Archives for category: Imperfect America

“Mommy, I’m hungry.”

“Me too.”

These are the sweetest five words a mother can hear at 6.32 in the morning.

A mother who’s single-handedly battled – and conquered – the stomach bug in both her little girls AND husband the last six days.

It all started last Friday when Rae got her glasses.

Yes, Rae’s got glasses.


Doesn’t she look adorable?

So she got her glasses, and all was good.

At about 8pm that night, she threw up.

The first time.

At about 10pm, she emptied the rest of dinner, a dinner I can’t even remember, into the toilet.

“It’s the glasses,” I’d insisted.

The next day, she purged. And then vomitted some more.

“It’s not the glasses,” Lokes insisted.

Monday morning came. Lokes was sleeping in Sky’s bed because the kids were beside me. I was too tired to get up every five minutes. I opened my eyes. Sky coughed. And then she threw up. All over herself.

All over our bed.

All over.

“Okay, it’s not the glasses,” I resigned.

So we went to the doc’s at 8.50am on Monday and confirmed that it was the infamous Fall stomach bug that’s been going around. And there was nothing one could do but weather through it. And so, with a piece of paper in my hand called “Things to do when your child vomits or has diarrhoea”, I walked out of the paeditrician’s office, convinced that the world had gone mad, and this would be the longest day of my life.

I was wrong.

At 9pm Tuesday night, Lokes turned to me and asked, “Can grown-ups get this bug?”

I shrugged.

30 mins later, he sat on the toilet. An hour later, he went again. And again. And about 15 more times all through the night.

So Wednesday, yesterday, became the longest day of my life, with both Sky and Lokes perpetually at the potty they didn’t even bother putting on pants (of course, in Sky’s case, it’d become a matter of cost). Rae was all better but she was moody and quiet, not being able to eat or even talk like a human being, just grunting at me now and then as though the bug had slammed us all back to the Stone Ages.


Yes, I am having three wisdom teeth removed tomorrow. At 9.15am.

But my kids are now good. And so is Lokes.

Victory is sweet.

So how’s your week been?

57 diapers
28 changes (and washes) of pants, shirts, bedsheets, cushion covers, pillow covers, blankies
13 rolls of Bounty
7 boxes of wet wipes
4 sleepless nights and days
2 girls

1 exhausted mother

How fall has fallen.

A friend of mine sent me a link to the Redmond chapter of Mothers & More today and I could not help but notice the tagline: The Network for Sequencing Women.

I had to Google ‘sequencing women’ because I thought it was an association for women in genetics. Of course, the first hit was a definition by Mothers & More itself.

Mothers & More represents women who – by choice or circumstance – alter their participation in the paid workplace over the course of their active parenting years. We recognize the needs of the growing number of mothers who move in and out of paid employment and/or opt for a variety of flexible work arrangements in order to balance successfully their work and family responsibilities. This fluid work pattern, which occurs over a number of years and at various stages of motherhood, is known as “sequencing”. The term sequencing was coined by Arlene Rossen Cardozo in her 1986 book, Sequencing.

Here are some actual definitions of the word ‘sequencing’:

  • Determination of the order of nucleotides (base sequences) in a DNA or RNA molecule or the order of amino acids in a protein
  • Reading, listening, expressing thoughts, describing events or contracting muscles in an orderly and meaningful manner
  • Sequencing controls the order and time delay for output voltage appearance as well as dropout when power supplies are turned on and/or of
  • Dividing information into smaller, numbered pieces, transmitting it, and reassembling it once it has been received
  • In human behavior, doing things in a logical, predictable order.

The last one had me chuckling. Note that this was the definition provided by the Alzheimer’s Association. So unless you have Alzheimer’s, you’d know that choosing to quit your job to be a full-time parent isn’t really logical nor predictable. Rather, most of the time, it starts out as a naive, idealistic choice. That’s because most of us imagine sunny days spent watching our kids play independently in the backyard. We imagine lazing back in our Adirondack chairs, our slim, golden bikin-clad bodies roasting gently in the summer sun, a tall, cool glass of lemonade (or a festive mojito) in one hand, laughing contentedly as our kids act all cute running through the high, fine spray of our sprinklers. The skies are always blue, the grass always green, diapers always changed, laundry always done, dinner always ready, pantries and fridges always stocked, carpets always vacuumed, glass always full and hormones and body in perpetual harmony.

