When Moms are No Longer Cool

“Okay, mom, please stop,” begged my preteen daughter Meg.  I was simply trying to bust some moves I learned in my hip hop class at the gym.  I thought I looked magnificent.  She, on the other hand, was mortified.  She rolled her eyes as if to say, “You are so not cool, mother!”

Oh, how I long for the days when I could do no wrong!  I used to be their hero.  Their faces used to light up when I walked in the room. They used to be wiling to hold my hand as we approached their group of friends.  They wore outfits I chose for them and put on shoes I purchased for them without any hesitation. They would beg me to come volunteer in their classrooms.

If I liked a song, they liked that song.  Today, if I like a song, then that would be reason enough render it unacceptable and in bad taste.  It would take repeated listening of that tune on the Top 40 radio station to change their minds.

Basically, I’m sensing my power of influence slowly slipping away.

As much as I wish for our kids to become independent and to fully embrace adulthood, I wish that we parents wouldn’t have to be relegated to the “Completely Irrelevant and Dorky” pile along with their discarded books, shoes, and fashion.  Can’t we remain cool, even just for a few more years?

Okay, I admit that I didn’t think my parents were very cool when I was a teenager.  My dad used to listen to AM news radio in the car!  Add to that the fact that my parents were immigrants and didn’t know a thing about American high school culture.  This teenager hoped everyday to wake up and find Mr. and Mrs. Brady as parents.

I now take back every sinister thought I had about my own parents during my own teenage years.  Maybe they actually were quite with it, as my friend Carol used to tell me. “I just love talking to your dad; he’s so interesting.  And your mom is so stylish!”  I thought she was talking about someone else. Perhaps we all view others’ parents as being much cooler than our own, and maybe that’s just a part of growing up.  I think of moms like Gwen, Reese, Madonna, Pink, and other celebrities who are the epitome of cool.  Will even their kids think their mom is a geek once they’re teens?

This past summer, our family headed up once again to a camp in Northern California as we have each summer for the past 10 years — only this year, Josh and Meg each went off to their own youth camps while David and I spent the whole week alone at the main camp for the first time.  On the assigned visitation day, we walked up to Meg in the giggling gaggle of junior high girls.  “Junko!” several of them squealed as they came running over to me.  Many of these girls grew up attending the camp and had become fans of my music as I sang for the children each year.  It took Meg a few moments to get past my groupies, but when she did, she gave me a big hug.  She showed me around her camp and we enjoyed a nice, hour-long visit.

Meg later told me that some of the girls asked her after I left, “How do you know Junko?”

“Um, she’s my mother,” she replied.

“Oh my gosh!  Meg is Junko’s daughter!” they screamed, as Meg stood there wide-eyed.  Just for a moment, I might have regained my coolness.

Actually, I am okay with our teenagers questioning our taste in music and fashion, because I’m now a grownup and am strong enough to withstand their (low) opinion of me.  Besides, when they’re going through a tough time, they still come running back to me for comfort. At that point, the only thing that matters is that I am still their mommy.

And I think that’s pretty cool.

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What do your teens or preteens think of you as parents?  Were your parents cool when you were a teenager?  Let me know in the comments below!

Our Extreme Makeover, Home Edition

Our rented dumpster on our driveway. Yeah, it was that bad.

“Whatever you do, don’t paint my white walls,” protested our 14-year old son.  He has always been my resistant-to-change boy.  He likes the familiar and won’t try something new unless we force him. Often, he then discovers that he actually likes it, whatever it may be: a new ride at a theme park, a new outfit, new friends, new food.  Not surprisingly, he also can’t let go of stuff.

“I might need that someday,” protests my hoarder-in-training.

We hadn’t been able to see the floor in Joshua’s room for quite a while now.  He likes getting those boxed sets of pre-designed Legos (where’s the creativity in that?), building them then leaving them on display, boxes and all.

Then came Gundam models.  That’s a plastic Japanese toy which you snap together, sort of a cross between Legos and Transformers.  When he received his very first box of Gundam from a Japanese visitor, he was reluctant to try it at first (see what I mean?).  However, once he put one together, he could not stop.  We found a Japanese store nearby which stocked them and bought boxes and boxes of them using Josh’s Christmas and birthday moneys from relatives.  On our next trip to Japan, Josh spent a majority of his time going to hobby stores to find new Gundam models yet to be released in the US.

Over time, Legos and Gundam took over our son’s room, and that mixed in with a variety of other toys and junk made it nearly impossible to step into his room.  I couldn’t even vacuum for fear that I just might suck up an important piece of Lego.  The room was starting to smell.

