Thursday, June 30, 2011



“Really. . .” (not said like a question)

“Whatever. . .”

These words are the new teenage vocabulary of my home. 

A couple of days ago, I found myself correcting a teen at least 5 times for various things she said to various siblings.  In each case, she defended herself, so that my critique sunk to the level of word definitions.

Case in point:

She:  Next year you should help with worship because you’re overly-enthusiastic.

Sibling:  Mom!  _____’s being snarky again.

She:  What did I do?  I was giving you a compliment!  Enthusiasm’s a good thing!

Me:  The word “overly” automatically makes whatever you said a criticism.

She:  No it doesn’t! 

Sibling:  Yes it does!

Me:  Overly means you’re doing something too much.  So the minute you use that word, you make whatever you said a criticism.  (Meanwhile thinking, do I really need to explain this to an honors English student who hopes to read at least 60 books this summer?)

She:  OK, OK.  You are very enthusiastic, is that better?  (all in the snarkiest of tones)

Sibling:  Mom!   ____’s being snarky still!

To one “duh” to many, I even had to invoke Jesus.  “You are SINNING when you say ‘duh’ to someone’s honest question.  The word ‘duh’ is basically saying you’re an idiot.  And what does Jesus say to folks calling each other an idiot?”

She:  (with a lot of eye rolling and sighs)  That it’s bad I assume.

Me:  Jesus says saying “Raca” is the same as murdering them.  “Raca” supposedly means telling someone he’s an idiot.   So to Jesus, your “duhs” may be just as bad as murder. 

That didn’t seem to sink in, so I threatened to charge $1 for every negative thing anyone said to someone else.

Summer. . .  I'm OVERLY not coping thus far. . .

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Problem with Celebrating

Several weeks ago, I posted the resolution that I’m not allowed to buy any new clothing until I’ve lost 5 pounds and maintained it for a week.  At the rate I’m going, I’m not buying new clothes any time soon—maybe even for the rest of my life.

The problem?  Celebrating.

When Scott and I first married, a friend recommended the cookbook Extending the Table:  A World Community Cookbook, a work of the Mennonite Central Committee.  The premise of the cookbook is that most of the world regularly eats a simple (but tasty) diet of vegetables, beans and grains with meat, fatty foods and rich desserts reserved for celebrations.  

The problem with Americans is we eat like we're celebrating every meal.  Hence our weight problem, as well as our over-consumption of world resources.

As 2 InterVarsity staff living in Manhattan, Scott and I couldn’t afford to eat much meat.   Extending the Table was the perfect cookbook for us.  We regularly ate East Indian Spinach and Lentils, Brazilian Beans and Chickpea Curry.  We ate vegetarian A LOT.  And we were SKINNY.  Scott especially got so bony I worried a little about him.

Then we moved to Boston.  Meat is a lot more affordable—especially if you buy it on sale (sales didn’t  exist in Manhattan).  Meat’s quicker and easier to cook.  And kids like meat a lot more than stewy bean and vegetable dishes.

Despite my never-ending attempts to feed the family healthy meals, there's always a reason to celebrate—and to this Chinese Mama, celebrating ain’t really celebrating unless there’s great food and plenty of it.  In this past week we’ve celebrated:

Monday:  Ren’s 5th grade picnic (I managed to eat only salad)
Wednesday:  Ren’s Moving On Ceremony (ended up getting Chinese take-out at 9 p.m.)
Thursday:  End of the School year celebration Indian buffet lunch with whole family (because weekday Indian lunch buffets are 1/3 the price with more variety than Indian dinners but you can only go when kids are out of school)
Saturday afternoon: 1 year old birthday party (passed on pizza and cake, ate only salad and water)
Saturday evening:  Night out with friends at Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger--among our all-time favorite restaurants (ate and drank everything—lavosh/bread/butter, red and white wine, appetizers, entrees and desserts!)
Sunday:  Boston Faculty Fellowship BBQ & Pool Party at our house.  I made i-diet worthy wheatberry salad and Texas caviar, but also made Heather’s chili dip, sangria and grilled burgers, hot dogs, brats and veggie burgers.  (ate only veggie burgers, but imbibed about 700 calories of sangria).

Side Note:  Here's an e-mail exchange about the faculty BBQ between me, a colleague and Scott as we wondered whether to serve alcohol:
Me:  do I make sangria and is it OK to serve all that Miller Light Scott bought and doesn’t drink?
Colleague:  I'm down with the sangria for sure.  Miller Light eh?  Scott, did Kappy's have a sale or something?  I say, "Bring it on!"  There is that phrase after all, "Now it's Miller time..." 
Me:  Scott bought all the Miller Lite to welcome his cousin to town—and they drank almost none of it, so we have something like 35 cans.  At least I have something to boil the brats in!
Scott:  First of all, it was a 30 pak.  Second of all, don’t be calling our kids brats.  And I certainly can’t condone you boiling our kids in Miller LIte.
There's just so much bounty!  My life is blessed.  My life is full.  

