Monday, June 29, 2009

Suffer the LIttle Children

I'm back. Back to my wonderfully mundane life where the kids sleep in and then wake up and do nothing, leaving me plenty of time to do the same.

I love Vacation Bible School, but I love it even more that it's over. My son was the only one who thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. He asked me, "Aww, how come VBS is only a week?" I told him it was because otherwise all the volunteers would become suicidal.

Aww, Mom, why can't someone carry me around on their shoulders everyday?

VBS is like Sunday School on steroids. Maybe a triple dose of steroids. Which is why I needed the triple amount of caffeine. My self-imposed job was to lead 10 soon-to-be kindergartners around, from crafts to worship to snacks to bible time to the potty every 15 minutes. It is one of the harder positions because we have to be the first ones there in the morning, the last ones to leave, and (this is the hardest) we have to be "on" all the time. "On" is the mode that engages 5 year olds. It involves a lot of tickling, a lot of vocab simplifying, a lot of pretending to understand their babble, and a lot of enthusiasm. I've never been described as enthusiastic. Easy-going, laid-back, and calm: these words are my familiar friends. By the end of VBS each day, I was almost brain-dead. Then I had to come home and prepare for afternoon swim practice.

If Sartre were alive today, he would change that infamous line to "Hell is VBS followed by swimming."

I know, I'm such a whiner.

Clearly, God wanted me to volunteer. Otherwise He would not have given me a daughter who turns into a crying and screaming octopus every time we drop her off and then spends the rest of the time pouting. I thought since I would be with her the whole time, she wouldn't break down, she could enjoy all the activities. I was wrong.

Still I'm glad I got suckered volunteered. I got to know a few cute kids and hopefully passed on the good news of God's love.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Where in the World is Pam This Week?

Running around with 1900 kids at Vacation Bible School.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Snapshots of Fatherhood

Happy Father's Day to everyone! And most especially to the best father ever.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer of Swimming

Don't tell anyone but I've been a neglectful mother up till now. I have elected not to put the kids on a swim team for the past 4 years. As a result, our kids are the only ones in the entire county who don't know how to swim. In the desert climate of Southern California where Olympic athletes are born and bred for all manner of water sports, this is an egregious offense.

So to avoid a visit from Child Services, I finally signed them up for the swim team. Also because I have absolutely nothing to do over the summer. Little did I know that my days would be consumed with packing swim gear, lubing kids up with sunscreen, feeding them a pre-swimming snack, feeding them a post-swimming snack, unpacking wet gear, and washing everything.

I know, I'm such a whiner.

Only my oldest managed to make it on the swim team. She is willing to try whatever the coaches tell her. Compared to my son, who screamed no! every time they told him to stick his face in the water. Or my younger daughter who only sits on the steps so that she can run away as soon as any adult approaches her. Or my baby boy who likes to hide in the corner and poop into his swim diaper.

Last week, we had a practice meet. Each kid had to swim all 4 strokes. In between each stroke the kids stood around shivering while the parents stood around thinking, those burgers and hotdogs on the grill smell so good.

Here she is getting ready to dive in. It wasn't much of a dive, more of a jump or belly flop, really.
Notice the pained look on her face as she struggles to finish her butterfly lap. She only had one day of instruction on the butterfly before the meet. We were on the waitlist for the first week (yes, an actual waitlist), and by the time there was space for us, everyone else had already practiced for over a week. Most kids her age have been on the swim team for 3 years.

She finished last in every race, except for the backstroke because there was another kid who got tired of crashing into the lane markers and quit swimming halfway. It took all the coaches and the entire crowd to get him to finish. Everyone cheered loudly for him when he finished (thank goodness we can get on with the other races). Poor mom, I would hate to be her.

My girl swam all her races with this expression on her face. While I laughed and chatted with another mom about how it was good that she was having such a hard time, because our kids have it too easy. They need an honest struggle every now and then, like fighting to avoid drowning. The other mom, who grew up in China during the Mao years, heartily agreed. During our next practice, we're planning to throw the younger kids in the pool so that they can face and overcome their fears.

And they say homeschooled kids are unprepared to face the challenges of life.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I Will Rise

The first time I heard Chris Tomlin's song I will rise, I thought, it would be perfect for my funeral. So I told the husband that if I die before him, please play this song at my funeral. He responded by rolling his eyes because he can't handle the thought of me dying. Or possibly he thinks I spend too much time on pointless thoughts.

Now, I think of dying whenever this song comes on, but in a good way. Even without the morbid context of me planning my own funeral, this song is a beautiful reminder of our hope and truth. As good as the lyrics are, it's even better with music.

