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July 21, 2011 Enter your password to view comments.

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What The %@#$%^! Is Going On Here?

I’m a warrior, a road warrior. Well, among other things. Really. Just hear me out.

Being a family of six limits our options when it comes to travel. Heck, being a family of six limits us financially in several respects, because as you can guess six times any dollar amount usually equals much more than most people can afford.

Hence, over the last few years this family has become a band of road warriors, trekking it across the state and the country in our bucket of a minivan accompanied by three little dogs. Despite the thousands of dollars we save in airfare, road tripping has its drawbacks, the most obvious of which has to be the circus you’re subjected to by the parties in your car.  Read more…

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January 31, 2011 Enter your password to view comments.

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Are My Children Mentally Deranged?

January 16, 2011 9 comments

Here’s a scene from dinner a few months ago, not quite sure what to make of it.

Mom: Where’s Taylor?

Rodney Jr.: In her room.

Kayla: She’s still trying to get out.

Mom: Of what???

Rodney (nonchalantly): We tied her up. Read more…

Christmas Scavenger Hunt

December 13, 2010 4 comments

It’s that time of year again. We only have twelve more days and one paycheck to go before D-Day and to make sure we bought everything we were supposed to. Phew! I’ve got four kids. Good luck with that, right?


Every year our children draw up Christmas lists like I write up my daily to dos. Then, being the jolly good parents that we are, we go a hunting for gifts. Now although this year is looking good so far, there’s usually always one gift that kicks our butt to find.

Last year it was the Crayola Glow Dome selling for only $24.99, but because it was advertised non-stop in December that made it a hot pick item back then. My husband spent nearly two weeks scrounging every Walmart, Target, and Toys ‘r’ Us within a 40 mile radius looking for those bad boys. Ultimately, being the experienced Christmas scavenger king he is, we did prevail.

The year prior to it was the Pantech phone. Released only earlier that month it quickly became the preteen necessity and our youngest son just “had to have it”. By Christmas eve when we were still coming up short, I actually sat in the middle of the AT&T store and started to cry like a crazed mother while my annoyed husband stood over me claiming this was my fault. Eventually a busy salesman felt so sorry for us he agreed to sell us the display. Honestly, he might’ve just been desperate to get us out of the store but whatever.

Like I said, this year is looking decent. Kid 1 asked for $200 worth of toys and girl junk. Kid 2 asked for a 32 inch flat screen TV.  Kid 3, well, he’s the 18 year old I’ve been ranting about lately and since he’s on the naughty list this year he’s just getting a lump of coal. Kid 4 asked for a Mighty Beans 3-pack for a mere $3.99. Now, can you guess which kid is my favorite this particular Christmas?

Save yourself or remain unsaved

December 11, 2010 3 comments

This month has been rough, what with finals, car problems, my sister in the hospital again, my brother moving out,  then there’s the rest of life; bills, kids, work. And, of course, the ordeal with my 18 year old son, who’s doing some soul searching of his own. I’m learning new life lessons and rediscovering old ones, too, some of them heart breakers.

I’m learning that people aren’t always who you think they are and that’s not all their fault. Sometimes we build them up in our minds to be who we want them to be instead of accepting who they are. We assume we’re older, we know better, so what we say goes. We think that because they’re our children or kid brother we’ve earned the right to plan their lives for them, especially if you’re afraid they don’t have dreams of their own or you just don’t like what they do have. Then we act surprised when they’re not plugging away working on that list of ambitions we set for them never once thinking that maybe it wasn’t what they wanted. We ignore the signs that tell us they’re anything other than what we want them to be and convince ourselves we can fix them, save them.

Well into adulthood, you still think it’s your job to look out for your kid brothers and sister, making sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to, just like you did when you were ten. You carry their failures and burdens as your own. You forget that you can’t mold people into who you want them to be. You can’t change them. They are who they are, take it or leave it. People evolve at their own pace not yours.

We mistakenly assume an 18 year old without plans is an instant sign of disaster, a distress signal that a parent is required to reply. We forget that some things even a parent can’t answer and that includes telling your son who he is or is supposed to be. We forget what it was like to be 18 years young, and confused, and scared, and trying, just trying to figure out your place in this big old world.

You confuse your kids’ mistakes for your own. You think your siblings’ misfortunes belong to you. You forget that kids and siblings alike grow up and have to figure things out for themselves, without you shadowing them or judging them.

