Monday, May 30, 2011

Avast, me hearties!

My Cousin Jon, his wife Susette, and their son, Austin
 We carved out a couple hours to attend the first birthday party for my cousin, Austin. I met him minutes after he was born. My Aunt Jean (his Grandma, my Mom's sister-in-law) lost her husband earlier that year and all other family members were in school or working on the day of the scheduled c-section. My Aunt found that she was going to have to wait in the waiting room by herself, in the same hospital where my Uncle passed. When my Mom told me this, I ran across town to sit with her. No one should have to be alone in a hospital waiting room, even if you're waiting for a new baby! I've known about the party for months and as the date got closer and closer, I began to stress out about taking the time away from all the things I've got to do. But it was a Pirate party, and I've got two boys, so we went.

Pirate Nathan, and Pirate Aunt Jean!
 Compared to my husband's side of the family, my family is minuscule. My Mom had one brother, Jim, who married Jean, and had three boys, my cousins Jeff, James, and Jon. Jeff lives in Arizona with his family, but everyone else was at the party so I got to see everyone and dole out lots of hugs and answer lots of questions. For once, my boys were on their absolute best behavior, which meant I actually got to relax and enjoy some cake and adult conversation! On the Rayner side of the family, I was the only girl. When I was a little girl, my Aunt Jean delighted in my presence and let me play with an expensive heirloom doll and try on her wedding veil. I was such a girlie-girl, and poor Aunt Jean was surrounded by all these boys. I remember thinking about her when we found out that Nat was a boy. I drew a lot of strength from her! And when my Uncle Jim passed, I realized that a lot of how I am raising my boys is greatly influenced by how he raised his boys, my loud and boisterous cousins. 
Cousin James and his wife Mai Li. They kept trying to get out the way of people taking
pics of Austin with the cake, but I just angled myself so they'd still be in the pic!

The boys got a lot of pirate's booty at the party. I've never seen a goodie bag so swollen with candy and treasure! But their favorite thing was the eye patch. They wore them all day and all night. I had to make them take them off for bed. Of course when I got up, there they were, watching TV, wearing their eye patches again!
I've been cutting their hair since they were born, but as you can see from the photo above, they haven't had a cut in awhile. With the house a maze of boxes, and a fundraiser for their school going on at the local Great Clips, I took them in for a pro job.
Nathan's hair is still long, which I'm totally fine with. But Ben went from a shaggy puppy to a walking Tommy Hilfiger ad with his very preppy 'do. I had to physically remove the eye patches so they could get their hair cut! Good thing I'm the kind of mom who allows (encourages!) imaginative dress up play in public! I never usually let them wear anything with skulls and crossbones, so I'm wondering if that's the appeal, or if they honestly just like pretending they're pirates? I know they both want to see the new Pirates 4 movie (with a PG13 rating I'm thinking no), so it could be that as well. No matter the reason, I'm happy to see them being silly, sporting smiles instead of tears. Aren't you?

P.S. Here's my favorite Tommy Hilfiger ad. I so want to be in this hip imaginary family! Ben will totally grow up to be that guy with the green sweater turtleneck and blazer. There's no one wearing enough black to be the person Nathan will grow up to be!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I just can't.

I have a sudden respect for people with ADD/ADHD and people who suffer from panic attacks. There is so much to be done and I have lists written everywhere and before I can cross anything off, I'm adding half a dozen new things. I'll pick something up, see something else, go toward it, then remember something else I need to do and go off and start another task. I just can't keep a single thought in my head. And when the larger picture of what I'm trying to accomplish in the next 43 days becomes clear, I suddenly find my chest going tight and I feel like I can't breathe and the sound of my heart pounding is so loud in my ears that I'm certain everyone in the room can hear it.

I mention here on Boy Wonder how awesome my husband is all the time. And sometimes when I write it all down and shower him in praises, I think to myself, "what exactly do I do around here, if he's so great?" So I asked him to tell me what he'd say my biggest and best contributions to our family are. He had a lot of great things to say (thanks, Bean!), but I think the one I like most is that I'm the glue that keeps everything together. Whether it's our schedule, our belongings, our family, our friends, or our plans, I'm in the middle making sure everyone is on board and going in the same direction. Nothing and no one gets left behind or forgotten. We move a lot, yes. But you can ask our friends from six or seven moves ago and they will tell you that I work just as hard to remain friends with them now as I did when we all lived in the same town. And I think that's why we pick up so many extended family members... when I encounter someone who is alone and without a family unit, I make sure to absorb them into ours. Either permanently or for a season, no one gets left out in the cold.