Sequencing. Besides being a funny big word to mean a very simple thing, I question its need. Americans, I think, love coming up with (or blatantly borrowing) new terms to politically-correctly (is there such a word?) describe what they think are 21st-century circumstances when in fact, working class women in Asia have been weaving in and out of work and parenthood since…there were women. Back when Indonesian maids were mainly still in Indonesia, Malay and Chinese and Indian women worked in the fields or in the mines or as servants in the houses of rich families or help their husbands in their own little family businesses to put food on the table. If they got pregnant, they worked through the pregnancy, and when the baby (or often, babies) is/are born, they stayed home to care for their kids, along with grandma or grandpa or whoever, whichever older relative was living in the same house. Whenever these women felt they were up to it, they’d go back to work. Often, they were presented with only one of two hard choices: Stay at home and your kids will starve. Go to work and leave your kids to the elements. Do whatever it takes and try not think too much about it.

Were they sequencing? Yes. Did they need NOT to be judged and to be acknowledged for their efforts? Hell, yea. Did they care? No.

With all the books written about opting out and opting back in again and whether women stupid for wasting their opportunities and lives by quitting their jobs just to parent full-time, or if they’re selfish, irresponsible career-obsessed men-wannabes for wanting to chase their dreams of fame and fortune, it all comes down to one thing. Well, I think it does. And the thing is, what makes you happy? If you enjoy your work, and are the type of person who needs to stay busy and earn money to be fulfilled, then go for it. If you enjoy being there with your kids all day, even through the unpredictable bowel movements and illogical temper tantrums, then do it. If you like a mix of both, then open an Internet business. There is more to technology than Google and Solitaire, ladies. Open an eBay shop. Blog for money. Play poker. In my case, I opened a cooperative preschool because, well, I’m insane.

It can be as simple as that.

Because when it comes down to it, happy people make happy parents.

No need for some big, convoluted debate about who’s right and who’s right-er.

No need for therapy.

No need for fancy new-old words.

Aug07 ROFL award

The fabulous Sue at Red Stapler, whom I’d met at Blogher07, gave me an ROFL award for this post.

I know, I don’t deserve it, because I haven’t even been blogging much lately. And I’ve never thought of myself as capable of evoking floor-rolling guffaws (perhaps a rare LOL, but an ROFL? Perhaps I should write comedy!).

And an ROFL is what I desperately need these days. I’ve been so busy with Sky’s preschool setup that I’m almost missing Rae’s big kindy-going celebration. My kindy mom friends have been emailing back and forth tearful experiences this week and I feel so guilty for not having been as excited as I should be, as ANY first-time mom of a kindergartener should be, because of this coop crap. I should be tied up and fed fried worms.

But not all is lost. Today is her first day and I shall be as tearful as the rest of you. You’ll see.

Speaking of Sky’s new cooperative preschool which I’m helping to set up, let me just say WHAT THE FLIPPIN’ FISH HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?! The people who was to lease us our site came back with permit problems that will last until Winter quarter so we’ve had to scramble the last two weeks for a new site. Our Twos teacher quit because it was just too much for her so we spent the last weekend scrambling for HER replacement.

One has to ask: Just how much stress can a human being handle?

I need more than an ROFL. I need the friggin’ jaws of life.

The past two weeks have just been insane here at the Tan household – or at least up here in my head.

With work ramping up at the preschool and the girls winding up for the coming school year (Sky will be in the preschool I’m setting up; Rae will be going to kindy, which is just as nerve-wracking), it’s a sad realisation that the lazy days of summer are almost over. Although ‘lazy’ is probably the most inaccurate word to describe our summer.

I would like to make a clarification here to my Malaysian friends – I don’t TEACH at the school. God, no. I just work with other parents to set everything up; hire the teachers, get the supplies and furniture, do an amount of paperwork that should be considered illegal especially here in Washington. That, in many ways, is worse than teaching.

And boy has it been a rollercoaster ride. One day we are jumping for joy over a donated storage cabinet that does not infringe some insurance clause. The next, we are tearing what’s left of our hair out when a parent pulls out because ‘she did not read the part about work commitments properly’ (I hope she read that her $100 registration is non-refundable). Do these people give a sod that a lot of work and effort has been put on work schedules and committee assignments, that last-minute changes of heart (because really, joining a cooperative is more heart than mind, which is why all this is so bloody heart-wrenching for me) inconvenience not just those of us mental enough to have volunteered but also all the other parents who’ve signed up? Not so much.