Then one day, David and I decided we needed to do a makeover of our upstairs rooms.  We wanted a bigger game room to accommodate the growing teenage friends visiting our home.  Josh’s room was bigger, so we decided to do a switch.  What perfect time to do The Purge.

I snapped on my disposable gloves and got to work.  Surprisingly, he let me throw out almost all of the Gundam and Lego boxes…but not the contents.

“Seriously?  You really want to display all these pieces?”

He wouldn’t budge on that one, and I relented because he had already gone through a lot.  I put a few of them on display in the empty book case and threw others into the clear storage bins in the closet.  Someday, he might pull them out again to play one more time before donating everything to Goodwill, when he turns 30. Or not — his dad still has his old Hot Wheels.  Yeah, it’s genetic.

Joshua's new bedroom. Eventually, we'll get a new bedspread...

We spent the entire Labor Day weekend working on this room, throwing things left and right into the rented dumpster in our driveway.  In the process, we found two Barnes & Noble gift cards for $10 each, three certificates for rounds of golf at a nice course nearby (value: $360!), Josh’s pair of now-too-small dress shoes which he only wore once in 6th grade before they “disappeared,” a dead moth, assembly instructions to our first stroller, and his social security card.  I stopped digging only because I was afraid of discovering Jimmy Hoffa buried in there.

When the room was finally cleared, I vacuumed.  What sweet sound!  The bag filled up so fast that I had to quickly replace it to work on the other 2/3 of the room.

The new game room which used to be Josh's bedroom

With the help of our kind neighbor Dave, we swapped furniture between the two rooms.  We hired some painters to paint the walls in Josh’s old room against his will, and…voila!  We now have a bigger game room and a teenager-worthy bedroom.

“It feels good to get rid of stuff, doesn’t it, Josh?”

He gave me a faint smile and a nod.

I’ll take it!

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How do you get rid of old baby, toddler, and childhood stuff?  Let me know, because I could sure use your advice!


When Your Child Gets Sick

Photo courtesy iStockphoto.com

I was only a few minutes into the warm-up during a fitness class at the gym when my phone rang.  It was the nurse at my daughter’s school.

“Mrs. Cheng?  Megumi is sick and she wants you to come pick her up.”

Why now?  She was a bit dizzy this morning but thought she was going to be fine, so this couldn’t be too serious.  I was just starting one of my favorite classes, looking forward to burning a lot of calories with a group of other like-minded fitness fanatics like me.  Can’t Meg take a nap in the school nurse’s office for the next 57 minutes?

Other moms all nodded around me in sympathy.  We’ve all been there — when our kids get sick, our own plans go completely out the window.

If you’re a parent and have ever had your child get sick without warning (as if they ever give us any warning!), you know the drill.  Time to cancel that appointment, lunch plans, workout, haircut, and shopping.

It gets more complicated when I have very important plans.  The irony is that the more important the task, the higher the likelihood that one of my kids wakes up with a fever.

Even with careful planning and a backup plan to cover my backup plan, things still sometimes fall apart.  The babysitter can’t make it.  My sister’s flight is delayed.  My mother moves to Hawaii (this really happened!).  “Honey, it’s your turn to call in sick,” I yell to my husband, only occasionally with positive results.  Can’t he see that I really, really need my haircut?

It’s bad enough if the child is sick during the day, but it’s even worse when your kid is sick all night.  It’s especially rigorous when there are stomach issues involved.  Until our kids were about 5, they were somehow unable to notify us of the pending urge to upchuck.  I have laundered a lot of sheets and beach towels in the middle of the night.  It was my goal to get my kids to aim into a bowl before they started kindergarten, and I succeeded.

Fortunately, I have not had a full-time 9-to-5 job since we’ve had kids.  However, I have seen many desperate working parents do things to sneak sick kids into school — rubbing their runny noses dry (which is rather temporary), loading them up with Tylenol to mask the fever, and giving them cough medicine to stop their hacking.  I understand their difficult dilemma, but then the illness spreads like wildfire throughout the campus, multiplying the problem for even more working parents.

As much as I complain about my life being inconvenienced by the illnesses of my children, I can assure you that I don’t mind tending to them at all.  I love knowing that with a tender touch, some chicken soup, and a big dose of prayer, I am helping my kids feel a little better.

As for my morning workout, I decided to be a decent mom after all and go get Meg at school.  I left mid-workout, but not without telling everyone around me to save my spot.  They laughed.  I walked into the nurse’s office to get my daughter who was lying on the bed.  She looked relieved to see me.  She was not feigning her dizziness and had to be steadied to the car.

“My teacher and the nurse asked me if I was having ‘girl trouble,’ but I’m not,” stated my 12-year.  She also told me that she couldn’t believe how many students stop by the nurse’s office all morning, thus proving my point about desperate parents and their sick children.

