When The “Force” Is Not With You

Yoda - Collecting Candy in a Galaxy Far Far Away

Yoda – Collecting Candy in a Galaxy Far Far Away

The day has come for our son to embrace all things Star Wars and no one could be happier than my husband. He has been not-so-secretly trying to teach our son (let’s call him “Little Jedi”) about Jedis, light sabers, galaxies far, far, away, and etc. since the day we both deemed it appropriate to allow our Little Jedi to learn the ways of the force. Now that Little Jedi is nearly 3.5, he has been allowed to watch certain Star Wars Episodes (I & IV). We often have discussions after the movies about the ramifications of the semi-violent action sequences. Little Jedi seems to get it, but it doesn’t stop him from being OBSESSED with Star Wars. Every day he plays with his blue light saber he got for Christmas from our good friends.  He also lets his imagination run wild with Star Wars figurines, an X-Wing Fighter, and Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced x1 Ship (yes, I had to google the last one!) Every time he gets in the car, he asks us to play his favorite song – John Williams’ Main Star Wars Theme Score, repeatedly.  Ironically, this was also the song my husband frequently played during their father & son bonding times, when our boy was around 2-6 months old.  May be Little Jedi remembers it, who knows?

His obsession soon turned into my worst nightmare one fateful day at Disneyland. We thought it would be fantastic to have our Little Jedi be a part of the Jedi Training Academy. Naively, we assumed that to be a “padawan learner” you just needed to show up early – first come first serve. We couldn’t be more wrong. In order to get to go up on that stage, your child has to be “chosen” by a “Jedi Master,” who uses the “force” to feel which kids “exhibit” qualities to be an apprentice. Seriously?

On our first attempt we had no idea what to expect, so we sent our son to the front line by himself, while we hung back. It was like sending him into a shark tank alone to fend for himself. He was one of the very few lonely tiny beings amongst overzealous parents with their children high on their shoulders, screaming and shouting, in the front line. He didn’t get picked. Our poor baby was outsized, out-numbered, and out-screamed. We guiltily watched in horror 3 rows back.


Teaching Young Apprentices the Way of the Force

Teaching Young Apprentices the Way of the Force

Darth Maul is Asking for Trouble

Darth Maul is Asking for Trouble

We stayed for the show. Afterwards, our son told us he wanted to try-out again. “What? Seriously?”, I asked. He was serious. I couldn’t understand it. Why would any child want to be on that stage so badly? Personally, the thought of being in front of so many people, doing anything at all is terrifying. Once when I was a kid, I was a shoe-in for a character in a school play – a girl who had a stomachache. Afraid that I would have to play the role, I told them I never had a stomachache in my life and had no idea what that was . . . I was 10!

I don’t know why doing anything in public mortifies me. It may be because I was born that way, or may be because I was raised in Thailand. The Thai culture is very complex. There’s a fine line to everything and Thai children are expected to know when not to cross it. That was a bit of a problem for me, I was never sure where the line was drawn. People would tell you to speak up, be independent, and form your own opinions, but when I did, I was scolded for speaking too much or showing off. They encouraged you to follow your dreams, but if your dreams were not to become a doctor or an engineer, as in my case, they assumed that you weren’t intelligent. They pushed you to be brave or be proud of who you are, but if you appeared to be brave or proud, they thought you weren’t humble enough, or even worse, that your parents never taught you any manners. Therefore growing up, it was simpler for me to stay quiet, hold back my opinions, and tell everyone I’d grow up to be a doctor. It was a no brainer to pretend like I didn’t know what having a stomachache looked like. I wasn’t sure if being in a play as a stomachache girl would cross any “no-no” line, but I wasn’t going to risk being humiliated. Plus, I was afraid to be in front of that many people anyway. I was content with not being brave. So the idea that my son wanted to voluntarily subject himself to another round of public humiliation was incomprehensible.

