I have a dream.

I’m laying on the ground, staring out the door at the big, blue sky.  The air has a sultry, sticky feeling to it.  Outside, I see fleeting glimpses of palm trees, huts and a strange looking animal that resembles a cow.  A water buffalo.

It is paradise.

But, yet, it’s not.

I’m aware of the filth, the noise, and a slightly moldy, dank stench that permeates the air.  I see someone enter the building where I’m laying.  They are dressed in rags, and are wearing a funny looking cone-shaped hat.  They stop in a corner, squat, and urinate.

And then the dream stops.

I wake up, and realize I’m dreaming about Vietnam again.

I’ve had The Dream for as long as I can remember.  It’s one that’s come and gone throughout my 30 some years of life.  I’ll go for a year or so without having it, and then the images will appear again in my mind, as crisp and as clear as if I were actually there.  The details of The Dream never change.

Some days, The Dream is the only thing that reminds me of how I appear outwardly to others.  Asian.

I came to the U.S. when I was only four months old.  I was adopted into a white family, in a town about as  ethnically un-diverse as they come.  To say I was a minority would have been a grave understatement.

But I didn’t see it that way.  Because in my mind, it wasn’t a factor.

When I looked around me, I saw parents and family who loved me as if I was born of their own flesh and blood.  I saw siblings who only cared whether or not I was crossing the invisible middle line in the car… and if so, I’d better stop… or else.  I saw a regular suburban kid just trying to get through adolescence intact.

But not everyone saw me that way.  When they looked at me, they only saw a person with jet black hair and almond eyes so very different from their own.  Some immediately stereotyped me as someone who was good at math and knew how to use chopsticks.   And still others labeled me as someone who was yellow on the outside, but white on the inside.  A Twinkie, they called me.

I’ve experienced prejudice, stereotypes and labeling.  And every time I did, it always jolted me back into reality a little.  Because often, the only times I was cognizant of my Asian heritage was when I looked in the mirror.  Or when I had The Dream.

Oddly, since I’ve become a parent myself, I no longer have The Dream.  Perhaps it’s because every day I look into two little faces so like my own, and I no longer need subconscious reminders of the person I am outwardly.

Or, perhaps, it’s because I now have different dreams.  Ones reserved especially for my children.

I dream that they will not be pigeonholed into acting a certain way based on what they look like.

I dream that they never hear the term “Twinkie” except for when it’s mentioned the context of a delicious, artery clogging dessert.

I dream that they remember who they are genetically – 1/4 Chinese, 1/4 Vietnamese, and 1/2 all funky white boy – and embrace that heritage.  It’s an inextricable part of their being, and one that I am proud to call my own.

At the same time, I dream that they will recognize their heritage does not  define who they are.

I dream that they will be not be judged by how they should act based on their race but, rather, by how they do act based on their character.

We do not choose our families, our skin color or the life that we’re born into.  But all of those factors invariably shape and influence the person we choose to become.

And my children?  They will be whatever they want to be.

At least, that is my dream for them.

A laughing matter

Laughter.

If I could sum up this past year in one word, that would be it.

And around here, it takes many different forms.

Like Belly Laughter.  I hear it when my daughter’s watching Pingu.  Which I think is the stupidest show ever but, apparently, is hilarious in a preschooler’s mind.  Or when I tickle Chip and he laughs so hard I think he might float up into the air, Mary Poppins style.  You can’t help but smile when you hear a child bursting into fits of belly laughter.

Or Wild Hyena Laughter, a sound that’s become more prevalent around here as of late.  It’s the kind of hysterical cackling that comes from two tiny caged animals trapped inside on a cold day.  Wild hyena laughter has a savage quality to it, and has a tendency to leave my ears ringing.  But, still, I’ll take it any day or whining or crying.

And then there’s Stifled Laughter.  As in “Oh my god, my husband just dutch ovened me, and I can’t help but laugh even though I’m trying to keep my mouth shut because it smells like something just died under here.” Yeah.  We get a lot of that in our house, too.  After 11 years of marriage, we still giggle about farts like we’re middle school boys.

