team members melt and forget all his wrongdoings. It is no wonder that he is popular amongst young ladies being the flirt that he is. He is also very innocent and helpless which makes him even more likable.

Because of all these reasons and more, we are making the whole deal a bit more civil than anticipated (see 4th paragraph in this post). Though the mission has not been completely accomplished, we are happy to share with you something we have longed to see for so long:

though not without him

or ten.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

You Wanted a Sleepless Night, Admit It

Wish you were up all night and out celebrating the New Year? Shoulda married a guy who has 16 siblings, 38 nieces and nephews 6 of whom begged to babysit the night of AND the morning after. Here is a picture of some of them. What is that, a 2:1 sitter to kid ratio? Yeah.

Big families rock!