But right now, my glue is sorta losing its stickiness. I just can't keep everything together, least of all myself. And of course, when I start to lose it, my boys start to lose it even worse. It's a vicious cycle. On Friday, Benjamin woke up crying. He cried from 6:30 a.m. until I dropped him off at school at 8:30. I picked him up at 3:30, and he resumed his tears, which continued until bedtime. He was crying about everything and nothing, slights real or imagined, injuries long since healed, the state of the weather, the day of the week, the tag in his tee, the fit of his shorts, the wind in his hair. By the time he was in bed, I was a frazzled mess. I know that this is Ben's way of saying "I'm nervous and worried about all the changes we are going through right now." But by the time I tucked him in and listened to his prayers, I felt like I had absolutely nothing to give him. I called my Mother-in-law at 10:00 p.m. and poured out my heart for an hour. Awesome people that they are, my in laws are going to take the boys on Monday for Memorial Day and shower them with love and fun things. I'll have a quiet day of doing what I need to do in complete solitude, picking up all the balls that I'm dropping and then stumbling on.

One of the balls that hasn't been dropped so much as carefully but regretfully put to the side, is giving time to my local friends and family members. Knowing that time is running out before we're gone for at least two years, I'm getting a deluge of invitations to get together with people. And I'm having to decline all of them. While I would love to see everyone just one last time, the truth is, I just can't. There are several people that I personally really want to see, and I'm terribly sad to find that we just can't make our schedules or geography work for one last goodbye. So it's not like I don't understand how my friends feel when I tell them I just can't see them. I always give them the option to come to my house (preferably with takeout) and help me pack, but for the most part they just get upset, thinking I'm not willing to see them. It's a terrible spot to be in for someone who works so hard every day to bring people together, to suddenly feel like I'm pushing them away. It makes me want to cry like Ben, from dawn to dusk. I wish I had unlimited time to splurge on pedicures with my girlfriends, movies with my college kid pals, and dinners out with our married friends. I wish I could give everyone the attention they desire and deserve. But you know what? I just can't. Feelings are getting hurt all over town, but I can't do it. It's tearing me up and adding to my stress by heaps and bounds, but I just can't. And that, my friends, sucks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

72 Days Without Michael: Day 34

Michael is the Breakfast King around here. I've previously mentioned how my kids have to fend for themselves in the morning unless Michael is here to make French toast, eggs and bacon, or fluffy pancakes for them. I simply don't eat breakfast unless he makes it. Since he's been gone, the boys have eaten cereal, instant oatmeal, or frozen waffles each morning. They've mentioned a few times how much they miss Daddy's pancakes, but they've never asked me to make them.

On Saturday, I slept in for only the second time since Michael left. It was heavenly! When I finally came downstairs, the boys were curled up on the couch looking snugly, so I crawled in between them and chatted for a bit. It was almost noon, and although they'd already had oatmeal (Ben) and cereal (Nathan), they were both craving pancakes.

I did what any good mother would do in the absence of her expert pancake maker: took them out for brunch!

We went to Hof's Hut, a local beach-side burger place that serves a generous breakfast all day. Ben got a stack of pancakes and asked for a side of strawberries and whipped cream which he ate separately. Nathan got Daddy's favorite cinnamon roll french toast with sausage and eggs. The boys ate every single bite! And I got a breakfast quesadilla because me and Mexican food are real tight, any time of day! 

I wanted to have a conversation about Michael and how much we miss him and what we should get him for Father's Day. The funny part was that there were three other families there that happen to be good friends of ours that kept stopping by our table to tell us how much they'll miss us and asking how we're doing without Mike around. Ben commented, "Wow, everyone here loves Dad!" And Nathan added, "But no one more than us!" It was sweet and funny and a really nice time with the boys.

Tuesday is the halfway point between Michael's departure and his return. So many people keeping commenting about how time is really flying by. I imagine for them, the people who only see Michael every now and then, it is. For me, it really isn't! June 30th just can't come soon enough! But on the other hand, with the large amount of work that needs to be done, June 30th is coming way too fast. It'll all get done somehow. One day at a time!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Let it go

The great purge of 2011 is rolling along, somewhat painfully. Tonight I took five huge plastic bins filled with a lifetime of accumulated Christmas decor and ornaments, and whittled it all down to one medium sized box, which we'll ship to Macau. Everything else is in the Garage Sale / Craig's List / Give Away pile. It's good to see that pile growing, but it's also very hard.

The boys were bouncing a ball around in the driveway while I worked my way through box after box in the garage. I kept picking things up, holding them in my hands and repeating, "Let it go, let it go, let it go" until I was convinced that I could really let "it" go. At one point, the ball the boys were playing with went over the fence into the 15 acre park that our home sits next to. Ben said, "Uh-oh," and Nathan said, "Let it go, let it go, let it go," which made me double over in laughter. Kids listen to everything you say, even if they aren't necessarily paying attention!