So I’m learning..to have faith in my last 18 years of parenting, most of which were good. I’m learning that sometimes my support is needed more than my direction. I’m learning that I have to let people learn from their own mistakes just as I do mine. I’m learning to accept people for who they are, with all of their flaws, even if it means they’re not doing anything I wish they were. But mostly I’m learning that I can’t save anyone besides myself. People have to save themselves or remain unsaved.

A Mother’s Declaration

November 23, 2010 2 comments

Life is good, but it can also be very, very trying. You’ll often find yourselves at crossroads that will surely test your judgment and confidence. Sometimes you’ll choose the path laden with smooth stones and simple turns. Those will be the days filled with more good times than bad. Other times you’ll choose the road less traveled. This is where you’ll learn what you’re made of. Life is filled with choices and when you’re in the moment it’s so hard to know if you’re making the right ones. Strive to make decisions that you can be proud of, that reflect who you are and what you stand for.

Remember the golden rule. Treat others as you want to be treated, not how they treat you. This is difficult, I know. People can be terrible and cruel. You mustn’t reciprocate that. How people treat you is their karma, but how you react is yours.

Dream big and don’t be afraid to fail. The world is filled with people who stay confined to the limits set before them. Fear can do that to you. Don’t be one of those people. Live your life with a perseverance to survive and succeed despite the challenges you face. Nothing worth having has ever been easy, but I assure you the taste of success is sweeter when you’ve worked that much harder. You can be as big as you want to be, the possibilities are endless. Your father and I believe in all of you and the potential you possess. Believe in yourself.

Inevitably you will make some mistakes. You’re not perfect and no one should expect you to be, including yourself. Create a compass of your triumphs and misfortunes, a means of understanding what works for you and what doesn’t, but never let either conclude you. Victories can be short lived and tragedies can ruin you only if you allow them to.

Be grateful for everything, however big or small. We’re not guaranteed anything in this life except the air we breathe, but through the grace of God we are blessed with opportunities to make better lives for ourselves and those around us. It’s up to you to recognize those chances. Remember that when you feel you have nothing or no one, you have yourself.

Our family has been fortunate to been able to provide you with material possessions and amenities that have suited to make your lives comfortable. We are neither rich nor poor. Many people have more than us, but far more have less. I don’t regret living in a nice house or filling it with pretty things. I believe in enjoying the dollar you earn, but I hope I’ve raised you well enough to distinguish the difference in values we place on objects verses people. People are what matter, not things. Don’t forget that. When you die you can’t take things with you, but the memories you foster with family and friends are everlasting. If you lose someone you love that new BMW or diamond necklace will do little to comfort you. Be mindful of what you cherish and who you don’t.

We are all born into varying cultures, religions, and families that influence us and have the propensity to carve circles around us. Often these circles are intended to protect us, but more frequently they hold us down. You’ve been shaped by our family that loves you, groomed by our social and ethnic cultures, and blessed by our religion that has handed you down its own values and beliefs, but you and you alone must be the one to define yourself. Stay true to you. Always. You are unique and that is what makes you special. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are or who you shouldn’t be, not even me. Embrace yourself for your differences even if it feels like everyone is telling you otherwise.

I have tried to instill the significance of your relationships with one another. Friends are wonderful, but blood will always be thicker than water, at least in this family. You’ll grow up, move on, go to college, and meet new people. The changes in your life will be constant. You’ll find a better job to replace the old one. You’ll lose touch with friends and make new ones. New loves will become past loves. Throughout it all, your brothers and sisters will always be there. That will not change. Your relationships with one another are forged by childhood memories, the secrets only a sibling could know, and just in knowing that neither time nor distance could ever break the familial thread that link the four of you together.

I know that your father and I have made dozens of mistakes while raising you all, mostly unintentional. Maybe by the time you read this we’ll have made a dozen more. I beg you to forgive us our indiscretions and not just for us, but for you. Throughout your life people will hurt you, betray you, sometimes with malice, other times with ignorance. Forgive them all, no matter the immensity of their offense. Nothing good comes from a grudge harbored from deep within. Anger only serves to feed hate and resentment, both of which lead to self destruction. You must will yourselves to be bigger than that.

And if I haven’t told you enough, I’ve always known you were great. Don’t allow yourself to be labeled by your paycheck, your job title, the college you did or didn’t go to, your social class, the color of your skin, the clothes you wear, or even your physical beauty. These are not the things that matter. Your greatness resides in the goodness in your hearts, in the way you treat people, the compassion and tolerance you offer them, the inner strength that gets you through the most challenging occasions, the ferocity with which you face your utmost fears, and the effort you put into your own lives.

