From the monthly archives:

December 2011

Waiting to get on a plane that will take me to Tokyo Narita, and then onto Taipei. I am making my annual solo trip back home so I can pack 359 days of homesickness, guilt and filial piety into a 3-day visit. (I will spend 3 days traveling due to time zone change and the sheer expansiveness of the Pacific Ocean).

As my parents get older, the necessity of going home as often as I could becomes unbearable. The anxiety and sadness I feel every time I see them though becomes unbearable as well. I long to see the joy in my dad’s face as much as I dread seeing his tears. March on, little soldier. That’s what I have been telling myself since I gave the TSA agent my passport and boarding passes.

I will try not to talk about feeling like a Godzilla as soon as I land in Tokyo. But I will feel that way while stuffing my face with food that I have been missing all year.

And I will try and send in pictures to be posted here (and below if the Flickr plug-in works). Just in case you wonder what I have been up to. *Megalomaniac laugh* *Megalomaniac laugh*

Love and peace.

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Santa is not real.

I am worried that I may have ruined my son’s childhood. On Christmas eve nonetheless. Before he went to bed full of anticipation for Christmas morning, I decided to tell him THE Truth.

Well, I did not really decide per se.

He turned 9 this year and he’s always known that Easter Bunny is not real because, well, he is not a fucking idiot. He had suspected for a long time that tooth fairy is also not real so he went CSI on us: When he lost one of his teeth, he did not tell us. In the morning he came to the side of my bed, showed me his tooth, and said, “See. I put this under my pillow and it is still here this morning. I know tooth fairy is not real. This proves that YOU are the tooth fairy because I did NOT tell you about the tooth.”

Fine by me. I actually feel relieved because to prolong the lie as they grow older, the mechanism that goes into putting up the show becomes more elaborate, and then it goes from a harmless childhood tradition to full-blown deceit. When I heard about people that left footprints in the backyard, cracked the window open, sprinkled ashes by the fire place or reindeer droppings in the front lawn, I cringed. How much is too much?

At some point the child becomes old enough to just know  and though it is not discussed, tooth fairy will simply stop visiting. At least that was how it went with my oldest boy.

With my youngest, Mr. Monk, it has been a completely different experience. He really wants to believe in the magic despite the contradictions he himself acknowledges. Throughout this year, he’s been hinting that he’s ready to let Santa go. Or rather, he knows that we the parents are Santa all along, “Just like the tooth fairy.” But he has never come right out and said, “Santa is not real.”

When my mother-in-law called me to confirm that Mr. Monk no longer believes in Santa, therefore we do not need to “do the Santa thing”, I said, “Sure. He’s outgrown it already.” All the presents were wrapped and labeled, and none of them were from Santa. Then when Mr. Monk and Grandma were making Christmas cookies, he said, “Remember to leave a cookie out for Santa.” With all the sincerity and conviction of a young child. My heart skipped a beat.

After the Christmas eve party, when we were trying to get him and his cousin to go to bed, the two of them begged for a cookie for Santa. And a glass of milk.

“Are you sure about this? Is Santa coming tonight?”

“Mom, you forgot? Santa is coming and he will eat the cookie and drink the milk just like he did every year.”

Never mind that my husband was always the one that volunteered to be Santa by taking a big bite out of the Christmas cookie, finishing the milk, and for good measure, leaving a crumpled napkin on the table.

My niece does not believe in Santa. She knows that Santa is not real because that’s the way her parents decide to bring her up. They have been kind enough to play along, and every year, my mother-in-law would prepare a present from Santa for my niece just to be convincing. I looked at her enthusiasm and excitement as she and Mr. Monk prepared the cookie and milk and the accompanying note for Santa, and realized that for a child sometimes knowing something is not real is different from wanting to believe in that something.

When I put the kids to bed on Christmas eve, I whispered to my oldest, “Do you think Mr. Monk still believes in Santa?”

“I think he knows. He just does not want to admit it…” He turned around and asked his brother, “Hey, ____, do you think you will get anything from Santa tomorrow morning?”

“Of course!”

“How do you think Santa is going to get here?”

“On his sleigh. Pulled by his reindeer of course.”

After a prolonged dance around the touchy subject aka beating about the bush, finally my oldest sighed, “This is like that saying ‘How do you find out a bomb really works?’ Don’t make me ask you that question that if I ask you you are going to know…”

“Just make the big presents the Santa presents.” All of a sudden Mr. Monk said.

“No. Make the small things the Santa presents.” My oldest countered, “Otherwise you never get to thank mom and dad for the big presents.”

“No. I want the big presents to be from Santa.” Mr. Monk protested.

“This settles it then.” I thought, “He knows the truth.” Feeling relieved, I said to my oldest, “So, [Oldest Boy], do you want a Santa present too?”

All of a sudden, Mr. Monk’s face fell and he pulled the blanket above and over his head, visibly upset. “Do you have to tell me this on Christmas eve? Can’t you wait until the day after?”


“Do you have to ruin my childhood? And on Christmas eve?”

SIGH. KILL ME NOW. Not sure though whether I’m more disturbed by how I potentially single-handed ruined his childhood or by how he sounded just like me, a master of guilt-trip…

Yes I know. I am the worst, most evil mother in the whole world. Oy ve.


“Hey, it’s better you know now. Do you really want some old creepy fat guy crawling around your house and watching you while you’re sleeping?” My oldest intervened. This made Mr. Monk laugh and we once again skipped the subject at hand.

