Monday, January 30, 2012

Why I had a Hissy Fit over King Ranch Casserole

Last week was a hard week.  Work and life were crammed.  I caught a cold.  And my computer died.

The cold was not a minor cold, it gave me aches and pains that felt like evil meany-poo viruses had attacked every cell of my body.

Although Scott would say it's my own darn fault that I kept going despite feeling miserable (which is true)  I also felt constrained.  A colleague from Milwaukee flew in just for me to mentor her for 2 days--a very enjoyable time assuming I didn't sneeze and cough her into receiving a Boston gift she never wanted.  My sister flew in for a day and this was our chance to celebrate her 40th birthday.

Because my main language of love is food, receiving food and serving food, I kept cooking for the family through it all.  We've been back on the i-diet since January 2nd, so I really dug deep into my kindly heart to make King Ranch Casserole--knowing the kids were sick of non-creamy, non-carbohydrate laden, non-cheesy food.  Everyone was happy--even Scott, because I also made chicken soup and a really great salad with strawberries and avocados, so we were still eating within reason.

But when I returned to the kitchen in the middle of kids cleaning, my son was scooping the casserole with big plops into a Tupperware so all the cheese on top mixed with the rest of the casserole and it looked like a huge pile of creamy vomit.

I couldn't take it.  I started shrieking "What are you doing to my casserole!!!!"

"What's wrong?  I thought I was being helpful," he said, "I'm putting it away."

"Why aren't you using a spatula and cutting out pieces so the cheese stays on top and it looks nice?" I continued shrieking.  "The way I always do???"

The kids all looked at me as if I'd lost my mind, which I had.

"What's the big deal?"

Wrong words.  But my kids are getting too old and too wise to deal with their mother melting over stupid things.

"You're sick, we're cleaning, you should just go to bed," one of them said.  They sounded just like their dad.

Defeated, I slunk away.  Later, when I said sorry to 2 for yelling, one said I wasn't forgiven.


King Ranch Casserole

King Ranch Casserole is a tortilla chicken casserole that's incredibly yummy and not too unhealthy if you use whole wheat tortillas.  I'd never heard of it before Moira Goode, the wife of the rector at All Angels who married us, made it for an Urban Project I directed in NYC.  You've never seen such joy as those students and staff scarfing up this casserole.  When random folks happen into my house and try a bite, they rave about this casserole.

Moira says that everything is interchangeable and you can change proportions also.  So I often use more peppers and onions to raise the health quotient.  I also poke the sauce into the casserole to make sure it sinks in.  I find that if I use a Costco/BJs rotisserie chicken, the casserole gets too salty, so I prefer just plain boiled chicken.  Especially because then I can save the broth for soup that qualifies for the i-diet.

4 cups diced cooked chicken
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilis
2 cans cream of chicken soup, or cream of mushroom, or cream of whatever you like
½ can chicken broth
1 cup sour cream (I use light)
1 package (8-10) flour tortillas cut into small pieces (I use Trader Joe’s 100% whole wheat)
1 Large onion, diced
½ green pepper diced (or use a whole pepper if you want more veggies in it)
½ red pepper diced
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (or more if you like it cheesy)

  1. Mix tomatoes, soups, broth and sour cream in a bowl
  2. Layer 9 X 13 pan with ½ chicken, onion, peppers, tortillas, repeat the layer. 
  3. Pour sauce over whole casserole
  4. Sprinkle grated cheese on top
  5. Bake 1 hour @ 350

Friday, January 27, 2012

Computer Woes. . . Again

Please forgive me as I whine.

Last week Monday, I noticed my 9 month Apple Macbook Pro was really slow and wouldn't boot up IPhoto.  After rebooting multiple times, I booked the first available appointment at the Genius Bar for Wednesday.  And I actually remembered to back up everything on my external hard drive.

At the Genius Bar, the very nice Apple guy said the problem with Iphoto was my corrupted Iphoto library. Which means the hours I've spent tagging faces and retouching photos?  All wasted.  All gone.  None of it saved, even on the external hard drive.