Still, the whole thing is kind of thrilling. We have an amazing team of people who seem determined to see it through. Of course, this being a small town, the humiliation of the whole thing falling through is probably why we’re working our collective arses off. Can you imagine? Nobody would ‘touch me with a ten-foot pole’, as the Americans like to put it, as though failure to launch is a contagious disease. And me being in everything makes it worse. Will they still want me as Services Projects co-chair at the local Mothers group? Probably not. Lokes and I will just have to move.

See what I mean by insane?

“Look at it this way. You can publish a small booklet called How To Set Up a Cooperative Preschool and Still Maintain Your Sanity by the time you’re done,” says Lokes.

Ah yes. I can already see that on the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Our small little tent

On August 11th 2007, la familia went for our first camping trip in the US – or ever (sans the old folks, of course). It was a trip I’d looked forward to, even more than the one to Portland even though the camp site was just a ten-minute drive from our house. However, Lokes had dreaded it the moment I’d announced Rae’s old preschool’s plans to organise one every year as a reunion. He’s not so much the camping type, but I’d finally convinced him with “there’s a Starbucks just two minutes away!”

The Tolt Macdonald park is a pretty standard but nonetheless popular campsite with a river running through it, hiking and mountain-biking trails, and even a suspension bridge (which you will see much of in my Flickr pics). All seven of us preschool families camped together, spent the two days walking the trails, crossing and re-crossing the bridge 27,000 times, made fires and even foraged for berries. The camping gods might have blessed us with sweet manna and wild game had we not all parked our SUVs and minivans right on our camp sites; SUVs and minivans stuffed with iceboxes that hid cold beer, wine, steaks and sausages. Pillows, loveys, gas stoves. Magic of the Rainbow Barbies. GPS systems, mobile phones and a PSP.

My American friends tell me it’s ok, these excesses. “Car camping is an American tradition!”, they chorused, trying to assuage the fears of a Malaysian family 12,000 miles away from home – or at least an hour’s drive from bright city lights and structures made of concrete.

As we sat huddled over our pathetic little fire in the dark, cooking hot dogs because we had nothing else to do, I dared to ask.

“So…what do you think?”

My dear semi-roasted husband looked at me, his face glowing from the embers.

“It’s not as bad as I thought.”

There is hope yet for all mankind.

When I signed on to help set up my town’s first cooperative preschool, I knew that it was a huge undertaking. Gargantuan.

I knew that would be lots of stress, sweat, sleepless nights and maybe even tears involved. After all, what did I know about building a school, much less an American school? All I’d wanted was to help, do my part as a member of our small community, and mainly to recreate the positive environment where my older child and I had spent our first 1.5 years in the US, so that my younger child, and those of other parents today and in the future, could reap the same rewards closer to home.

As rhetorical and over the top as it may sound, this was exactly what I had set out to do. I may not know much, but I am a responsible, trustworthy person and I will go to the ends of the earth with you, if you offer the same commitment to me.

Now I accept that different people have different priorities and what may seem to be great to me may not be the same to them. With so many choices out there for your child’s education, you just go with what your experience and instinct tells you is right. There is no science to it, sorry to say. You can do all the research you want and say you want to do what’s best for your child, but we are human and we have very real limitations. What’s best for your child is really what’s best for your child AND you.

Being a cooperative, more than half the success of the preschool depends on the parents, which, I would say, is the same anywhere if you want your child’s education to be a positive experience. Those of us who have too much on our plates elect to go with something that require less participation. That does not mean you’re not as good a parent as me. Parents who elect to enroll in a cooperative do so for various reasons. Mine is because my finances are limited. Since a cooperative charges less, this works for me.

The task, as I said, is a daunting one. When we had our first meeting, around eight parents turned up. At the second, we were left with only three. But we gritted our teeth and trudged on. Today, we have a site, a team of 14 dedicated parents, 16 students and two teachers. In over a month, we will be open for business, come what may.

If this experience has taught me anything, it is that a business, any business, even (or especially) nascent non-profit ones, has its challenges and its politics, particularly in a small town where word travels fast – and bad news (true or not) even faster.

My only hope is that as adults, and parents, we know enough to sift through the noise, find the grains of truth and resist the draw of the mob.

…I’ve been scrapping Rae’s Book Two, and the results are at my Iscrap blog and my Flickr.

Here’s Page Three:

Raeven Book Two Page 3

Busy week this week with jazzercise, playgroups, swim classes for the kids, meetings for the preschool and our local mothers group, community work at the local Farmers Market. Have to get everything done before I fly off to Chicago next week for Blogher so might not have time for long, indulgent posts. As far as my paid posts go, I am being very selective…I’d rather be thinking up clever t-shirt designs for my new store.

But I’ll do your tag, MG. I promise!