Wings & Sweet Things (#325)

My neighborhood holds an annual cooking contest the Sunday before Labor Day.

The stakes? Bragging rights and cheese knives.

The contestants? Everyone on the block.

The outcome? My Chinese American husband dominated for years. Then I started entering chocolate baked goods and crushed him. The hostess finally created two categories, one for “Savory” and one for “Sweet.” Andy vengefully jumped categories and destroyed me with caramel pear ice-cream.

Two years ago, we tied. Last year, the contest was canceled because of COVID.

Two weeks ago, this showed up in my mailbox:

I cheered and immediately hounded Andy, “What are you gonna make? What are you gonna make, huh?”

“What are YOU gonna make?” he countered.

“Maybe cookies. Except cookies just aren’t that pretty, and you get judged on appearance, too. Maybe red velvet cupcakes? Except if it’s super hot, the cream cheese frosting will melt.

“You know, if it’s hot, people would probably really like ice-cream…” Andy mused.

“Don’t you dare! Stay in your own savory lane, mister!”

Andy opted for chicken wings.

Andy’s wings and dressing.

Once upon a time, Andy only made wings for the Super Bowl. Recently, our picky little prince lost enough taste buds to like spicy food. Baby D began demanding wings during the Pandemic. Andy obliged. He became skilled at homemade blue cheese dressing, too.

I agonized over my dessert all week. I’d been working on a new cookie recipe (oatmeal, coconut, toffee, and chocolate) that tasted fabulous, but wasn’t especially attractive (i.e., flat and lumpy).

I settled on cupcakes, strictly for the edge pretty piping would give me. Taste is very subjective; pretty piping isn’t. I perused frosting recipes in my Cake Bible to see if I could find a buttercream that would hold up to the heat.

I found a maple buttercream variation and a maple cake modification.

Score.

I made the cupcakes on Saturday. The biggest challenge? Keeping Baby D from eating them before Sunday. I’d made exactly 24 cupcakes, enough to perfectly fill my cupcake carrier and display case.

Every so often, I’d hear a plastic burp as Baby D tried to stealthily open the Tupperware.

I’d run for the kitchen. “Stand away from the cupcakes!”

Baby D would sprint out of reach, giggling, only to try again five minutes later. I did my best to deter him by snapping at him with a dishtowel (possibly the most useful thing I learned on the swim team).

Baby D was undeterred.

“Capture the Cupcake” was his new favorite game.

I was sure I’d thwarted him, but on Sunday morning, only 23 cupcakes remained. I jury-rigged one of Baby D’s school art projects (a pincushion in a glittery pot) into the requisite label and ingredient list in order to fill the missing spot—while scolding my child.

Maple Cupcakes

“But I didn’t take it!” Baby D protested. “You caught me every time!”

“You’re not going to blame the dog again, are you? He lacks opposable thumbs for opening Tupperware. Same as he lacks opposable thumbs for drawing the ion canon that still graces our living room floor,” I retorted.

“You know, it’s the cat who is pretty sneaky about stealing food,” Andy mused. “She steals the egg yolks from the mooncakes every year. And she ate out the center of your maple cream pie that one time—”

“Again, Boss Cat has no opposable thumbs! I can’t believe you would even suggest—OH MY GOD IT WAS YOU! YOU ATE THE CUPCAKE! SABOTUER!” I howled.

Baby D dissolved into hysterical giggles as I chase Andy from the kitchen, rat-tailing him with a dish towel.

******

As I placed my cupcakes next to a key lime pie—with piping!—it was clear that some of the new neighbors had upped their game this year. There was an apple pie with a flakey crust, as well as homemade mochi. Andy had to contend with other chicken dishes, including wings with a white sauce.

Thai Vegetable Rolls in Rice Paper

There were even Thai vegetable rolls wrapped in rice paper.

There were also a lot of little kids. I watched one take one bite of a cupcake, make a face, and hand it off to her mom.