My parents lent us the Christmas tree above about five years ago when we couldn't afford a live tree plus gifts. Each year we make like we're going to return it to them, and they insist we hang onto it another year. This time we really have to give it back since we won't be shipping it to Macau. Strangely enough, we really don't have any Christmas traditions that carry on from year to year, unless you count observing Hanukkah which we started doing a few years back when Benjamin insisted that we've always done it. The closest we've come to a "tradition" is having the same tree for the last five years!
Even our stockings (seen above) were only purchased (on sale post-Christmas from Pottery Barn) a year or two ago, and we've never actually put anything in them. We kind of fail at having that one warm tradition that the kids will grow up to remember fondly and want to pass down to their families. Instead, we move them all over the world and assimilate ourselves into the cultures or traditions of the places and people we're with at the time.

I love the photo above... you see our pal, Flik, from A Bug's Life, which joined our family in 1997 when Michael went on a tour across the U.S. to promote the film. He's been with us all over, hanging out in the living room of whatever home we've lived in for the last 14 years, either delighting or freaking people out. You see the Japanese doll in the glass case that we purchased for baby Nathan in honor of Boy's Day in Tokyo. While most Boy's Day dolls depict fierce warriors, this doll represents a boy dreaming of the future, full of creativity and imagination. We bought it when Nathan was six months old, and it's remarkable that our choice fits our creative dreamer perfectly! You see a little photo montage of passport photos that were taken of all four of us in 2005 when we lived in Hong Kong and had to get visas to travel to Beijing to climb the Great Wall. Remarkably, all four of our photos turned out amazing (something I've never seen on a passport photo!) and I felt the need to get them framed. And further over to the left, you see a photo of us on the Great Wall, hanging from the lamp.

I actually pulled up Christmas photos with the intention of writing about how sad I was feeling about letting go of three decades worth of Christmas ornaments and decorations, and lamenting about how we're somewhat untethered when it comes to grounding family traditions that might get passed on through generations to come. But instead I'm reminded that instead of an annual turkey dinner, the opening of stockings at midnight on Christmas Eve, and my grandmother's famous pumpkin pie, I'm actually giving my family the whole wide world. There is no ornament or pumpkin pie recipe that could compare to the experiences we've had and that we'll continue to have in the next several years.

With that perspective, it's so much easier to let go of the stuff that I keep trying so hard to hold onto. I tend to think that if I let it go, I'm letting go of the memory associated with it or the person who gave it to me. And yet here I am, making my 13th move in sixteen years, lugging this burden of stuff around with me. You'd think I would've learned this lesson somewhere around move five or six... What can I say? Better late than never. Better now than on move 15 or 16. Better to let go now, so I can enjoy the present and look forward to the future instead of worrying about taking care of all this stuff that represents the past. And if there's a "tradition" I'd like my boys to pass on through the generations, please let it be that.

What are you hanging onto that you could let go of today?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Take a look at Encounters: Audiovisual Mapping of the Ruins of St. Paul’s which is part of the Macao Arts Festival going on now. You can catch this amazing video projection on the Ruins of St. Paul nightly at 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. until May 22nd!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just Ducky

Things are moving along both at record-breaking speed and excruciatingly slow. I have a giant laminated calendar in the stairwell for the months of May and June, and the boys take turns making big X marks at the end of each day, getting us that much closer to Michael's return. And while I'm happy to see 27 big X marks up there, I'm also reminded that time is marching on and there is still so much to do.

We had a garage sale on Saturday at my in law's house. This was the first garage sale I've ever done without Michael, and my amazing Mom offered to come down and help. I'm so grateful. Mainly because I'm terrible with bargaining. If you're hugely pregnant and I'm selling baby clothes and you ask me how much they are, I'm likely to just gather them up and hand them to you, adding in some crib sheets and maybe even a car seat. Horrible! There are always two ways you can go with a garage sale: make money or get rid of stuff. My goal this time around was to get rid of stuff. Which I did!

We advertised that we were going to start at 7 a.m., and at 6 a.m. we started pulling stuff out. There were several people there already (the professional garage sale people who resell what they get from you) trying to snag deals. I don't mind the early birds, but I didn't exactly make it easy on them either. So I always double my asking price for anyone who is there before we start, and no bargaining. Take it or leave it, the day is long and there will be other customers if you don't want to pay that price! The crazy thing was that whatever price I gave, they took, and when I looked at my watch at 7:30 a.m., I'd already sold about 85% of the non-clothing items I had for sale. At the end of the day (we always stop at 1:00 p.m. because by that time you're only getting one or two people every 20 minutes), I took two grocery sacks of clothes and two small boxes of stuff to the Salvation Army. I was absolutely astounded to have had so much success. It was cloudy, windy, and even sprinkled a little, but we had a very steady stream of people. The boys were hoping to sell bottled water, but only managed to sell four bottles because it was so cold! Now if they'd been selling hot chocolate... that would be a different story!