We agreed to let him try again, thinking that this time we were more experienced & well-seasoned parents, we could “help” him get picked. We stood on the front line and were determined to dive in the shark tank with him. We held him high like those other parents in the first round. We even helped him by waiving our hands around like angry cavemen. Our effort was short-lived when one of the moms tapped my shoulder and screamed in my face, “you guys are so F*#KING RUDE, you need to stand back and let your kid do it himself!” We looked at each other, completely confused. Did we just get admonished at the Happiest Place on Earth? Then we started to look around and realized that this 2nd round of Jedi selection was polar opposite from the 1st. We were the ONLY parents on the front line holding our child. Did the other parents get some sort of Inter-Galactic memo about hanging back on the sideline, and we did not?  Of course, our son didn’t get picked. I’m sure the “Jedi Master” also thought we were jerks as well.  Ashamed, embarrassed, and frustrated, we ran out of there.

After we left, Little Jedi looked at me with teary eyes and asked, “why didn’t they pick me?”  He was sobbing.  I stared at him, speechless. I was witnessing my poor 3-year old experience his first real rejection in life, one of many to come. I didn’t know what to say to him. Inside my head, I was overcome with emotions. In my mind, I had entered the “dark side” and wanted to give the “Jedi Master” a piece of my mind. Most of all, I was mad at myself for letting him be “brave,” instead of protecting him from disappointment. Of course, I knew that shielding him from rejection would not do him any good. But having to look into those sad, teary eyes, I wanted to just hold him and tell him he would never be hurt again. Finally, I was able to recompose myself and say to him, “you don’t have to cry, it’s ok that you didn’t get picked. It’s part of life. People aren’t always going to choose you, but know that Dada and I will always love you.” Do you think he understood my sage advice? Of course not, he’s 3. He threw a tantrum and then said, “OK, I wanna do Pirates of the Caribbean next.”

My Private Star Wars Show

My Private Star Wars Show

Since that happened, we returned to Disneyland a few more times, but not once did we go near the Jedi Training Academy area. We were still scarred from the experience. Not our son though, he bounced back quicker than the Millennium Falcon could jump to light speed! At home, he puts on Star Wars shows daily, imitating the one at Disneyland. He tells me often that he wants to try out for the Jedi Training again. I don’t know if I’m ready to do it again, even though I know it’s important for him to have the courage to do it. When that day comes, I know that I’ll be there to support him. But for now I’m just going to enjoy my private Jedi Training shows at home and quietly listing to all the Star Wars talks between Little Jedi and his Dada. Ones like this:

Dada: “I’m gonna go get the mail.”

Little Jedi: “I’ll go with you.”

D: “Oh great, that will be very nice.”

LJ: “Yeah cool, and we can rule the Galaxy together as Father and Son!”




I’m Spooked!

Jack O’ Lanterns circa 2011

It’s October and that can only mean one thing, Halloween is almost here again. Ok, let me take that back, October actually means two things: Oktoberfest and Halloween. To me, Oktoberfest = Good (alcohol shelves stocked with different brews paying tribute to Oktoberfest and Fall) and Halloween = Bad. It’s the month of contradictions. On one hand, I’m enjoying the peculiarly flavored Pumpkin Ale; and on the other, I’m fretting about Halloween. Even the weather agrees on the contrast, it’s hot one day and chilly the next – it can’t decide if it should embrace Fall or still hang on to that last bit of Summer.

I have a lot of friends who love Halloween and proclaim it as their favorite holiday. They decorate their houses with haunting ghosts, talking witches, and flying bats – festive, yet scary at the same time. They’re so good that even Martha Stewart would be proud. I’ve never shared this love or enthusiasm with them. In the past, I did the absolute minimum with my house. The only reason I decorated at all was to give my husband some childhood nostalgia because my mother-in-law is terrific with holiday decorations. Although, I must admit that there is a small part of this holiday which I enjoy doing – pumpkin carving. I like arts and carving a pumpkin is just another way of doing art. Other than that, every year, Halloween brings me nothing but anxiety and cavities. I dread it. It’s not fears of ghosts, ghouls, or goblins. I have fears of not knowing how to decorate my house and not having a “cool” costume to wear, which usually means I show up at parties with no costume. Yes, I’m THAT lame girl at your party.

