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what’s in my bag?

I love the “What’s in My Bag?” page in Us Weekly, because it’s always such a shameless, manufactured attempt at product placement, and a totally homogenized version of what purse contents actually look like. According to Us Weekly, the only thing starlets carry in their bags are whole bottles of perfume and LV planners.

A couple months ago, I caught a glimpse of the inside of my friend Michelle’s bag, and was immediately inspired to write a post about what a real woman’s bag looks like. To look at Michelle from the outside, you’d think she was a put-together, vivacious, beautiful mom of three. But if you caught a glimpse of the inside of her handbag, you might think the bag belonged to the Unibomber. I suspect most of our bags look like Michelle’s. If yours doesn’t and you’re jealous, here’s a tip: for the perfect mess, it helps if the bag is completely without structure and has no compartments or pockets, like my Clare Vivier, above. Then everything can just tumble around together in one horrific, roiling mix.

Below: the true, unedited contents of my bag, and a handy key, as of April 26, 2012.

1. Wallet filled with carefully clipped coupons, all expired.

2. Target gift card, received by Finn at his 5th birthday party (12/17/11). Stolen from Finn (12/18/11).

3. Kleenex, never there when you need it.

4. Cleaning cloth for sunglasses, covered in dirt and particulates from rolling around the inside of my bag. Dwight Holton button, because Dwight’s the man. The button pricks me every time I reach into my purse, but I don’t blame Dwight. Don’t forget to vote.

5. Burt’s Bees original lip balm. I have 37 of these stashed in various places.

6. Lego keychain. Rather cruel, turns out. Tate has spent about three tortured hours trying to get the storm trooper (clone trooper?) off the keys, to little avail.

7. Halls wrapper. Why throw wrappers away when you can keep them for always?

8. Lens Crafters protection plan for Finn’s glasses. The best $29.99 I’ve ever spent, because he’s already broken them four times. Why I keep the hard copy in my purse is another question.

9. Mystery item.

10. Part of Heath wrapper. Suspect I ate the rest of the wrapper.

11. Emergency food, for emergencies. Like 4:00.

12. Price tag from new sunglasses, which, as far as Tom knows, are old sunglasses.

13. Friend Amara’s recipe for s’mores bars served during the Super Bowl. In February.

14. Large post-it pad, with Tate doodle. Effective at keeping a child diverted, for exactly three seconds.

15. Highlighters in five colors. Because having just the yellow one is for amateurs.

16. Emergency tampon encased in cardboard packaging that I have no clue how to infiltrate. But don’t worry, I work best under pressure.

17. Tape flags, for flagging stuff.

18. Grand Central coffee card. Only 7 more cups to go until I get my free $1.25 cup of coffee.

19. Rubber finger, for flipping stuff.

20. $5.80 Forever 21 bracelet, for power lunches.

Phew. No decaying banana peel or wet boy socks. A pretty organized day, all told.

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mean baby

I’ve written about my toddler before, but given that he is currently setting siege and laying waste to my entire family unit, I thought it time for a reappraisal.

I’ve noticed that our family tends to function with a focus on one player at a time. For stretches, it has been Finn who has taken the vast majority of our mental and emotional resources. It has been Tom, during trial, or when Michigan is losing. It’s been me, during those weepy and suicidal weeks after a bad haircut. But right now, it’s all about Tate. All Tate, all the time.

He started talking in sentences about two months ago, and we were delighted. And then, he stopped talking in whole sentences, and started yelling them. And we were frightened. At about the same time, Tate realized the awesome power of his crying, especially in public places. You have never seen a family pack up their food and leave a restaurant more quickly than mine, when Tate gets going. I once watched a movie about London during WWII and they had these sirens that would blare during air raids. The volume of Tate’s restaurant crying is like that.

photo by jen guldenzopf

Tate has been breaking out the show-crying a lot, because waiters always bring a bread basket to share, and Tate’s not having any of that sharing BS. When the bread comes, Finn will look at me with big, haunted eyes, because he wants some bread, but he knows that if he reaches for some, Tate is going to start screaming. I will try to point at something outside, like a dog, and snatch a piece for Finn while Tate is momentarily diverted, but Tate inevitably notices that Finn’s eating bread when he turns back. And then the screaming starts again, except it’s louder, and angrier, because if there’s anything Tate hates, it’s the assumption that he has tiny toddler brains. Tom’s usually no help with any of this drama, because he’s busy trying to look like he’s not with our party, even though he’s seated at our table and the kids keep calling him daddy.