Wherever you are, whoever you become I know all of you will make me proud. Borne of my blood and nurtured with the potency of my love, all of you were destined to deliver nothing less than brilliance to this world.

Letter to my 17 year old self

November 19, 2010 5 comments

Several years ago a few friends and I practiced an exercise where we each wrote a letter to our 17 year old selves, words of advice so to speak. It was awesome, very self-reflective, and showed us just how much we’d learned and been through in the previous decade. I encourage you to try this yourself. Here is my letter.

Dear Maria,

I know you feel alone, like you’ve just lost the rest of your life because you have this baby to raise, but I promise you – it will get better. Just ride this time out, it doesn’t seem like it, but this time will only equate to a very small portion of your life. And your life is far from over.

You will learn to be a good mom. It takes time and I know you are unsure of yourself right now but you will learn.

Finish school. Go straight to college, even if it’s only part time. If you fail a class because you’re having a hard time juggling work and your son, ask for help from the family and take the class again. Make it work this time. Just don’t stop going. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Get a digital camera as soon as you can afford it. Take a lot of pictures. Those digital pictures are going to last a lot longer than the 35mm film. Honest.

You will find the love of your life.

You haven’t even met half of the people you are going to meet in your lifetime. Don’t worry.

You are going to make a million more GREAT memories that you don’t believe you can- but you will! Just be patient.

Save some money in a secret bank account. Make it an IRA plan that you can’t access so easily.

Save more money for AJ sooner, college will be around the corner before you know it.

Spend less time worrying about your weight. You’re not fat.

You are beautiful. You have great cheek bones, smooth skin, and a sweet smile. Enjoy your youthful beauty for as long as you can because when you get older you will regret that you never realized what you had.

Practice safe sex.

Don’t have sex with your girlfriends’ ex-boyfriends, it complicates things.

Cherish the group of friends you have in your 20’s. They will be the best you ever have.

Don’t drive drunk.

Accept your mom for who she is. She’s crazy but don’t ask her to change, don’t expect her to. She doesn’t have to and she won’t ever. The sooner you accept that the sooner you can make amends with who she is to you.

Don’t be sad  about Dad. I know you think he doesn’t love you, but he does. It’s not about you. You didn’t do anything wrong. Some people are just broken.

Hold onto every moment with your baby sister. Make every memory with her last longer. Love her. Take care of her for as long as you can. Forgive her.

Control your temper. Don’t get so angry. The world isn’t out to get you. Think before you react. THINK FIRST. Revenge doesn’t fix anything.

Don’t sweat the stuff people do to you, life really is a circle. You get what you give.

Get into jogging, or running, or walking in the mornings. Make it a habit.

Write it all down. All of it. Everything you feel. Everything you’re afraid of. All of your secret hopes you don’t want anyone to know about. Write it all down. Hide them if you have to but just write it all down. Your own words will serve as your record that you actually did it, you went through it, you got through it. I know you’re afraid people will read what you write but that’s okay. When you get older you will want them to.

When you are 22 you will go through some things that make you question yourself. You will ask this question everyday for several years. The answer is yes. Yes, the tears will stop. Be strong.

Throw less house parties. They are not worth the headache.

Buy a hybrid car as soon as they are available. I’m serious. Don’t worry about how they look. It won’t matter soon enough.

Go ahead and take those risks. They won’t always pay off, but when they do, they will pay off BIG.

Take care of your credit.

Don’t talk back to Grandma. Just listen to her. You don’t have to believe everything she says, you can pretend. She won’t be around forever and you will regret the times you fought with her.

You don’t know who I’m talking about yet but- he will come home. He will.

Don’t be angry when your kids act just like you, they are doing it because you are what they know.

Don’t get angry when your kids don’t act like you, they are their own people. They’re not you. Let them be who they want to be.

Last piece of advice. Remember this one because you will question this time and again for decades to come. Things are going to work out for you. You will be okay. Don’t let your fears stop you from trying or you’ll miss out on all the successess in store for you. Don’t stop trying. Your life is worth it. You are worth it.

Love,

30 year old Maria

P.S. Don’t overanalyze this letter. It’s not a map of your future. It’s just some advice from someone older and wiser.