“Damn it,” I complained to Andy. “Those kids are used to frosting made of powdered sugar and vegetable shortening. They have no appreciation for real buttercream.”

“The kids aren’t allowed to vote, are they?” Andy asked worriedly. “Because my hot wings have already made two of them cry.”

“Babies,” our child scoffed, chowing down on his seventh wing.

I eyed the desserts and sighed. “There are still uneaten cupcakes and the key lime pie is gone. This doesn’t look good for me.”

“So it doesn’t matter that I ate one, after all,” Andy suggested hopefully.

There was a surprise as our hostess handed out ballots. This time, there would be two winners in each category: one for taste and one for appearance.

“So she’s giving out four prizes?” Andy asked. “Didn’t it just used to be two?”

“And before that it was just one. This is her newest gambit to make sure we’re not the only winners again,” I whispered.

“No chance this year,” Andy grumbled. “She’s giving that two-year-old a ballot! He can’t even read!”

The winners in the savory division were announced first. A corn dish won for taste, while the spring rolls won for appearance.

“That corn was sweet!” Andy muttered. “It wasn’t even in the right category!”

“Next year, honey,” I said. “If you don’t make the babies cry.”

“Make the babies cry, Dad!” Baby D urged, in between bites of his fifteenth? sixteenth? hot wing. “It means more for me!”

“In the dessert category,” the hostess announced, “the key lime pie won for taste.”

Everyone except Andy clapped and nodded.

“Way too sweet,” was Andy’s whispered pronouncement. “Key lime is supposed to be tart.”

“And for appearance….” the hostess paused dramatically.

I held my breath.

“…the maple cupcakes!”

I pumped my fist and waited for the usual prize of fall-themed pot holders, dish towels, or cheese knives. Instead, the hostess presented me with a bottle of wine.

“This year,” she explained, “the prizes for appearance are all alcohol.”

I don’t drink. The wine meant nothing to me.

But maintaining the neighborhood—and household!—bragging rights for another year?

That’s everything.

Maybe we will break out the wine for our Christmas Party.

Summer Vacation or Summer Purgatory (#324)

I know parents who can’t wait for summer vacation.

“No more making lunches!” a mom of three rejoiced on the last day of school a few years ago.

“We’re totally sleeping in,” said the mom with twins.

Another mom chimed in with, “No nagging about homework for 2 whole months!”

There were moms who had vacations planned, or had already purchased season passes to Disneyland. They were as giddy as their kids about the end of school.

I was never one of those moms. I dreaded summer vacations. My only child NEVER slept past 6 AM. Baby D was a restless bundle of energy (and if you let it build up it would explode as destructively as possible).

Baby D building a moat for his sand castle.

We walked the dogs to the park, ran errands, had Nerf wars, and then hit the beach or the pool before those other, luckier moms ever got up; like that old Army slogan, we did more before 9 AM then most people do all day.

Some afternoons I’d fall asleep on the floor in mid-battle between his stuffed cat army and my dog/bear army. Mostly I woke up before he jumped on me (always knees first) or snuck off to draw an ion canon from Clone Wars on the living room floor.

Mostly.

By the time Baby D was in elementary school, I was planning out as many half-day summer camps for soccer, surfing, baseball, gymnastics, basketball, or swimming as we could afford. In March.

And then came the pandemic. Last year, even the outdoor camps like Junior Lifeguards and British Soccer were canceled. Baby D’s regular soccer team didn’t hold practices until August. The best I could manage was a coach to wear out work with Baby D in private and semi-private lessons (outside with masks).

The only camp available was Mom Boot Camp, which Baby D hated. Mom Boot Camp meant that screen time was forbidden until after Baby D worked on his cleaning, laundry, cooking, dishwashing, weeding, sweeping, and dog washing skills.

Baby D slaving away in the kitchen.

This meant he also sharpened his whining and arguing skills, especially when I called him back to re-wash something properly. (Pro tip for the ruthless parent: this strategy of deterring slipshod cleaning is most effective when you interrupt games of Fortnite or Minecraft Bed Wars.)