Way too full.

Monday, June 27, 2011


School’s Out—AACK!

But I’m not panicking the way I usually do.  The kids are older.  They’re more self-sufficient. I don’t have to lifeguard them when they hang out at the pool.  They’re capable of biking and walking themselves around town. 

Plus, this morning all 3 kids are at Grace Chapel’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) with the 2 girls volunteering and Ren attending for the very last year he’s eligible.  This week’s theme is PandaMania, and Ling even brought the stuffed Panda she bought in China to help set the mood in her classroom.

I’ve enjoyed a decaf iced coffee at Starbucks with my computer all morning.   

I am a VBS parasite.  Over the years, I have sent my kids to VBSs all around the Boston area to churches I don’t attend because: 

1.     I need childcare if I’m going to continue working (which my job says I’m supposed to do).
2.     They’re really cheap (usually $25/kid, no more than $50/week—for 5 mornings of 3 hour childcare!)
3.     They’re all about God, the Bible, and eating fun snacks and doing crafts.

I figured that our kids attend public school all year, they should learn about Jesus all summer.

A problem has been that Grace Chapel’s VBS is the first VBS of the summer, and it’s so awesome that it completely outshines every other VBS out there.  Grace runs a veritable VBS machine with 400 kids, about 200 volunteers, and a worship team complete with drums, guitar, keyboards and wind instruments.  Grace also buys all the great plastic goodies that are available from the VBS supplier, something most churches with smaller budgets can’t afford.

Another problem has been that the main VBS curriculum provider only provides 2 curricula a year, which means that our kids end up repeating the same program at other churches, often with decreasing quality and decreasing goodies.  Several years ago, the final VBS of the summer was so pitiful the leader kept telling the kids to lie down and pretend they were napping.  Sad to say, that was at the church we DO attend.

Because of that experience, as my girls have aged out of VBS, they’ve been pretty happy about it.  But the one place they want to return is Grace Chapel.  They’ve volunteered ever since aging out, and love it so much they sign up on-line, attend orientation meetings and set-up meetings, then work with various folks—all of whom are total strangers!

In several minutes, I’ll pick up my 3 kids, plus 5 extra kids to drive home.  We’ll probably swim this afternoon.

Let the Panda-monium begin!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Last night, the whole family watched Ren-Ren "move on" from elementary school.  

This is the last time we'll do the Muraco "moving on" ceremony--our whole family is finally "moving on" from elementary school.  Hence, we knew the best part would be the video full of baby pictures, kindergarten pictures, current pictures, and all the years in between.  

Here's Ren at 5 months:

Here's Ren at 18 months:

And here's Ren at his first day of kindergarten:

And in his kindergarten portrait:

The principal gave a nice speech, but it didn't compare to Stephen Colbert's Northwestern Commencement speech, which a friend sent the link for after reading about my celebrity crush on him.  If you have time, listen to it--it's hilarious but also thought provoking.


After cracking a lot of jokes, Stephen got serious and profound.  He noted that we're told to follow our dreams. . .  but what if it's a stupid dream?  He assured the graduates that if they don't achieve their dreams, they're not losers and they haven't failed.

But just as importantly, if they do achieve their dreams, they're not winners.

This is what he learned doing improv:

You are not the most important person in the scene--everybody else is.  And if everybody else is more important than you are, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them.  But the good news is you're in the scene too!  So hopefully to them you're the most important person and they will serve you.  No one is leading.  You're all following the follower.  Serving the servant.  You cannot win at improv.
Like improv, you can't "win" your life. . .
In my experience, you will truly serve only what you love, because service is love made visible.  If you love friends, you will serve your friends.  If you love community, you will serve your community.  If you love money, you will serve your money.  And if you love only yourself, you will serve only yourself, and you will have only yourself.
So no winning!  Instead, try to love others and serve others, and hopefully find others who will love and serve you in return.

Wow.  Sounds a lot like what Jesus taught, doesn't it?  

In a culture that can make even 5th grade boys feel like they're already losing because they don't hit the marks they should, it's good to remember what Stephen said, "If we all stuck with our first dream, the world would be overrun by cowboys and princesses."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Where I'm From

Yesterday, when I read Ren's poem, it took me 30 minutes before I realized that I too have written a poem inspired by George Ella Lyon's poem "Where I'm from."

