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The Christmas season has come & gone in unceremonious fashion. It’s already the year 2023. Every year we all say the same exact thing: Halloween is a blur, Thanksgiving is pretty much passed over as an eating ‘cheat day’, & [whichever holiday you celebrate in December] whizzes past in a flash before we’re all counting down to the new year. For me, Christmas is a mixed bag of emotions. It’s my most favorite festive holiday, not just for my own personal reasons, but also because it was my dad’s favorite holiday as well.

Christmastime always has me reminiscing about my dad, & these past few years, as well as up till now, I have felt a thin veil of bittersweetness fog over the entire holiday. Ever since my dad passed, I’ve tried to make Christmas extra special to honor him & his loving Christmas traditions. My mom tries to as well, but I have noticed that in recent years her heart isn’t just as into it anymore. My dad’s Christmas traditions aren’t as celebrated by my mother as it is by me, except for the main tradition…or should I call it a rule?…that all children must come home for Christmas, even if it’s only for Christmas Day.

I, however, love to carry on my father’s traditions of decorating the house & putting up a huge Christmas tree stuffed full of brightly colored ornaments. Just like my dad, I love hosting our annual Christmas Eve party full of family & friends, & I especially love the gift giving part. If I had unlimited funds, I’d gift all of my friends & family at least a dozen presents during the Christmas season! We both love being surrounded by our closest family & friends during this time, celebrating, eating, drinking, & just overall being merry.

Recently, in the back of my mind, I was feeling a little more nostalgic & bittersweet. I tend to revert back to one singular thought that always lingers in the back corner of my mind: I wish my dad could be here to be in & share this moment with his granddaughter, my little bean. I think about this A LOT; probably at least 5 times a day. Envy builds up inside of me, thinking about how my sister’s children got to spend at least a couple of Christmases with my dad (who is their step-grandfather, just to clarify) before he passed. I then have to tamp down & squash that mindset because it can become an extremely toxic rabbit hole to fall down in very quickly. I try to make Christmas memorable for everyone, not just for my little bean (who is still quite young to remember much of anything, but still I try).

This Christmas was one for the books, & I wish we could have celebrated longer. My sister for once did not get drunk & start arguments with anyone. For the first time since I’ve met him, my sister’s new husband wasn’t stuck on the same seat the entire time, watching the golf channel or ESPN. He actually participated in family activities & played games. My nephew & niece are both teenagers now; well, my niece is still technically a pre-teen, but I’m considering her a full fledged teen based on her personality & interests. They were really fun to hang out with, even though they were both GLUED to their smartphones, & they really got a good chance to bond with their little cousin, even though they’re 10+ years older than she is.

I was so proud of my little bean when she truly started bonding with her older cousins. In the past she would get nervous & scared interacting with them, especially if one of her parents are not right next to her. My little bean would actually cry whenever she saw her male cousin, but now she likes to play with him, although she does need to see someone she’s more familiar with in close proximity to where they are playing, or else she will feel anxious again. This past Christmastime was a great time for my little bean to open up & blossom. She built stronger connections with a lot of the family members she only sees a few short times a year.

Overall, I was so happy we really got to bond as a family this year. I thought this winter holiday was going to be a real downer after our entire household all got nasty colds in the beginning of December. In fact, I actually got the worst of it, which is typical of me. I actually got the full-on flu, complete with the chills, vomiting, 100 degree fever, not being able to eat, etcetera. It started with my mom getting a cold first, then passing it on to Jian, who then passed it on to myself & our little bean…which I am extremely thankful that the little bean only had minor cold symptoms. Jian only had a fever for one day, then he quickly recovered. I on the other hand, had symptoms so bad, I was pretty much bed-ridden (or shall I say, couch ridden) for 3-days straight. I was worried that I would not recover in time to celebrate with our friends & family, but I pulled through.

This Christmas was quite memorable. I still had thoughts of missing my dad, wishing he could be here with us. He would have loved seeing all of us, three generations, getting along & celebrating together. I also wished that my eldest brother could have come home to be with us, but ever since he semi-retired & moved over to Las Vegas, it’s been a lot harder for him to travel over to see us here in California. Although we missed spending another Christmas with each other, I am extremely happy that I will get to see my brother again soon. His eldest daughter will be getting married in March, & our little trio (plus all the grandparents) will be making the trek out to Las Vegas to celebrate the joyous occasion. It’ll be great to see my eldest niece walk down the aisle in a wedding gown, when I remember seeing her just learning to walk & growing out of her diapers. Time flies incredibly fast. Even my own kid is going to be growing out of her diapers this year & learning how to use the “big girl potty”. I just cannot believe it. At all. Well, while I process this unbelievable fact, I will sign off on this Blogmas recap. Until next time, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

So, if you’re a mommy blogger, or baby expert, or child behavior expert, or any other developmental specialist, please do not come for me. My little bean was born 2+ years ago, & I have barely “baby-proofed” my house. Of course (I mean, obviously…) the basic guidelines are in place. For example, prescription medications are on the highest shelf of a hard-to-reach cabinet, sharp objects are mostly out of reach of fast toddler hands, etcetera. However, I haven’t quite done ALL of the baby-proofing that parenting books & other guides tell you to do.