This year, soccer camps returned, although most of them were not in LA County. I booked what I could.

When Andy announced that he would take Baby D to Hawaii to visit his mother for a whole week, I did a victory/ happy dance around the house while he checked the calendar and priced tickets.

I stopped mid-fist pump and asked, “You did check with your mom, didn’t you? Do not hit that ‘purchase’ button until you check with her.”

“She said she’s not going anywhere this summer,” Andy told me. And pushed the button.

Which meant that when Andy talked to his mother 10 days later, he learned that he’d booked flights one of the same weeks his sister was going with her entire family and her in-laws (and they were staying with Sunny for nearly a month). Sunny told Andy there simply wasn’t enough room at the inn. Unless he wanted to get a hotel room ($$$$) and rent a U-haul (since there were no rental cars available in Hawaii), Andy would have to cancel the trip.

This is how United Airlines acquired over $1,000 of our money and I lost my chance at a week by myself in the house after a year-and-a-half of Pandemic-Induced Always Togetherness.

I went for a walk until I didn’t want to murder my husband anymore.

It was a long walk.

When I returned, I told Andy that since he wasn’t going to use his vacation days for Hawaii, he could use them to take Baby D to a 3-day soccer camp 3 hours away.

“But it’ll be expensive,” Andy protested. “A hotel and eating out!”

“The hotel has free breakfasts and a kitchenette. Take a cooler of food.”

“But what am I gonna do while he’s in camp?” Andy whined.

“Sit out by the hotel pool and pretend you’re in Hawaii.”

Andy said nothing further.

Last week, the husband, the child, and the giant cooler of food drove away in the early morning hours.

The quiet was immediate.

No child demanded food or attention. No husband played music, argued on conference calls, or banged around in the kitchen.

I cuddled with the cat. I read books, blogs, and articles uninterrupted.

Usually, I made Baby D a big breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, bacon, and fruit. That morning, I opted for the easiest breakfast I could think of: cereal.

Only to find that there was no milk.

I texted Andy: Next time maybe tell me when you take ALL the milk.

He texted back: But you have cream.

I called him and yelled, “Did you just MARIE ANTOINETTE me?!”

I didn’t really mind, though. Sure, I would have to go to Costco later and buy milk.

But for the moment, being alone in my tiny house felt like being in a luxurious castle.

And I was queen.

Post Father’s Day Post (#323)

Compared to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is pretty recent. It only exists because certain politicians got all whiny about how dads in America were bereft of recognition. Instead of self-soothing with their higher wages, or their ability to assault women with impunity, or their success despite white mediocrity, they demanded their very own holiday.

President Nixon signed Father’s Day into law in 1972. Yes, NIXON, the most corrupt U.S. President until Trump demanded Nixon hold his beer.

Mother’s Day, at best, says “thanks for all the unpaid emotional labor of child-rearing, please have this one day off.” Ironically, it often means more work for a person who is already overworked and underpaid.

Father’s Day? Father’s Day is ridiculous. We live in a damned patriarchy. Every day is Father’s Day.

Every day the mom network has stories of moms managing kids, work, pets, and broken appliances while this husband went golfing or that husband was hungover from poker. Moms struggle to recover from things like surgery and childbirth, getting up when they should be lying down because their husbands are shit (and allowed/ expected to be shit) at coping with recalcitrant toddlers and teenagers.

As a society, we allow men to focus on their own needs (be it their career or their Crossfit workout) while expecting moms to always hold down a fort teeming with screaming children–even while they’re holding down their own job. Men’s wages even increase once they have kids, despite doing less around the house, while women get penalized. (The combination of pandemic and social media threw this disparity into high relief.)

The result? Less women are getting married. Less women are having kids. More women opting out of a shit system where even single moms have more leisure time than married ones.

Good call, women.

Now, there are some great dads out there. And we certainly hear about them! In fact, the very first state-wide celebration of Father’s Day in the U.S. was in honor of a widower who raised his 6 kids when his wife died—some 40 years after 200,000 widows had to raise kids alone after the U.S. Civil War.

