Panda Mom Hits the Road

Panda Mom performing at a church concert

I’m hitting the road for the next week and a half for a short Northern California singing tour.  I hope I can update my blog while I’m traveling, but it might be a bit sporadic.  If you’re in Northern California and you’re free on Sunday morning, July 8, I’ll be doing a family concert at San Lorenzo Christian Church from 9:30 – 10:30AM (For directions, please check out my music website www.junko.com or the church’s website).  It would be so fun if you could stop by and let me know that you’re a follower of my blog!

Yes, I have another life and career!  Sometimes we moms lose our identity while taking care of our brood, but it is nice to do something occasionally to remind us that we are somebody besides just so-and-so’s mom.  I chose a career which I had hoped would allow me to work part time after having children, and it has.  Music has always been my passion, and singing for kids is even more gratifying!  Sometimes, I can combine family and music like this trip where we’re all traveling together, and it is even better.

Here I am performing one of my songs, “Shine the Light”:

Do you work outside the home?  Do you have a hobby or passion that is just for you?  Tell me how you remind yourself that you’re still…you.

The Fall and Rise of a Panda Mom

Josh and me in a goofy moment in Japan, April 2012

I am experiencing some aches and pains on my body right now, because a couple of nights ago I tripped on my son’s feet during a walk and fell.  Hard.

Prior to that summer evening walk, my son was in a surly mood because his computer hit the 9 o’clock curfew which I had set, and it automatically logged him off in the middle of a game.  This was after at least two hours of time on the computer that day, which I feel is more than enough for anyone, let alone a teenager. This made my 14-year old angry.

“I don’t want to go on the walk.  I’ll just get ready for bed,” said he.  My husband and I have learned that the best cure for a lousy attitude is a walk.  The oxygen to the brain gets the kids downright giddy within 20 minutes, so we pretty much forced him to join us and the dog.

Sure enough, our kids were laughing and acting all silly by the time we were on our way back, when my son decided to suddenly cut in front of me to do something goofy with my husband.  This made me trip, and I tried to put my right foot forward to break the fall.  Unfortunately, Josh’s left foot was in the way, so I crashed down straight on my knees on the concrete sidewalk.  I screamed in pain.

I couldn’t figure out why my son would do such an impulsive thing.  Could he not see that I was there?  Does a teenager, in general, just not notice his mother walking alongside him?  These thoughts, combined with the pain shooting from my knees, made me do something I have never done before.  Something which I may regret for the rest of my life.

I slapped his left shoe.

I have never slapped my son anywhere before, not even when he was a screaming toddler, not that I don’t believe in corporal punishment in certain cases.  I never had to spank him, because even the threat of a punishment would immediately straighten him out.  He has always been such a sensitive kid.  At least he used to be.

But, yes, indeed I slapped him.  Not his foot, mind you, but the tennis shoe on his left foot, — of that pair of shoes which David and I had repeatedly asked to reserve wearing only on the tennis courts, for the lessons which we have been paying weekly for the past 7 years with the hopes that he would play with the level of passion that matches his inborn ability, which, of course, he takes for granted, just like his intelligence and his many other talents.  Is this what it’s like to live with a teenager?

“I’m sorry,” said my son as he rubbed my back while I writhed in pain.  “I’m so sorry.” Meg observed this whole incident unfold with grave concern.  “Oh, mommy…”  Now my right hand stung from the slapping, and my insides ached from acting like such a loser of parent.

After the pain subsided a bit and Dr. Dave examined my knees, I decided to get up.  Josh extended me his hands — the hands which I held when I hurried across the street with a two-year old with a bright red backpack decorated with Thomas the Train characters.  “Let’s go, Joshy!”  The hands which held a crayon in his first attempts at the alphabet. “Great job, Josh!”