I wrote the poem as an exercise during an InterVarsity Asian-American Ministries banquet about 5 years ago, but never finished it because we ran out of time.  My sister was sitting next to me and wrote her own--unfortunately, I don't have a copy of hers.  But here's my unfinished draft:

Where I'm From
by Kathy Tuan-MacLean

I am from toasted pound cake with margarine for breakfast
From Sarah Lee and Blue Bonnett

I am from the jumbled chaos
Mama’s papers, our toys, the books stacked overflowing on coffee tables and piano bench

I am from the papaya tree growing next to our house
The luscious orange fruit
Releasing putrid smells when split open for Baba’s breakfast every morning

I’m from the Changing of the Underwear at midnight on New Year’s, the Ke Tou in the morning and my parents beaming faces as they hand over the red envelopes
From Loretta and San Fu

I’m from scholars who move history
Who lift their forefingers when declaiming

From “You need to do 110%” and
“Money should never separate family”

I’m from apostate Baba
And Sunday school teacher Mama

I’m from Lafayette, Indiana and China
Hong Shao Beef with White Rice
and Pizza Hut pan pizzas with pepperoni, mushrooms and olives

From a mother who eats sweet potatoes because she had no money to buy them as a child
And a father who grew up in embassies

Our photographs are stacked in the living room bookshelf in Manoa Valley, negatives in the safe deposit box, Baba’s papers at the University of Hawaii Library

I am from Honolulu, Beijing, Chicago, Manhattan, Somerville and Winchester

I find it interesting to see that what I wrote about was about my family of origin, my roots, with nothing about my present other than a nod to the places I lived after graduating from high school.

I saved the poem, as well as the poem guide because I loved the exercise so much.  In case you're ever interested in doing it with a group or even your family (frankly can't imagine my girls going for forced poem writing, even during our family retreat--but hey, maybe we'll try!)  here it is:

Where I’m From Poem

  1. I am from (specific ordinary item)
From (product name) and (anything)
  1. I am from the (home description)
(adjective, adjective, sensory details)
  1. I am from the (plant, flower, natural item)
The (plant, flower, natural item)
(description of natural item)
  1. I’m from (family tradition) and (family trait)
From (name of family member) and (another name of family member)
  1. I’m from the (description of family tendency)
And (another family tendency)
  1. From (something you were told as a child) and
(something else you were told as a child)
  1. I’m from (representation of religion or lack of it)
(further description)
  1. I’m from (place of birth and family ancestry)
(two food items representing your family)
  1. From (family about a specific person and a detail)
The (another detail of another family member)
  1. (Location of family pictures, mementos, archives)
  2. I am from (several more lines indicating what makes you unique)

Where are you from?  I'd love to know. . . 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I am From. . .

Maybe because Ren's "graduating" from elementary school, I'm on a roll posting about him.

This morning at school, he showed us his accomplishments from this year.

Here's the poem he wrote (with his permission) modeled from George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From":

I am From
By Ren-Ren MacLean

I am from Christmas songs at Christmas
     (every note drifting out of a rusty brown piano)
I'm from four giant book shelves
towering over me.  Picture books and chapter books
stacked high above me
From our fruit bowl piled high with white nectarines
sometimes hard sometimes rotten
From our refrigerator cascading with soups and salads
all kinds of romaine, lettuce and cabbage
crispy apples, juicy oranges and sour lemons and limes.
I'm from the constant
drip drip drip
from the faucet of our old sink

I'm from a white peely
splintery fence
lined with red and yellow tulips
purple balloon flowers and daisies
From two lilac trees separated by two ugly
bushes and prickly thorn covered white rose bushes
I'm from a glistening white diving board hanging
over crystal clear water that ripples with a light breeze
that is, if Ling and Kai aren't in it.

I'm from boiled and fried jiao zi
Scallion pancakes
Uncle Joe's pierogies

I am from a long wall of albums
baby books and picture frames
from two comfortable but ugly couches
now replaced by a U couch

I'm from many family reunions
delicious Thanksgiving turkey dinner
with the Groenevelds and lots of visits
to CA and HI with the Tuans and Tomikawas
I'm from the MacLeans--Mom, Dad
Ling, Kai and me

For all the chaos, fighting, yelling, whining and challenges of being a family, sounds like it's not too bad being from where we're from. . .

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chips & Dip--Yet Another Way to Avoid Humiliation

Tonight is Ren's 5th grade picnic--a big deal because Wednesday night he "graduates" from elementary school with a Moving On Ceremony.  Sniff!  After Thursday, we'll be a family of middle schoolers and beyond.

Here's an almost verbatim conversation from just now:

Me:  I've got to pick up some things at the grocery store today for tonight's picnic.