The media is all over these good dads:

This dad learned to braid his daughter’s hair!

This dad coaches his daughter’s team and not his son’s!

This dad bought his daughter tampons isn’t that fucking amazing!

Seriously. How low is the bar for dads?

I mean, take Andy. No, don’t really take him, my husband is a great cook, can dance, makes decent money, and has solid health insurance.

But…Andy would also give our child 12 hours of screen time a day if I weren’t around so he could play Clash Royale or read the news in peace. Andy wouldn’t have done the work to get Baby D into swim classes, Junior Lifeguards, or any sports. Without my  badgering guidance, Andy definitely wouldn’t have volunteered to coach any sports, or signed Baby D up for Cub Scouts. There wouldn’t be father-son trips to McDonad’s Playland, let alone the beach.

Our kid would also be wearing clothes he outgrew 2 years ago.

Yet my fellow moms shrug off this standard dad behavior. Instead, they are in awe over the fact that my husband goes to the Farmer’s Market and cooks on the weekends. They repeatedly tell me how lucky I am.

Can you imagine being amazed if a mom went to the market and made dinner?

Other women tell me what a great dad Andy is because he goes to his son’s sports games—even though he’s missed a few while injured or out of town.

Meanwhile, my Surgeon Sister works long, unpredictable hours and misses some of her daughters’ events. When Surgeon Sis introduced herself as “A’s mom” at swim meet, a woman blurted out, “You’re A’s mom? I thought you were dead!”

The bar for moms is set so high you’d have to be an eagle to fly over it.

The bar for being a good dad is so fucking low a dachshund couldn’t get under it.

But don’t worry, I’m not a total monster. Yesterday we still celebrated Father’s Day in our house.

I walked the dogs early while Andy had coffee and read or played video games. Just like every other day.

I took Baby D to specialized soccer training while Andy relaxed, as I do every Sunday.

We gave Andy new bourbons to try and a few other gifts, plus his favorite doughnuts and apple fritters. Then I took Baby D and some friends to a pool for the afternoon, followed by pizza and frozen yogurt—handling my kids’ activities and social life like I do every day.

Cuz every day is Father’s Day.

Shoe In, Shoe Out (#317)

When you marry across cultures, there are bound to be a few differences.

Some differences are jarring at first—like my husband’s Chinese-American family openly discussing money. If you’re open-minded, however, you can learn to embrace coupons and brag about how much money you saved.

Other differences seem insurmountable, especially when much vaunted Western autonomy clashes with Asian filial piety. That’s when it’s important to distance yourself from the issue. I found that 3,000 miles proved effective. Mostly.

But every so often, a practice from another culture makes you say, “That’s brilliant! Why don’t we do that?!”

Like shoes.

*****

Most Asian-Americans don’t wear shoes in the house (no matter what you saw in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before). Multicultural blogger Mabel Kwong has a great post on all the reasons why.

My husband grew up in Hawaii, leaving his shoes outside. I grew up on the East Coast, where the only shoes I took off before coming inside were snow boots. (In rural area with lots of winter snow and spring muck, some North American homes have “mud rooms” for outdoor shoes.)

When I moved into my husband’s townhouse, I left my shoes in the front hallway and never looked back. Sometimes my white guests looked at me askance when I told them to take of their shoes. One even commented, “No shoes? Weird.”

I said, “Dude. Weird is allowing people to track all the dirt on their shoes all over your house. As Vacuumer-in-Chief, I endorse the no-shoe rule!”

When we moved into our little house, there wasn’t a convenient indoor space for shoes. We left shoes on the porch by the welcome mat or at our backdoor.

The first things to make me reconsider the no-shoe rule were our rescue dogs. When ninety-pound Woofie stepped on my bare foot, it HURT. Because the giant goofball neither knew (nor cared!) where his massive paws were, Woofie crushed my toes daily. Even seventy-pound Fey, who was far more considerate with her comparatively dainty paws, could draw blood if she made a misstep, thanks to her strong shar-pei claws. Furry leather slippers with suede exteriorI finally bought super sturdy (super expensive!) slippers and wore those even through the hottest summer.

