Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Karen the Grinchoween

So last week was Halloween. When I was little, I enjoyed trick-or-treating along with the rest of the kids in my neighborhood and school. I had a costume every year (although it wasn't anything elaborate like what we have nowadays), and I went out with my friends and went door to door in our neighborhoods. It was a careless time, and I didn't really think about it more than an excuse to get a lot of candy.

When our church started to put on alternative candy-centered events on the last day of October, I wasn't sure what to think of it. When I was in college it seemed like just another thing that would take my free time away. Of course who knows what else I'd be doing instead of that. Trick or treating? Hah! But it did get me to start thinking about the meaning of the holiday, and whether or not I wanted to encourage participation in it.

When we had kids, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the holiday either. We got costumes for the girls and took them around the neighborhood, but mostly just to show off how cute they were, especially in their costumes. Whether or not we got candy I could have cared less. Actually I think I would have preferred that the girls didn't get candy at all.

When Elizabeth got diagnosed with her tree nut allergy, it really changed candy and chocolate in our house. Suddenly I had to be careful with everything that she was about to eat. It got to be way too much to handle the first few years of elementary school, reading all the labels, looking up the candy manufacturers' websites, and calling them up and finding out whether or not the candy was made in what we call a "nutty facility."

So last year, we decided to go candy shopping and just do away with the whole Halloween idea. Sure, it's hard to get away from it because the elementary schools really seem to relish pushing the holiday on the kids. Many of the kindergarten homework assignments during the month of October involve costumes, jack-o-lanterns, etc. There's also a costume parade on the morning of the 31st, when all the kids, K thru 8, march around the school wearing their costumes.

But we were able to pull it off not only last year, but also this year.

Last year, we left for Hawaii on my mom's birthday, November 6. We decided to take my parents out for dinner to celebrate her birthday the week before, which happens to be October 31, which also happened to fall on a weekend. So we vacated the house, took my parents out to dinner, and then went to Target to buy candy for the kids. I told them to pick out whatever they wanted, and so they each picked a two-pack of ring pops and were so excited about how they could get whatever candy they wanted. We took it back to my parents' house, and I let the girls gorge on as much ring pops and M&Ms (courtesy of my parents) as they wanted that night. No complaints from anybody.

This year we didn't have to take my parents out on Halloween (we ended up doing it the day before her birthday this year), but we did end up running an errand right before dinner right next to one of our favorite Japanese restaurants. So we had sushi for dinner, and then went to Target to pick out candy, and then ToysRUs to use up a couple of gift cards the girls had received for their birthdays earlier this year. The girls picked out sugar free gum. No complaints from anybody again.

I think we've got a successful tradition going on. I've decided I've got a disdain for cheap candy, commercialized costumes and goblins and stuff. The girls told everyone what a fun evening they had the next day and I don’t think they felt deprived. We didnt have to deal with any candy we don’t like, and better yet, we don’t have to deal with any allergens.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Matt Redman wrote a song whose lyrics include these lines:

Every blessing you pour out I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be your name.

A few weeks ago I've been hearing this song a lot. And frankly, it's scaring the snot out of me. I've been noticing the lyrics in this song I've been hearing at church, juxtaposed with the melody that is invariably cheerful.

Can I really honestly choose to say "blessed be the name of the Lord" when darkness closes in and what is given is taken away? It brings me positively to tears. How can I handle that when all that is in me, although I know what is the correct response, would want to scream, rebel, and throw a massive tantrum? It's so easy to be thankful when things are easy, and blessings are added to blessings. It's so easy to bless the name of the Lord when there is nothing to cry about. How selfish am I?

I pray that the land is always plentiful, streams of abundance always flow, the desert place and wilderness are nowhere near me, the sun's always shining down on me, the world's all as it should be, the road is not marked with suffering, and that there is no pain in sacrifice. However, I know that life is not this way, and that despite my prayers, life will never always be a charmed bed of roses. And because of that, I must also pray that I will be strong enough to remember to bless the name of the Lord even then. The thought scares me, but I must be prepared. Right?

Saturday, November 27, 2010


A week after my haircut, I went to class at my local community college. Four or five people noticed, and three of them individually gave me what they must've thought was a compliment: "It makes you look SO MUCH younger!"

Now I've never thought of myself as a person ever in the future needing to look younger. I always imagined I'd never consider dyeing my hair, putting on any kind of magic potion to make the age spots or crows' feet disappear, or heading to any doctor's office for botox or facelifts. I consider myself the anti-girly girl: not tomboyish, not butch, but just the opposite of really putting *that* much effort into looking a certain way. I'd learned it's too much unrewarded effort to invest more than a few minutes a day to beauty than what was necessary to be presentable: in the morning, wash out the eye boogers, brush the teeth, wash the face, slap on some moisturizer (or else I'll desiccate like you won't believe), and fluff out the hair (but never comb it unless it's wet).