Yes, those hands — now bigger than my own — pulled me up and helped me dust off my pants.  “I’m sorry,” he said again, and he let me put my arm around his neck so he could assist me as I limped the rest of the way home.  He is taller than me now, and I wondered how he grew so fast.

“Thanks for the lunch,” he said, as we turned the corner towards home.  I made him a grilled sandwich for lunch earlier that day, and evidently he thought this was a good time to thank me for it.  How can I continue to harbor anger towards a teenager who appreciates my grilled sandwich?

“You’re welcome,” I said, and we began to laugh and act silly again the rest of the way home.

Bubble Bath Adventure

Photo courtesy iStockphoto.com

I recently came across a photo of myself taking a bubble bath with the kids, and it brought back a lot of fun memories of our bath times together when they were young.  One particular incident really sticks out in my mind, though.

We have a rather large (or, to the kids, ginormous) jacuzzi bathtub in our master, complete with four jets to really stir things up.  The faucet flow of water can only generate so many bubbles; you turn on those jets and…voila!  You get industrial level suds that rival the Brady Bunch episode when Bobby pours too much detergent into the washing machine.

“Let’s do bubble bath tonight, kids.”

“Yaaaay!”  It was Christmas every time.  I could get away with such cheap entertainment back then.

The kids would jump into the empty tub and turn on the water.  I would add half the bottle of soap, and they would immediately start playing with the bubbles.

A few minutes later, I would join them in the tub.

“Wow, mommy, the water just went up so much higher!” “Yeah, waaaay high!”

Well, someone had to make sure that the water level went up high enough to cover the jets. I would turn off the water and get them ready for some serious fun now.

“Okay, kids, now we can turn on the jets.  Are you ready?”

“Yeah, mommy, let’s do it!”

One push of the button would turn on all four jets full throttle, blowing some serious streams into the soapy water, creating even more bubbles.  The kids would squeal in delight.  Soon, we would be lost in the fluffy cumulonimbus-like whiteness.  The kids would giggle and blow and would spend hours playing.  Since this was our bedtime routine, we usually had to start about two hours before bedtime as to allow them plenty of time to play.

I, however, could only find amusement in bubbles for so long, so about 6 1/2 minutes later would start plotting my escape.

“Mommy’s going to go now, okay?”

“Noooooo Mommy, stay, pleeeeease.” Oh, it’s so nice to be wanted.

I would play a few more rounds of the “Gotta go/Please stay” game until I would decide to leave for the last time.  I would then stand up to go to the shower to rinse off the bubbles that make me look like the Abominable Snowman.

“Oh, look at how much the water went down!” “Yeah, it went waaaay down.  Mommy took all the bubbles!”  Did they really have to remind me again at how much body mass I move every time I step in or out of the tub?

“We need more bubbles.” “Let’s turn on the jets!”

Before I could say, “No, kids!  The water level is too low and the jets are exposed,” one of them would have already pushed the button.

“Wow, a fountain!”

Fire boat photo courtesy iStockphoto.com

“It’s just like the fire boats on TV!”

In a panic, I would jump back out of the shower to try to stop the water spewing out of the tub onto the carpet, the kids laughing in delight.  I would spray my face with the wayward jet stream as I fumble for the button to turn it off.

When the dust (or water) clears, I find myself, still looking like Yeti, staring at some very soggy carpet in the bathroom and some very happy kids playing with bubbles in a tub with very low water level.  Who puts carpet on the bathroom floor anyway? I would ask, to no one in particular

The kids learned that night when is a good time — and wrong time — to turn on jets in our bubble bath.  I learned to laugh at myself that night as well.  We enjoyed a few more bath bubble episodes until one day we learned that my little girl’s frequent bladder infection was probably being caused by too much time in the soapy water.  In any case, we are now all too big to fit into the bath together, no matter how gigantic the tub may be.

And, to this day, sometimes when I’m in the tub alone, I add a little extra soap and turn on the jets.