My Former Minimalist Approach to Halloween Decorations – One String of Lights

I blame my decoration incompetence and costume fear on not being born and raised here the first 14 years of my life. This didn’t become so apparent until I had my son. The lack of a typical American childhood experience occasionally creeps up on my mothering and makes me feel temporarily inadequate as a mom – like during baby activity classes when I had to sing children’s songs that I never knew. How was I supposed to know about Humpty Dumpty, the Muffin Man, or how the kittens lost their mittens? I mean, what kittens wear mittens anyway? Thank goodness no one ever asked me to sing them solo. My son is lucky that I at least know Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the Itsy Bitsy Spider (in Thai). Though song troubles were easy enough to fix, I bought them on iTunes and practiced. Yes, I practiced them in my car until I mastered them. I wasn’t gonna let Baa, Baa, Black Sheep get the better of me!

Sorry, I strayed from my main topic a little. Let’s get back to Halloween. There’s really no quick fix for my Halloween fears.

Growing up in Thailand, I didn’t know much about Halloween. We don’t celebrate it. There are no children in costumes going Trick Or Treating at dusk. The idea of having your children walking around asking strangers for candies is unfathomable in Thailand. I remember my mom once asked me if I was scared someone would give my kid drug-laced candies, because surely, according to her, they would do that in Thailand. Of course, there’s no evidence to back up her claim.

I have so many friends who always have spectacular Halloween costume ideas. One of my dear friends, Hanna, always has the best ones. She thinks and plans her costumes weeks in advance, and every year, she always ends up with something amazing that has me saying “now, why didn’t I think of that?” On a few occassions, she and her husband synced their outfits and made a duo that rivaled Heidi and Seal’s Halloween numbers.

My first Halloween costume and Trick Or Treating experience in the U.S. were quite memorable. Not having ever experienced Halloween before, I remember being confused when someone asked me what I was going to be. After learning from some of my girlfriends that wearing a sexy outfit was practically a pre-requisite, and they all were wearing one, I decided I would be a street walker. I really thought it would be “cool.” While I didn’t own any Vegas-appropriate attire at 14, I had friends who did. So with their help, I was able to accomplish the look. It didn’t take long into my first Trick Or Treating adventure for me to realize that my outfit was not “cool.” In fact, I noticed the horror on the faces of the greeters, who expected to open their doors to some little kids with cute animal costumes, and instead, they found me, a teenage street walker, at their door steps. Eventually, I stopped knocking on doors. I didn’t do much better the following year, showing up dressed as one of my swim coaches. He was not thrilled. Two failed attempts, I just never wanted to dress up for Halloween again.

My son was 2 when he began to understand what Halloween entailed – spiders, witches, lots of scary stuff, and of course, candy. This year, his awareness of the holiday is even more evident. He decided back in May that he wanted to be a pirate for Halloween. He remembers everything from the last Halloween and often tells me now it’s not a good idea to go to one of my friends’ houses because her witch terrified him last year. Last week, he asked me if we will have “Halloween stuff” at our house too. His question struck me hard and I didn’t have an answer for him.

I thought about it for a while. What kind of environment do I want to create for him to grow up in and what kind of fond childhood memories do I want him to remember. If there’s one parenting mantra I want to live by as a mother, it’s that “you’re only a kid once.” It’s one of the most important lessons I learned from my own parents. Raising children in Thailand (as in most Asian countries), it was difficult for my parents not to get caught up in the world of “Tiger Moms” and “Wolf Dads,” but they did a great job giving me and my siblings our childhood. We didn’t have to spend countless hours practicing music or being tutored (this is not to say we didn’t do these things, we did, just not on the same scale or intensity as other Thai families). I never mastered playing the piano or the violin and didn’t grow up to be a doctor or an engineer and they’re ok with that, and so am I. I want the same thing for my son. Even if I never grew up with Halloween and don’t particularly care for it, it doesn’t mean that my son can’t have his. It doesn’t mean I’ll give him a free pass to Halloween either. My house is not going to look like a haunted house and he’s not going to have candy for dinner. There has to be balance. So, I want to make an effort, starting with some decorations around the house, and later, finding, hopefully, an appropriate costume to go Trick Or Treating. And who knows, maybe he’ll end up with some Halloween nostalgia after all.