We spent the next 2 hours waiting for my computer to transfer photos from somewhere to somewhere, I don't even know where.  Meanwhile, my computer ran slower and slower and slower until both Apple Geniuses who were working with me concluded it might be a failing hard drive.  Unfortunately, none were in stock, so they ordered a new one and said they hoped it would be in by Saturday.

Thursday morning I wrote my Patheos blog, interviewed a friend for my latest book idea, came up with more interview questions.  By Thursday evening, my computer stopped booting up at all.  It had died.

Thank God for Dropbox!  Dropbox is like the Cloud.  My Regional Leadership Team's using it to share documents with one another.  I've put all my work, writing and recipes in Dropbox, and every time I make a change, it saves it out on some server somewhere.  Because of Dropbox, I could continue working, cook my Chinese New Year's feast and didn't lose my new questions and interview.

To make a long story short (er), after the new hard drive finally showed up on Tuesday, I went home to transfer my back-up only to see they'd installed Lion, the newest operating system.  That was actually very generous of them, except that Lion won't run Entourage, where all my mailing lists, email lists, and old emails reside.

Back to the Mac store for 30 minutes, where they switched me back to Snow Leopard.  I went home, backed up, and then realized I backed up everything from my old computer, not the newest one.  AACK.

Yesterday afternoon I went back to the Genius bar for the 4th time in a week where they re-wiped my hard drive and told me to go home, restore my back-up using the right file and I should be all set.

Finally, after an entire week, I was overjoyed to see the smiling picture of our family in Hawaii on my desktop.  Then I opened Entourage only to find that none of my groups, categories, email folders or old emails exist anymore--the whole reason I couldn't use Lion.

Pray for me.  I need it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Who Works the Hardest Around here?

“Oh RIGHT,” said a kid when asked to finish cleaning up the kitchen.  With a scorn only raging adolescent hormones can generate, “Why does the hardest working member of the family always get asked to do the most work?”

I thought, “Wow!  My child has finally recognized what I do around here!”
Then I realized my child was NOT referring to me.
Now, our kids work, often quite diligently, especially in school.  They’re incredibly helpful when babysitting or volunteering or even camping with youth group.  But when it comes to household chores in our house, our home can feel like a warzone, parents against kids, with neither side about to wave the white flag.  The kids shriek that no one’s doing their fair share each night with kitchen cleaning.   They take 45 minutes to do what could easily take 10 just because of all the bickering, accusations and sloth.  They whine that no other kids in our town have to clean, wipe, sweep, vacuum, scrub, shovel, or weed.
Scott often thinks we need Nanny 911.  I wish Mary Poppins would magically appear singing “A Spoonful of Sugar” while dishes magically clean themselves.  We are the familial example of how joyful tilling in the Garden of Eden became painful toil when sin entered the world.
Since then I’ve realized this child has internalized the biggest ongoing stupid fight in our marriage.   We don’t accuse the other of not working hard enough, recognizing we both work really hard—at day job, in home life, as parents.  Instead we accuse the other of not appreciating how hard we work.
I whine that Scott doesn’t appreciate that I:
  • Shop: food, clothes, school supplies, household supplies, etc.
  • Manage all our schedules
  • cook
  • step in on snow and sick days
  • Keep track of school, doctors, dentists, piano lessons, swimming etc.
  • All while holding down a job.
He whines that I don’t appreciate that he:
  • works a full-time high-pressured day job
  • manages the trash (we don’t have trash pick-up in our town)
  • Ensures the house doesn’t fall apart
  • Keeps the pool clean and running (why anyone in New England has a pool that can only be used 2.5 months/year is a constant question)
  • Maintains all technology
  • Picks-up and organizes most of the detritus that floats around our house
  • Oversees the kids every morning while I go to the gym
  • All while managing everything each time my nice flexible job takes me out of town or out at night.
It’s a useless bicker-fest that’s the result of being over-tired.  From working so hard.
It helps when we stop and say “Thank you.”  It helps when someone says, “Wow, you’ve been working really hard, why don’t you take a long hot bath and I’ll help the kids clean the kitchen?”  (Sadly for him, usually it’s Scott who says that)
So maybe that’s the next step—appreciating what each member of our family contributes and thanking them for it.  Especially since we’re each the hardest working member of the family.
How does your family get its work done?  How do you motivate kids?  How do you create teamwork and togetherness through drudgery?
This was first posted on What She Said

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How We Almost Forgot Chinese New Year

"When's Chinese New Year this year?" I asked the kids this past Wednesday night.

