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Area

11 Jan

The other night, I made roasted fish and vegetables for dinner. Michaela complained I gave her too many vegetables. When I brushed off her concern, she started to use her hands to measure the veggies on her plate.

“My hand is seven inches,” she said, holding her hand parallel to the length of her plate, then parallel to the width. She started muttering to herself. “Seven…times…three…is 21…,” she trailed off for a minute before triumphantly exclaiming “The area of these vegetables is 21! That’s too many veggies!”

I nearly died laughing, then corrected her claim that her hand is seven inches long. I totally forgot about the whole thing until we got a “happy new year/back-to-school” email from Michaela’s teacher. In it, she wrote that the kids were learning how to calculate area and that they were really enjoying it. Then it clicked! Now I know where that super random “too many veggies” defense came from!

I emailed her teacher back with the story. She responded that she’s been telling the kids it’s a very useful skill to have in real life. Apparently Michaela has taken that to heart.

2018 in Review

31 Dec

Looking back at the calendar to get a sense of what the heck happened in 2018, my overwhelming thought is, “Man! What a busy year!” Mike was out of town a ton, so Michaela and I had lots of time together perfecting our daily routine. But we also did a lot of fun things as a family, just the three of us, including hosting Nibblet, the 2nd grade class guinea pig, during spring break and for a month during the summer, going to a taiko drum performance, and getting Michaela get on the jumbotron at a San Diego Gulls hockey game. We traveled as a family to Oklahoma for a week, and to the Philippines for just under two weeks around Thanksgiving. Mike and Michaela even joined me for an overnight when I was at a work conference!

I feel like this year, I got to spend quality time with friends. We’re at the point in our lives where there’s a lot of 40th birthday celebrating, so there was plenty of that, but also two girls’ trips with college friends this year (one a baby sprinkle and one our usual annual trip).

Michaela and I had many mother-daughter adventures. With Mike being gone, the two of us did a lot of rollerskating, we participated in the 32nd annual Bay Bridge Run/Walk and our third Live Well 5K. We marched in the Women’s March. I chaperoned a weekend campout with her Girl Scout troop. And in the summer, she and I had a girls’ trip to Palm Springs, which was fantastic. I love traveling with her!

We bought a new house in August, which is obviously a highlight, but also the source of a lot of stress! Moving sucks, and our house is still a construction zone. But we have the nicest neighbors, and there are a lot of kids on our new street. They all play together, riding bikes and scooters and jumping on a trampoline that someone has in the front yard. Heck, one family that doesn’t even have kids opens their pool up to the neighborhood kids! Not to mention impromptu dinner parties and sharing drinks and conversation.

Michaela started 3rd grade after a summer of new camps (jump rope camp and Camp Cahito) plus her long-time favorite Zoo Camp. She tried glassblowing! And of course she celebrated her 9th birthday in December.

Family-wise, we lost Grandma Pat in February. Another low point was my mom’s liver cancer diagnosis, but the treatment she had appears to have been successful and she tolerated it very well. That’s a huge relief, although there’s still a lot unknown. We’re at a point where our parents are getting older, which is why it’s nice we’re able to spend time with them. Mike’s mom and stepdad came out in September and stayed with Michaela while Mike took me on a surprise trip to Mexico City to celebrate our 10th anniversary, and Michaela spent her customary week in Denver with Nana and Papa (followed by a weekend trip to Austin to meet her dad for a father-daughter trip).

On the professional front, I ended my tenure on the board of the California School Public Relations Association, was a finalist for the San Diego Business Journal 40 Under 40 awards, and picked u several awards for my work from the San Diego Press Club. And on the personal front, I went to several concerns (Erasure and Morrissey– my 13th time!) and got a personal trainer and worked out with her weekly beginning in June.

I have a lot of things I’d like to accomplish in 2019:

My “40 before 40″ list has a lot still to do.

Mike, Michaela, and I have talked about a family resolution that each Sunday night, we’ll make pizza and have a board game night at home.

Michaela asked that I re-up my resolution from 2018: spend less time on my phone.

I also want to continue cooking at home more and eating out less, and get back to doing yoga.

Here’s to a happy new year!

Born to Ride

27 Dec

(Much to my parents’ chagrin) we have been remiss in teaching Michaela to ride a bike. I bought her one a couple (few?) years ago, but wasn’t ever good about making time to work with her on learning to ride. We lived on a very busy street on one side, and on a hill on the other, and between that and our busy schedules and the fact that Michaela’s bike is really big because she’s so tall and therefore too big to fit in my car for transport to a better place to learn to ride, well, it just never happened.