My New Effort

New Set of Lights

Flying Witch Decal – A Lot Less Scary Than a Talking Witch

My Pad Thai With Prawns

I made Pad Thai for dinner tonight. Afterward, I thought to myself, what better way to debut my first food blog post than to present the epitome of Thai cuisine?

Pad Thai is considered street food in Thailand. It’s easy to find a Pad Thai stand all over Bangkok, usually accompanied by Hoy Tod (fried mussels or oysters with eggs and bean sprouts). Thai people eat it often. It’s our version of fast food. On average, Pad Thai vendors cook their specialty as good as each other. Once in a while a vender makes a break-through and creates a James Beard Award winning Pad Thai and all the Bangkokian foodies flood to his/her Pad Thai joint.

Pad Thai is found at nearly every Thai restaurant in the United States. As many of you know, it also is one of the most popular Thai dishes here. I’ve tasted a lot of Pad Thai in the U.S. and found very few to be good. They were either overly sweet or boringly bland. Some used a secret ingredient, to my dismay, Ketchup. Often, I found the noodles to be too soggy. Eventually, I just quit ordering Pad Thai at restaurants. Instead, I learned to make it myself. And like almost every Thai recipe, if you ask a Thai person how to make it, their answer usually is, “you know, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, if you’re a salty person, add more fish sauce, if you like sweet, then add more sugar.” At least, that’s what my mom, dad, aunts, and some Thai cooks always tell me. To some extent, it’s also how I make a lot of Thai dishes – a little bit of this and that. So with help from my parents, relatives, and the internet, I learned to make Pad Thai – my own way.

Growing up in Thailand, my mom never actually made us “home-made” Pad Thai. Since it’s street food, if I wanted it, I just went out to the front of our housing complex and bought it. It cost me no more than $1 when I was a kid. When my son was old enough for real solid food, I wanted to give him a taste of Pad Thai. My Pad Thai uses most of the traditional ingredients, but I make it my own because I omit certain ones. I don’t use bean sprouts or extra firm tofu because I don’t care for them (but please add them if you prefer). I also omit preserved turnips because they’re not available at my local Asian markets.

Here is my step-by-step guide to my Pad Thai With Prawns:

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 1/2 package (about 6.5 oz) of dried rice stick noodles
  • 1 lb. of fresh or thawed frozen prawns (you can also use shrimp or other meats), peeled & deveined
  • Equal parts (I usually use 3 tbsp) of tamarind puree, fish sauce, palm sugar (or granulated sugar) – you can make your own adjustments, if you like tangier flavor, use more tamarind puree, saltier, use more fish sauce, and sweeter, use more sugar – a little bit of this and that – make it your own!
  • About 3 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 10-12 stalks of Chinese  chives, get rid of tips and ends, cut into 1-1.5 inch pieces (if you can’t find them, I don’t recommend substituting them for small chives, which are normally found in local markets. If you can’t find Chinese chives, which are flat and wider, then use scallions instead)
  • 2 tbsp of ground dried shrimp (don’t use if you don’t like them)
  • 3 tbsp of chopped (I like rough chopped, you can finely chop or grind them if you prefer) roasted unsalted peanuts (of course, skip if you have a peanut allergy)
  • Lime wedges, to serve

Here are pictures of tamarind puree, fish sauce, Chinese chives, and dried shrimp:

Tamarind Puree, Fish Sauce & Sugar

Chinese Chives


Dried Shrimp







To Make It:

Prep your ingredients. Combine tamarind puree, fish sauce, and sugar into a bowl.

Clockwise From Top Left: Chinese chives, ground shrimp, tamarind-fish sauce-sugar mixture, chopped peanuts, beaten eggs, and chopped garlic (middle)

My Little Helper

Soak the dried noodles in hot water for a few minutes (you should notice that the noodles have softened), drain.

Drained Softened Noodles After Soaked in Hot Water for A Few Minutes

I always cook it in 2 batches.

Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a wok if you have one (I don’t own a wok – a travesty for an Asian, I know. Woks in the U.S. are too heavy, in my opinion, so I use a sauté pan instead), add 1/2 of the chopped garlic and stir-fry over medium heat until light brown (don’t burn them). Add 1/2 of the prawns (or other meats) and cook for a few minutes until the prawns are opaque and done (longer cooking time for other meats). Remove prawns from the pan and put them on a separate plate.