"I think it was Monday," said Kai.

"WHAT????"  I shrieked, "We missed it?"

"No, no," she amended, "Maybe it's this Monday."

I checked on-line and sure enough, Chinese New Year falls on January 23.  Whew!

What kind of Tiger Mom am I, if I can't even remember to celebrate Chinese New Year?  The answer, just a Tiger Mom wannabe.  

I couldn't even remember what animal this upcoming year will be without Googling it.  The answer--the year of the Dragon, something I should have known because both Scott and Ren are Dragons.  Scott will turn 48 while Ren will turn 12.  (The Chinese zodiac rotates around a 12 year cycle). 

It just shows that I don't dance to the rhythms of the Chinese beat. 

Last Chinese New Year's I wrote about the dilemma of remembering Chinese New Year, raising bi-racial kids who'll feel good about their Chinese side, and the challenge of getting the right Chinese New Year foods.  You'd think that writing about these things publicly would mean I'd do better this year, wouldn't you?

It feels like it was just dumb luck that last Wednesday I happened to shop at H-Mart, the Korean superstore.  I went to buy frozen Chinese dumplings, my most popular go-to potluck dish, for a potluck on Tuesday.  Whenever I find myself in an Asian grocery store I can't resist buying Asian vegetables, so baby Shanghai choy, garlic chives, Napa cabbage, dou miao (pea shoots), and Japanese eggplant all went in the shopping cart.  Without planning, I purchased a bonanza of veggies at just the right time.

Friday, Ling and I celebrated the end of her midterms with Indian buffet, then drove to Chinatown to buy nian gao (sticky cake).  I gave her $20 and told her to run into the bakery--expecting that Chinatown would be a mad rush of cars and people, but not only was it not crowded, I found a parking space right after dropping Ling off.  Good thing too--when I found her, with nian gao and banana rolls already purchased, I said, "Where's the change?"

"Uh, they didn't give me any."  

"You've got to be kidding?  Those things shouldn't have cost 20 bucks!"  

So we marched back into the bakery, found the woman who helped her, and as politely as possible asked how much it should have cost ($12.20) and if we could have the change.

"Oh?  I didn't give you the change?" she asked all innocence.  (Here's where I am a Tiger Mom--you don't go short-changing my daughter just because she's 5'11", doesn't look pure Chinese, and is too shy and timid to ask for what's rightfully hers!)

Tonight our friends and co-Cana leaders, Larry and Lois, will come for dinner and to watch the Patriots game.  It's Lois's birthday. Before I remembered it was Chinese New Year's Eve, I was going to make her a nice healthy dinner with appropriate portions because all 4 of us are constantly watching our weight.  But it's Chinese New Year's Eve.  So instead we'll have:
  • Some frozen dumplings made into potstickers
  • Stir-fried dou miao
  • Shiitake Mushrooms with baby Shanghai choy
  • Eggplant in Garlic Sauce
  • Chicken with Garlic Chive Nian Gao (rice cakes)
  • Tomatoes with Egg
  • Barley/Brown Rice (for dieting purposes)
  • Nian Gao from Chinatown
  • Hawaiian Butter Mochi
And Kai might bake a real Western birthday cake as well.  