Unfortunately, I still have so much stuff to get rid of! Saturday's garage sale was just the easy pickings. Now I have to make more difficult decisions. Every item I touch I have to ask myself, "Do I want to pay to store this for two years, maybe longer?" At the same time, I have to make decisions on what is worth paying to have shipped over with us. Despite my new Kindle, books (especially kids books) are at the top of my list. English-language books are incredibly expensive and in short supply. I can't take all of them with me, so I have to make good choices on what to bring.

The only other news to report is that it looks like we may have found a home. In fact, right as I was typing that last blog post, Michael was walking into a place that he said felt "like the skies opened up and the angels started singing." I'm not going to post any details until all the ducks are in a row as far as the contract and deposit go, but as soon as the ink is dry on the lease agreement, I'll spill the beans! I will say this... remember our wish lists? They've all been granted! Crossing fingers and saying prayers that it all works out perfectly!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

House Hunters International

Michael has begun the process of looking for our new home in Macau. Last week he looked at three places, and as I type this he's actually with a real estate agent looking at three more. Nathan's wish list: a high floor and a Very Big swimming pool. Benjamin's wish list: a swimming pool with the depth markers painted on the side so he doesn't go into the deep end unless he wants to. Are they easy to please or what? My wish list: four bedrooms and a great view.

You may recall that we were actually going to move to Macau about three years ago, for a totally different project. We were 30 days away from relocating when the world financial crisis happened and the project Michael was working on was shelved, as was his job. We had signed a provisional lease on a flat in Macau that I was absolutely in love with for two reasons:

 Do you see those beautiful green nightstands? Let's look a little closer:
Yeah. If you remember, I LOVE the color green. LOVE it so much, I have to write LOVE in all caps! And if we were going to move into a place that Michael picked that I had never seen, then surely there could be no better place than one with gorgeous green nightstands.

And the second reason:
The red walls in the dining room. I lived in my first house until I was in the 5th grade (poor Nathan is in 4th grade and he's lived in EIGHT houses, it'll be nine in July!). My childhood house had a formal dining room, which we only used with company or for Sunday supper after church. I used to sit at a chair in the dining room and daydream of the day I would have my own dining room, which I would paint bright red. I never knew anyone with a red dining room, nor was I a particular fan of the color, I just believed that I wasn't really going to be grown up until I could dine in a red room of my own. Yet from the time I turned 18 and moved to Los Angeles on my own until this very day, I have only ever lived in rented dwellings. We've never owned our own home, primarily because we moved just too darn often, all over the world. And while we've had several wonderful landlords who let us change the standard Rental White paint, not one of them has ever been enthusiastic about red. So when Michael emailed me this photo back in 2008, I knew it was meant to be our home. There were other reasons to love this flat... it was on the 38th floor with absolutely stunning views and it came fully furnished except for one bedroom, which was perfect since we planned to ship over the boys bunk beds anyway. But the red walls... man, those were a dream right out of my childhood!

When everything fell through and we ended up not moving to Macau back in 2008, I mourned for those red walls as much as I mourned the lost job and the lost chance to move out of the country.

I'm confident that the right place will be there at exactly the right time for this current move, even if it doesn't have a red dining room. And all kinds of furniture is made right there in Macau (I'll bet you have something in your house right now that was manufactured in Macau), so if I want green nightstands, then I shall have them. The amazing thing is that housing prices have dropped in the three years since we were first going to move there. Our housing allowance will go so much further!

I'll leave you with two quick videos. Back in 2008 when Michael was staying in Macau we didn't use Skype. Instead we'd leave video messages for each other on a now defunct photo sharing site. While looking for the photos of the flat above, I came across these videos of Nathan and Ben leaving messages for their Daddy. In them, Nathan is 7 and Benjamin turned 5 on the day of the video. Crazy how much they've grown up in three years! The sentiments they share for Michael are just as true today as they were back then! You'll also notice the bright blue walls... our landlord at the time was cool with blue, but not so hot about red!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mommy and Me

I'm the oldest child in my family, and I'm a girl. In Michael's family, the oldest sibling is a girl. All my cousins who had more than one child had a girl first. So I grew up simply knowing that I would have a girl first. While pregnant the first time, strangers on the street would stop me and say, "You're having a girl! I know it!" All my friends were confident it was a girl based on how I was carrying. Even my OB/GYN was convinced it was a girl, basing it on the fact that I had severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum) that caused a 20+ pound weight loss and frequent hospital visits for the persistent dehydration (which evidently happens slightly more often in pregnancies with a girl baby). The day of the ultrasound, I looked at Michael and said, "But what if it's a boy?" He assured me it was a girl.