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Tate affects what we eat, beyond the bread. We all like ice cream. But none of us can really eat it anymore because Tate is the world’s slowest ice-cream cone licker, and he will scream if you try to take the cone away before he has finished it. We recently spent about 50 minutes in the blazing sun at an outdoor Dairy Queen, waiting for Tate to finish licking his dipped cone into submission. When there’s no ice cream on the menu, Tate forces all of us to eat with superhuman speed, because, ice cream aside, he’s not a big eater, and once he’s done, he just pushes himself away from the table and starts swaggering around the restaurant looking for other victims to terrorize. Why not strap him into a high chair, you say? Those are for babies, as Tate will inform you via scream and a well-placed kick to your nads. So, in order to finish our food by the time Tate finishes, Tom, Finn, and I have learned to eat like prisoners–quickly, with eyes cast downward, in case Tate makes eye contact and sees something not to his liking.

The future bodes well for Tate and ill for the rest of us, because he keeps getting bigger, and able to reach more stuff. He can just peer onto the kitchen counters now. If he sees something he likes, he will pull it down with such force and speed that you’d be amazed, if you weren’t busy picking up the flat of bruised strawberries rolling around on your kitchen floor. Don’t bother asking him to help. Tate doesn’t do cleanup.

Tate also doesn’t do naps, at least not at home. Here he is in his room, about an hour into naptime, taking in the scenic views from the top of his train table. Bedtime is also getting compromised, since he’s figured out how to turn his bedroom lamp on and off. I put him to bed at 7:15. He waits until I leave, and then turns on his lamp, gathers his stuffed animals around, and taps a keg.

I should do something about his refusal to follow rules. I should. But I keep telling myself that this too shall pass. And besides, I’m kind of enjoying the struggle. My small little dude, making his presence known in a big world.

feed me

My favorite platitude is this: everything in moderation, including moderation.  Right now, it’s a handy quote that helps me feel better about my binge eating.

I’ve been working a lot of late.  And without going into the banal details, let me say that my life right now is essentially long stretches of labor punctuated by moments of panic that I am missing really important stuff in my kids’ lives.  Weeks and weeks of that kind of anxiety can take their toll, and I’ve taken to self-medicating with food, which works great, because I also have no time to work out.

Once unleashed, my lack of self-control knows no bounds.

My mornings start out ok.  I drink green smoothies for breakfast.  Not fancy ones.  I just cram my blender full of whatever vegetable I have, add some fruit, dump in some chia, and try to think of the experience as the price I must pay as a 35-year old for regular BMs.  So breakfast, no problem.

Well, one problem.  The problem with breakfast is that I drink it at home.  Once I get to work, I feel that I should be rewarded for having made it there.  But I’ve already had my smoothie.  And this leads me to an observation: from the perspective of 9:00 AM, the distance between 9:00 AM and lunch might as well be seven weeks.  And no one can go seven weeks without food.  If it’s a good day, someone has ordered pastries for a breakfast meeting and there are leftovers to tide me over.  On bad days, I have ripped open packets of duck sauce with my teeth and squirted them into my mouth like Lance Armstrong sucking on energy gel to power himself over the Alps.  Even with a mid-morning snack, I rarely make it to noon for lunch.  As a rule, I set all lunch appointments at 11:30.  I tell my friends it’s because I want to beat the lunch rush.  But that’s a lie.  It’s because by 11:30, it’s been an hour since my mid-morning snack, and I am really, really hungry.  Like grizzly-bear-ripping-tops-off-of-cars hungry.