This is exactly what the dip looks like
Ren:  What are you bringing?

Me:  Chips and Dip

Ren:  What kind of chips and dip?  The kind you brought to Kai's picnic?

Me:  (How in the world does he remember what I brought to his sister's 5th grade picnic 2 years ago?  But because I only make one kind of chips and dip--I just go with it)  Yeah.  The kind I made for your birthday party on Friday.

Ren:  Good.  That way you won't embarrass me in front of my class.

Me:  What I bring to a picnic could embarrass you?

Ren:  (poking his chest out and rolling his eyes)  Yah!!

Me:  What food could possibly embarrass you in front of the class?


Me:  Vegetables would embarrass you?  Why?

Ren:  Because we would look like health freaks.

Me:  And being a health freak looks bad?  What's so bad about it?

Ren:  Because no one's going to like it, and it looks bad if no one eats it.  Chips and Dip is good.

Sigh.  This morning as I drove home from the gym and waved when passing one of my progeny walking to school, she crinkled her nose at me.  Usually she waves and smiles and looks happy to see me even though I'm sweat drenched with hair sticking up all over the place.  But today, apparently I embarrassed her too.

Was it my appearance?  Was it the wave?  Was it the smile?  Who knows?

A little out of spite, but also because there's nothing Scott and I will be able to eat as we resolutely march on with the i-diet, I think I'm also going to bring fava bean dip with crudite just because I can. . .

Let the public humiliation begin.

Auntie Heather's Taco Dip

My sister-in-law brings this Dip everywhere--and it truly is the easiest but also most addictive dip in the world

8 oz. cream cheese (I use low-fat)
1 can chili (I use Hormel Turkey chili)
8 oz cheddar cheese (can use mexican blend, jack, pepper jack, whatever you like)
Tortilla Chips (I like lime flavored Tostitos best)

1.  Spread cream cheese on bottom of pie plate
2.  Dump chili over it
3.  Sprinkle cheese over it
4.  Bake for 20 minutes in 350 oven, or if you're pressed for time just microwave it for 3 minutes.
5.  Mix it up a little otherwise people will just scoop up the top and leave all the cream cheese

Friday, June 17, 2011

Celebrity Crush

I think I have a little celebrity crush going.  I haven’t had a celebrity crush since 7th grade when I thought Scott Baio on Happy Days was the best looking guy on the planet. 

Although Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Robert Pattinson (Edward of  “Twilight” fame), and Justin Bieber are the male celebrities most talked about in our home, I don't feel partial to them—that would just be creepy given they all could be my sons.

Instead, my celebrity crush is almost exactly my age--Stephen Colbert. 

It all started when I read an article about him in the Northwestern Alumni magazine. I didn't know he went to Northwestern!  Not only did he go to NU, he also graduated a year before me which means we were there at the same time!  Apparently he’s a pretty decent guy and also a very committed Catholic.  He also worked in the cafeteria line at 1835 Hinman, which means he very well could have passed me my daily turkey croissant sandwich with avocado and swiss back in the day that I could eat and not gain weight.

There are 3 celebrities who I do remember from my college days—David Schwimmer of Friends fame; Brian D’Arcy James (a Broadway star about to star in a new TV show this fall); and Kelly O’Donnell the NBC reporter.  

David and Brian were in my ballet class at different times.  All theater majors had to take 2 dance classes to graduate.  They were the only men in the class, so I had an entire quarter to observe their plies and releves.  Like all theater majors, after they changed out of their leotards and tights, they wrapped thick scarves multiple times around their necks—that was the quintessential theater major look of the ‘80s.

Kelly O’Donnell was in my freshman Bible study fall quarter.  She might even remember me—in cringe-worthy ways since she probably perceived me as some strange Asian Bible-thumper who challenged her Roman Catholic beliefs.  Definitely a time I wish I could have a do-over.

Several weeks ago, Patheos, a website that touts “Balanced Views of Religion and Spirituality,” (the one for which I’ll someday write a mommy blog) wrote about Stephen Colbert on its Catholic portal.  Embedded within the article are links to all sorts of Stephen Colbert clips having to do with faith.

I spent a most enjoyable hour clicking on links and laughing out loud.

That got me going.  I can’t watch him at night because I’m usually in bed before his show airs, but I'm now watching full episodes on-line.  It just feels good to laugh. 

The kids don’t get his humor.  When they overhear his program, they say, “That’s bad!  He’s saying bad things—you shouldn’t be listening to him!”

I explain the concept of satire.  They still don’t get it. 

And when I joked with friends about my celebrity crush, a child said, “Are you going to have an affair with him?”