I dropped her off at home, encouraging her to drink some fluids and go back to bed.  I also asked her to keep a bowl nearby.  Good thing I live close to both the gym and the school, because I was back within 22 minutes flat to a room full of incredulous people.

“Thanks for saving my spot,” I said to my friends, and I continued my workout.

I love being a mom.

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Ever sneak in sick kids to nurseries, childcare, or schools?  Tell me about your experience!

Meg’s First Beauty Tips Video

Meg is thrilled to meet the Fowler sisters, beauty gurus on YouTube

My daughter Megumi aspires to become a beauty guru, just like the ones she watches on YouTube like Michelle Phan and the Fowler sisters.  She has been practicing video taping her own beauty tips for the past year and finally feels ready to publish a short video tutorial, so I helped her post it on YouTube.  She wants people to view it and subscribe to her channel, so won’t you please take a look at her work?

She did all the video work herself — filming, editing, voice over, background music, special effects, and title graphics.  I don’t even know how to do those things! While I wasn’t watching, she kept working at it and working at it until she figured everything out on her own.  That’s my girl.

Meg, making someone beautiful

When I was her age, I was such a tomboy that you would have never seen me anywhere near makeup.  I knew nothing about skin care, as evidenced by the sun damage on my face, and I also cared very little about fashion.  How did I end up giving birth to such a girly girl?  She has always loved dressing up and getting pretty ever since she was a toddler.  Most of all, she loves to make someone else beautiful.  She will most certainly become a

makeup artist someday.

Please view this and add comments on YouTube so she could see it.  And if you feel so inclined, please hit “like” and subscribe to her channel.  She is planning on gearing the beauty tips for middle schoolers like herself, but maybe you can learn a thing or two from her for yourself!

How this Panda Mom Went Off Sleeping Pills

It was so insidious.  I needed to get some precious rest when my babies were asleep at night, but my sleep pattern had gotten so disrupted during my seasons with newborns that I could no longer fall asleep on my own. So, how harmful is a little Tylenol PM, right?

I took one little pill my first night and was knocked out. Welcome, sleep! As long as the kids continued sleeping until morning, that is.  If they fussed at 2 or 3AM, I myself couldn’t going back to sleep.  I tried popping another pill at that hour, but it left me groggy all morning.  No worries — nothing that a good cup of coffee can’t fix!

After taking Tylenol PM a few more times, I noticed that it wasn’t as effective as it once was, so I upped the dosage.  Then after a while, that wouldn’t work as well either, so I upped it some more…until I quickly reached my max.

I tried a few other options such as Ambien and Codeine.  I only used Ambien for a short while, because I read about weird things that people did while sleeping: walking, driving, eating, and shopping.  I myself reportedly had a full telephone conversation from Japan with my husband and kids back home which I totally could not remember.

This went on for several years.  I didn’t take a sleeping pill every night, but it did concern me that I was needing an increasing amount and that I was — gulp — starting to form a habit.

My true wake-up call happened one weekend when I attended a women’s retreat with my church.  I was in a cabin with about 8 other women, and at bed time we were all popping Tylenol PM like they were M&Ms!  While I was relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one with sleeping issues, it woke me up to the fact that I, along with about half of humanity, had become dependent on sleep aid.

So I decided to quit cold turkey.  Here’s how I did it:

1.  I increased my physical exercise routine

I began taking classes at the gym which were not only more fun but also pushed me much harder than working out by myself.  I would collapse into bed at night from utter physical exhaustion.  I used to work out (er, dawdled) about three times a week, but I upped it to five or six.  I also liked the effect that it had on my bathroom scale.

2.  I took steps to lower my stress level

Mental exhaustion has the opposite effect of physical exhaustion: stressful thoughts keep me awake at night!  I was volunteering at my kids’ school and at church but was facing some difficult circumstances which often kept me up at 3AM.  All this for zero pay?  I did a complete reassessment of how I was using my time and energy.  If things could be pruned, then I prune I would.  It was hard for me to let go of my many activities, but I just kept my goal on one thing: sanity.  With less stress, I was able to sleep more.

3.  I cut out all caffeine after noon

I was in denial for so long about the effect caffeine had on me.  When I stopped all caffeine intake after my two cups of coffee in the morning and iced tea at lunch, the difference was dramatic.  Hello, sleep! And this time, all clean!

These days, I usually (9 out of 10 nights?) have no trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.  Sometimes my husband’s snoring wakes me up in the middle of the night, but I poke him to turn over and am able to quickly fall back asleep.

A good night’s rest is a tremendous gift, and I’m very grateful for it everyday and night.

Jesus said, 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 – 30 NIV)

So, tell me — do you have sleep issues?  What do you do about it?