Happy Holidays!

What a year it's been for us! I knew change was coming when Rupert finished his PhD in 2012, but you can never be 100% ready for a huge change like moving across the country. The last six months have seen some highs and lows for me personally, but that's not surprising. The good thing is that I'm ending the year feeling positive about where I am at the moment, and that as a whole 2013 wasn't too shabby of a year.

[photo collage made by Rupert]
Row 1 (L to R): Maya & a butterfly (MD); Alisal Ranch (CA); Alisal Ranch; Museum of Play (Rochester, NY); softball (CA); C&O Canal (MD)
Row 2: baseball (CA); Alisal Ranch; first day of school (MD); Cornell University (Ithaca, NY); Thanksgiving (Keuka Lake, NY); Manhattan Beach (CA)
Row 3: end of the fall ball season (MD); keeping cool indoors (Arlington, VA); in our old backyard (Hawthorne, CA); Manhattan Beach; Mt. Vernon (VA); pool time (Rancho Mirage, CA)
Row 4: pedal boating in the Tidal Basin (DC); Manhattan Beach; fall leaves (MD); hanging out at home (MD); Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds at the Artisphere (Arlington, VA); on our old porch
Row 5: Little League World Series field (South Williamsport, PA); pumpkin carving (MD); C&O Canal; Ian as Han Solo at Halloween (MD); our old master bedroom; fall in MD
Row 6: pedal boating in the Tidal Basin; C&O Canal; hanging out at home (MD); afternoon in DC; riding the Metro (DC); summertime Maya (CA)


Getting used to the cold

Ian and I were walking to a classmate's house this morning, chatting about how we're getting used to the colder weather. It was a beautiful sunny morning and Ian thought it must be in the 50s. A quick look at my weather app told us otherwise:

I'm finding that temperatures in the mid-30s are actually tolerable, especially when the sun's out. This would've been unthinkable when we lived in LA. In the first place, when is it ever in the mid-30s in LA?? What passed as "freezing" for us back then were temps in the low- to mid-50s, which is pleasant, warm weather here. 

Just goes to show, you get used to most things!


Snow Day

Second Snow Day in a row (although, officially, yesterday was an Emergency Weather Day because of icy conditions). It's not even officially winter yet and we've already used up two of the four Snow Days we can have before the district starts tacking on days to the end of the school year. 

My brother-in-law and his wife live in Rochester, New York and we were talking about snow over Thanksgiving, and it came up that DC-area "Snowmageddon" was a regular occurrence in their area. Which makes me wonder how bad it has to get in places like Rochester, Minnesota, or Canada before they declare a Snow Day. 

The kids are, obviously, enjoying this unexpected long weekend. I actually am too. I've decided not to venture out and I'm taking advantage of the serenity (minus the kids' voices) to catch up on some reading. Luckily, we have enough food in the house so I don't have to go out. 






OK, so most of the pictures look the same, but it's been snowing consistently for several hours so it's piling up more than it did on Sunday. 

By 3:00 the scene was already changing ...

There was just enough snow for me to build a snow penguin:


Day 30 :: Thankful for ...

... the chance to be thankful everyday. 

What follows is a cheesy cliché-fest but it has to be said, especially on this last day of publicly sharing what I'm thankful for. 

When I Instagrammed the photo above, part of my caption read, "Purposefully chose #nofilter to remind myself how beautiful life is just the way it is." Could I be any cheesier? But I find that it's the truth. Is my life "perfect?" Of course not. But it's pretty darn close, and it really requires no embellishment or improvement to be a beautiful life. I occasionally find that I'm preoccupied with trying to make my life "better" by wanting things to be just right, or I make my life overly complicated for no good reason; the result is that I don't see what's already so good.

It's easy to complain about what's not right in my life, but in the grand scheme of things those problems are so minor they're laughable. Instead, I really should be thankful that I have so much to be thankful for. And remembering that will lead to a happier, more positive way of life, which I really need right now. 

Basically, I have the power and choice to make each day better and happier than the day before. To simply have the chance every time I wake up in the morning to focus on my happiness (instead of on sheer survival) is a luxury I should never take for granted ... or squander. 

I probably won't continue to share what I'm thankful for everyday, but I resolve to remind myself, as often as possible, of the many things that make my life a wondrous thing.


Day 28 :: Thankful for ...

... Thanksgiving and Hanukkah falling on the same day, and that we got to spend it with Rupert's family. Happy Thanksgivukkah!


Day 27 :: Thankful for ...

... arriving safely at our destination after driving through some snow in the dark. (This picture was taken during the nice flurrying snow; we ran into some "can't really see where we're going" snow later in the drive.)