The other day, though, I decided we should pick it up again. Our new house is on a flat street, kids ride and play in the street all the time, I’m on vacation, and there’s no time like the present. So we got our her bike, Michaela hopped on, and I walked alongside her while she tried to pedal and steer and balance herself.

Fortunately for both of us, our neighbor Justin was out in his yard while we were practicing. Justin is like six and a half feet tall and built like an oak tree. He’s also the sweetest man I know. He saw us and came out into the street, asking if it was okay if he helped. I told him yes and before I knew it, he was going along with Michaela, one hand on her back, urging her on. “Pedal faster,” he said, “It’ll be easier!” So she pedaled faster and started to get the hang of it. I took over from there and a few short minutes later, Michaela was able to ride down the street, as long as I helped her get started and she didn’t have to turn.

I was so proud of her! I ran inside and got Mike and his mom, who came out to watch and cheer her on. At the end of our riding session, Michaela was thrilled to eat an Otter Pop and I was thrilled to have a kid who can ride a bike!

Today she asked to go out again, so she strapped on her helmet and we did some more riding. She’s getting better at getting going and at turning. I think by the end of vacation, she’ll be able to do it all. We’ll just have to keep up our riding so she doesn’t get rusty!

I’ve long wanted to go on an international vacation and do a biking tour of a city, but there were two main obstacles: 1) Michaela couldn’t ride, and 2) For most bike rental/tours, riders have to be at least 10 years old. I’m so excited we can now cross one of those two things off the list!

Christmas 2018

26 Dec

We were fortunate that Mike’s mom Laura and stepdad Var were able to join us for Christmas this year. They came in about a week before and immediately got to work painting Mike’s office and part of the downstairs hallway! Seriously, we are so lucky. Between that and hanging out with Michaela and doing some last-minute Christmas shopping… and taking a little bit of time to themselves, visiting Kono’s (their favorite) and the beach… Laura and Var were go, go, go. Michaela was in heaven, of course, because she loves it when they’re here. She did art with Papa Var and crafts with Nana Laura and enjoyed having them pick her up from school a couple of times. We even made it to Coronado, which was beautiful but cold.

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On Christmas Eve, the five of us (Mike, Michaela, Laura, Var, and I) took it pretty easy before settling in for a Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Christmas Eve pizza is a tradition from my childhood, and I love being able to share it with my family now.

Michaela was quite concerned about Santa coming (yes, she still believes). Our new house has two fireplaces, one upstairs in the master bedroom and one downstairs in one of our living rooms. The downstairs one is under construction (as is much of the rest of our house), so there’s no mantle on it right now, meaning we had to hang the stockings in the other living room. She left a note for Santa — facing in, towards the fireplace, so Santa could see it if he popped down the wrong chimney — so he would he needed to head downstairs. Fortunately, Santa found the right place and filled our stockings. He also left his (unwrapped) presents on the landing where she could see them as soon as she woke up.

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Santa brought Michaela a scooter, some extreme dot-to-dots, a fashion plates kit, a large Beanie Boo unicorn, a bunch of books, thinking putty, an LOL Surprise thing, and more. I’ll be honest: Santa didn’t give as much this year as he has in the past, but that’s because Mike and I went a little overboard in terms of the things we got for her.

My parents, brother, and brother’s girlfriend joined us for Christmas breakfast and presents. It was the first time in years that my brother joined us for Christmas, so that was nice.

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It was a loud, raucous meal that started with Mike’s famous homemade cinnamon rolls, plus eggs and bacon and hash browns and yogurt parfaits.

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Eventually my family left and we had a quick break. Then it was time to start cooking again. Mike and his mom did most of the work while I was on dish duty. I swear, I washed every dish we own multiple times on Christmas! In the late afternoon, my brother and his girlfriend came back, and Mike’s cousin and her two roommates came over, and the 10 of us had dinner. As usual, Mike outdid himself (with Laura’s help!), making ham, green bean casserole, twice baked potatoes, salad, two loaves of homemade pesto swirl bread, cranberry relish and cranberry sauce, charcuterie, and an antipasti board with marinated mushrooms and five different types of olives. Because that wasn’t enough, we also had apple pie and ice cream.

Sadly, Laura and Var left that night to return to Denver. Mike took them to the airport, all of our other guests left, and Michaela and I snuck in a little rest. A couple of hours later, we walked down the street a few houses for (more) dessert and drinks at a neighbors’ house. We spent several hours there, eating and chatting (and in Michaela’s place, jumping on the trampoline). It was really wonderful.