Stir-fried Garlic and Prawns

Add a little bit of vegetable oil (1/2 tbsp or so), wait for it to heat, then add 1/2 of the softened noodles, add a few splashes of water to help soften the noodles (about 2 tbsp – be careful not to add too much water, the noodles will be too soggy), add 1/2 of chopped peanuts and 1/2 of ground dried shrimp, stir-fry and mix everything quickly, then add 1/2 of the tamarind puree-fish sauce-sugar mixture, stir fry for a minute, or until the noodles are throughly cooked (think “al dente”).

Remove noodles and save them on the same plate as the prawns. This is my personal preference, I usually take them out before cooking the eggs. Some people just make a big circle in the middle of the noodles and add eggs.

Noodles with Chopped Peanuts & Ground Dried Shrimp

Scramble the eggs until cooked, then add the prawns and noodles back in the pan. Stir-fry everything together. Add Chinese chives, stir fry quickly to soften the chives (but make sure they’re not overcooked). Remove everything from pan.

Repeat all the steps using the leftover ingredients to make the second batch. Mix the first batch into the second batch in the pan, quickly stir to ensure the same flavor. Serve with lime wedges. You can garnish with more chopped peanuts and chives.


Ready to Eat

My Toughest Critic!

Driving With Me, My Son & Flo-Rida

Last week, my son and I took a road trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. I used to find the drive up and down the 5 Freeway boring. The only thing that was remotely intriguing to me was In N Out Burger at Kettleman City. So I would always opt to fly.

Things changed after I had my son. I now prefer the 5 Freeway over flying. Flying this short flight is a hectic rush. Between trying not to pack too much, avoiding liquids on the plane, and getting through security with a 3-year old, a carry-on, and a stroller, I never felt relaxed. On top of everything, for whatever reason, my son always demands milk instead of water or juice on the plane. Sometimes, security would let me take milk on board, other times, I would have to dump it, since it wasn’t classified as “infant formula.” On the plane, flight attendants were never too happy to serve milk because, apparently, it was in limited supply. The reaction I got from ordering milk was what I would expect to get if I were asking for a shot of tequila instead – disapproval. With driving, I can carry a gallon of milk in my trunk and no one dares question it. For all of these reasons and more, driving is now my preference.

That same mundane scenery on the 5 is now my peace, entertainment, and quality time with my kid. Ironically, I get to have more tranquility in the car than I do at home. My son usually does a pretty good job of entertaining himself with books and toy cars for 30 minute spans. 30 minute sessions of peace and quiet are hard to come by these days. During my last road trip, one of these sessions was interrupted by my son demanding that I get off the freeway. When I asked him what he needed, he replied “the sun is in my eyes and I can’t read my book.” I told him I had to stay on course. He said, “fine, can you just turn off the sun then?” Turn off the SUN? How can I not love spending time in the car with him when he thinks I’m omnipotent? He wouldn’t have thought that if we were flying.


Driving also allowed me to provide Thai lessons to him. We played games like naming what we see with Thai words. Once I caught him playing finger puppets, with his left index finger talking to his right one. The left said “where are we going?” The right answered, “to FranCEESco over the Golden Gate Bridge.” Then the left said, “oh, look at the mountains!” The right scolded, “that’s not mountains, it’s called “Poooooh Khao (mountains in Thai), remember that!” I’m not sure if I would get to witness my son having a language conflict with himself (or his fingers) if I wasn’t driving.

We sang too. Well, I should say my son sang. Since he turned 3, he claimed exclusive rights to singing. He decided that my husband and I should no longer sing along with him. Maybe he only wanted to hear his own voice. Or maybe he figured out that we were tone-deaf. So I patiently listened to him sing while I drove. First I heard his little voice behind me belching, “es es es em em em” to Rihanna’s S&M. I started to wonder if it was appropriate for him to listen to current music. Surely, it wasn’t the right time to be learning his alphabet. Then he started to sing along to Fun’s We Are Young, focusing on the part, “friends in the bathroom, getting higher than the PIE-UH state (Empire State).” I really questioned myself if he should be repeating that. The last straw came when my son enthusiastically sang, “can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby, let me know.” Forget you Flo-Rida, the radio was OFF!