That’s why I’m confessing this publicly—we all know secrets can lead to bad things.  Everyone, please keep me accountable.  If Stephen Colbert ever shows up at my door--DO NOT let me have an affair with him.

Meanwhile, please excuse me.  I need to watch last night's episode. . .

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strike 2 with Caesar salad

Why am I using baseball terms when the Bruins just won the Stanley Cup?  Because I know nothing about hockey and can’t think of any comparable hockey terms.  

So here’s the story:

Over the weekend, we did Phase 2 of family rehab (something I’ll blog about soon), and one of the commitments we made was that each kid should cook dinner once a week.  Which means I have to teach two of them how to cook.

Tonight it was Ren's turn because the 2 girls were at a meeting and he was the only available kid.  I decided that we’d make grilled chicken Caesar salad.  Caesar salad is one of his favorite dishes, it isn’t very hard to make—surely a great start to our new family commitment.  I had grilled chicken tenders over the weekend so he didn’t even have to cook anything.

After last week’s debacle with dead ants in Caesar salad, Ren was understandably jittery about our menu choice.  But he grated Parmesan, he squeezed out anchovy paste, he reamed the lemon for juice, broke the coddled egg and whisked it all together.

Then he noticed that I just cut the lettuce into the salad bowl.  “Why aren’t you washing the lettuce?”

“I don’t wash lettuce that comes in packages and is supposedly pre-washed.”  Plus I HATE washing and spinning lettuce, which is why I’ve resorted to buying romaine hearts in plastic packages.  Although the package says to wash the lettuce, I usually just inspect it for dirt and wipe off any bits I see.

He didn’t look convinced. 

This time I knew there would be no ants in the salad because the crouton package was brand new.  Nevertheless, Ren, the crouton monster of the family, refused croutons on his salad for fear of more ants.

All was going well with our meal.  Both parents were happily focusing on just one kid when Ren said, “I think I have an inchworm on my lettuce. . .I HAVE AN INCHWORM ON MY LETTUCE!”

I looked at his plate.  Sure enough, a little green inchworm was inching its way across Ren’s lettuce leaf.  I plucked it off.  

Scott said, “It’s extra protein.”

I said, “It’s gone, now eat your salad.”

But it was too late. 

“AARGH!  Why didn’t you wash the lettuce?”

Scott defended me, “Even if she did, I don’t think the inchworm would have fallen off.”

From then on, there was continual commentary from Ren:

“I think this brown thing is an inch worm egg.”

“What’s this speck?  I think it’s a bug.”

“How do I know there aren’t more inch worms in my salad?”

“This is going to be BAD if there are worms in the salad at my birthday party on Friday.”

I had to leave before he finished his meal so I don’t know how much lettuce got consumed.  But I’m not sure Caesar salad’s ever going to be Ren’s favorite again.

Caesar Salad

I got this recipe from a friend 16 years ago and it’s really great—the kids didn’t prefer it for years because they like that mayonnaisy gloppy Caesar salad dressing in restaurants.  But in this past year, they’ve come around so they actually like it better because it’s lighter and more flavorful—that is, until the advent of ants and worms

1 large head romaine, or several smaller romaine hearts that come in the plastic package, washed and spun very dry
½ cup grated Parmesan  (Parmigiano Regianno is worth the exorbitant price)

2 tsp anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
3 Tbs. lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
1 coddled egg (boiled for 1 minute—hopefully this kills all salmonella germs on the outside—to be even safer, use free-range organic chicken eggs)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1.     Whisk anchovy paste, garlic and lemon juice together until well mixed
2.     Add coddled egg, whisk together
3.     Add olive oil, whisk until dressing is emulsified
4.     Break Romaine into edible pieces
5.     Toss with dressing, add parmesan, toss again
6.     Garnish with croutons and freshly grated black pepper

Note:  I usually use only half the dressing with a large head of Romaine or 2-3 hearts of Romaine.  One recipe of dressing makes ample Caesar salad for 10.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where did I go wrong???

On Sunday afternoon at a special youth baptism/confirmation service, Ling was confirmed.  She “confirmed” the baptismal vows we made for her when she was a baby, owning her own faith and commitment to following Jesus. 

It was a great and joyous time.

As part of the process, she wrote a testimony about her faith journey and presented it during Sunday School to all the kids of the church.  Unfortunately, due to a work engagement, I didn’t hear the testimony (something that inspires loads of guilt and regret), but I did read several drafts beforehand.

I show up in her testimony, which is gratifying.  In mostly positive ways, which is even more gratifying. 