Hope your Christmas was similarly full of good food, good friends, and lots of love!

Birthday Wrap-Up

26 Dec

Both Mike’s and Michaela’s birthdays are behind us now, as is Christmas. Honestly, I don’t know where the time goes!

Mike requested Korean BBQ for his birthday, so Michaela and I gladly indulged him. We were too busy eating to snap any pictures, but I think (I hope!) Mike started 42 off right.

As for Michaela, she had a looooong birthday celebration. The weekend before her birthday, we hosted 10 of her friends at Cerami Cafe, a place where you can paint your own ceramic figure.

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The girls had a blast painting and then we had pizza and an amazing cake Mike and Michaela made from scratch. It looked like a cat emjoi with heart eyes, and when Mike cut it, the girls literally squealed because take cake inside was blue and purple swirls.

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On her actual birthday, Mike was out of town. As I posted on Instagram, I was really worried about how her actual birthday would be. She’s a huge daddy’s girl, and every time her birthday came up in the weeks leading up to it, Michaela cried because Mike would be gone. I tried extra hard to make it a good day for her, making her requested birthday breakfast of chocolate chip-Nutella pancakes (and I *never* make pancakes!) and taking her and her best friend to the movies. Heck, I even splurged on movie theater popcorn/soda/candy packages!

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(Side note: how do people afford to go to the movies? We went to a weekday matinee and our three tickets were nearly $30, plus another $30 for the food. It’s nuts!)

After the movie, we wandered the mall and then had dinner at Fuddruckers. We’d never been there, but Michaela requested burgers and there was one at the mall, so that’s what we did. It had a small arcade in it, so the girls played after eating… Before we headed for frozen yogurt! It was hours and hours of fun, and that was before we got home and Michaela saw the helium balloons and presents I’d put around the house for her.

By the end of the night, she was pooped, but had just enough energy to talk to Mike on the phone. It was a good day!

And that wasn’t the end of the celebration. A couple of days later, we went to Corvette Diner, a local restaurant that Michaela really likes. She ordered a giant burger, we got her a balloon animal, and we listened to classic feel good tunes throughout our meal.

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The following day, Michaela finally opened her presents from her grandparents, and she spent the rest of the day enjoying them.

Hard to believe she’ll hit “double digits” for her next birthday!

Halfway

6 Dec

In less than a week, Michaela turns 9. NINE. How did that happen?

I remember being pregnant and people telling me, “the days are long but the years are short.” I sort of rolled my eyes at the hackneyed wisdom. Then I had a baby and learned how truly long the days can be, and now more and more I appreciate the truth about the years being short.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, we’re at a place where Michaela is halfway through her childhood. Halfway through the traditional amount of time a kid lives with their parents, halfway through the K-12 school experience, halfway through the time I have to impress upon her lessons that will serve her well for the rest of her life.

Granted, some kids don’t go off to college and nowadays, many kids move back in with their parents if they do leave. And as long as Michaela is doing what she’s supposed to do — working or studying (or both!) and being a contributing member of society — there will always be a place for her with me. But still… This feels very momentous somehow.

It’s also interesting to think: the remaining nine years will go by very quickly, so it’s probably time for Mike and I to start thinking about what we want life to look like once our nest is empty.

My vote is we move our nest to Barcelona, but that’s just me.

Philippines

25 Nov

Mike and I belong to a service that finds international airfare deals, which is part of how we’ve managed to go to some interesting trips in the last few years. (For example, last year, we flew round trip to Japan, the three of us, for like $1,800.) In May, we got an email about cheap flights to Philippines and decided we’d go for Thanksgiving. I was excited because I love to travel, but also a little ambivalent because it was so random… and because it was a beach vacation and I don’t know how to swim and don’t need to tan! But I figured the worst that would happen was I’d sit on the beach reading while Mike and Michaela did water stuff, and there are way worse things in the world.

Our lives have been very hectic since May, so we sort of put planning on the back burner. Mike always does our itineraries and he didn’t have it all nailed down until a week or so before we were scheduled to depart. It was a hard trip to plan! The Philippines are an archipelago of 7,000-plus islands and traveling from place to place often involves ferry rides.

On the day in question, we drove up to LAX, taking advantage of our fancy credit card that gets us access to an airport lounge. The flight is 15 hours, so there was a lot of sleeping (or trying to anyway) before we eventually made it to Manila. Once in Manila, we went through immigration, got our bags, and then took a shuttle to the domestic terminal, to grab another flight. The crazy thing about the airport there is the terminals are basically in different areas of the city. To go from Terminal 2 to Terminal 4, we had to take a bus ride through the city on a shuttle with no doors!