My longest peace was when he took a nap. I turned the radio back on and whistled to Flo-Rida’s song (it was played a lot). My tranquility came to an end when my son woke up yelling, “I need to go POO POO!” I looked around and there was no exit in sight, so I pulled over on the shoulder, parked, and turned on the hazard lights. I got my son situated on his portable potty, on the floor, behind my seat. A few minutes passed, a highway patrolman pulled up behind us, walked up to my window, and asked, “car trouble, ma’am?” I told him no, but explained that my son was doing his number two in the back. The officer looked utterly confused, so I rolled down the window for him to see the action. He was speechless. The only thing he was able to say was “why couldn’t you just pull over at an exit?” I smiled and politely asked him if he had ever potty trained a kid before. He said no. So I explained to him that I only had a small window to get my kid on the potty. I couldn’t afford to wait till the next exit – the consequence would have been dire. He was amused and stayed with me until my son was all cleaned up. That was some serious public safety service if you ask me. Again, I wouldn’t have gotten that on the plane.

Packing for a Style Icon

I should be packing right now, but as many of you can relate, procrastination seems like a better alternative. I dislike packing and I hate unpacking even more. My aversion to packing has nothing to do with having to pack for my son. His stuff is easy. I made a packing list for him a few years ago and I make minor updates as he gets older. It’s MY list that I can’t quite master. My biggest trouble with packing is that I never know what to wear. Sure, I can always check online for the weather at my destination, so I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll be too hot or too cold. My main concern lies with fashion. And it’s not because I want to appear as if I share a closet with Kate Moss. I just don’t want to look like a frumpy mom.

I’m stuck again, this time, I’m knee-deep in a fashion rut!

Let’s admit it, we all have comfy clothes stashed up in our closets and like to break them out on rainy days…or any day that you don’t have to face the public. You know what I’m talking about: sweats, PJ’s, lose jeans, snuggly T-shirts, etc. Well, you see, that’s the trouble with being a stay-at-home mom. I spend a lot of time at home with my not-yet judgmental 3-year old – away from public eyes. I call it the “hobo” mommy style. My uniform consists mostly of plain white and black Ts and jeans that are unintentionally ripped at the knees (courtesy of squatting up and down to clean up after my kid). My son often asks me why I don’t just buy new pants. Sadly, I do buy new jeans every once in a while but they just don’t last through my rigorous mommy activities.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to care a lot about fashion. I loved fashion magazines, I subscribed to most, and found shopping therapeutic. I loved clothes and shoes. I remember the good ol’ days when my girlfriends used to ask me for fashion advice and complimented me on my style. Although, I never wore a lot of make-up, I enjoyed buying make up. I knew all the brands and what looked good on me. I was good at getting dressed up for events. On top of everything, I was obsessed with skin care. I tried lots of products, inexpensive to very expensive…La Mer, anyone? I had a nightly skincare routine that could take up to an hour. I would swear by whatever I was using. All this stopped when I became a mom.

My focus shifted to my son. Life was no longer only about me anymore. The combination of having a sleepless infant and feeling like everything I was doing as a mother was wrong really transformed me into a hobo mom. My initial hobo stage was the worst. I continued to wear my maternity clothes and didn’t even care that my stretchy elastic pants/shorts kept falling off. I knew this wasn’t a good look for me, but it didn’t matter. At that time, I considered myself lucky if I got to shower that day.

Once I felt more settled at my new job as a mother, I packed away my frumpy maternity clothes. I replaced them with a plain T-shirt and jean uniform. I let all my fashion magazine subscriptions expire because I could no longer relate to the contents. Clothes shopping is no longer therapeutic, it’s stressful. I hardly like anything I try on because most of the time I end up picturing how these pretty tops would look with my son’s food and coloring mess. At 3, he can’t help making my clothes his creative canvas, but it’s not the look I’m aiming for.