My Son’s 8th Grade Graduation

My son graduated from middle school yesterday.  David and I proudly watched our son receive a diploma from the principal.  Although we were supposed to withhold our applause and cheers until all the students’ names have been read, we couldn’t suppress our small “Woot!” as he walked across the stage. We are and always will be proud parents of this boy, our firstborn son named Joshua.

We looked in the program at the list of about a hundred names of students in his small graduating class.  We could not help noticing that his name, unlike about a third of the other students, did not have any symbols next to it.  No “*” for President’s Education Awards Program nor a “^” for National Junior Honor Society, both indicating some sort of a scholastic achievement, maybe GPA of 5.5 or higher.  Poor kids — bet they all have tiger parents.

I guess the school isn’t as imaginative as I am when it comes to using symbols to highlight our child’s accomplishments.  For example, I would have used…

“)” to indicate that he has many great friends.

“#” to indicate that he has a sharp sense of wit and loves to make people laugh.

“&” to show that he is the top trumpet player in the school band.

“@” to mark his excellent art skills in drawing.

“[” to show that he is a good listener and helps friends get through tough times.

“=” to state that he accepted Jesus into his heart when he was 7 years old.

“!” to prove that a colicky, clingy baby can one day turn into a wonderful teenager.

So, we celebrate this day the graduation from Plaza Vista Middle School…

photo courtesy of Chris and Jen Culbertson

Joshua Hiroshi Cheng }#&@[=!

June 21, 2012

We are so proud of you!

Love,

Mom and Dad

Parents Behaving Badly

My kids' school is on the news!

News vans showed up at my kids’ school yesterday, because some parents of a student were arrested due to an incident which happened there about a year ago.  I know some parents would do anything for the sake of their child, but this mom and her accomplice — the dad — put a whole new spin on the phrase “parents behaving badly.”

Let me back up a bit and give you the background to this sensational news story.  I used to be the coordinator of an after school program at the school until my friend “Jane Doe” agreed to take over the position.  I happened to be walking around campus one day when I ran into Jane who was rounding up the last few students needing to get picked up by their parents.  This after school program basically gives parents one extra hour of child care, and some parents really push the pickup times to the limit.

“His mom is always late,” lamented Jane while walking the last kid, a first grader, from his tennis class.  I reminded her that the policy states that parents pony up $1 per minute that they are late, and I laughed: “I’m so glad that I don’t have to deal with this kind of stuff anymore!” I then left, leaving her waiting just outside the office in front of the school with this kid.

Later that week, Jane was beside herself when I saw her.  “You won’t believe what happened!” She then went on to describe the incident which followed: when the mom, Jill, finally arrived — a good 15 minutes late — she became defensive about being called out for being late and became belligerent.  She went home in a huff, leaving Jane bewildered.  Later that night, Jill sent out an email to as many people as she could at the school, claiming that Jane is a terrible coordinator and accused her and the tennis coach of endangering — nay, molesting — her child.  Jane couldn’t believe her eyes.  She had to explain this to the supervisors of the after school program at the district who, of course, came to her defense.

When Jill next filed a lawsuit against Jane, my friend had to get legal representation, provided by the school district.  Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, she discovered one day that someone had planted some drugs and drug paraphernalia in her car and “tipped” the police department.  The police came out while she was volunteering in her daughter’s (and, incidentally, my daughter’s) classroom.  It wasn’t difficult for anyone to figure out that such items did not belong to Jane and that this was a setup by someone.  Someone with a vengeance.

After about a year’s worth of investigative work by the police department, they were able to mount enough evidence to arrest this mom yesterday.  They also arrested the husband for his part in planting the drugs in the car.  The police gave Jill just enough time to arrange for her parents to look after their three children then took them into custody. The police determined that the parents were upset that Jane was not giving their son “proper care.”

Did I mention to you that both parents are attorneys?