Even his dog knows

November 16, 2010 3 comments

Recently my 18 year old son informed me that returning to the coming spring semester of college “did not fit into his current plans” to which I appropriately responded “and supporting your *ss until you figure out your life does not fit into mine!” Is he sh*tting me?

*Sigh* Honestly, I actually saw this coming. He’s never taken too well to academics and he struggled throughout high school, but still, I thought he knew better than to be a college dropout. This topic is still premature, so I’m hoping he changes his mind – before I wring his neck. If he doesn’t, well, I’m going to pray for the kid because if he thinks I’m going to let him lounge around the house until God knows when he’s got another think coming .

If he wants to live in the real world, I’m going to give it to him. Go to school, get a job, or get out. Other parents, be careful not to judge me or you could find yourselves in a similar situation several years from now.

I refuse to be the typical Asian parent who lets her children live at home rent free, usually encouraging little sense of responsibility, until they turn 35. That may work in some families, but it doesn’t work in mine. You can call it tough love, I call it a dose of reality.

I love my son, don’t even try to to accuse me of anything different, but if he’s going to take this path, inevitably limiting his choices without that college degree, I won’t knock him, but he’s going to get a taste of how hard it is without one early on. I’d be nothing short of a bad mom if I didn’t make sure he realized the full consequences of his actions before it was too late or too hard to rectify things. He can drop out, but he better have a good back up plan, because I won’t be it.

He’s spent the last week staying at friends’ houses, I’m sure in an effort to avoid discussing this further with me.  Following a four day absence, he came home and tried to play with his dog, Hyden, before dashing out the door again. Hyden refused to play with him. Instead Hyden walked over to him and started barking at him incessantly. Each time my son reached out to pet him, Hyden cringed backwards to avoid his hand.

It was as if Hyden was trying to tell him something. Maybe he was saying “C’mon kid, what are you doing? Get your head out of your *ss. Go back to school, or get a full time job, but do something. You’re driving your parents nuts. Ruff!” See, even his dog knows.

Why I write comical satire

Wouldn’t all the crap in my life be experienced in vain if I couldn’t share my family’s dysfunction with others so that they, in turn, might gain some consolation in knowing at least their lives don’t exceed the lunacy I encounter everyday?

Protected: Adventures at Six Flags

November 9, 2010 Enter your password to view comments.

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Cruise Escapades

November 5, 2010 1 comment

First impression..why are there more Filipino workers on this boat than there are Filipinos in all of Austin? I kept expecting some guest to ask me for fresh towels or to take their order. And why does this ship resemble a 1970’s casino?

Gayribbean…no, I did not make that word up. While I was booking the cruise I was so concerned with affordability I didn’t realize I had booked us on a Gayribbean Cruise. That was the official name. A few hundred gay guys…I’m from San Francisco so it actually took me two days to notice. All good, it wasn’t a bad thing.

Eye candy…I seemed to serve as the eye candy for a lot of the black men on board and in some cruel circle of a joke many of the gay men served as my eye candy.

On using the bathroom…the first time we heard a ship toilet flush

one of the girls was supposed to be taking a shower. It’s a scary sound and we had no idea what it was. I had to send in my oldest son to make sure his sister didn’t get swallowed up by the ship.

Sail and Sign card…the ship ran cashless so you had to charge everything to your room key/Sail and Sign card which was linked to your credit card. My husband was so excited in the first 3o hours he spent $156.00 on drinks for himself. I took away his Sail and Sign card the second night and told him to find another way to be that happy.

Silly things we find amusing…while watching the girls swim on the boat my husband and I watched a four year old boy, who weighed an easy 70 plus pounds, go down the five foot tall mini waterslide at least three dozen times. Each time he slid down the entire front row of sunbathers would get drenched. His oblivious mother kept egging him on once more.

Hairy man contest…this was a real event. There’s nothing like watching heavy and hairy middle aged men, to be exact; a plumber, an A/C guy, an IT manager, and a UPS driver, gyrate shirtless to Dancing Queen by ABBA.

Hip hop dance class..throw on a jumpsuit, wear a pair of Adidas shoes with the fat laces, chew gum from the right side of your mouth, say you’re from Puerto Rico and voila! You have a certified cruise hip hop dance instructer.

Meeting people when you’re drunk…my husband’s first night on the boat he met a guy named Ted. They chatted it up, ran into one another several times, and we actually spent a day in Cozumel with him. It wasn’t until the third day he finally told my husband, “My name is actually Tay, not Ted. I didn’t realize I would end up hanging out with you so much so I didn’t bother correcting you, but I figured if you wanted to keep in touch you should probably know my real name.”