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Midterms and Catastrophic Thinking

A couple days ago, I read a great blog by Adele Calhoun, An Invitation from God:  Healing from Catastrophic Thinking.  It came at the perfect time, because it’s high school midterm week and my daughter’s living my recurring nightmare.  The one where I forgot to attend math class all term and have to take the final.  Or the history nightmare where, I also forgot to read all the books.
In the seconds I’m capable of reason, I know her situation isn’t close to my nightmare.  She’s most probably not going to flunk any midterms, and certainly no classes.  She’s far more disciplined than I was back in high school.  But it’s been a tough semester, and in the Northeast air we breathe, with parents stressing about tutoring, and private college counselors, and providing enriching experiences so their kids look good on applications. . . let’s just say it’s been stressful.
There’s nothing like midterms and a high schooler to send me over the edge when I obsess about long-term consequences.  If she doesn’t do well sophomore year, her grades will affect her college prospects, which will affect her opportunities, which will affect her job prospects, which will. . .
There are so many ways I can veer towards catastrophic thinking for my kids:
  • If my children don’t stop chewing with their mouths open, no one will ever want to be their friend or marry them
  • If my daughter doesn’t take more risks socially, she’ll end up as a recluse playing Farmville on FB with imaginary friends all day
  • If my kids don’t learn how to cope with their anxiety, they’re going to end up clinically depressed, medicated and become non-functioning adults
Clearly there are problems with my thinking—most notably that when I get in the ruts of worry, I forget that there’s a loving God who cares about my kids more than me and holds their futures close to heart.
Ironically, I’m also tempted to ignore “little things” that really could have significant long-term catastrophic consequences:
  • Not forgiving or facing conflicts with husband, kids or friends so that little bitternesses grow into big ones.
  • Sliding on healthy eating and exercise so that I end up with diabetes, heart disease and all sorts of other health consequences
  • Focusing exclusively on kids’ performances, so that they conclude I love them for what they achieve rather than who they are, as exemplified by my high schooler wailing “Why do you only talk to me about school and grades these days!!!”
Adele writes:
I am, in my deepest self, God’s beloved. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more. And there is nothing I can do to make him love me less. No matter what the weather of my soul I am constantly the beloved.
I’m loved.  My daughter’s loved.  Nothing can change that fact.  We’re going to be OK.
So I’m trying to take a deep breath.  To remind myself I’m not living a nightmare, and neither is she.  T0 release my kids, their future, and yes, even midterms to God.
What is the appropriate level of parent involvement in these crucial teen years?  How do you manage your worry and not burden your child?  What role does God play in all this?
This was first posted on What She Said

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Am I my Greatest Love of All?

Last night, along with the parents of 400 other students, we attended the middle school Choral Concert–not because we have a child who sings in a chorus, but because my 6th grade son was picked to accompany the chorales on some sort of percussive gourd thing.
For one song.
The second to last song no less.
Earlier in the day, my 8th grade daughter told me she wanted to go because she had listened to her friends practice.  She had been surprised by how many songs were explicitly Christian:
  • Oh When the Saints
  • Oh Happy Day
  • Siyayamba (We are Walking in the Light of God)
As she put it, “I thought you’re not supposed to do anything that has to do with God in school.”
She asked me if I knew The Greatest Love of All and I belted:
I believe that children are the future,
Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside…
Wailing and warbling in full out Whitney Houston wannabe mode was not impressive, let me say.
But seizing the teachable moment, I asked what she thought of it.
“I don’t know. . .  Don’t you think it’s a little weird that loving yourself is the greatest love of all?  Isn’t loving God the greatest commandment?”
Yes!!!  I thought to myself.  “And what’s the 2nd greatest commandment?”
“Loving your neighbor as yourself?”
Whew.  She’s got the basics.
She became impatient when I pursued the conversation, “Why does everything we talk about end up having to be about all this deep stuff?  Can’t we just sing more of the Jesus songs and forget about it?”
So we sang Siyahambe the rest of the way to the grocery store.
As I sat in the dark and listened to all 400 McCall chorus students sing The Greatest Love of All, I was struck again by how it resonates with our culture.  We’re obsessed with self-esteem, with being all we can be, with our own self-actualization.
But the song’s story is just too small.
Now I want my kids to have as good a self-concept as any other kid.  But there’s a fine line between healthy self-love and noxious self-absorption.   Yes we should raise strong kids, true to themselves, who know that they’re fearfully and wonderfully made and unconditionally and deeply loved.  But learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all?
I don’t think so.
IMHO, the truest expression of love exists between beings.  Love generates love.  Sitting alone, in no one’s shadow, full of my own dignity doesn’t sound like love.  It sounds like loneliness.
Oh Happy Day recognizes that dynamic.  We feel happy because we’re in relationship.  Jesus washed our sins away.  Not only that, but he also stays in relationship:
He taught me how (oh, He taught me how)
To wash (to wash, to wash)
Fight and pray (to fight and pray)
Fight and pray
And he taught me how to live rejoicing
yes, He did (and live rejoicing)
Oh yeah, every, every day (every, every day)
(oh yeah) Every day!
Now that’s good news I can sing about.
This was first posted on What She Said