This worked for my entire life. Well, I only learned the hair thing a few years ago.

My entire life I'd always been mistaken for an age other than mine, something between my then-current age and 18-21. When I was 12, I was mistaken for older. In college, people asked me what grade I was in. When I was 24, I was mistaken for a college student. Even a month ago, in my 30-somethings, two different people on two different occasions guessed I'm in my late 20s. I rarely wear any makeup, and I dress very plainly, and I act very immature. It's worked for me.

And then suddenly, with one compliment, it changed my whole outlook. I suddenly realized that I don't get carded anymore, and that maybe I should dye my hair to cover up the gray and maybe consider a magic potion or two.

I've officially been inducted into That Club, haven't I? *sigh*

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hairy Adventures

So a few weeks ago I decided to finally cut my hair. After months of weak-mindedly wanting to do it and then changing my mind again, I finally made the leap and got my hair lopped off. Twelve inches of it. For some unknown reason, I had always considered my long hair an integral part of my identity. And I guess that's why I had always hemmed and hawed when it came to actually making a decision to cut off my hair.

Anyways, the final seed was planted when the girls wanted to cut off their long hair. I wasn't particularly attached to their hair, although it was pretty fun to show off their beautiful straight shiny hair. However, combing it and styling it were not so much fun, and the girls hated waking up with it tangled up every morning. So when their friend cut off her hair and and donated it to Locks of Love, we thought hey, that would be a cool idea, and decided that would be something we'd like to do too.

Elizabeth was the first one to do it in March. She loved it, and would probably do it again in a heartbeat. And I think she felt really good about donating her hair. She's growing it longer again now. For another donation? Who knows.

Abigail begged and begged to do it next. She wanted to do it the same day as Elizabeth, but due to a misunderstanding (the stylist thought it was a 12-inch minimum donation, not 10 inches), we ended up having to wait until her hair grew another two inches, in May. She also loves having her hair short. One difference is that Elizabeth wanted to grow out her bangs, but Abigail wanted to keep hers. Her hair is growing again, too, but two months behind Elizabeth.

Then it was my turn. I kept hesitating. I kept making the excuse that my hair is too curly, and it'll just puff out when it's short. I'll look like an old Korean lady with badly permed hair. The matronly look. You know, that look. I badly wanted to avoid the hairstyle I ended up with in sixth grade -- when my mom and aunt thought it'd be a great idea to cut my hair short and give me a perm. Yuck.

I had straight hair with a mind of its own when I was little. It was a decent length (not too short, not too long) when I was about 5 or 6. And then my mom and aunt (same aunt!) thought it'd be a great idea to cut my hair short. I really wanted to keep it longer, but they somehow convinced me that they're just gonna cut it a little bit. Well, every time her scissors went to my hair, they had decided that "it was uneven, and they had to cut the other side." You know, to "even it out."

I think I avoided putting scissors to my hair after that for a long time. By the time I was in fifth grade, my hair was pretty long again. But it was thicker, and getting coarse. I started to hate my hair because it was too hard to comb, but didn't know what to do with it. So again, I submitted myself to my aunt's scissors, and in sixth grade, I ended up with a bob and a perm.

You know how I feel about that.

So for the longest time after that, I largely avoided putting scissors to my hair again.

And I also avoided hair rollers like the plague.

After I got married, on a trip to Korea, I discovered "magic perm." I loved this perm. Basically they put perm solution in your hair and then iron it flat. Some people say they look dorky afterwards because their hair is so flat against the head. But I loved it. My hair looked so sleek, so smooth, so shiny, so not-coarse.

From haircut

I think I went back to get it done once or twice, but then decided I didn't want to shell out the $$$ for it, so I decided to grow it out. That's when the nightmare began. My hair, remember, was naturally coarse and wrinkly. And the permed section was flat. I have no words to describe this phase of my hair where the roots had a mind of their own and the ends hung limp and lifeless.

And then I got pregnant. Too tired to style my hair, too scared of chemicals to do anything to my hair, and not girly enough to really care.

Needless to say, at that point, I finally decided I'm not going to fight my hair. I'm not going to make it do something it doesn't want to do, because first of all, I'm too lazy to spend half an hour blow-drying it into submission every morning, because at the end of the week, that's three and a half hours of my life I'm never going to get back. Second of all, I'm too cheap to shell out $$$ for my hair when it's just going to grow out anyway.