In my 20s, I worked at a PR agency that stocked its freezer full of communal waffles.  On my first day, someone showed me around the hip kitchen and beer tap, and casually mentioned the free communal waffles, and I was felt that I had arrived.  In any event, the freezer was also stocked with a lot of TV dinners, which I also assumed to be communal, and which I ate for a full month before the day that the receptionist sent out a company-wide email that said, merely this:

“Could WHOEVER is eating my Trader Joe’s chicken bentos PLEASE STOP EATING THEM!?!  Thank you.”

That story is basically my professional origin story, because it explains why I had to leave PR and go to law school.  I once tucked the back of my skirt into my underwear in the 8th grade and I don’t even think that experience was as mortifying.

Anyway, I digress.  My point is that my appetite has led me astray.  And it’s leading me astray now, as I give myself over to stress-induced cravings.  I justify everything I consume by saying that I deserve it.  I deserve to eat a pound of pad kee mao for dinner at my desk, and then to pick up a burger and fries on the drive home at 9:30 PM.  Because I miss my boys, I miss working out, I miss fitting into my pants.

The heart knows what it wants, and right now, it wants my husband and my kids, and a return to normalcy.  Until I can get that, I’ll settle for food, and lots of it.

tv with tom

Tom spends a lot of his downtime watching TV. I’ve spent a lot of time watching Tom watch TV. For my money, the latter is way more entertaining.

There is, first of all, the sports. Tom grew up in a family that considers the watching of televised sports to be legitimate family time, and I respect that. But what amuses me is his utter lack of discretion when it comes to the “sports” he will watch on TV. Two weeks ago I found him sprawled on a shag rug, lazily scratching his stomach, eyes glued to what looked to my untrained eye like roller derby, except on skis, down the side of a mountain. Tom caught me observing, and practically shrieked in excitement. “LOOK, LOOK!! Yoona, you have to watch this–they call this a SPORT!!” I have no idea how much of the Red Bull Games he ended up watching, but given that it was a Saturday, it could have been anywhere from 4 to 7 hours.

As for basketball, soccer, and football–Tom watches all the games and DVRs the highlights, both for his repeated viewing and my future delectation. So it is that I’ve been forced to sit through approximately five hundred 10-second snippets of soccer goals, all devoid of context, each of which look identical to one another. For the record, I’ve only seen one goal in my life that looked any different from the rest, and that’s this goal from the 2002 Champions League Final. And I’m pretty sure I only remember that goal because I am obsessed with Zidane. In any event, Tom’s commitment to watching sports on TV is truly awesome to behold.

Particularly given all the other shows he has to fit into his schedule. In some cultures, Sundays are for God. Tom goes to church on Sundays alright, except his church is called the Church of HBO, and the congregation meets at 9:00 PM. Weeknights are for DVDs of defunct series that are no longer on TV (e.g. The Wire), because the options currently available on Comcast are simply not enough. And before you comment on how awesome The Wire is, be assured that Tom will watch entire seasons of bad shows, not just good ones. In 2007 he Netflix-ed the entire run of Magnum P.I. and spent three months watching high-value episodes like my personal favorite, Ep. 3: “China Doll.”

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"I AM your blog. Without me, you're nothing."

Of course, reality shows are a vital part of Tom’s TV mix. And he doesn’t just watch, he feels. He talks to himself when he’s watching American Idol, and cries during Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I don’t care if this is sexist: I prefer my man to be, you know, manly. And simply put, it’s not hot when I come downstairs and Tom’s talking to the TV, shouting singing advice to an Idol contestant. Or worse, when he mutters to himself about the Idol contestant (e.g. “She’s so Broadway!”). As for EMHE–that show, while it was on, would regularly reduce Tom to a shambles. It is no exaggeration to say that I’ve never seen Tom watch an episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition without it ending with him sobbing like a little girl.