I will rise, by Chris Tomlin

There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul

I can say, it is well.

Jesus has overcome

And the grave is overwhelmed

The victory is won

He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name

No more sorrow, No more pain

I will rise on eagle's wings

Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise, I will rise

There's a day that's drawing near

When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, No more pain
I will rise on eagle's wings
Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise, I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing
Worthy is the Lamb
And I hear the cry of every longing heart
Worthy is the Lamb

And I hear the voice of many angels sing
Worthy is the Lamb
And I hear the cry of every longing heart
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb

I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, No more pain
I will rise on eagle's wings
Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise, I will rise

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Advice for College Applicants

Watch out, world, another Asian is headed for college. That would be my cousin who is finishing up his sophomore year in high school. He'll be a junior in the fall, otherwise known in Asian circles as the single most important year of a life. During the junior year, SAT's are taken, AP tests are taken and counted on transcripts, essays are written, and college applications are sent out. In essence, how the junior year goes determines where a student winds up for the next 4, sometimes 5, years in college.

And everyone knows that which college is attended determines the success of a person.

My cousin has an older friend who got into trouble during his high school years. This friend took drugs, got busted by the cops, and is now working in the kitchen of a noodle cafe. If there was ever a poster person for what happens when you don't go to college, he would be it. Everyone, including his own family, looks at him and thinks, what a shame/waste/loser. Never mind that he's only 21 and has plenty of time for the unexpected turns of life to hit him. Or that he could easily own a restaurant chain in a few years and become richer than all of us (I hope he does). Because in most Asian communities, money is the hands-down measure of worth.

Poor cousin. He's the only child. His mother can't afford to do a single thing wrong, so she is on him like a noodle on my floor. She nags him to volunteer more, to take summer school at the community college, to take SAT prep classes, to hire someone to do his essay, to not do so many fun things, all just to make his college application look good.

This is why colleges are so inundated with Asians. What else is expected when the parents brainwash them from birth that college is the end all and be all, the key to their success as a doctor and lawyer. Thankfully (and this will be the only time I say thank and Texas in the same sentence), I spent enough years in Texas with hardly any Asians nearby to recognize this fallacy for what it is.

I feel for my cousin. I wanted to tell him to relax, have fun, don't decide on his life career yet (lawyer, of course). I wonder if he would believe me if I told him it doesn't really matter which college he goes to. Look at me, for example. I went to a good college, as least in terms of sports, and I wound up being just a housewife. That's what my relatives tell me. But hey, I blog. Doesn't that count for something? Guess not.

I did tell my cousin that he would be fine no matter what. I figure that's as much as I could say without being disowned by his family.

The afternoon I spent with my cousin got me thinking about college for my kids. So far this is the plan I've come up with:

1. Have them go to a community college. How else are we gonna afford 4 kids in college?
2. Have them go to UC Irvine, the nearest 4 year college to us. That way, they can continue living at home.
3. Have them go to a Christian college. Because I like the thought of their professors praying for them before an exam.
4. Give them interesting life experiences. So they're not a carbon copy of the other applicants.
5. Pray for God's will. This would be the most important step we do.

In the meantime, Cousin, are you out there? Don't worry about all this college stuff. It doesn't make a whole lot of difference where you go. Just relax, let life take you where it will. But don't tell your mom I said that.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fun at the Hardware Store

Not really. A trip to the hardware store is never fun. How could it possibly be when the husband takes a whole hour (I'm not exaggerating here) to find a part that matches his 2-inch blob? Even after I've walked around the entire store, he's still standing there in the aisle of doodads staring at his doodad.

Then we get home and he realizes he got the wrong size.

This time, I had the kids to keep me busy. By the way, I really think these carts ought to come with sides and a top. And a dvd player. Not to mention a locked gate.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Almost 40

I once thought by this age I would have it all down, that this would be the climax of my life. If 40 is all downhill, then 39 must be the peak, right? And sometimes, if I think hard enough, I do think I'm at my best ever. Except for my health, of course. And my ability to remember things. And my looks. And my...

I used to be seriously insecure. Probably it had a tiny bit to do with little ole Asian me growing up in Texas with a bunch of hicks who didn't even know what chopsticks were. But that's another story. The point is I've always been wanting to be more this or less that. When I was a kid, I wanted to be blonder and more blue-eyed. Later on, I wanted to be more athletic. Then I wanted to be better at coordinating my jewelry. Back then, there was a chance of me becoming more this and less that.