Day 26 :: Thankful for ...

... the mild craziness of getting ready for Thanksgivukkah. It means we have family to celebrate with and much to be thankful for. 


Day 25 :: Thankful for ...

... a little disposable income so I can occasionally treat myself to lunch (or a new shirt, or a book, or stationery).


Day 22 :: Thankful for ...

... my children's good health. I took them to their first check-up here and everything's A-OK. And we liked their new pediatrician, a youngish guy (a first for us and probably a good thing for Ian).


Day 21 :: Thankful for ...

... a few quiet moments staring outside at the birds and squirrels fattening up for the winter. 


Day 20 :: Thankful for ...

... libraries. (Left: Ian's middle school library where I volunteer; Right: my local public library's children's graphic novels/comics section)


Day 19 :: Thankful for ...

... my kind & loving/lovable husband, Rupert. (And, just to be clear, his real name isn't Rupert. It's kind of a long-standing joke that stuck on the blog.) We have a special thing going, mostly because he is extremely tolerant of me. (This photo was taken at Thanksgiving; we really need to take more pictures of just the two of us.)


Day 17 :: Thankful for ...

... family game nights. And an understanding family who lets me just be a spectator. ;)

(They're playing Takenoko, if you're wondering.)


Day 16 :: Thankful for ...

... former colleagues who are visiting DC and invited me to join them on a night tour of the monuments.


Day 15 :: Thankful for ...

... the children's literature community. I attended my second Capitol Choices meeting today and, like last time, it reinforced the importance of the work these people do. On a personal level, I've been encouraged and buoyed by people involved in children's literature who I've met online and in person. 


Day 14 :: Thankful for ...

... supportive friends around the country. In my time of emotional need, my friends never fail to come through for me. Whether it's a virtual hug through Facebook, a phone call, or a handwritten letter, my friends always show me that they've got my back. 


Day 13 :: Thankful for ...

... my son. Happy 13th birthday, Ian! You are a great kid and you've certainly made being your parents a pretty easy job.

(Guess what his favorite food is!)


Day 11 :: Thankful for ...

... time spent in the kitchen with my parents, learning how to make food that's familiar to my taste buds, and passing that knowledge/skill down to Maya. 

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention on Veterans Day how thankful I am for our veterans and their families. 


Day 10 :: Thankful for ...

... family dinners. 

We were blessed when we lived in Los Angeles: dinners with both of our extended families were a regular part of life. Having loud, boisterous meals, talking and laughing (and sometimes arguing), sharing experiences across generations ... it's an amazing part of family life that I now miss terribly.

Since my parents got here, a lot of our activities have revolved around food, and spending time together like that has been special in an incredibly routine kind of way. Like things are back to "normal." Don't get me wrong -- I love my nuclear family more than anything -- but when it comes to food, the more the merrier!


Day 9 :: Thankful for ...

... my parents visiting us, and ...

... for all the Japanese food my mom brought us!


Day 8 :: Thankful for ...

... my sisters who are great aunties. My big sis sent Maya some animal cake pops for her birthday.


Day 7 :: Thankful for ...

... county services. Today is one of two free leaf collection days.


Day 6 :: Thankful for

... having skills that are useful to someone else (and are appreciated). Today I covered books for the middle school library, and the library staff is impressed enough to save a lot of the covering for me to do.

(This book, Counting by 7s, is supposed to be quite good -- put it on your to-read list.)


Day 5 :: Thankful for ...

... friends. My high school friend S was in DC for work so we made plans to hang out. She works for a movie studio and travels around the country coordinating and setting up screenings. This was actually her first time in DC so I gave her a very brief tour of the Mall between lunch and heading back to Georgetown for the evening's screenings (which I got to attend).


Day 4 :: Thankful for ...

... my daughter. Happy birthday, Maya! The last eight years have been nothing short of amazing, challenging, and life-changing. We love you!


Day 3 :: Thankful for ...

... technology. FaceTiming with Grandma in L.A. so she can watch Maya open the birthday presents she sent. 



Life lessons from reality TV

I've kind of had a rough week. I'll probably blog about that later, but basically, as a result, I'm mopy. And when I'm mopy I tend to indulge in a little escapism. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I sleep a lot. And sometimes I watch marathon episodes of TV shows on Netflix.