Lastly, there’s the “news.” On any given weeknight around 10:00, Tom’s in front of the TV, marking up a brief and watching Dateline. Observe your husband watching enough TV about guys killing their wives, and you start to get nervous. I remarked on it once in jest, and this was his chilling, unfunny response: “I’d never kill you, because I’d get caught.” Not “I’d never kill you because I love you,” or “I’d never kill you because that’s INSANE.” No. Because he’d GET CAUGHT.

Please remember to mention this blog post to the authorities if I ever go missing. And now, I have to go watch Tom watch some TV.

my kid can’t draw

For a competitive person, having kids can be a bear. I notice when kids Finn’s age can do things that he can’t. I don’t ever make an issue of it to Finn, of course. Instead, I’ll take it up with Tom, whose non-Asian genes I tend to blame for all of my kids’ problems, real or imagined. My parental anxiety usually makes itself known in the middle of an unrelated discussion, like so:

Tom: “And then there’s, you know, college tuition…and that’s why I think maybe you shouldn’t go to the mall so often.”

Yoona: “Ok, fine. And maybe YOU should work on your table manners, because in case you haven’t noticed, Finn is the only kid his age who eats spaghetti with his hands.”

Tom: (resigned sigh).

Around the age of 5, it apparently becomes imperative for kids to start signing their own names to their friends’ birthday cards. And that’s ok, because Finn can write his name and sound out other words to write when asked. The problem is all the white space on the rest of the card, which, as I’ve gathered from the cards Finn receives, is supposed to be filled by an original artwork of some sort, like a drawing. And so I’ll encourage Finn to draw something, and that’s when things get really scary.

Last weekend, as I watched him scribble yet another amorphous blob in a card for his friend Jordan, I was overcome, first by fear that there was something seriously wrong with my five-year old, and then, by the evil desire to grab the pen, draw something with my left foot, and pass it off as Finn’s handiwork. Resisting the urge, I instead suggested to Finn that he might like to draw another picture to accompany his first, which he did: the same picture that he has been drawing for a year now–a pictogram of a headless person holding a sword and shield.

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like a caveman drawing from the paleolithic

He can’t even draw a person with a head!! And he will be six in 8 months! I felt my palms get sweaty as I watched him draw. But then I realized that it wasn’t really panic about Finn that I was feeling, but remembered trauma, from my first Studio Art class at college, when I had a charcoal pencil in my hand and no clue what to do with it. So I exhaled, and focused on the happy movement of Finn’s hands and the jaunty tilt of his head as he scribbled. He was thinking about his drawing and it meant something to him, even if it looked like ass to me.

My competitiveness wasn’t drummed into me by my parents, who, despite being Asian, were never stereotypically so. I want Finn to have drive, but I don’t want him to end up like me or Tom, who once threw a Trivial Pursuit board across the room after losing. I want my kids to be secure and content in the knowledge that things are worth doing, just to do them. In my office, I keep a clumsy drawing of a hat that I did in that first art class, to remind me of the same thing.

With Finn, I try to remember to praise the effort, not the result. And sometimes, after he’s finished something, he will grin at me and say this: “I worked so hard, mama!”

Sounds pretty sweet to me.

new personal best

Not a single match.  Surely I win something.

mall of no choice

Monday through Friday, between 8:00 to 9:00 PM, you can often find me wandering aimlessly through my neighborhood mall. By car, I can get from my door to Lloyd Center in 3 minutes, and I know the route well, because that’s where I go to decompress after my kids are in bed. This photo to the left is what I look like during the short drive to the mall. I’m like a wound-up addict, desperate for her next fix.

Lloyd Center has a reputation in Portland as being a crap mall, but it’s my home mall, so don’t talk sh*t about it to me. I could probably get through it blind-folded, which would be great because the blindfold would prevent me from having to look upon the horrific carpeting. As malls go, it’s relatively benign; judging from the Hot Topic, GameStop, and Alley Kat, the mall’s target demographic appears to be the disenfranchised tweener. It’s hard to really do that much harm in it as an adult, which makes it perfect for my purposes.