Problem solved.

Then my old, white neighbors very considerately warned me that thieves in California targeted houses with shoes outside the house. Apparently Asian-Americans have a reputation (at least among thieves) for keeping a lot of cash in the house. I pooh-poohed this claim—until some would-be burglars tried to get by Fey the Fierce. (Spoiler alert: Fey was having none of it.) After the attempt, however, I found the perfect welcome mat/ warning sign to surround with shoes:

Welcome mat reading: "We like big mutts and we cannot lie" with silhouette of large dog.

No one has tried to break in since.

My child and his non-Asian friends, running in, out, and around the house with Nerf weaponry, often neglected to put on or take off their shoes. (The heat of battle has that effect.)  Many times I’d have to remind them that “no shoes in the house” was useless if they ran around in socks outside and then wore those same dirty, debris-covered socks inside.

Baby D, impatient child that he is, hated having to take the time to remove his sneakers when he had to go back inside for a single forgotten item. But as the Vacuumer-in-Chief refused to relax her no-shoe policy, he adapted. He skirted the no-shoe rule by hopping back into the house on one unshod foot—while holding his still-sneakered foot up high. The kid would hop through the entire house at least 3 times a week, hunting for his backpack or water bottle.

More than one coach has commented on Baby D’s extraordinary balance and leg strength. Credit the no-shoe policy. (You’d think the kid would eventually learn to do a mental checklist before going outside and putting on his shoes, but YOU’D BE WRONG.)

There’s one final issue with leaving shoes outside: critters. While SoCal lacks the over-abundance of insect life that characterizes the East Coast, we do have crickets, brown and black widow spiders, and lizards. I always warned Baby D to shake out his shoes before putting them on.

Lizard inside an athletic shoe
Lizard in my shoe. Not an uncommon occurrence at our house.

Unfortunately, the kid has to do things the hard way. Baby D returned from soccer practice last week indignant. “Mom! When I got to the field and put my foot in my cleat, there was a lump! So I reached in and grabbed it and it was a lizard!”

“Guess you won’t forget to shake out your cleats before you put them in your soccer bag again, will you?”

Baby D glared and said, “No, because I’m keeping them in my bag from now on! Inside the house!

And so it came to pass that the Vacuumer-in-Chief granted a special dispensation allowing soccer cleats in the house.

Because next time, it might not be a lizard.

Black widow spider
Black widow found in my watering can.

Celebration Mash-Up (#316)

Holidays were huge in my white family. We wore green, pinched each other anyway, and listened to the Irish Rovers on St. Patrick’s Day (despite being Protestant or atheists). Small gifts appeared on Valentine’s Day morning. There were Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. Our birthdays began with presents and towers of doughnuts. Christmas magic (and excesses) went on for days.

Holidays were not big in my Chinese-American husband’s family. Growing up, he got a red envelope with cash, usually from his Popo, on Chinese New Year.

That was it.

Even though some Wong family members were very earnest Christians, there were neither Easter baskets nor Christmas stockings.

Birthdays might involve going out for dim sum. There wasn’t even a cake until Andy turned 18—when his mom told Andy to pick one up for himself at the grocery store. Andy had a job at that point; I suspect he even had to pay for it.

Since holidays were the highlight of my childhood, I was horrified every time I discovered a new one Andy had “missed.”

You never carved a pumpkin?!” I’d screech. “What did you DO on Halloween, then?”

“Went trick-or-treating.”

“Oh, good. At least your parents let you do that.”

“Of course. The candy was free.”

I was sad for all the fun things Andy missed, but, even though he was the child of immigrants, Andy had a more secure childhood than I did. He was the apple of his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—eyes, the first male in two generations. As the much beloved Number One Son, his mother and grandmother constantly pushed him to eat more. When they went out for dim sum, there were always leftovers to bring home.