Not anymore. I realize now that if I haven't become more whatever in my 39 years of living, it's time to give it up. So I proudly claim the following.

I'm almost 40...and I will never be an athlete. I will always be the last one picked for any team. I predict that later on my doctor will discover I've had a mild disease that's affected my cardiovascular system and coordination my whole life.

I'm almost 40...and I will never wear makeup. During my makeup formative years, I just could not get the same effect with turquoise eye shadow and eyeliner as my hickish but very pretty classmates. So I gave up. Later on, I was too embarrassed to go through those learning years because it's fine for a 14 year old to look like a clown, but a 20 year old? Nowadays, even lipstick is too much for me because I hate the taste of it. As long as I can't see my purple lips out of these eyes, I'm good.

I'm almost 40...and I will never be fashionably dressed. First of all, current fashion sucks. Also, it is very difficult to put together any kind of coherent fashion wardrobe when people keep giving me their free unwanted clothes. Like one sister gave me leather pants and salsa dancing shoes, my dad gave me his sweatshirt which shrunk in the dryer, and my other sister gave me her surfer shirt (actually I lifted it from her closet). Really, it's a miracle that I don't look like a total freak. At a wedding, at least.

I'm almost 40...and I will never be neat. My parents were slobs, and my sisters were bigger slobs. Thank goodness I married a slob, otherwise we would've killed each other by now. I'd much rather be the slob that I am than a total neat freak who spends every free minute cleaning and yelling at her kids for being kids. And no, there is no middle ground. And no, I do not have guests who are not family or who do not live in a fraternity.

I'm almost 40...and I will never change my hairdo. One, because it is the secret to how I look the same as I did in high school. Two, because I tried the Halle Berry cut, and believe me, it only looks good on Halle Berry. And three, because my hairdressers-in-training who give free haircuts can't handle anything more complicated than a bob.

I'm almost 40...and I will never be artistic. Oh how I envy creative people. I can barely color coordinate my clothes; how can I color coordinate the walls with the window treatment with the rugs with the furniture? I can barely remember existing thoughts in my head; how can I come up with new ideas? Thank goodness that the rules of language and grammar let me express myself somewhat through words.

I'm almost 40...and I will always be cheap frugal. I don't know why that is. I grew up in the same poor household as my sisters, and they spend hordes of money on facials, Gucci sunglasses, Rolex watches, and video games. I figure it must be genetic. By some fluke, I inherited all my grandmother's genes for frugality, and since it all came down to me, skipping my mother and sisters, I have an extreme case of cheapskatitis. I'm not one of those cheapskates, though, the ones who'll blow a gazillion bucks on themselves but won't spend a dime on others. I'm cheap on myself but perfectly willing to buy presents, treat other people to dinner, and give money to charities. I've learned that generosity has nothing to do with frugality. While I might embrace my frugality, I will always try to be more generous.

I am almost 40...and I will never be a go-getter. I've never been a person who could multi-task very well or get a lot accomplished. Stuff gets done one at a time, very slowly. I prefer to do things right the first time, which is why I avoid starting anything at all. A few worthy goals get all my focus, and who knows what happens to everything else. I can't jump from one project to another either. I'm a person who needs her down time to think and meditate, to daydream, to sit at an airport and people watch.

I am almost 40...and it is time to be happy with who I am.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Another Year, Another Brain Cell Gone

This week I turned 39. Being 39 is like watching one of those long drawn out movie scenes where a clueless woman is showering, and there's a guy rounding the corner of the long empty hallway, not to mention some creepy music playing along with a heartbeat in the background. By the time the hapless woman is killed, you're like finally! It's over, what a relief! That's what I suspect turning 40 will be like next year. Until then, I get to drive everyone around me crazy by muting the sound, covering my eyes, and then asking every second if it's over yet.

So what I did I do to "celebrate" my birthday? This is, if you equate celebrate to waking up and groaning with the realization that I'm almost 40, thinking how nice it would be if we could turn back time, and inspecting the mirror up close to count my wrinkles (so many!).

This year, Disneyland is giving everyone free admission on their birthday. It has been a huge hit, with everyone in the entire LA area descending upon Disneyland. Being the mindless conformist and total freebie whore that I am, of course we went.

I figured if anything could make turning 39 okay, it would be the Happiest Place on Earth. I know, what was I thinking, right? It did turn out to be a very happy day but not because of Disneyland. It had everything to do with the company I was with. Therein lies Disney's secret: get families to spend time together and then claim all the credit.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Favorite Camp Pictures

This is the last post about our camp trip, I promise!