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thai Squash Soup

As always, not a short of my soup, but this is what it looks
like--this cook garnished the soup with toasted coconut
I'm feeling so inspired by my new ability to post recipes that I can't resist sharing this one, that I made for dinner tonight.  It's a delicious, fairly nutritious (depends on whether you think coconut milk is good or bad for you) squash soup that's tangy, creamy and exploding with flavor.

I found this recipe somewhere online, and then combined it with another.  The first time I made it, the kids, who were really young, grabbed their tongues and started crying, it was so spicy.  I thought they were being wimps, but then Scott and I tried it and realized it was inedible it was that hot.

Big guilty parenting moment.

The next day I made a whole other recipe to try to diffuse the heat and succeeded enough for the grown-ups, but not the kids.  Needless to say, we had a lot of Thai Squash soup for a long long time.

The problem was the brand of red curry paste I used--some authentic brand that I can't remember.  1 tsp of that red curry paste was enough to over-heat 6 quarts of soup.  Now I use Thai Kitchen red curry paste which is far milder, so I use 1 Tbs/recipe.  My advice?  If you're not using Thai Kitchen, start with 1/2 a tsp. and work up.


Thai Squash Soup

2 large butternut squash
1 lg. Can pumpkin
2 c. chopped onion
6 cloves garlic
2 Tbs. Grated ginger
2 limes, zest and juice (about 1/2 cup)
½ tsp. Turmeric
½ tsp red curry paste (Taste of Thai is not spicy, used 1 Tbs.)
1 Tbs. oil
3 cups chicken Broth
6 cups water,
1 can coconut milk
Salt to taste

  1. Halve squash, scoop out seeds, roast covered with foil for at least an hour at 350 until soft.
  2. Saute onion, garlic, ginger and zest in oil until soft. 
  3. Add turmeric & chili paste.  Saute.
  4. Add scooped out of skin squash, pumpkin, water/broth, simmer.  Add coconut milk and lime juice.  Puree. 
  5. Adjust seasonings.  
Note:  If you don't want a very tangy soup--akin to Chinese hot sour soup--use only the juice of 1 lime

Monday, January 09, 2012

Just Dance!

For our first Christmas, I bought Scott a quilt and 2 quilt shams.  He opened them and said something like, "Gee, it's nice you bought yourself a present!"

Have I said before that I don't have the love language of gift-giving?  

I certainly wasn't sure he'd like the quilt, but I didn't think he'd so totally reject it.  After all, it was for our marital bed and I thought guys were really into the significance of that bed. . .

Ever since, our family regularly refers to "quilt" presents.

So on Christmas, after opening various kitchen utensil gifts from my kids, imagine my surprise when I opened the Wii game Just Dance 3.

"Oh!  A quilt present!" I even said out loud.

I felt a stab of guilt--kids have asked for Just Dance for over a year now, maybe two.  But I'm so not into video games that I've literally forgotten to buy it when I've had the chance.

Here's what's great about Just Dance:

  1. It's fun
  2. It's a good workout--almost as good as Zumba.
  3. They've taken all the swear words out of the songs so they're PG
  4. There's even an Indian dance, an African dance, a Latin dance and a complete un-PC cringe-worthy Native dance.
  5. I crush my kids almost every single song.  I think Kai's managed too beat me on one measly song.  
Because my New Year's resolutions include moving my body every day, I've wiggled my way through 4 sessions thus far.