These days, I barely know how to put on make up and look decent. My daily skincare steps are reduced down to washing my face in the shower and using Olay Regenerist cream (it may not be La Mer but it works pretty good). I rarely get asked for fashion tips or receive any compliments on how cute I look. I traded high-heels for Tom’s canvas shoes and flip flops (thanks to pregnancy that turned my already plump feet into giant elephant feet – went from size 8 to 11, no joke!). My feet shrunk down sizably after I gave birth but not enough to fit in my old shoes. Heartbreakingly, I had to get rid of over 50 pairs of shoes.

It’s time for me to return to packing. I’m now questioning myself if and when I should really try to get out of this fashion rut. I’m gonna comb through my closet to find shirts that appear fancier than T-shirts and jeans with no holes. And if I can’t find anything that meets the criteria, at least, I can find comfort in knowing that I can hide my boring tops under a jacket because I’m heading to San Francisco, where it’s foggy and cold in the summer!

Because I’m Not His Nanny…

Nanny Love

Before my husband and I became parents, friends and even strangers would tell us, “you guys would make the cutest babies.” As much as I would like to imagine that people made these comments because they thought my husband and I possessed the looks of super-models (let me emphasize the term, “imagine,” because in reality, we look nothing like super-models); they made these remarks based on the fact that we were a mixed race, Asian-Caucasian, couple. This is not an assumption on my part. It’s the truth, because that flattery about making the cutest babies was usually followed by, “mixed babies are always so cute.” I never took offense. These comments were generated equally by both my worlds. In Thailand, people went even further to say that our mutiracial babies would likely become models or actors in Thailand because they would be so good looking. I skeptically dismissed the idea that doors of opportunity would magically open to my unconceived children.

I was also dubious about the generalization of mixed-race couples making cute babies. Surely, they couldn’t bypass all the genetic coding just because they were making multiracial children. But I’m not gonna lie, sometimes, I did wonder if my husband and I would, indeed, make cute babies. What I never expected, though, was that one day I would have a child of my own and people would assume he wasn’t mine.

“I don’t charge anything to take care of this child since he’s MINE! But I would probably charge you an arm and a leg to take care of yours,” I once replied to a lady I met at a park. She wanted to know my nanny rates. She even complimented me on how I was so unusually affectionate toward the baby, for a nanny. On another occasion, a nanny approached me and said “the baby is so adorable, what are his parents?” Confused, I asked her to clarify. I was pretty sure I didn’t give birth to a Vulcan baby. She was shocked to learn I was the mother. Some were more reserved and would not say it outright, instead they would simply say, “what a beautiful baby, must look a lot like his daddy.” Ouch! I didn’t know which one stung my motherly pride more; the assumption that I was a nanny to my own flesh and blood, or the fact that my child couldn’t have possibly inherited his good looks from me. Either way, I was wounded.

The worst one happened in Thailand when my son was 1.5 years old. It was his first trip there and I couldn’t wait to introduce him to everyone. My parents took us to an old temple in Ayutthaya Province. While I was holding my son, a man accosted me. He demanded that I returned the child I stole from the Italian couple walking ahead of me. Imagine that, I went from being a nanny to a child snatcher.

These awkward encounters seem to happen less now that my son is 3. Maybe he is starting to resemble me a bit more. Or maybe it’s because he can now speak like a little human and refers to me as his mother for others to hear. Every now and then, I hear people telling me that he looks more like me now and then a few hours later, someone else says he looks more like my husband, all in one day. To me, he looks like a good mix of both of us, but then again, I’m his mother, so that makes me biased. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter to us who he looks like, but the one thing we know for sure, from the moment he was born, he’s the most beautiful little boy we have ever known. And he’s ours.

Feeling Stuck…

Bridging Both Worlds

“I feel stuck,” I lamented to one of my girlfriends over the phone.
“Stuck with what?” she questioned.
“Everything in life,” I replied.
“Why don’t you start a blog?” she suggested.

Here I am, attempting to “unstuck” through blogging.  I hear it can be therapeutic, so I’m going to try it out.

I was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. The first 14 years of my life were there and then I relocated to the United States.  My parents and siblings never came here to live with me.  I never returned to Thailand to reside…yet.  So I still have strong ties to my motherland, while the U.S. is intrinsically home to me.  I regularly shuttle between the U.S. and Thailand.  Having felt “at home” at either place also means feeling unsure where I truly belong.  Stuck.  It’s how I feel. Stuck between two worlds.