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In any event, I don’t really go there to shop. At the end of a frenetic weekday, I want to go someplace where I can zone out and think about absolutely nothing.  It can’t be too quiet, or I’ll start thinking about my kids, or God forbid, work. And it’s best if, while I’m zoning out, I’m looking at something entertaining, like the underwear at Frederick’s of Hollywood, or a flat-iron demonstration performed by a man. So Lloyd Center it is.

At Lloyd Center, there are simple joys to be had. I usually start at Nordstrom, which is blissfully empty at 8:00 PM. I like the sunglasses department best. It’s a quiet little spot if you don’t mind trying on sunglasses with huge security devices attached to them. There’s usually only one employee staffing both Sunglasses and the department next door, so you won’t be harrassed by the distracted salesperson, who is focused on making sure that no one’s stealing any Spanx back in Hosiery. I’ve spent so much time in Sunglasses that I feel bad that I’ve returned every pair I’ve ever bought there. They can’t trace all those refunds back to me, though, because I have Tom, who will return stuff for me if I cry hard enough.  Refunds are awesome because anyone knows that when you return something, you’re actually making money.

After Nordstrom, I make a beeline for the center of the mall, which is where you will find the Trifecta, otherwise known as the only shoppable stores in the mall, otherwise known as 1) Forever 21; 2) the Gap; and 3) Cinnabon. I’ve enjoyed a lot of contented moments watching the figure skaters twirling around in the rink below while tearing into a pecan Minibon. The Minibon is my concession to health, because what my heart truly wants is a Wetzel Dog.

I am many things, but a person capable of ignoring a hot dog wrapped in buttery pretzel dough is not one of them. Sometimes I want a Wetzel Dog so badly that I have to walk past Wetzel’s Pretzels sideways, with my back to the display case where the Wetzel Dogs are kept. And sometimes even that doesn’t work, because I can still smell them. But if you approach the Trifecta from Nordstrom, you pass Cinnabon before you pass Wetzel’s Pretzels, so it generally works out. Because even I can’t eat a Wetzel Dog after a Minibon.

After my Minibon, sometimes I get a little parched, so I’ll walk a few stores down to Jamba Juice, which is always giving away samples at this hour. They are very chipper folks at Jamba Juice, and I hope to return their kindness one day by actually paying for a drink. I linger over my three Jamba Juice samples while perusing the offerings at Kay Jewelers, which calls itself a jeweler but should really be called “The Locket Store,” because so far as I can tell, it only offers 2000 iterations of the heart-shaped locket. Or I might enjoy my Jamba Juice samples while being massaged by a chair at Brookstone.  If I have extra time, I’ll head downstairs to Ellaris, which is a kiosk that sells cellphone covers. There are lots of fun choices, but only two will fit your phone–one is a subtle pink camo and the other inevitably has Hello Kitty on it. Take your pick. It’s one for $15, but you can get both for $20.

After popping in at F21 and the Gap, it’s time for dessert at See’s Candies, where I will put $1.05 on the debit card for a Maple Buttercream, and get two chocolates for free as samples. I don’t understand their business model, but I’m also not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. The free ones usually have nuts in them, but I’ll choke them down while browsing the tweezers at my next and last stop, Trade Secret.

And that fills the hour, and brings me back to Nordstrom. If I’m back at Nordstrom by 8:55, I’m golden. That gives me time to buy Tom a latte at the Nordstrom espresso stand, which the barista starts shutting down at 8:45. It’s always hard to tell who is more annoyed by my order, the barista or me. Here’s my view: I’m sorry you already put the milk away, but maybe you should wait to close down until it’s actually, you know, closing time. That’s my only complaint about Lloyd Center, besides the carpet, and the elevators that smell like cheese. Otherwise, LCTID.