So that's when I decided when I get my hair cut I'm going to be honest with myself and the stylist that I'm not going to really style my hair in the morning, and I probably won't get my hair cut more often than once a year, so please please please don't give me a high maintenance haircut. So the stylist cut off the flat parts, and did some razor-cut thing that I never really understood, and I vowed this would be my last bad haircut.

A few years after my girls were born, I realized that my hair looks great when it's wet, but looks horrible when it dries, so I began my quest to find something that'll help there. I found some hair gunk that works well, and discovered that although combing my hair when wet is fine, I should never ever ever comb or brush my hair when it is dry. And I also concluded that long hair means heavy, weighed down hair, that won't puff out into the matronly permed look.

I went and got one last haircut just to clean off the razored edges and thin it out a little, and stayed away from any scissors for about a year and a half.

So until a few weeks ago, that was my routine: after my shower, I'd rub in two squirts of my hair gunk, comb it through, and let it air dry. Simple as that. It'd look fine until I wash it again. As long as I didn't comb or brush it. I think a few times I did blow-dry it straight, just to mix it up. But for the most part, my hair rarely got blow-dried. I loved the length because I could twist it up into a bun and then hold it there with a pencil. How easy was that!

My hair grew until it went down to my waist, and then I realized it was always getting caught in my purse straps, Abigail was always playing with it and pulling ONE strand just enough to make it hurt, and it was starting to look really scraggly. The thinning that had been done a year and a half earlier was now just horrible, and my hair was starting to feel chlorine-damaged, although I was pretty careful to wash my hair as soon as I got out of any pool. I got some deep conditioner but that didn’t help much, so it was time to go and get it cut again.

Well, since the girls had been brave and got their hair cut off and donated it, I couldn’t just chicken out and trim off the ends. I had to get it all cut off. So that’s just what I did. Twelve inches sent it from my waist to my shoulders.

It feels so much thicker and healthier now. And since I’ve got my hair gunk, it doesn’t look all puffy and old-lady-permed. At least that’s what I think.

Monday, July 19, 2010

You say pedal, I say paddle

So on Friday we went to a small lake where they have swimming and you can rent paddle (pedal?) boats.  We had a wonderful time.  Unfortunately I forgot to bring a camera.

We spent an hour swimming in the lake in the morning.  It's amazing how fast the lake fills up with people.  We had a prime parking spot, and when we got to the beach, we were the second or third family there.  An hour and a half later, when we were eating lunch, it would be impossible to swim ten feet in any direction and not bump into a person or three.  And after lunch, when we went to move our car to the boating part of the lake, we saw the parking lot was packed.

So we went to the boating part of the lake, and they have a little mobile trailer that serves as the boat rental office.  It was 94 degrees that day, and inside the mobile trailer it was probably somewhere near 110 degrees.  Thankfully we didn't have to go inside to rent -- they have a window.  But the poor kid who works there!

Anyways, they had available to rent kayaks, what they called paddle boats, row boats, electric boats, and duffy boats.  We rented a paddle boat, piled in, and went around the lake once.  Did it mention it was 94 degrees that day?  Elizabeth and Abigail complained about the heat after about ten minutes on the lake, asking us when are we going to be done, when are we going home, when are we going to stop, and I'm sleepy.

After about fifteen minutes on the lake, we returned to the dock, and went home.

I still don't know if it's called a pedal boat or a paddle boat.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Where did this summer go???

Maybe it's because we took a trip to Southern California the second week of summer vacation.  Maybe it's the solid month of nightly swimming lessons.  Maybe it's because I'm working pretty much five days a week (albeit part time).  But I just realized I'm getting one week off of work (it's my turn at work, per budget issues), followed by one week of VBS, and then it's already August.  Where did this summer go??

I had a "summer bucket list" of stuff I wanted to do, but it seems like although my day-to-day is more relaxed than during the school year (thanks to not having to deal with 8:10am dropoffs and 2:50pm pickups), my schedule is still just as full and unavailable for doing "fun stuff" like camping, visiting water slides and water parks, going pedal boating (which, incidentally, I just realized is NOT called "paddle boating"), mini golfing, Tahoe, amusement parks, and other tourist traps attractions.  Where did this summer go???

I think it's because my husband is still working just as much, and I don't feel comfortable doing these things alone with the girls.  Combine that with the stuff HE wants to do while the weather's good (basically anything that doesn't involve the family -- biking, poker, UFC, half-marathon), and I think that gives a pretty good picture of where our summer has gone.  *sigh*

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Don't you hate it??

Don't you hate it when you think of something to write about, but by the time you get to the computer, you completely forget what it was?  And you KNOW that it was something that you had been wanting to write about for a long time?

I'm sure it'll come to me...