The flight from Manila to Puerto Princess was pretty easy. No snacks or drinks on the plane; it was like Southwest light. Our hostess (Mina) picked us up from the airport and took us on a tour of the city before we drove the hour to the Tarabaran Cottages, a rustic sort of resort in Palawan. We spent several days there, lounging by the beach, fighting the bugs (so. many. bug. bites.), island hopping, river cruising, eating, and yes, reading on the beach. We even took a hike through the jungle to visit a native village; as a show of respect, we had to bring tobacco for the men and cookies for the women and children. Mina – and our driver Elmer and Elmer’s son Derek – were lovely. Our last night, they serenaded us with songs in Tagalog and also some American favorites. Watching Michaela sing “Jambalaya” with them was a hoot. It almost made up for the placing not having hot water. (Fun fact: I didn’t know how much I loved hot water until I didn’t have any.)

If you follow me on social media you already know this, but if not (or for posterity’s sake), we flew from Puerto Princess to Cebu City. We were supposed to grab a ferry to go to a place called Bohol that’s home to tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills and some other cool stuff, but we were waylaid by Typhoon Samuel. The Philippine Coast Guard stopped all the ferries, so we ended up finding a hotel in the city and exploring Cebu that day. The next morning, we tried again but still no ferries, so we took a taxi three hours southwest to Moalboal, another beautiful beach town. (The taxi ride cost about $50 in American dollars. Can you imagine what it would cost here to take a taxi from, say, San Diego to Thousand Oaks? It’d be outrageous!)

We stayed at the Quo Vadis resort for two nights. I was expecting there would be a lot of vendors walking up and down the beach selling trinkets, but there really weren’t (we only say two the while time we were on Philippine beaches), which would never happen in Mexico, for example. Quo Vadis had really beautiful grounds, with a big blue pool, stellar ocean views, and whitewashed buildings. Like everywhere else in the Philippines, there were some stray dogs, and we saw giant crabs (like the size of my fist) each night skittering around the sidewalk after it got dark.

Moalboal itself was pretty sleepy, at least while we were there. It was gray and a little bit drizzly due to the typhoon, but our last day it cleared and was sunny and hot and I could imagine the place being even more amazing. We took a tricycle (a motorcycle with a sidecar bolted onto it) to Kawasan Falls one morning. I surprised myself by getting in the (cold!) water and wading out before Mike or Michaela. I was trying to be adventurous and break out of my comfort zone! (I also ate a few bites of fish and tried fried pig knuckles, so I would say it was a success.) Michaela was super brave, too– she went out to under the falls!

Our last morning in Moalboal, we took a trike to the famous White Beach, which was exactly what the name implies. The water was soooo clear and warm. There were schools of fish swimming by, and coral in the water, and shells everywhere. I didn’t wear my bathing suit (stupid me!) so I sat on the beach and read (are you sending a theme) while Mike snorkled and Michaela played on the water.

Then it was back to Cebu City. Mike and I both agree it’s one of our least favorite cities we’ve been to. A ton of traffic and really bad smog, plus trash everywhere.

Speaking of ubiquitous Philippine sights, I have never seen so much livestock in my whole life! I saw hundreds of roosters, many of which were for cockfighting (we passed a number of cockfighting rings in various cities), plus pigs and cows and even a couple of water buffalo. And the roosters crowed all. the. time. Day and night.

From Cebu City, we headed back to Manila. I was actually really excited to spend some time there because of the World War II-related history, but the city was practically impossible to navigate! We literally waited two hours for a taxi before giving up and deciding to swim in the hotel pool instead. Uber used to be there, but they sold to a company called Grab that is a taxi-hailing app. We didn’t have great luck with it. It didn’t help that while our cell phones worked great in the rest of the country, neither Mike nor I could get online on our phones in Manila. So while our flight from Manila wasn’t until 9 p.m., we spent our day going to the amazing Art in Island 3-D museum, then wandered around the world’s 5th-larges mall, and headed to the airport early.

I am incredibly glad we visited the Philippines. The beaches were beautiful and we really enjoyed our time relaxing on the shore and in the water. If we’d had more time, I would have enjoyed visiting even more of the country’s various islands and taking in the different sights. That being said, as is the case in so many places, we also saw heartbreaking poverty. Homes made of flimsy scrap metal with no indoor plumbing, people washing clothes at communal open taps. Kids with tattered or no clothes. Lots of public urination. I spent a lot of time talking to Michaela about how lucky we are that we happened to be born where we were and how much we have compared to most people in the world, and working on her to say thank you in Tagalog to show our heartfelt appreciation for people’s service. I hope those are lessons that will stay with her as much as her memories of holding a starfish and collecting sand dollars and drinking fresh pineapple shakes.