She wrote about growing up in the church from the time she was born since her mom is a “pastor of sorts.”  She wrote about Bible stories I told with condiments and vitamins “where Jesus was always the ‘grown-up’ pills and Satan—the sugar bowl.”   

But then she wrote about how she never heard about having a relationship with God  until a youth pastor taught her that concept a couple years ago.

Never heard about having a relationship with God????

In my faith tradition, there’s nothing more important than having a personal relationship with Jesus.  Believing you can have a personal relationship with God is what sets my tradition apart.  When I went to college, many of my friends who “became Christians” had church backgrounds, sometimes even strong ones.  What made them "convert" was discovering that faith involved more than rote religious services or belief in certain doctrines or even exemplary behavior.   God became real and they learned they could have a genuine relationship with Jesus, like He is friend, a brother, yes, even a lover.

So how did my daughter grow up in our household for 15 years and not hear that she could have a personal relationship with God???

I asked her that. 

She said, “I don’t know.  I never heard it.”

“So when I said that God loves you and you can love him back, that didn’t sound like having a relationship with God?”

She shrugged.

I guess not.  

Maybe the problem is that I’ve tried to avoid using a lot of “Christianese” with my kids.  I try to avoid “Christianese” in general, because when you speak it outside of the church, most people have no idea what you’re saying. 

And let’s be honest, there are a lot of people who can talk the talk but not walk the walk. 

Unfortunately, I apparently have trouble doing either.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Shoe Confessions

My college roommate used to call me Imelda.  Yes, that Imelda—the one married to a Filipino dictator and who owned 2700 pairs of shoes.

I don’t have 2700 shoes, but I do have just a little bit of a shoe obsession.  I think it comes from growing up shoe poor.  

My Chinese parents grew up food poor.  Mama couldn’t buy roasted sweet potatoes as a snack when all her classmates could, hence her sweet potato obsession.  When 8 year-old Baba asked his father, my Ye-Ye, why they only ate twice a day, Ye-Ye felt so bad he took a demotion and moved the family to Australia so they could have 3 squares.  Baba loves tripe because all the Australian boys hated it and gave their portions to him.  It was the one meal Baba could eat to his heart’s content.

The quintessential sandal I had to wear, only mine
never had pretty scalloped edges
We weren’t so poor we couldn’t afford shoes.  My feet are just so darn narrow that I can’t fit any shoes.  As a young child, the only sandals I wore had a buckled strap around the toes and one around the ankles—and then only fit when the nice Liberty House salesman punched extra holes in the leather.

I hated those sandals.  I thought they were the ugliest most unprincess-like footwear on the planet.  But Mama made me wear them because frankly, they were the only sandals that stayed on my feet.

As a teenager, I realized I could find narrow shoes in the super sale racks of stores, especially in Hawaii, where a life of wearing flip-flops (what we call slippers) and going barefoot results an extra-wide footed population.  Hence I began buying the collection of shoes that resulted in my “Imelda” label.

Then I moved to NYC, where you walk all the time and comfort becomes priority.  Spike heels just don't cut it after a block or 2 on the sidewalks of Manhattan.

Still love the Dansko clog, even if it's a
Mommy shoe
Then I had kids. By #3, I could get their shoes on before walking out the door, but never my own.  So I converted to mommy clogs.  For years I wore nursing shirts, cut my hair to wash and wear short, and wore Mommy clogs and jeans. 

Not a pretty sight.

When I realized several years ago that my kids could get their own shoes on their own feet and I could graduate from my quintessential clogs, a new world opened up.  The only problem was that in the 15 years between my move to NYC and newfound freedom for footwear, manufacturers stopped making narrow shoes. 

I can finally afford them, get them on my feet in the morning and wear them because I’m not walking everywhere and they’ve ceased to exist.

This past weekend was organization week—a part of the family retreat, only a lot less pleasurable with a lot more shrieking.  I dusted the bottom of my closet with its jumble of shoes—a job that hasn’t been done in 7 years—and to my shock realized I own about 40 pairs of shoes/sandals/boots/slippers, some of which I've worn once or twice. 

Many shoes were purchased during a shoe-poor frenzy.  Some because they kind of fit and after trying on a bazillion pairs I desperately had to buy something.  Some because they cost $8/pair at Talbots Outlet.  Some just because they’re narrow and I had to snatch them up while I could.

I’m not proud of it, but Imelda is back.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

10.4 Pounds

That’s not the weight I've lost on the i-diet in this past week and 2 days (in fact, I put on 2 lbs between yesterday and today because I cheated and ate a half Panini with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil for lunch—this is what salt does!)

It’s the weight of chocolate I just removed from our kitchen cabinets.  That doesn’t even include my super secret stash of chocolate stored elsewhere (which the kids constantly steal from anyway).