My house looks pretty much exactly the same as it did pre-child; still got tons of my mom’s meaningless crap random knickknacks strewn all over the place. We still have a lot of fragile decor displayed everywhere. I haven’t put any stick-on safety bumpers on any hard furniture corners. I also haven’t put up any baby gates (luckily, I live in a single level home with no indoor stairs) or safety latches on any cabinets or drawers. The most “baby-proofing” I’ve done so far is put a top-of-the-line (most popular on the market) baby monitor over my child’s crib-now-a-toddler-bed & plastic safety covers on the wall outlets/sockets.

I know that I still have time to “child-proof” my house, but whenever I look for things to make my house safer for my kid, I either end up getting the wrong product (wrong size, wrong fit), or Jian has some long-winded debate about its non-practicality & waste of money, & then there’s my mom chirping in the background that she doesn’t want our house to get overrun by too many children’s things. She also likes to argue that she won’t know how to use any of that stuff (like the safety latches on cabinets) & it’s all too complicated, so we might as well not incumber her life with all these newfangled (stupid, as she calls it) gadgets, therefore why bother? Besides, in her words, we never had these kinds of baby-proofing things when we were growing up in the 80s & 90s & we still turned out okay. I guess there will always be an excuse to justify not baby-proofing the house, which is mostly us parents being lazy & also giving in to grandma’s reasons for keeping things the way they are.

So far, we’ve had success in our child not harming herself in any way. We are extremely lucky to be in a position where one adult or another is able to keep an eye on her at all times. Jian works from home 4 out of 5 days per week, & my mom lives with us, so there is always a pair of adult eyes on our little bean. Right now our little bean is in her explorative phase, & like every other child she wants to go through all the drawers & cabinets. We have been lucky, so far, that when we tell her to put something down or to not touch something, she will do as we say, but we also follow up with a brief explanation as to why we gave her such a command. We try to explain…I guess you could call it child-splaining…to our little bean what things are & why they are not meant for her to touch or play with. We use simple terms, & talk to her in a calm, clear voice.

For me especially, I try not to use the phrase “because I said so” or other blanket phrases because that doesn’t really let her know that she’s not supposed to touch or play with the thing(s) you don’t want her to grab. I take the time to show her the item (just out of her reach, of course) & explain to my little bean what it is & why it’s not meant to be touched by little hands or played with…things like scissors, chopsticks, tools, etcetera. The little bean still gets to look at the item she’s so laser focused on, but then she also learns what it’s meant for & learns that it’s not a toy. So far this method has worked for our little family unit. Our little bean walks by the laundry closet full of spray bottles & detergent pods, but she has never once opened the sliding closet door & grabbed anything she wasn’t supposed to. I’ve shown her the closet a few times & explained that we keep soaps in there to wash clothes, & she hasn’t ever given it a second thought to grab anything.

One major thing that I was very concerned about when our little bean became more mobile was our fireplace. Everyone in our little household has been teaching our little bean about what is hot/cold & to not touch hot things (like coffee cups & the stove), but our little bean likes to play near the fireplace, especially on cold days. We live in an area where we regularly have to turn on our gas-powered fireplace on full blast during the winter season, & I’m the forever-worrier. So, I bought a good fireplace screen. It keeps a nice little barrier between our bean & the fire & teaches her about boundaries. So far it has worked, & has kept our little bean from getting too close to the heat. This was one of the best baby-proofing investments I’ve made.

Of course, all of this teaching our little bean about what are grown-up things & what are kids toys could easily fly right out the window, & she could end up trashing the entire house one day, but for now, I will continue to educate my child on what things she can & cannot touch. You know, I still have recurring thoughts about “baby-proofing” my house. I go back-&-forth in my own head about what items I can still buy to keep my child safe at home. I think about these things, & I become very indecisive about which things are still worth getting, or I think about Jian complaining about me spending too much money again…even though I am buying things for our child & not frivolous things for myself. For now, I suppose we are okay with not really baby-proofing our house. We live in a single-level Eichler home built in the 1960s. The house is very sturdy & already child-friendly. We should be fine…I guess. We’ll see. Until the next post, cheers.