After a long while he stopped alternating between sobbing and laughing at his big brother’s antics and finally fell asleep. I went downstairs, pulled out three presents from under the Christmas tree, rewrapped them in the special wrapping paper reserved for “Santa gifts”, and slapped a sticker on each of them that said “From Santa”…


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The phone rang. At this hour I knew it has got to be from my mother.

What does she want this time? Is always my first thought. Then I feel guilty about it. More often than not, however, I get to stop feeling guilty because she is calling to add to my shopping list called “Shit to bring home to my families because that’s what you do when you are a Chinese living abroad and you welcome all ways to help assuage your guilt”.

Mom: What are you doing?

Me: Nothing. Putting the kids to bed.

Mom: I am calling to confirm the date and time when you arrive at the airport. Is it 10 pm on December 27?

Me: Yes.

Mom: Ok. … … … What are you doing?

Me: Yelling at the kids to take a bath.

Mom: Why are you always doing that when I call?

Me: Because you always call around this time?

Mom: Oh. Ha ha. Have you eaten yet?

Me: No.

Mom: What time is it now? How come you have not eaten yet? [Then why did you ask me in the first place?!] What are you going to eat?

Me: I don’t know. I am thinking of Ramen noodles.

Mom: What kind? Is it the Korean spicy kind?

This went on for a while. Then my mom repeated the same story she’d told me twice already.

Mom: So and so’s daughter is married to a foreigner too. Her grandson is so cute. Mixed kid, you know. And oh, he’s so adorable when he speaks Chinese. Oh yes, her daughter teaches the boy Chinese at home.

Me: … … …

Mom: Oh, yes, he speaks perfect Chinese.

Me: … … …

Mom: And they are back in Taiwan now.

Me: … … …

Mom: She also just went on a tour around the world [ok, probably not around the world…] with her daughter and her son-in-law. Oh. They took her everywhere.

Me: … … …

Mom: And her daughter is back in Taiwan now with her grandson.

Me: … … …

Mom: Hello? Are you still there? Why aren’t you saying anything?

Me [sighing silently]: So let me guess. Her daughter does not work. [Maybe the bitterness in my voice came through]

Mom [relenting]: Oh right. You have a job. My daughter is so smart and capable. [This was said without sarcasm. My mother does not do sarcasm. I don’t think she knows how.]

Me [wanting to die]: Ok. So why are you telling me about your friend who I do not know. You have told me this a few times.

Mom: Ha ha ha.

[I hate it so much when she says something that bothers me etc, then she tries to cover it up by saying, “I was just joking. You need to lighten up.” Well, no, mom, you were not joking. I have never heard you joke in my whole life.]

Mom: I was just telling you about my friend. You have to be very careful and not overdo it on the computers. She’s so near-sighted that she’s almost blind because she’s spent all her working years on the computer.

Me: Ok.

Mom: Not good to get too high a degree.

[You don’t need a subject when constructing a sentence in Chinese. IMO this greatly contributes to Chinese mothers’ passive aggressive ability because you never know whom they are referring to in their laments. It could be nobody. Yet it could be everybody.]

Mom: So smart. What’s the use? Get a degree and leave and not come back.

Me [bracing myself for the impact]: … … …

Mom: Just like my daughter, right?

Me [really wanting to die now]: … … …

Mom: Now just counting the days until my daughter comes home again.

Me [Must. Pretend. I. Did. Not. Hear. This. Because. There. Is. Nothing. I. Can. Do.] … … …

Mom: Alrighty then. You must be tired. Have you eaten yet?

Me: No.

Mom: Why not?

[I thought to myself, “We are waiting for Godot”, and became more depressed because this would be a joke that my folks would never ever get…]

Me: Because I have been talking to you on the phone?

Mom: Oh. Ha ha. Remember to add an egg when you cook your Ramen noodles.

Me [Still wanting to die]: Ok. Bye mom.



So far in my luggages, there are FOUR Coach bags, 1 pair of Coach shoes, expensive eye cream, face lotion, anti-wrinkle lotion, unicorn magical hair to eliminate wrinkle from someone who’s almost 80, etc etc etc.

Why do I still feel guilty?

Why do I feel guilty that I did not goof off at school, drop out, work at some seedy places, meet rich older men, become their mistresses, bear boy children for them, become a lady of leisure so I can hang out all the time, and buy houses and cars for my parents?

Fuck. this. shit.



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Some of the Best Decisions I’ve Made

December 19, 2011 random

1. Buying a duvet cover in DEEP RED rather than white like those nice glistening duvet covers in hotels Around 1 am today, as I was wrapping up my work and was looking forward to hitting my head against that pillow, I heard my 9-year-old boy make a familiar sound. A sound from the past. […]


A Piece of TV Reality

December 15, 2011 marketing at work

A couple of guys were giving out rims of paper at a street corner this morning when I was inching my way to the office. I was mildly puzzled: Really? What made some paper company think it’s a good promotional ploy to give away a whole pack of printing paper? And why would I want […]



December 13, 2011 therapy in session

Scene: The basement of an upscale restaurant in a hip Chicago neighborhood Cast: Her. And a throne of other women. It would be accurate to add “mostly young and attractive (and white except her and one other woman, though this has nothing to do with anything really…)” Being young adds 20% at least to the […]


Tis the Season to be Jolly

December 11, 2011 random

Tra la la la la la la la la. Don we now our gay apparel Fa la la la la la la la la.   Gay apparel as in holiday parties. Of course. Tis the season of office holiday parties where alliances are formed, enemies are made, and by the end of night, everybody is […]