My motivation is not avoiding the "availability" food instinct and getting rid of all temptations.  My motivation is that it’s going to be 90 degrees today and all my chocolate will melt, thereby ruining it and my cabinets. 

Included in the 10.4 lbs are all different kinds of chocolate:

·      Unsweetened baking chocolate
·      Ghiradelli 60% dark chocolate chips
·      White chocolate chips
·      Mint chocolate chips
·      Random pieces of chocolate bars
·      2 Trader Joe’s pound plus dark chocolate bars (that we use for baking)
·      Peanut butter chips (not chocolate but close)
·      Dark chocolate Easter bunny and Easter candy
·      Vestiges of Halloween candy
·      3 Vosges hyper expensive chocolate bars my brother gave me for stocking stuffers that I still haven’t tried because it never seems like I’m able to “afford” to eat that chocolate.

Because we don’t have air-conditioning, the coolest place I can put 10.4 lbs of chocolate is my downstairs office.

Right next to my super secret stash.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Recipe for Today's Very Unhappy Mama

1.     Wake up at 4 a.m. to take friends and hubby to the airport (consolidated 2 airport trips into one—would be much more unhappy if hubby was going on vacation with friend’s family)
2.     Hubby gone
3.     On the i-diet
4.     Come home from great day at work to child melting down because despite having 4 A+s she didn’t win an award for anything but doing her homework all year. . . 18 other kids also won the homework award.  Which means it wasn’t special.  Which means she isn’t special 
5.     Spend an hour on the couch trying to discuss this with her as she cries and blows snot.  She’s sure teachers hate her, because after all those serial A+s, what the heck does it take to win an award?  I don’t know, try to by sympathetic while calculating just how much more therapy we’re going to need if this child only feels worth from awards.  Berated for not talking enough, staring too hard, not taking away the pain, etc.
6.     Almost miss taking son to tae kwon do, but remember at very moment we have to leave.
7.     Have “special time” with melting child at Whole Foods
8.     Eat 2 tiny cubes of Robusto Cheese and a tiny crostini with herb dip.
9.     Watch her eat Almond Cream Cake. 
10. Take one bite.  Dang that tastes good! 
11. Child much happier, I’m much sadder as I eat the tiny amaretti cookie crumbs she’s left behind.
12. After picking up son at tae kwon do, can’t reach other child who’s at a friend’s house because she won’t answer or text back despite warnings that children with cell phones must ALWAYS answer parents’ calls. 
13. Text “U will walk home if I don’t hear from u in 5 min
14. Pick up that child and try to look friendly and grateful with friend’s father.
15. Everyone’s happy I’m making Caesar salad with our very old leftover BJ’s rotisserie chicken for dinner—happy for the salad, not the chicken. 
16. Table set, kids about to sit down, I dump the leftover croutons into the beautifully dressed salad only to wonder why there are so many black crumbs. 
17. Look closer
18. There are about 100,000 DEAD BLACK ANTS cascading over the salad.
19. Pick ant-covered romaine pieces out, hoping to salvage dinner. 
20. Pick
21. Pick more
22. Pick even more. 
23. 2/3s of the way through the bowl, Ren points out that ants and croutons fell all the way to the bottom.
24. Consider just eating the salad—ants are extra protein, but finally give up, dump the rest down the drain, assuming I have 1.5 hearts of romaine left.
25. Only one tiny romaine heart left
26. Make a measly salad
27. Feed it to the kids who are sad but rolling with it
28. Eat arugula Caesar salad—not bad.  Not great, but not bad.
29. Kids bicker about cleaning up from dinner
30. I warn that I’ve just about had it and can’t take anymore
31. Kids tell me to go to bed
32. I ask if they’ll finish cleaning everything including storing the leftover chicken (that just won’t seem to get eaten up)
33. They stop telling me to go to bed but keep bickering
34. Son complains he’s too hot and needs his fan in the window.  I knock over his water bottle and spill water over his entire dresser and floor while putting in the fan.
35. Rather than going to bed, son is in bathroom yet again.  Begin mild shrieking of how I need children in bed.
36. Can’t drown sorrows in chocolate (which has melted anyway in our upper cabinet).  Instead, crunch on I-diet chocolate cereal dessert (all-bran covered in Lindt 70% dark chocolate).
37. See a yellow towel on floor and start real shrieking now “Who took a yellow towel—yellow towels are MY towels!  Who not only STOLE my towel but left it on the bathroom floor” (we are a color coded towel family so culprits can be properly blamed)
38. Kids tell me to go to bed again.
39. Go to bed
40. Write this blog
41. Goodnight.