Today’s song of the day:

I’m so excited to learn that Japan has opened up its borders & eased its COVID-19 guidelines (for those who have been completely vaccinated AND boosted). I haven’t properly been back to Japan in over 6 years, & even during my last trip, I didn’t get a chance to spend time with my relatives. A lot has changed since the last time we all got together, especially since a lot of our next generation have gotten married & are having children (myself included). I would love for my cousins (& all) to meet my little bean & get to know her.

One of my biggest fears is that the connection/communication between my immediate family & my extended family based in Japan will end after my generation. My mother has made it crystal clear that she has absolutely no desire whatsoever to stay connected to her in-laws after my father’s passing. It’s been something she has been asserting even before my father had passed, that she has no interest in maintaining any sort of relationship with that side of the family. It’s so sad because everybody on that side of the family genuinely loves my mom, but she claims the language barrier is something she cannot get past. So, it’s now up to my eldest brother & me to keep the family together, language barrier be damned.

Of course the pandemic has given me severe cabin fever, & seeing the accounts I follow on social media freely traveling with their little ones in tow has given me a major case of FOMO. I have also been thinking long & hard about traveling ever since I got pregnant. I have been dreaming about jet setting (economy class, of course) with Jian & our little bean, & showing her the world…or at least what’s outside of our hometown bubble. Also having traveled multiple times already with my little bean on road trips has shown me that it is possible to go on more elaborate vacations with her. I know she would absolutely enjoy traveling with her parents. I mean, she already loves staying in hotels.

Speaking of hotels, we are leaving tomorrow & heading on another road trip to Los Angeles (*YAWN*). We will be staying at the same Culver City hotel that we previously booked on our last trip down south, The Shay. Oh man, considering we are collectively going through major economic downturns & a recession, the inflation spike has really punched hotel prices smack dab in the gut. Even with our super special friends-&-family-of-employees discounted rate, staying at our favorite hotel chain this time around won’t provide any cost-saving benefits for us, so we’re opting to stay at the hotel close to Jian’s office to use his corporate discount. We are trying to save money wherever we can, so we can save up for our big trip to Japan next year (& possibly splurge a little more while we’re there).

As you can probably tell, the three of us are going to Los Angeles to celebrate Thanksgiving with my extended family who all live down south. Every year we do the same thing, go to the same relative’s house, cook/eat the same food; the older generation play mahjong until all hours of the night, the younger generation get together to play trivia games & get shit-faced drunk.You know, I’m tired of doing the same shite every Thanksgiving holiday. My little 3-person tribe pack up & make the tedious trek down to Los Angeles to spend a few short, whirlwind days eating & watching TV. For my over 75-year old mother, as tiring as it is for her to travel to & from Los Angeles, she actually enjoys it. She loves spending quality time with her younger siblings & being spoiled by them.

If we’re being completely honest, I would rather be spending my Thanksgiving holiday somewhere else; it’s not just me, but Jian feels the same way as well. We really want to do some serious traveling, but Jian hasn’t accumulated much vacation days at the moment, so it’s not really feasible for us to go anywhere more than just a weekend jaunt somewhere close by. We are already feeling the burnout of traveling to & from Los Angeles, & we haven’t even left our house yet. It would be great if we had others driving up to see us every once in a while, but that’s a whole other subject that I will not get into.

Suffice it to say, the three of us (Jian & myself especially) are extremely ready to go on a proper vacation, perhaps somewhere overseas like Japan. We are also aiming to travel to New York City sometime in the near future, but for now, we are projecting our first big travel plans will be to Japan. We are already planning & mapping out all of the details with our best friends (who have an infant baby of their own), with spreadsheets, group chats, & all. I am more excited than you could ever know to be planning such a big trip. I was sort of hoping that Jian & I could take our little bean to London, but logistically, it would be more advantageous if we took our bean to Japan first…you know, because of family & all that jazz. Either way, I am beyond grateful & thankful to be able to travel at all, especially during these harsh economic times. I will forever be grateful for all of the privileges & blessings in my life, no matter what. No matter what or how I feel about Los Angeles & spending yet another Thanksgiving holiday there…

I. AM. THANKFUL.

So on that note, I am going back to ticking off the last little details on my To-Do list, finishing up the last bits of suitcase packing, & making sure all the windows, doors & gates are properly closed & locked. Jian is calling me to dinner for the 10th time, & I’m ready to go to bed. Until the next one, cheers & HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all who celebrate.

Today’s song of the day:

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