I had years on free lunch tickets, plus I had to guard my food from my hungry siblings. My parents were terrible cooks. When we went out to Shakey’s Pizza or McDonald’s (a HUGE treat!), there were never leftovers. Probably the reason we loved holidays was in no small part due to the abundance of food, especially sweets.

Andy, in turn, was horrified that a) I grew up without quite enough food, and b) Kraft Mac & Cheese with Hormel Chili was my favorite dinner.

Over the years, I introduced Andy to holiday fun. He showed me that cooking meals from scratch was tasty (and, when it wasn’t beef Wellington, economical).

Andy’s homemade mochi doughnuts.

This year, our child’s birthday, Chinese New Year, and Valentine’s Day fell within days of each other. Piles of candy and gifts accumulated on the dining room table. At that same table, I watched Baby D devour Andy’s homemade mochi doughnuts, Andy’s beef Wellington, carryout from Din Tai Fun, about twenty shrimp dumplings from the local dim sum joint, and Andy’s homemade chili and cornbread.

Baby D’s homemade cake.

Meanwhile, Andy watched me make a six-hour chocolate cake and arrange a surprise birthday COVID car parade for our kid. He laughed as I swapped out birthday balloons for red lanterns and lucky money envelopes for Baby D’s favorite See’s Candies so our kid could fully enjoy each special occasion.

After Valentine’s Day dinner, Andy surveyed the accumulated culinary/ holiday debris and said, “Our kid is spoiled.”

“We’re just giving him everything we wished we’d had,” I countered.

“But it’s so much!”

“Maybe you’re right. But there’s one really important Ashbough tradition left.”

“Even your family cannot possibly do anything for President’s Day.”

“Hahaha, no, we’re not celebrating problematic old white men. It’s something else.” I raised my voice and called, “Baby D! Come here! We have one more thing for you!”

Baby D ran into the kitchen. “Is it a giant gummi worm? More hong bao?”

I placed a towel in his outstretched hands and said,

“It’s the dishes.”

Waiting (#314)

I am not a patient person. I was the kid in the car asking “Are we there yet?” every 10 minutes. My many siblings were equally impatient. Road trips were an endless chorus of questions about how long it was to the bathroom, restaurant, and destination.

Unsurprisingly, we didn’t go on many road trips.

My Chinese-American husband is patient (sadly, he grew up on Oahu, which is too small for road trips). I’m not sure if he’s naturally mellow, or if the tropical “hang loose” vibes worked on his personality the opposite way that the intense, political atmosphere of Washington, D.C. affected me.

Perhaps our different levels of patience exemplify the difference in our cultures. My Western mindset insists that I can control my destiny if I work, scheme, and worry enough. At the very least, maybe I can get someone incompetent fired if I document the crap out of his failings. But Andy doesn’t see the point; people are gonna be stupid and other people are gonna cover for them. That’s life, and you have no control over your own fate, let alone anyone else’s. Why exhaust yourself changing nothing?

Much of my experience reinforced my Western views. After all, if I argued long enough and logically enough with my father, he’d come around to my point of view on everything from childrearing to Black Lives Matter (though it usually takes about a year for him to process, do his own research, and then lecture me using my own arguments).

Andy’s parents? You can talk until you are blue in the face. They don’t hear a word you say if it contradicts their ideas.

Maybe that’s how Andy learned to wait. He had to bite his tongue and bide his time until he got a job 3,000 miles away.

I left home at 18 and stayed impatient. Impatient with waiting for guys to ask me out—so I asked them out instead. Impatient with college—so I graduated in 3 years. Impatient with friends, which cost me more than a few relationships. And impatient with waiting for Andy to kiss me, so I kissed him.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant (MISERABLY pregnant) that I learned a modicum of patience. Unless modern science comes up with an artificial uterus, there’s no escaping 10 months of nasty pregnancy side effects. There’s no point in complaining, or crying, and it takes too damned much energy anyway (especially when you’re low on energy because you’re anemic).