Not so bad for a "quilt" present.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Recipe Index And Portuguese Bean Soup

For months now, ever since I used Word Press to publish the Boston Faculty Fellowship website (I don't know how to create websites.  I do know how to blog.  Hence a blog as a website!) I've bemoaned that I couldn't create separate pages on blogspot.

I really needed separate pages so I could index the recipes I publish.  I'm not sure any of you care about my recipes, but I do, and I wanted a quick way to find them!

So lo and behold, I happened to look on the toolbar yesterday, and right there in front of my eyes there's a link that says "Edit Pages."

"Edit Pages"?  If there's a toolbar for edit pages, surely there's an ability to create a separate page??

As my kids would say, "Duh."

Have I ever said before I'm not known for my spatial-visual abilities?

So now dear friends and readers, if you just have to have my great granola or Mom MacLean's deviled eggs, or Auntie Heather's taco dip, just click on the recipe page and on the name of the recipe.  You can read my blog that accompanies the recipe, or just scroll down to what you want.

To celebrate figuring all this out, today I'm giving you all the gift of my version of Portuguese Bean Soup.

Portuguese Bean soup is a staple in Hawaii.  My sophomore year of high school I served in the Portuguese Bean soup booth at Punahou Carnival and got a gigantic shirt with the recipe printed on front.

That recipe, plus my own modifications, serve as the basis for this soup.

I hope you enjoy!

Portuguese Bean Soup

1 lb kidney beans or small red beans, cooked (or about 4 cans worth)
2 ham hocks
4 sprigs celery, diced

4 carrots, diced
3 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tbs. chili powder
1 Tbs. cumin powder
3 Bay leaves
1 Tbs. oregano
4 cups chicken broth
10 oz. - 1 lb. Portuguese sausage, quartered lengthwise and then sliced so you have little pizza slice shaped sausages (linguica or chourico on the Mainland, if you can get Redondo hot sausage from HI, I think that's the best--my mother brings it to me when she visits)
½ head cabbage, sliced into strips
2 potatoes, cubed
1 cup cooked macaroni (can use whole wheat)
Salt and pepper to taste

1.     Most tasty:  Boil ham hocks and beans covered with water in a large pot.  Bring to a simmer until meat falls off ham hocks (can be several hours)
2.     More convenient:  Combine in large pot beans, ham hocks, celery, carrots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and spices.  Pour water over it.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 30 minutes
3.     Cut meat off ham hocks, add back to soup, discard skin and bone
4.     Add sausage, cabbage, potatoes and chicken broth about 30 minutes before serving
5.     Salt to taste
6.     Add macaroni just before serving

 1   Notes:

*Don’t add macaroni to the soup if you think it’s going to last more than this one meal—the pasta will soak up all the liquid and become mushy.
**I find that between the ham hocks, sausage, canned tomatoes and low-sodium chicken broth, I don’t need to add any more salt to the soup (shows how much sodium’s hiding in various products!)

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Reflections on Tiger Moms, a year later