We all rejoice that justice has been served and that this crazy mom was arrested.  At last, my friend Jane can have some peace.  The news channels all picked up on this story, as it is pretty sensational.  I’ve never seen such excitement at our school, what with the news vans roaming around interviewing friends and neighbors.  Even my mini-van got some camera time!

One thing that I’ve noticed as I’ve listened to the various news outlets reporting on this story is that they just gloss over the fact that the mom was upset with her son’s care.  What they don’t report or don’t know is that the mom had no right to get upset in the first place!  She was the one who was wrong to begin with, and I was there to witness it.

The length to which some people go to try to put on a facade of innocence just amazes me!  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” the Scriptures tell us in Romans 3:23.  Ain’t that the understatement of the year, especially for this mom gone wild?

All this because she didn’t want to admit that she was late and pay the $15 fine.

For more information, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/kent-jill-easter_n_1610625.html

Hand Sanitizers and Germ Phobia

Photo courtesy iStockphoto.com

We’re not paranoid parents about germs.  Well, we used to be.  Aren’t all new parents a bit phobic about germs?  With our first baby, we wouldn’t let anyone — not even our relatives and best friends — touch him unless they sanitized their hands under our strict supervision.  If we dropped our son’s binky, then it would be hermetically sealed until we had had a chance to boil it clean.  Anything that our baby could possibly touch had to first be wiped down with disinfectant wipes.  His hands became raw from so much hand washing.

By the time our second one came around, well, let’s just say we got a little more relaxed about things.  If our daughter dropped her pacifier, then I would do a quick wipe down on my sleeve and say, “Thirty second rule!” then plug that thing right back in her mouth.  We still cleaned counters and toys with disinfectant wipes…if someone had vomited on them.  And we still got her to wash her hands before eating.  Most of the time.  Sometimes, she got to the food before we could get to her!

End result? Both kids are pretty darn healthy.  Sure, they both occasionally get sick, but they sure bounce back quickly.

While paranoia is not good, we do ask our kids to try to follow these general rules:

  1. Always wash hands with soap after going to the bathroom.
  2. Sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands.
  3. Wash hands before eating.
  4. Don’t drink pool water.

When you don’t have access to soap and water, you can always use those disinfectant gels or wipes.  (When I’m feeling especially phobic, I actually do both — hand wash AND disinfect).  Although these gels are great, the sad truth is that we’re rubbing alcohol into our hands and our kids’ hands, and I’m noticing some dryness of the skin as a result, not to mention the latest trend by teenagers to get drunk on alcohol gel.

I found some disinfectants that contain no alcohol at Whole Foods the other day, and what do you know — I just got asked to review their product!  It is called Clean Well, and I truly LOVE their product, so it is easy for me to review and to endorse it right here.  They have all-natural soaps, cleaners, hand sanitizers, and disinfectants in three fragrances: original, orange vanilla, and lavender.  The original smells nice and clean, but my 11-year old daughter Meg and I especially like the orange vanilla.  The Whole Foods we went to didn’t have lavender, but we can’t wait to try that one so that we could get clean AND relaxed.

We got the spray hand sanitizer, and we used it right away on our hands as well as on our iPhones.  Yeah, those phones get pretty dirty and germy, you know?  The small spray disinfectant bottles cost $3.99 at the store in Southern California as do the travel-size packets of wipes, which is a little pricy compared to the $1-bottle alcohol gels at the grocery store, but I would pay a little more for the alcohol free product!  The 1 ounce bottle yields about 225 sprays.

So, if you want your family to have clean hands without getting drunk on alcohol gel and feel green, more enlightened, and generally superior at the same time, I would highly recommend you check out the products by Clean Well today.

(And yes, this blog was unabashedly brought to you today by our friends at Clean Well!)

Happy Father’s Day, David!

I would like to wish a happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there but especially to my husband and the father of our children, David.  Our kids would agree: He is the best dad in the world!  He plays with them, works hard to provide for them, teaches them, laughs with them, and best of all, loves them unconditionally.  I wouldn’t be half the mom I am without him!