But guess what? Everyone was wrong. There was a Nathan Ernest instead of a Margaret Rose.

I famously cried for two weeks after the ultrasound, devastated that my firstborn little girl was not to be. And yes, Nathan knows this story and we laugh about it together. Because having a son was the best thing that ever happened to me, and I tell him that every single day.

I have to say, I love, love, LOVE being a mom to two boys. Yes, they are smelly and tend to be a little gross, but I have so much joy watching them grow into little men. And I relish the opportunity to raise up two more gentlemen in a society where men have stopped opening doors for ladies and such. And having two boys and no girls allows me to continue my reign as the only Princess in our family. I go to Disneyland and see all the little girls dressed up like princesses with glitter in their hair and preschool-sized high heels, carrying little frilly purses, and then I look at my rough and tumble boys with the pizza sauce stain on their shirt and the sloppy kiss presented to my cheek on demand, and I say, "Thank you God for giving me boys!"

But I do sometimes feel a little twinge of sorrow when there are Mommy and Me events that are clearly for Mothers and Daughters. For instance, our city's Mother and Daughter high tea. Or the photo contests for look-alike mothers and daughters. That's never going to be me.

I have a friend named Rory who my husband went to high school with. She and her husband lost their son at birth, and they nearly lost Rory as well. Rory and Tim became adoptive parents to a tiny baby girl, Boo. While Rory and Tim are Caucasian, Boo is African American. And one of the ways they have bonded with their beautiful daughter is through caring for her hair. And fabulous Rory even started a website called Chocolate Hair / Vanilla Care documenting their journey in hair care with Boo. It's a great resource for other adoptive parents, as well as anyone who wants tips on how to get beautiful and sometimes jaw-dropping hair styles for their daughters.

Rory recently put out the all-call for Mommy and Me matching hair styles to be featured on her website. I thought it was an incredibly clever idea, since Mother's Day was coming. I had a brief twinge of that previously mentioned sorrow that I didn't have a daughter to create a matching hairstyle with. And then I realized that my Son Nathan and I have the same exact hair. Everyone else in both our families have curls. We have thick, straight hair. And when I was a teen, I experimented with every style (and color) that I could. Nat hasn't asked for a color change, but he's definitely expressing himself through his hair. So, I decided to submit a photo for Rory's website anyway.

I simply love how it turned out! Ben took the photo, and Nathan was actually thrilled to do this and get attention because of his hair. Like the goal of Rory's website, Nat and I bonded over hair. I told him how unique we were and how so many people in our extended family would love to have our thick straight hair that grows incredibly fast and always looks healthy and shiny. He was so proud. We also bonded over a discussion about fashion. We both prefer to wear black, and he covets my Doc Martens, which fit him perfectly (I'm making him save up for a pair of his own). All in all, it was a great experience.

So our photo lacks sweet ringlet curls, braids, and fluffy pink bows, which was what I dreamed of way back before there ever was a Nathan. But I still got that Mommy and Me experience I've been craving. And I have an amazing and irreplaceable son that I wouldn't trade for a dozen girls!

Go check out our featured post at Chocolate Hair / Vanilla Care by clicking HERE.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day, 2011 Edition

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mums out there, as well as the people who take time to nurture others and stand in as Mums in a pinch!

Michael always goes out of his way to make me feel absolutely cherished and important and instructs the boys to do the same. Since he's not here, I couldn't bear the thought of staying here and working through the weekend like it was just any other day. So I packed up the boys and we hit the road to my Mom and Dad's house Friday after school. They live roughly four hours away, in the middle of nowhere. I'll write more about that another time.

I got to sleep in on Saturday for the very first time since Michael left. I'm such a fan of sleep, and of sleeping in. So this was quite possibly the best part of the weekend (okay, not the best, but it's up there!).

I begged and pleaded for my Dad to make "Birthday Tacos" for me Saturday night (a tradition that goes back to when I was just a little girl) even though it wasn't my birthday. Thankfully I'm quite the Daddy's Girl and he acquiesced.

Every year on Mother's Day and Father's Day, we take a photo with either me or Michael with the kids. Since I was with my own Mama, she got to be part of this tradition! 

I came home Sunday afternoon, and made it back to L.A. before the boys' bedtime. No, I didn't speed! Traffic was just especially light. Which meant that I got to surprise my Mother in Law, Carol with the cards that the boys had made for her. I'd forgotten to drop them off on Friday. She was shocked to see us at the door, thinking we'd be back really late! Aren't those the best surprises? The very best surprise would have been Michael at her door, but he did call her this morning, which was almost as nice!