I learned to endure nausea, hives, exhaustion, strict bedrest, and then the kid being weeks overdue.

As a reward for surviving pregnancy, I got to endure breastfeeding a growth-spurting giant baby. Welcome, cracked and bleeding nipples.

Followed by an energetic child who didn’t nap.

All the while, I would chant to myself: “Just a few more years until preschool. And then kindergarten.”

Call it patience, or call it endurance, but the ability to hunker down and wait out misery came in handy when Trump was elected. Even as I protested, donated, phone banked, or argued Trump cultists, part of me was simply counting the days, much like Imani Gandy’s thread of GIFs on Twitter:

Then came COVID. Which everyone who didn’t vote for Trump knew was going to be a nightmare, given that man’s ineptitude. There was no way we were going back to normal—and no way my kid was going back to school—until we had a vaccine. A vaccine would take at least a year. We were just going to have to wait out the horror, misery, and death. Which was maddening, because it was avoidable.

But if I thought about how much tragedy could have been averted by a competent, compassionate administration, I would spend my hours enraged. I would fantasize about head-butting Mitch McConnell into oblivion. Or putting up signs with the current COVID body count and the phrase “I’m okay with this!” next to my neighbor’s “TRUMP” flag.

Instead, as I waited, I gradually took heart.

Because we didn’t get COVID (yet).

Because Stacey Abrams created Fair Fight and Wisconsin took advantage of it.

Because Gen Zs is smarter than Fox viewers.

And because Treasonous Trumpers are stupid, and Black Capitol Police officers are smart.

And now?

Tomorrow, the waiting is over.

Fucking finally.

I hate waiting

A Sunny Visit (#309)

After my father-in-law died, my Chinese-American mother-in-law hunkered down at home for more than a year. Her children flew to Hawaii to visit her. Sunny, who had once longed to travel, only left the house for shopping and walks.

Until my brother-in-law needed help with childcare. Sunny decided to bookend her months at Denny’s house in Northern California with visits to our house in Southern California (and a side trip to Vegas with her sister, of course).

Having had my fill of in-law visits, I went to New York City during the first four days of Sunny’s visit. Don’t be thinking it was filled with shows or shopping, though! I cooked, cleaned, and helped my sister adjust to having a newborn.

When I got home, practically the first thing my son did was complain about eating out.

Now, maybe you think it’s normal for husband and son to eat out when the wife is gone. If so, 1) check yourself on the gender stereotyping and 2) you must be new here. Continue reading A Sunny Visit (#309)

Cousins: East & West Edition (#301)

When I was a kid in the Dark Ages, we wrote letters instead of texts. My first pen pal was my cousin in Florida. She was a decade older than me, but she was kind enough to write back and not point out all my spelling mistakes. In third grade, I was a flower girl at her wedding. It was the first time I ever met her.

I wanted my son to have a closer relationship with his cousins—even though we were an entire continent away from them. Whenever my siblings gathered for weddings, holidays, or birthdays, we flew across the country to join them.

Though we used miles whenever possible, my frugal Chinese-American husband complained about the cost, or about how it wasn’t a “real vacation” if we were visiting family. Continue reading Cousins: East & West Edition (#301)

Are You Okay (#299)

Maybe you have an optimist for a partner. The kind of person who says, when his grandmother has a stroke, “She’s not going to die.”

And she doesn’t.

When his mother has an ovarian mass removed, your husband isn’t worried. “It’s not cancer,” he declares.

The biopsy proves him correct.

While you may agonize over bleeding while pregnant, potential pre-eclampsia, and spiking a fever during labor, your husband does not. “Baby D is going to be fine,” he tells you confidently.

Sure enough, your baby is born ridiculously healthy.

And yet you know catastrophe waits around every corner. When a family member you don’t speak to regularly calls, your first thought is, “Oh, no.” It takes years of practice and therapy to say, “Everything okay?” instead of blurting out, “Who died?” Continue reading Are You Okay (#299)