It’s been 20+ years since I moved from Bangkok. I’m married to a wonderful man and raising a beautiful boy who possesses endless curiosity. I feel stuck, yet again, this time in marriage and parenthood, but in a really really good way.  Before my little 3 year old was born, I paid very little attention to how I managed to cross back and forth over the invisible cultural divide (or the massive Pacific Ocean) or over the imaginary bridge between my two worlds.  Now that my son is here, I am no longer being stuck alone between the two worlds, he’s stuck with me.  The last three years, I’ve been navigating both cultures more carefully with him piggybacking on me, while dealing with the everyday highs and lows of being a parent.

I thought long and hard about the main title of my blogs. Then I thought, one of the things Thai people love to do is eat. Yes, they love their food and all the spiciness and heat that comes with it. It’s no secret that some Thais make a habit of sneaking in dried chilies through customs when traveling around the globe. Contrary to how Americans believe that Thai people add peanuts to everything they eat, Thais actually don’t consume that many peanuts. It’s the spicy chilies that they want. They put that stuff in everything from breakfast omelets to hot dogs to make it more “Thai.” With this little quirk of being Thai, Tom Yum Soup (Wikipedia defines it as “a spicy clear soup”) was aptly chosen as the first part of my title. The Soup is one of the national prides. The second part of the title, “hamburgers,” to me, is the quintessential food to eat in the U.S. Why else would anyone, in their right mind, wait in the long and tedious line at In N Out Burger? Together, the title “Tom Yum Soup or Hamburgers Tonight” sheds perspectives on my life with my family. Every day, I’m confronted with attempting to make decisions that would make sense for both cultures, especially at dinner time. A lot of moms and dads can attest to the difficulty of feeding a 3-year old. Getting my son to sit at the table and eat anything at all is a challenge in itself. On top of it, I also have to worry about whether or not he’s consuming enough of Thai-ness or American-ness today and if I can sneak in more of one or the other at dinner time.

If you have free time or are feeling stuck too, I invite you to come along on our journey through this blog.   Though most of my writing and reflections will likely be about raising a child to survive, flourish and cherish his special gift of being a child of two worlds; it will also deal with the struggles and triumphs of being a mom.  As we often hear about authors having writer’s block, I too, like many moms (or dads), occasionally suffer from “mommy’s block.” Mommy’s block often makes me feel stuck and question my parenting skills and choices.  I’m not sure what I will accomplish from sharing my stories and experiences, but I hope that you will find it entertaining or may be even helpful.

Thank you for your visit and Sawasdee (hello and goodbye in Thai).

About Me

Mae Waen

Hello & Sawasdee ka! My name is Waen, which means ring in Thai. There really isn’t a proper way to phonetically pronounce my name, so it gets butchered a lot (and don’t get me started on my legal first name). People often confuse my name for Wayne, which to their surprise, Wayne turns out to be a woman. I also get called Win, Wynn, Wen, and of course When, which usually ends up as a joke of “When, when are we going?” So when I order coffee or take-outs, I just tell them to call me Gwen to speed up the process.

For this blog, I call myself Mae Waen. The term, Mae, means mother in Thai.  It’s what my son calls me (his version is MaeMae).  It’s also common for Thai people, who are close friends or relatives, to add Mae before your name once you have a child.  Thus, I’m often referred to as “Mae Waen” when I’m in Thailand.

I became a stay-at-home mom unexpectedly when my son was 5 months old. It was a decision I never regret but had many doubts. The past few years were filled with a mixed bag of emotions and reflections I never knew I had:  love, true happiness, heart-warming, elation, selflessness, rewarding, triumph, failure, exhaustion, mental breakdowns, self-doubt, under appreciated, etc. I’m sure many mothers can relate to these extreme emotional conflicts.

Although life with my son has been a roller coaster, it’s the ride I love, cherish and never want to get off.  To date, my husband and I only have one child.  We don’t have a definite answer on what our future holds.  But who knows, maybe we’ll want to jump on a new roller coaster again when the time is right…or just keep riding the one we love.