As I was engrossed in yet another stretch of TV-watching, I realized I actually get some simple counseling from the shows I watch:

Hoarding: Buried Alive
  • Don't dwell on the past --> enjoy the "now" with the people in your life.
  • Don't let "stuff" tether you down, and never let your loved ones think that your stuff is more important to you than they are.
What Not to Wear
  • How you present yourself to the world can make a positive impression on others ... and if you look good, you often feel good.
  • Be classy!
Anthony Bourdain: A Cook's Tour (this one I'm watching on Amazon Prime)
  • The world is a large -- and sometimes mysterious -- place. You're just a small part of that large world. Look for the mysterious, new, and different in the world and let it impact you in a positive way.
  • People live differently around the world, but most likely find joy in the same things you do.
Comic Book Men
  • Never lose your passion!
  • Never be ashamed of what you love.
  • Stay curious.
  • Learn from your mistakes, and move forward.

As for comedies, I'm enjoying watching How I Met Your Mother, mostly because I watch it with Ian. We spend 20-40 minutes after school watching it together until Maya comes home. We don't talk or discuss anything; we just watch a silly TV show that probably has some inappropriate innuendos and we laugh together. Nothing better than that!


Where I Went Shopping :: GW Supermarket

Part of getting to know my new neighborhood/extended community entails visiting as many supermarkets as possible. Since moving to our house I've been to 11 different markets, and there are still more to explore!

My neighbor, who is from Japan, was nice enough to tell me about the Asian markets in the area. She even took me to a small Taiwanese market (Kam Sam Market) in Rockville earlier in the month. After picking up a few items, she suggested that we drive a block farther to a Chinese market her foodie friends had told her about. Despite only popping in the store for a few minutes, we were impressed with the size of the market and the selection; it was more impressive than the Taiwanese market, frankly.

So, I went back to Great Wall (GW) Supermarket on my own to find some inspiration after reading Fuchsia Dunlop's Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China.

The variety of meat and fish, vegetables, and wheat-based food items (buns, noodles, dumplings, etc.) was a bit overwhelming but it brought back good food-shopping memories of Ranch 99 back in California. I didn't buy any fish this time around, but at least I know I can get fresh (i.e., live) seafood here, including ...

... live frogs, soft shell turtles, blue crab, rockfish, and dried jelly fish!

They had a small selection of Japanese food items, and a whole aisle dedicated to Southeast Asian ingredients. It might not impress native Thai or Vietnamese cooks, but it seemed like it would satisfy any basic ingredient needs should I want to try my hand at those cuisines. 

Another reason to go back to GW is their take-out counter. For $4.99 you can get a heaping serving of rice, three dishes (there was even lobster), and soup. I didn't try it this time since I bought a container of congee and pastries instead. For $5 it's worth a try at least once if I'm in the area. The pastries are buy five, get one free so I bought some for dessert. The egg custard tart was my favorite by far; the chocolate-filled bun, not so much. 

Great Wall Supermarket (GW Supermarket)
700 Hungerford Drive
Rockville, MD 20850


Remembering a good man

Grandpa Murray :: 1926 ~ 2013

Our family lost a good man over the weekend. Rupert's grandfather passed away after three weeks in the hospital and a nursing home. Towards the end, Rupert and I knew we were never going to see Grandpa at home again in his favorite recliner. But knowing in your head that the end is near doesn't change how much your heart breaks. The whole family is mourning the loss of a truly kind and gentle person whom we all looked up to.

I've known Grandpa Murray my entire adult life (close to 20 years) and he was always the sweetest person. You couldn't help but want to lean in and give him a big hug and kiss every time you saw him. After my own grandfathers passed away my fondness for him increased. I call him "Grandpa" because I truly feel like he's my grandfather. And I always felt like he treated me as one of his granddaughters; when the man spoils you even when you're 36 years old, you know he sees you as a granddaughter!

And my kids are blessed because not only did they know their great-grandfather, but they spent a great deal of time with him. He was a given in their lives, and not all of us are fortunate to have a great-grandparent be a constant presence during our childhood.

My husband probably also had a special place in Grandpa's heart because he's the oldest grandchild. I'll always remember them bonding over sports (Lakers basketball in particular) and, most recently, walking together and talking about Grandpa's life. My normally stoic husband's voice broke while speaking at his grandfather's funeral and I knew he was hurting more than he showed.

Wednesday's funeral was nothing fancy -- probably just the way Grandpa would've wanted it -- but everyone's words were heartfelt and true. We were certainly relieved that Grandpa wasn't suffering anymore, but his absence is going to leave a huge hole in our extended family.

Afterwards we had a big family dinner at Lawry's, Grandpa's favorite place to celebrate, and that's exactly what we did: we celebrated his life and memory. We'll never forget you, Grandpa!