Because we really are incredible fortunate.

So Much to Be Thankful For

24 Nov

So apparently I haven’t blogged since Oct. 17? Hmm. Here are some highlights of life since then:

I chaperoned a Girl Scouts camping trip. It was basically hell on earth. I’ll never make that mistake again.

I won a couple of first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club. It’s always nice to have my work recognized by a panel of professional experts.

I went to LA and saw Phil Collins in concert! My seat was in the nose bleed section, but he sounded really good and thanks to the monitors, I could mostly see. He performs sitting down now, so it’s not like he was weaving around the stage. His 17-year-old son is playing drums on his tour and the kid is freaking amazing. My aunt Jerry loved Phil Collins and gave me dubbed tapes of some of his albums (and Genesis albums) when I was a kid, so Phil Collins has a special place in my heart.

Michaela dressed as a Kit Kat bar for Halloween, breaking her fruit tradition. She and Mike made the costume together out of felt and it came out really well!

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My brother took Michaela and I to see “Wicked.” He splurged on really good seats (3rd row orchestra!), but it was a pretty late night for Michaela, especially since we went the day after Halloween. She definitely enjoyed it, but she was exhausted. I let her sleep in the next morning and took her to school late. #MomOfTheYear

I voted! There were some races across the nation that didn’t turn out the way I hoped (I’m looking at you, Beto O’Rourke, Stacy Abrams, Andrew Gillum), but it was a much nicer feeling than I had in November 2016.

I saw Morrissey in concert for the 13th time. It was a good show (although nothing will top the one where I got to meet him after!), although it ended in chaos

We went to the Philippines for vacation, which I’ll write about later.

And best of all, the treatment my mom had for her liver cancer seemed to be successful in killing the tumor. She’ll have to go in for monitoring every three months, but for now, she is doing well and things are good.

We have a lot to be thankful for!

What Counts?

17 Oct

I have spent the last couple of weeks cooking dinners for my family. This came after I realized we were eating out sometimes as much as 5 or 6 nights a week, mostly due to poor planning and laziness. It’s not healthy for us, it doesn’t set a good example for Michaela, and it’s really expensive. Mike has traditionally done the bulk of our cooking, but he’s been working a lot lately, including a lot of nights out of town, so I though I’d pick up the slack.

I follow a pretty healthy number of food blogs and am always bookmarking things that seem interesting, so I mostly have been going through my bookmarks to find things that sound good or work together (e.g., buy broccoli for stir fry, use the rest of it later in a pasta dish). It’s going okay, although I have to admit, a few days in, I was exhausted. Tired of cooking, tired of thinking about cooking, tired of washing dishes. I have mostly gotten over that for now.

Some of the stuff I’ve made has been really good. Other stuff, only okay. I track it all in this Tumblr, where I add little notes about what I changed in the recipe, how everyone liked it, etc., so if you’re interested in my hits and misses, that’s the place to look.

Last night, I made ravioli with sage, walnut and spinach brown butter sauce. The recipe called for store-bought ravioli, which got me thinking– does it really count as a “homemade” meal if you buy the major ingredient? Does it matter? Are my expectations too high as far as my nightly dinner making goes? Am I crazy to want to try different recipes all the time, especially since it kind of stresses me out to have to get home and get dinner ready? Would it be wrong to pull out a frozen pizza once a week? It’s still eating at home, but it’s… not “real” cooking.

Does any of that even make sense?

It’s not a contest. It probably doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. But it’s something I have been thinking about a lot since I started cooking dinners.

Earlier this week, Mike was out of town and I had some veggies and an open jar of spaghetti sauce, so I decided I’d be lazy and we’d make pizzas on pita bread. Michaela was thrilled to get to top hers (she chopped up her olives so it looked like a spider), said it was the perfect amount of food, and she really enjoyed eating it. Maybe that should be enough?

Who knew dinner was so fraught with deep questions?!?

Only 1 Year Left

11 Oct

When I turned 35, I made a list of 40 things I wanted to do before I turn 40. I have been working on it little bit little, but there’s a lot to be done still. In fact, when I went through the list just after my birthday, I was feeling pretty good about crossing things off… until I realized that even with all the new stuff I’ve managed to accomplish, there are still 21 things left on the list to do!

Looks like it’s going to be a busy year…