And let’s not forget about Resigned Laughter.  It’s a mixture between a guffaw, a groan, and a muffled scream.  I used it the other day when I had just about hit my breaking point with the kids.  As I was about ready to explode, my daughter looked up at me and said seriously, “Momma, you look kind of scary when you make angry eyes.”  And suddenly, the tension was broken.  I had to laugh about that one.  Even if it was a resigned, wave-the-white-flag sort of laughter.

Or Silly Laughter.  Because one of the greatest gifts my children have given me is the ability to let my hair down and be crazy.  They’ve taught me that sometimes it’s okay to dance around the living room with underwear on your head.  (As long as they are clean.)  They’ve taught me that it’s okay to poke fun of yourself and not take life so seriously.  They’ve helped me release my inner child that I thought had long since disappeared.

I’ll admit it’s not always fun and games around our house.  We’ve had our ups, downs and utter failures this past year, just like any family.  There have been times when I wanted to throttle my children.  Or just throw in the towel and quit.

But the glue that holds us together… and that makes those crappy times seem far less significant… always seems to be laughter.

Above all, there has been laughter.

Mama's Losin' It
#1. A word that encompasses 2010

Ringing in the new year

A few short years ago, ringing in the new year would have been a big deal for us.

But not this year.  Or, frankly, any year since the kids were born.

We’d plan weeks ahead for a date night out.

As usual, New Year’s Eve kind of snuck up on me this year.  It didn’t even occur to me to try to find a babysitter until it was too late.

In the past, we’d have gotten gussied up in preparation for what was to come.

I didn’t have time to shower yesterday.  And by dinner time, I wore the same jeans and macaroni-covered sweatshirt I had slipped on when the kids woke us up at the crack of dawn.

We would have made reservations at a romantic restaurant, where we’d sip extra dirty martinis over a dinner that included both appetizers and dessert.

We had pizza delivered to the house. We did shots of apple juice from sippy cups. I had two dates, both of which ended up covered in marinara sauce.  By the time dessert was over, they were both extra dirty, and badly in need of a bath.

After a leisurely meal, we’d scamper off to the neighborhood pub, where we’d play shuffleboard with the bar regulars and drink frothy ales until we were toasty.

We scarfed down mouthfuls of pizza while standing up at the kitchen counter.  “Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Squeakquel” played in the background.  After dinner, we played with playdough, and engaged in a rousing game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

And at midnight, we’d do the countdown to the new year.

At 6:45, we started the countdown to bedtime.

And at the end of the night, I’d always get a passionate kiss from my favorite guy.

Bedtime stories and slobbery, goodnight kisses by 7 pm.

We’d stay out until the wee hours of the morning.

Both Jay and I were asleep long before midnight.

The next morning, we’d sleep in until noon.

This morning, the kids woke us up around 7:45.  And we were thrilled that they slept in so late.

And I’d get out of bed, perhaps with a slight hangover.  I’d stumble downstairs for a cup of coffee.

I stumbled downstairs for a cup of coffee.  Really glad that I didn’t have a hangover.

And I’d prepare for a new year.  I knew it would fly by so quickly.

And I thought about what would transpire in the coming year.  A year that would fly by so quickly.

But would, in reality, be just another year.  With the biggest changes entailing having to remember to write a new year on my check.  And at the end of the year, I’d be another year older… but still the same on the outside.

A year that will be more than just another year.  One that will bring new milestones, countless inches grown, and changes that will transform my children into little ones I can’t call “babies” any more.

I think back to the night before.  A carefree New Year’s Eve where all I had to worry about was me.   The night before had been special.

New Year’s Eve was a night much like most of the other nights we have around here.  Nothing particularly special, or out of the ordinary.  A far contrast to the night I would have celebrated just a few short years ago.

But the coming year?  Will likely just be another 365 days.

I don’t know what the coming year will bring.  But that is part of the magic of the new year for me… now that I am a parent.  Who knows what is in store for us in the new year?

I just know it will be more than just another 365 days.

Everything I learned about parenting, I learned at the card tables

Before my children were born, we spent a good amount of time in the casinos.  I prefer poker.  But I also spent my fair share of time at the black jack and Paigow tables.

Sadly, our gambling escapades are few and far between nowadays.