Years ago, my Indian-American friend, the mother of a toddler, said she wanted her daughter to grow up knowing herself, her own desires and experiencing a secure identity rather than the foreboding that the only way she could ever succeed in life was to be a doctor.
“Yeah. . .” I said, trying to sound healthy and wise.  Pause.  “But I also want my kids to be smart.”
She laughed because she knew.
She knew academic achievement was the #1 god in my family growing up.  OK, maybe Chinese ethnicity competed for that top spot.  But while I could announce in high school that “all Chinese boys are nerds and I never want to date them” (sorry guys!), I never dared rebel against my parents’ academic expectations.
So what now when Edline, that ominous ever-present parent/grade reporting system, tells me 2 of 3 kids got Fs on their latest tests?
Panic?  Yes.
Yell?  Tempting.
Pray?  What I should do . . .
A year ago, Amy Chua published “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” in the Wall Street Journal and unleashed a furor that resulted in her becoming the most hated woman in America, her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reaching #1 on Amazon, and the words “Tiger Mom” entering our lexicon.
The reaction to her article was ferocious.  Folks excoriated her for her extreme parenting methods, her overweening emphasis on kids’ performance, and the non-stop pressure she put on her kids, all without reading her book (which chronicles her failures in parenting as well as successes).  Even I wrote several responses (click hereand here and here) before finally reading the book.
My daughters (who also read the book) debate whether I’m Tiger Mom, regularly noting, with relief, I’m not when I:
  • Let them attend dances, parties, play sports, act in a plays, go to youth group, have sleepovers, etc.
  • Enforce only 30 minutes a day of piano practice
  • Say “As long as you tried your best” after every test, paper, and effort
Ultimately, I think the main weakness of Tiger parenting isn’t strict parenting, or high expectations, or instilling rigorous discipline in our kids.  The problem is we get our kids to worship the wrong gods–the gods of achievement, of success, of prestigious colleges and prestigious jobs.  All good gifts.  All bad gods who someday will let our kids down.
I’ve tried to teach my kids that our work and worship are intertwined.  In Genesis 1, the man was charged with “keeping” and “tilling” the garden, both Hebrew puns that are also worship words.  We worship God through working, and our work glorifies God.
IMHO my kids’ work involves studying, growing, and household chores.  When it comes to school, they need to work, to ask questions, to seek help, to DO THEIR BEST.   They aren’t stereotypical Asian math & science whizzes—not surprising—neither was I, but all the research out there says you can make up for lack of talent with hard work.  Maybe not to achieve the A+, but surely not Fs.
Every time I raise the issue, my kids accuse me of criticizing them and being a Tiger Mom.  And as the struggle around academics intensifies in our household, I sense my family gods wooing me.
So I’m upping my Tiger Mom methods, while renouncing my Tiger mom motives.
Frankly, it’s easier to worship God cleaning toilets than parenting a lot of the time.
This was first posted on What She Said

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Happy New Year!  I haven't blogged much because 1) I've been on vacation and 2) I've been binging.  Not on all the treats that've surrounded me the past month but on young adult novels.

It started right before Christmas when Kai-Kai raved about Sarah Dessen books. She gave me a list she wanted for Christmas.

"That won't happen." I said.


"Because you know I don't believe in buying books--order them from the library."

So she did, and brought me her favorite The Truth About Forever, begging me to read it.  I did.  And then I read another and another and another.

I've now read 6 Sarah Dessen books plus 2 books by Pam Jenoff that Ling brought to me with the command, "Read them!"

I've heard it said that romance novels are women's porn.  If what gets us going is the perfect love, the perfect romance, being pursued and desired even if you're plain and unremarkable, these books got it all.  Literary fiction just doesn't provide the same bang for the buck (or rental).

In the Dessen books, the vast majority of male love interests are teenage rebels who've dealt with their dead parent/broken home/alienated father/etc. and can love and support the female protagonist perfectly, helping her work through her own issues with her dead parent/broken home/anorexic sister/alienated mother/etc.

Love wins.  Healing happens.  Hope abounds.


In this new generation of girls' novels, none of the main characters depend on a boy to make their lives perfect.  They're not looking for someone who will support them financially.  They certainly aren't after an "M-R-S" degree (a new male acquaintance during freshman new student week at Northwestern asked me if that's what I was at school for--I didn't even know what he was talking about for several minutes).

But they still want perfect love.

Even in this current era, an era where my girls have the privilege of seeing their lives and futures full of all possibilities, an era where thus far at least, they've never been taunted for being a smart girl, a talented girl, a girl who has "boy" strengths instead of "girl" strengths, something deep inside still yearns for a Prince Charming who will love them unconditionally.  Who will complete them. 

Some say that all stories lead us back to the ultimate story, the story of a God who loves us, seeks after us--even to the point of dying for us, and will never let us go.  A God who chooses us despite our plainness, or bad eyes, or even worse hair.  For men, the story may be the hero's journey.  For women, it might be the great romance.

So I'm not going to feel guilty about indulging in sweet confections all Christmas break.  It's back to the real world this week of cleaning my office, working out life and love with my husband, parenting 3 kids who got used to waking at 11 a.m. and are back on the 6 a.m. grind.

After all, we all need a little love, hope and romance in the new year, don't we?