Michael always gets me something frivolous for Mother's Day. Last year he got me gold ring, set with diamonds (I joke that the boys saved all their allowance from their entire lives to get it for me!). He also got me a day at Burke Williams Day Spa. Although the spa day was more because I was scheduled to have my gallbladder out the day after Mother's Day last year, and I was mighty nervous. Nothing calms my nerves like a deep tissue massage!

This year, money has been exceptionally tight. Michael doesn't get his first paycheck from the new job until May 15th. And he's been under-employed since January. I have to be VERY firm with him and say NO GIFTS or else he'll do it anyway.  But guess what? Last Saturday a package from came in the mail.

Before I opened it, I asked Michael about it. He said that I should open it before I went to my parents' house. I waited all the way until Thursday night (such restraint!), because I wanted to open it with the boys, and I knew we would be leaving immediately after school on Friday. You know what my amazing husband got me?

A Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device that gets free Wi-Fi globally- including Macau! So I can read to my heart's content and don't have to ship over crates and crates of books, or pay $25USD for a cheap paperback when I get desperate to read something in English. This is a gift that will get so much use!

I know it's going to take me a little bit to warm up to the idea of an e-reader. I am a bibliophile in the true sense of the word. I love to read. I love the feel of a book in my hand. I love the texture of the paper. I love the scent of a hardcover book. I love to have every book shelf in my house overflowing with books that I read over and over again. I read 3-4 books at a time, always leaving one in the car, one in the kitchen, one in my purse, and one on my nightstand. I'm never without something to read. And because I read so fast, I'm somewhat indiscriminate. If you give me/lend me any book, I will read it. (Except romance. Ick.) And while my husband is a major geek when it comes to all things tech-related, I am not. I grew bored with his iPad after a week, and went right back to my paperback. So it will take me a bit to get used to the Kindle. But not too long. Especially since I was able to download a bunch of books in seconds while sitting in front of the school waiting for the boys to come out. Is that awesome or what? Speaking of awesome:

See the top line? I changed the name from "Heather's Kindle" to "Heather's Book of Awesome." Because every day that is what my amazing husband calls me. Awesome, that is, not book. The most exciting part about all this is that we've gotten a bunch of gift cards over the last year. We just kept adding the credit to our account, waiting to use it for music or a book or some big ticket item once we had enough credit. And we had enough (and then some) to buy the Kindle. So technically my clever husband didn't spend a cent on this amazing gift. He loves me!

Now that the van is unpacked and my darling boys are sound asleep, it's time for me to climb into bed with a good book. On my Kindle. Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Who could it be knocking at my door?

For the last several weeks, I've heard a gentle knocking on our front door. It's been loud enough for me to hear throughout our two-story house, and prompted me to stop whatever I'm doing to go see who is at the door. And every single time there was no one there. My reaction varies... I alternate between freaking out, getting annoyed, and wondering if I need my ears (or eyes) checked.

On Monday morning, Benjamin heard it too. The boys are not allowed to answer the door unless they see it is Mom, Dad, or one of the Grandparents (sorry for those of you who have come to our house and waved at the boys through the window, wondering why they just wave back instead of letting you in). So Ben came and got me to say someone was at the door. As I was walking to the door, I heard the knock clear and loud and I flung open the door to find... nothing.

On Tuesday morning I was sitting on the living room floor sorting through the never-ending stuff when the knock started up again. I wasn't even thinking about getting up to investigate from my spot on the ground, so I just looked up at the door, which has a half-round window in it. There is a wreath that hangs from the door, which is partially visible through the window. I didn't see anything, but I kept looking at it, thinking to myself, "Whoa, those windows are dirty. I don't think I've ever cleaned them. Better add that to my list of 8,672 things to do in the next 55 days." And then, I saw a little tiny bird hop onto one of the leaves on the wreath and give the window a sound pecking!

I was shocked! The bird was tiny! You could fit it in the palm of your hand and close your fingers all the way around it. But it was pecking the window with all it's strength, making a ridiculous amount of noise for such a tiny creature! I scrambled to my feet and grabbed my camera, but it just flew away.

I was patient, and the bird came back, along with a friend. Together they pecked at the window and I got some pics. As soon as I said "Whoa" out loud, they flew away. I heard them again later, but since I knew what the knocking was, I didn't bother running to the door to look.

I forgot to tell Ben what I found out, and so this morning both boys discovered together that there was a bird pecking on the window and squealed with delight, telling me to hurry and look. Of course, their screams made the bird fly away. Ben was especially excited to solve the knocking mystery since his imagination was coming up with all sorts of terrible things! I have to admit, my own imagination is on overdrive right now, wondering if these birds have escaped from some Disney movie, and realizing quite clearly that I am a princess, have come to tell me to let them in so they can sing happy songs and help me with my sewing and mending.