But while I’m still figuring out this whole parenting thing on a daily basis, I have found that the tips I gleaned from my card playing days have come in handy over the past few years.   In reality, there are a lot of random parallels between parenting and playing cards.

You can’t win unless you put your money into the pot.  This is especially true for us.  We were married for seven years before we had kids.  We had always planned on having children, but the timing was never absolutely perfect.  Finally, we just decided to push all in.  And, looking back, I can’t believe it took us that long to get in the game.

Sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot.  You’ll have the days chock full of you’re-the-best-mommy-ever’s, i-love-you’s and this-is-the-best-dinner-i-ever-had’s.

And other days, you’ll feel like you’re getting the bad beat in the parenthood department.  Those are the days rife with the you’re-soooo-mean’s, i-want-daddy-instead’s and this-dinner-smells-like-zebra-poop’s.

When the bad beats come, you’ll feel like walking away from the game.  Quitting.  And then you’ll feel awful for ever thinking that.  Because you love poker your kids with all of your heart.  So you ante up for another round.

The free cocktails can make you play a little looser.  And enjoy the game a little more.

The free cocktails can lead to other things as well.  (See also: “What happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas.”)  Maybe not immediately, but 9 or 10 months down the road.  Just sayin’.

There’s always going to be another player at the table who criticizes the way you play.  In poker, you can just ignore them, and gloat in the fact that your chip stack is bigger than theirs.  In the game of parenthood, the criticism stings a littler harder.  Just remember you’re holding a different set of cards then they are.  You play your hand, and they play theirs.  In the end, you’re both on the same side of the table.

You’ll make mistakes.  Lots of ’em.  Don’t dwell on them.  ‘Cause if you do, you’ll start playing on tilt, which is never a good thing.  Mistakes can be learning experiences.  How else would you figure out that feeding your child blueberries before doing airplane rides around the living room was a very, very bad idea?

As soon as you think you’ve got parenthood figured out, you may decide to double down.  And, if you’re lucky, you may get dealt another kiddo.  If this happens?  Rest assured, everything you ever thought you learned from the first go-around will promptly be thrown out the window… because no two hands of cards ever play out exactly the same way.

You’ll pick and choose your battles.  You’ll find yourself compromising in areas you never thought you would. As Kenny Rogers said so eloquently, you’ll learn when to hold ’em… as well as when to fold ’em.  Sometimes you’ll walk away from a battle with your children.  And, sometimes, you’ll run.

Sometimes you’ll feel like the pit boss, standing off to the side while watching other people gamble and get sloshed while you have to work.  You’ll feel left out, and a little envious of the life you used to live pre-kids.

You’ll also have those days when you wonder why you chose the job in the first place.  But at the end of the day, you get paid.  In more ways than you can possibly imagine.

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Ah, Vegas.  The happiest place on earth.

And the troops answer back

As you might have surmised from my last post, Colonel Dad is out of town this week.

The Colonel doesn’t travel much, but when he does, it always makes me appreciate how good we’ve got it when he’s home.  The kids miss him.  I miss him.  And I also really, really miss speaking in sentences that use words more than one syllable long.

And, truth be told, his absences always make me realize how inept I am in the solo parenting department.  Case in point, the rebuttal telegram that was delivered to me this evening:

Clearly, I have not been bringing my parenting A-game to the table this week.  I’ve noticed it.  And, to my dismay, the kids have most certainly noticed it.

In all honesty, when the Colonel is out of town, I feel off kilter.  Unbalanced.  Yes, he does a lot with the kids, and helps out with stuff around the house when I need it.  But it’s more than that.

The Colonel is an integral part of what holds our little family together.  He lends patience (and marbles) when I’ve lost mine.  He’s got my back.  He makes me feel like more than just General Momma.  And he also speaks in sentences that require words longer than one syllable.  I’ve missed all that this week.

Safe travels home, Colonel.  The troops and I will be waiting for you with open arms.

This post was written for Week 3 of Kludgy Mom’s B2S/B2B challenge.  I chose the prompt from the idea bank: “Find one of your old blog posts. Rewrite it, using the perspective of someone else in your family.”