David with our kids when they were about 2 and 4

With his favorite daughter Megumi.

Dr. Dave with his favorite patient, Joshua.

Thank you, David, for giving our kids glimpses of our Heavenly Father.

Happy Father’s Day, Dear!

A First Birthday Surprise

David and I were getting ready one afternoon to attend the first birthday party for our neighbor’s daughter.  She was born only a few weeks before ours, so we were eager not only to celebrate their child’s milestone but also, vicariously, our own.  We were also taking notes to help us plan our own bash for our son.

We were running a bit late as usual, but we sure wanted to get there before the scheduled arrival of the “Special Celebrity Guests.”  They were characters from a popular TV show geared towards very young children, so I knew that Joshua would be excited to meet them.

As I was changing his diaper one last time, I happen to glance outside our front window.  A beat-up car was puffing down our quiet cul-de-sac.  It was an ancient model like a Datsun B210, which my older sister used to drive in high school.  In fact, I bet it was the exact same car except that one of the windows was completely covered (or replaced) by duct tape, and each panel of the automobile was in various stages of a paint job.  This car  parked, of all places, right in front of our home.

I realize that in many parts of the world, a sight of such a beat-up car wouldn’t cause any alarm, but not here in my suburban paradise.  Our city is clean and pristine, and you never see cars held together by duct tape.  I raised my eyebrow as my mama bear instincts took over.

Two shady characters climbed out of the car — both from the passenger side, as the driver’s door was permanently shut.  The platinum blonde twentysomething girl shared the last drag of a cigarette with the young man with the shaved head who then squished the butt with his Doc Martens.

I called upstairs for David.

It was a warmish day for February, but I was still surprised at their skimpy attire which clearly revealed their generous body art.  I was therefore somewhat relieved when they popped open their trunk and pulled out some bright-colored attire.  The girl stepped into a yellow colored suit, and the guy into the purple one.  They zipped each other up to their necks.

Before I could realize what was going on, they then grabbed two round things out of the trunk and pulled them over their heads.  That’s when it finally dawned on me:

Oh my goodness.  They are the Special Celebrity Guests!

After checking each other one last time, they walked up to our neighbor’s house and rang the doorbell.

I yelled for David to hurry down.  I finished dressing my baby, grabbed my bag, and we ran down the street to the party.  “Honey, we’ve got to warn them!  Children, avert your eyes!”

Too late.  By the time we arrived, the two TV characters were happily mingling with the little guests and their parents while their theme song played.  Like characters at Disneyland, they only gesticulated without verbalizing.  Androgynous characters anyway, no one could tell who was inside those innocent-looking costumes.  Only a couple of children ran off crying, instinctively sensing danger. If the parents only knew.

The Special Guests then popped a CD in the stereo and proceeded with their show.  They hopped and moved just like they do on the TV screen.  The parents coaxed their children to sing along.  They were surprisingly entertaining, and, for a moment, even I forgot what was inside those costumes.

After they finished, they collected their check from our neighbor and left.  I peeked out their window to watch the pair as they returned to their junk mobile.  They emerged from their costumes, shared another cigarette, climbed  back into the car from one side, and drove off, most likely to their next party gig.

I never did tell my neighbor what I witnessed that day before their sweet daughter’s party.

And I have been searching for a lesson in this whole thing ever since.

Don’t judge a book by its cover?

Beauty is only skin deep?

Material for my blog someday?

Parents, beware before booking entertainment for your kid’s party?

All of the above.

Second Life for a Diaper Bag

Today, I have a short post to tell you about something fun I saw at the gym yesterday.  Do you know what this is?

20120612-213259.jpg

Yup, it’s a diaper bag…and a very cute one at that.  But what makes this so fun is that the owner of this bag now uses it as her gym bag!