Hey lady! Your windows need cleaning!

More likely they've gotten so used to the birdseed buffet we used to provide with the birdhouses the boys built with their Grandpa and they want more. So I've added item 8,673 to my list of things to do: buy birdseed!

Happy Mother's Day in advance to all you Mamas! I'll have more on that subject, but I'm packing up the boys and we're heading to my own Mama's house for the weekend. The thought of spending Mother's Day without my husband who has made me feel like the Best Mom Ever for the last 11 years was more than I wanted to handle. And I gotta grab every last minute with my own parents while it's just a four hour drive instead of a 14 hour flight!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Morning View

Right now my two favorite things in life are Skype, which allows Michael and I to talk face-to-face throughout the day, and Dropbox, where Michael leaves photos of what he's seeing right on my computer for me to pull up and marvel at. These little things trick me into thinking that he's simply working out of an office in Burbank, and not a continent away.

Here was my view this morning:

A stack of towels by the door, awaiting use at our daily dive into the pool to cool off from the warm weather we're having here in Los Angeles. I'm not going to show the mess behind me. No one wants to see stacks of opened boxes, in the process of being sorted (not even me, ugh).

And here was Michael's (postcard-worthy) view this morning:

The northern-most tip of the island of Taipa, connected to the Macau peninsula by bridge, with the spire of the Macau Tower in the distance. This is the view from his bedroom! The green hills on the upper left side of the photo are China. The urban area to the right of the bridge is all Macau. What you see in the foreground in the center of the roundabout is just public art, there to beautify your morning commute. There are so many things about Macau that excite me, but the thing making my heart sing is despite being the most densely populated region on this entire planet, it is rich with beauty. Even the street signs are far from utilitarian! Throughout Macau, you have these blue and white tiled signs in both Portuguese and Chinese, guiding you as you go. Beautiful!

I don't know about you, but I prefer Michael's view!

In preparation for our move, we visited the travel doctor yesterday. Ben got one shot (Typhoid), Nathan got two (Typhoid and a previously-scheduled Tetanus), and I didn't have to get any. Instead of a Typhoid shot, I get to take a regimen of four Typhoid pills, that make 1 in 100 people nauseous to the point of throwing up. I'm always that 1 in a hundred, so I'm not looking forward to it! But the pills are good for 5 years, and the shots are only good for 2, so I'll deal with it! Michael actually had to get four shots before he left, so we lucked out.

When we moved to Hong Kong, the boys and I had to get 8 shots apiece, spread out over three weeks. Three of the shots were to prevent a life threatening mosquito-borne illness, and they were exceptionally painful. It was so horrible to keep bringing the boys back each week for more shots! They were 1 and 3 years old, and almost impossible to manage as soon as we'd pull into the UCLA Medical parking lot! My wonderful Mom made the 4-hour trek down each week to help me since Michael was traveling during that time. Ugh, I'm having terrible flashbacks. Which make me so much more grateful that this time around was so easy-breezy! Yes, I treated them to ice cream afterwards because they did so well. By bedtime they were near tears from stiffness and soreness in their arms. Nothing a little Motrin and snuggling couldn't fix, and this morning they are back to normal.

We're getting closer and closer! 57 days until Michael comes back, and then before I know it, I'll be seeing China and Macau out my bedroom window, too! Can't wait! Now back to this pile of boxes for me...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Having the Talk with your kids

We are a Star Wars family.

Nathan, age 3 at Legoland

Michael was a major fan, and he forced me into it (although he'll say I went willingly). I have two favorite Star Wars memories.

The first: being a kid and walking into the movie theater at the beginning of Return of the Jedi seeing Han Solo frozen in carbonite (and then getting "thawed"). I stopped in the aisle and my little brother slammed into my back. But I was frozen by the image, just like Han Solo was frozen by the carbonite.

The second: when Episode III came out, we lived in Hong Kong. In theaters there you purchase an assigned seat, much like seeing a live show. We'd purchased tickets weeks in advance. When the day of the movie came, I had a terrible cold and was taking some very powerful cold medicine. But we had tickets for really good seats and we'd waited forever so there was no way I was staying home. The movie theater was packed, and the audience was absolutely silent the entire film. When the scene comes where they finally put the mask on Anakin and say "Henceforth, you shall be known as Darth Vader," I yelled out, "NOOOOOOOoooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo!" Everyone in front of us turned around to look at me and Michael slid down in his seat from embarrassment. I can only blame the cold medicine, because it's not like I didn't know that plot point was coming, right?