Catamaran sailing..on an excursion in Mexico we were provided with free unlimited margaritas, although they were completely watered down. Caught in the moment, I let my son have his first sip of alcohol. Just as he was taking a sip we passed another boat full of nude people. There was my fourteen year old sipping a margarita and looking at several sets of breasts and then some….talk about walking him into manhood. I tried to get him to close his eyes but he was not trying to hear me one bit.

Afterthought…being on a Carnival cruise line is a lot like being at a week long party on a vessel that resembles Circus Circus with lots of drunk people. We had a ton of fun, but next time around I’m saving up for a Disney cruise. It might be more family friendly.

How can you tell when your son is going through puberty?

October 28, 2010 1 comment

He starts taking showers two to three times a day. I’m not kidding. With our older son I thought he just started caring more about his hygiene, but my husband filled me in on the real deal. Initially I was too shocked and stunned to address the issue whereas my husband seemed more proud, in that ridiculous man kind of way. Of course, he didn’t find it so funny when our water bill increased 20%. That’s when he warned our son to “cut your showers down, I mean it, and you know what I’m talking about.” I did my part and started hiding my Victoria’s Secret catalogs.

A teenager’s camping checklist

My almost 19 year old son went camping with a large group of his friends this past weekend. Of course, it was only 10 minutes away up by Lake Travis but still. This was my nightly text checklist for him.

  • Did you pack enough clothes? Should Mommy bring you more clothes?
  • Keep your butt clean, did you grab toilet paper from the house? Better yet just drive home if you have to do a number two.
  • Are you drinking? Stupid question.  Don’t drink and swim. Promise me.
  • No cliff jumping at night!
  • Don’t start a forest fire. Don’t let Ethan and them start a forest fire either.
  • Don’t share your sleeping bag with anybody..no girls in your sleeping bag or I will be very mad at you. Don’t make Mommy go there and tell some girl to keep her hands to herself.
  • Who is feeding you? You come home if you’re hungry.

I love you. Be safe. Mom.

By the way, he did drive home everytime he had to do a number two.

Oh no…

I think my youngest son’s new girlfriend might be a bit dense. I was cleaning his room and found a handmade card with big block letters that said, “To my favrite asain, I *heart* you.”

In the least, the poor girl is spelling challenged.

Dinner at my house

October 19, 2010 5 comments

Dinner is a favorite time at our house. We have a wipe board in the kitchen and every week we post that week’s dinner menu. My husband is a phenomenal cook which gives everyone more incentive to look forward to it. Unfortunately, since the children outnumber the adults our dinner conversation revolves more around pop culture or kid gossip and less politics or current events.

Here are some of the funnier comments overheard at my dinner table.

Regarding Justin’s 5 million plus Twitter followers. “I think Justin Bieber could beat Obama if he ran for President.”

“I don’t care if you can’t help it, if you fart at this table one more time I’m going to kick your *ss!”

After my brother shared his Kahlua ice cream. “Mommy, am I drunk? Is this drunk? Oh no, I think I might be drunk.”

“Daddy, the dogs keep trying to hump eachother under the table.”

Our meatitarian to the vegetarian. “When Daddy’s not looking give me all your meat and you can have my vegetables.”

The week I tried to make only healthy dinners, this is the night I served only salad. “Mom, are we broke this week? Oh..OK..then where’s our real dinner?”

Same week. I tried to feed my Asian husband brown rice. “What the hell is this?”

“Aw crap, one of the dogs is peeing on my feet.”

This wasn’t even my kid. He was a friend of my son’s and apparently never ate canned meat before. “Wow, this is good. What’s this called again? Corned beef? And they sell it at HEB? Is this Filipino food?” No kid, this is actually family on a budget food.

When I asked why one of the kids didn’t come down for dinner. “We tied her up. She’s still trying to get out.”

Now I realize my family leans a bit towards off-color humor, maybe too much for your taste, but silly as it may sound for an educated adult to say, still, I’ll take that potty humor any day over the grown up stuff. I spend all day, and several hours in the evenings in class, talking about reports, deadlines, equations, and logistics. There’s a time and place for everything and if my kids prefer to laugh at dinner, then I’ll take that. Every chance I get I’ll choose the sounds of their laughter to wrap up my day.