Friday, June 03, 2011

4 pounds down in 3 days!

This is why I love the I-diet so much.  When you follow it and don't cheat, it actually works!, Lance Armstrong's website for health, also helps.  Over the years, I've signed up twice for on-line Weight Watchers  at about $35/month.  I thought that if I paid good money for weight loss help, I'd actually work at weight loss.  That worked the first time I tried, but it took me about 6 months to lose 10 lbs.  The second time it didn't work very well at all. is basically on-line Weight Watchers, only it's free, which to my Chinese soul is totally worth it.  I put in my weight every day I remember, and the graph of my weight fluctuations over the past 3 years looks like the Rocky Mountains.

You can also create your own meals and calculate their caloric count. You might be interested to know that an entire recipe of the very best bean dip, made with real fava beans (which I found by asking the Market Basket clerk--turns out they had them all along), is 4811 calories.  A quarter cup is 218.74.

I resisted Boloco burritos on Wednesday and brought bean dip and crudite for myself.

The very wine I bought
Of course, I cheated just a tiny bit yesterday.  After dropping all 3 kids off at swimming, I couldn't resist going to our local gourmet wine store and tasting their wine of the week.  I sipped 1/8th of a cup of Cabriz (at 21.25 calories), plus ate a tiny meatball with BBQ sauce.  The Cabriz got 90 points from Wine Spectator and was on sale for $8.79 so I couldn't control my impulses.

My nose's still stuffy, so I don't know that I'm the best taster these days, but I bought a bottle.

When I'm faithful in logging what I eat, following the I-diet, and having a spouse who's doing it with me and therefore not tempting me with dinners out and glasses of wine, it's amazing how it all can work.

Today I'm taking a colleague out for Chinese buffet lunch.  I don't think there's anything in a Chinese buffet that falls on the I-diet, not to mention that the salt & soysauce alone will make me gain 2 pounds.

I just might bring bean dip again. . .

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Gossiping? Who Me?

My friend Helen, who I’ve known for 21 years, lives across the street.  She’s part of my women’s accountability group, her son James is one of Ren’s very best friends, and we swap kid care once a week.

Whenever possible, we also like to stand around in each others’ kitchens and chat, often about things we don’t really want our little pitchers (or my increasingly big pitchers) with big ears to hear—so we send them away, which they all hate. 

One day, her daughter Abigail said, “I think you guys are gossiping, and gossiping is bad.”

Hmmm.  That stopped us short. 

“I don’t think we’re gossiping,” I said.

“But you’re talking about people.”

Hmmm.  Got us again.

“You know Abigail?  I think we’re processing, not gossiping.” I said.

“What’s the difference?”

“When people gossip, they talk about other peoples’ troubles, but their motivation is usually to feel better about themselves, or to judge the other person, or to feel powerful about sharing a secret.” 

She nodded.

“When we process, our motivation is often to figure out how God sees the situation, or how to help the person, or how to make relationships better.  Get it?”

She shook her head.  “It still sounds like gossip to me.”

Out of the mouth of babes.

Abigail’s right.  When Helen and I talk, it can sound like gossip, and if we’re mean spirited, we probably do gossip.  But I’m still going to defend that most of our sharing isn’t gossip, but processing.  In fact, I sincerely hope most of my friends are “processing” about me, and throwing up some prayers along the way.

I went to the dictionary to see whether I’m right about the words.  My Mac dictionary says gossip is:

casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true

Oops, forgot to include the truthfulness part of the definition for Abigail.

Turns out “processing”—at least the way I use the word—doesn’t exist.  Instead, says :

·      to treat or prepare by some particular process, as in manufacturing.
·      to handle (papers, records, etc.) by systematically organizing them, recording or making notations on them, following up with appropriate action, or the like: to process mail.
·      to require (someone) to answer questionnaires, perform various tasks, and sometimes to undergo physical and aptitude classification examinations before the beginning or termination of a period of service: The army processes all personnel entering or leaving the service.

So if “process” is the wrong word, what is it that I do with my friends, family and husband that I so vigorously defend?  I looked on my Mac thesaurus for synonyms of “process” and got the words

deal with, attend to, see to, sort out, handle, take care of, action.

We’re getting on the right track. . .

When I clicked on synonyms for “handle” I got:

3 she handled the problems well: deal with, manage, tackle, take care of, take charge of, attend to, see to, sort out, apply oneself to, take in hand; respond to, field.

Aahh. . .  I like those words!  That's what I do with my friends!  Our goal as we confess and confide is to handle our problems well—to tackle, take care of, attend to, sort out, respond to—basically to deal with what’s going on in our lives and the lives of those we love. 

In other words, we process.