Michael started the boys off on Star Wars young. They saw the first three films (Ep 4, 5, & 6) with him while they were preschoolers, and he read them lots of the Young Jedi book series, which they love. More recently they saw the later films (Ep 1 & 2) although we agreed that Ep 3 with it's PG-13 rating and its dark tones and ruthless killings needed to wait until they were older. We didn't discuss how much older. Privately, Michael thought "a few months older" while I thought "a few years older" and one night this winter when I was at rehearsal, the three of them popped in the Ep 3 DVD and Michael held the boys tight during the terrifying parts. I found out when he posted it on Facebook. *sigh* So now they've seen them all.

I saw this video and it cracked me up. I want to say we're not that bad, but... we probably are. Maybe the video will help you as you have the Talk with your kids as well.

Edited: When I picked the boys up from school, I noticed that they are both wearing Star Wars tees. How timely!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

72 Days Without Michael: Day 11

So yesterday we arrived at the eleven day mark. And I hit a major speed bump (brick wall is more like it), brought on by discouragement and plain old tiredness. My attitude went from "I can do this!" to "I don't WANT to do this!" overnight.

Michael had a day off and he took himself to the local movie theater to see Thor, a film that doesn't even come out in the US for another week. And one of only a handful of movies that I really, really wanted to see with him (he's a movie buff, and a comic book buff, but I love a good story about Norse gods! How could this not be the perfect film for us both?). Of course, his relaxing day off happened to coincide with the day that my kids went from being total angels working hard on my team, to wild misbehaving lunatics who got on my very last nerve. I actually yelled at them, which made all of us feel horrible. It's not like this isn't hard enough without me raising my voice! And instead of being happy that Michael got his first day off after ten straight days of working super long hours, I got pissy that he got a day off, period, when I'm feeling like I can't take a day off for the next 60 days. Silly. Stupid. Beyond ridiculous, and totally unfair of me. I know.

I think part of the problem is that I'm faced with a ton of things that only I can do, on top of having to do all the normal day-to-day things that life with two kids brings. I have had so many offers of help, but I'm not sure how exactly to utilize the help. I have to go through every single item we own and get rid of as much of it as I possibly can. This means I have to sit down with every single box, some of which have been packed up for the last four moves.  Now before you say "If you haven't used it in four moves, then you probably don't need it," let me tell you that in many of our past moves, we've had help who indiscriminately placed items of possible worth in with items that could be tossed. So now I've got boxes filled with a few books, a few items of baby clothes, and an old 35mm camera. Or old credit card statements that need to be shredded, ink from a printer we no longer own, and a doll that was handmade by my grandmother, one of only a few things of hers that I have. How do I get someone to help me sort through these things? I can't really. I just have to barrel through and get it done. And there is a lot to get done. I feel that if I take time off now, I will pay for it mid-June by having to stay up night and day to get everything done. It's an enormous undertaking, one that I couldn't really gage the size of until I got started.

One type of help I will not refuse: when people call up and ask if they can take the boys for an hour, an afternoon, a day, my answer is YES, come and get them! Take them, have fun with them! I crave huge chunks of uninterrupted working time, which is impossible with the boys around. Since I'm their only parent right now, I cannot simply say "go ask Dad for help" or push them aside when they want to show me their latest Lego creation so that I can keep my head in the closet pulling stuff out. I'm very aware that I'm fully responsible for setting the tone around here, and if I start to get abrupt with them, they start to get rude to me and fight with each other and then we're quickly in misery yelling at each other. But it's so tempting! Especially when the weight of this move is weighing heavily and squarely on my shoulders.

So during my morning Skype with Michael where I was just a great big ball of grumpiness, he recommended that I just go back to bed and take a morning nap. I decided that with my terrible attitude toward the massive amount of work I had to do, that was a reasonable suggestion. One that would prevent me from getting resentful in any case. So I did. And you know what? I'm super grateful that I have an alarm on my phone telling me to pick the boys up from school, because I slept the entire day!  And I felt so much better. And then I also went to bed on time and got a full night's sleep as well.

Today was Day 12 without Michael and I gotta say, it was awesome. Cub Scout car wash fundraiser in the morning, three hours of hard work mid-day with the boys going through all their books and toys and forcing them to purge, purge, purge, and then spending the whole afternoon swimming in the pool when a friend came over. It was the perfect blend of obligatory kid activities, productive work, and then stress reducing leisure time.

I need to be mindful that this is a marathon, and that sprinting top speed out of the starting gate won't leave me enough energy to make it all the way to the June 30 finish line. I can do this!

One more thing: since my hubby already saw Thor, who wants to be my date when I go see it on Friday May 6th?  

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