One day into our trip, I was thinking how I was never going camping again. This was after a scurrying mouse freaked me out (ironic considering I used to dissect cockroaches) and hours of packing followed by hours of unpacking. It was my thought going to sleep as my baby twisted and turned on my body, trying to find a good spot to sleep. His little body somehow recognized the strangeness of the bed and eventually ended up on top of mine. Which is why I laid awake for hours contemplating my sanity.

The next day unfolded slowly, so slowly that I kept asking the husband, so what's next? We had a big breakfast, the kids rode the horses, what's the next activity? We decided to go fishing, then swimming.

At the fishing hole, we sat around while the husband took forever to set up the rods. Afterward, he took forever to fish. I wanted to grab the rod out of his hands, reel it in, throw it in and reel it in again. The kids climbed a tree, played with dirt, threw things into the pond, and took turns fishing and swinging. At some point it hit me.
I took in the blueness of the sky, the shade of the trees, the vast nothingness around us, and the laughter of the kids. This is what camping is about. And I thought, we have to do this more often.
If for no other reason than to see images of my kids that I normally don't get to see.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Our Camping Trip

Enough with the gabbing, let's see some pics!

My daughter fishing. Unfortunately there were no fish in the pond.
So she waded in and tried to catch fish directly using the net.
Her baby brother decided to pitch in and help.
Right after he scared the fish away by throwing rocks and sticks into the pond. They ended up catching quite a bit of seaweed.
The family on a hike. Along the way, we picked up another kid camping, and she practically joined our family.
Everyday we grabbed some carrots and celery from the same people who drank all our soda (they never ate them anyway) and fed the horses. The horses loved the carrots but spat out the celery. It says something about celery when animals that eat dead grass are unwilling to eat celery.
Upon arrival at our camp, the first thing the kids did was to run to the horses and pet them. Then they named all the horses with names like Love, Beauty, Brownie, and Ribbons. This one was the friendliest one, and they named her Pearl. We later found out her real name is Sugar, but I think Pearl is much better.
On the way home, happy and exhausted, with not an inch to spare.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On Camping

We went camping this weekend. It wasn't complete camping. We stayed in a bunkhouse with beds, a common kitchen, and common bathrooms. In some ways, it was actually worse than totally roughing it. All the messes left by other campers attracted mice, flies, and ants. Plus, the other campers kept eating our stuff from the frig.

Still, it was nice that we didn't have to pack a tent, although that was just about the only thing we didn't pack. Otherwise you name it, we had it: clothing and just-in-case clothing, extra pair of shoes, bedding, pillows, 1 set of towels for normal bathing, 1 set of towels for swimming, fishing gear, kite, football, soccer, catcher's mitts, books, pots, plasticware, and food for 6 people. It was like moving. It will be some time before I recover enough to do this again.

I don't know when I got so soft. There was a time, right after college, that I worked for the Peregrine Fund. I hiked up to a cliff with a partner and camped there for 2 months while a group of chicks fledged. I came down the mountain once a week to get groceries and dead quail for the peregrines to eat. That was the only time I could use a real bathroom with an actual toilet and hot water shower. The rest of the time we wet-wiped ourselves and showered from a bag of water. And we had to use latrines. You know you've left civilization when you have to use latrines.

My parents thought I was nuts to be living in the wilderness. But it was a great experience. I got to watch peregrines take flight for the first time, I got to stare at amazing scenery all day, and I learned I'm not a total wuss. I was grateful for the simplest things: a real roof over my head, a flushing toilet, a hot meal, the slightest breeze during my hike back up the mountain, a single letter in my mailbox. And I got to name one falcon after the husband, so heads up, there's a peregrine with a red band named Kevin flying around near Mount Hood somewhere.

Maybe it's my age that makes me so soft these days. I'm glad I did my wilderness bit while I was young because there is no way in Hell's Canyon (another spot where we released peregrines) I could do it now.

Reflecting on my past glory days (sad that they would include latrines), I'm thinking maybe camping isn't that bad, maybe we ought to go more primitive.

What am I thinking, clearly I need my morning caffeine.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Good to Remember

This weekend we went camping. More about that later but for now all I have to say is what was I thinking.

We went to Saddleback Church after we came home because they have evening services. Rick Warren preached (over the TV monitor) and reminded us of something important that bears repeating.

Jesus never got angry at any unbelievers. He talked to them, let them walk away from him, but never got into any kind of heated debate, political or otherwise, with them. Instead, he only got angry at religious people, certain ones who were hypocritical, materialistic, and uncaring. But He never got mad at the unbelievers.

Now that is perfection.