It totally makes sense!  After all, a diaper bag

  1. Is waterproof
  2. Has baby bottle pockets to use for your water bottles
  3. Has a matching changing pad which you can use for your floor mat when you do abs
  4. Is roomy

This mom was even using her burp clothe as a workout towel.  It’s really absorbent and soft, so why not?

I wouldn’t dare reuse any of my own diaper bags, however, because they were mostly those freebie bags with tacky designs you get when you leave the hospital, courtesy of baby formula or diaper companies.  Also, by the time my kids grew out of diapers, my bags were filled with Cheerio bits and emitting a strange odor which, I’m certainly, ate through the ozone layer.  I think roaches lived inside my bags near the end.

But hey, if I had a diaper bag as cute as the one pictured above, then I’d use it as my purse on a dinner date!

Any other clever ideas for old baby things?  You tell me!

Going from One to Two

Last night, we celebrated Meg’s 6th grade graduation at church.  I know everyone says this, but I still do wonder: where did the time go?

What is this little creature next to me?

While digging up baby photos for the slide show, I became nostalgic about the early days of having not only one but two babies.  In case you’ve got either zero or one child right now and are contemplating adding another one to the mix, let me share with you a few thoughts on the subject:

1.  Going from one to two is much easier of a transition than zero to one.

There is nothing like going from the twosome as husband and wife to parents with one small critter who turns our world upside down.  Just as the dust was settling, we were blessed with a second child.  Sure, there is no denying we knew better what to expect the second time around, but as a bonus gift with purchase, God gave us a second baby who was extremely easy.  She kept on sleeping and sleeping and rarely cried.  It just might have something to do with me being more relaxed as a mom myself, but I seriously doubt it.

2.  A second baby won’t cause that much more damage to your body; the first one pretty much ruined it for you already.

My first baby gave me stretch marks which are unsightly but are useful for future pregnancies.  My body was like a balloon that had already been inflated and deflated; it’s so much easier to blow air into it once it’s already been stretched, made all supple and, truth be told, flabby.  While my first fetus worked hard every minute to expand while in utero, my second one immediately got comfy in a womb of her own.  No wonder she was such a relaxed baby.

Same with the birth canal.  My first labor and delivery took an eternity, and I pushed and pushed for 3 hours before Josh finally came out.  Meanwhile, I coughed and Meg fell out. Parenting truly stretches us — thankfully, in more ways than one.

3.  Initially, I felt like I betrayed my first born.

In the days leading up to the birth of our second child, I felt guilty about no longer being able to be there 100% for my son.  When I came home from the hospital, Josh wanted me to put him down “in his big boy bed” at night, but I had to bring the nursing infant in with me.  “I don’t want her here,” he demanded.  Being postpartum and hormonal, I cried and begged him for forgiveness.  “I’m sorry, Joshy.  I’m sorry I can’t be with you all the time anymore. I’m sorry you have to share mommy with baby Meg.”  He cried as he drifted off to sleep. It was indeed a lot for a two-year old to handle, what with getting evicted from the crib to no longer having mommy all to himself.  We eventually adjusted, though.  Within a couple of days I was saying, “Get over it, son.”

4.  ‘Tis so sweet when the two children begin interacting with each other.

The first person ever to make Meg laugh was Josh.  He can still make her crack up like no one else can.  At first, Josh wasn’t quite sure what to make of this new baby, but he eventually warmed up to her and actually became somewhat helpful.  “Go get the diaper for Meg, please.”  “Okay, mommy!” He won’t admit it out loud right now as a teenager, but the bond between the siblings is strong.

* * * *

We’ve all been stretched together as a family, and the two children have had to learn to share a lot more than just mommy.  I can no longer recall what life was like before we had both of them, and I am grateful everyday for this gift of family.

There's nothing like a family...at Chuck E. Cheese!

How did you feel when you added a second (or third or fourth) child to the mix?  Was it a hard or easy transition?  Share your experience with us!