December 2013

The above is literally my first photo ever with Santa. Allie’s second time taking photos with Santa, so she’s already got me beat.

My parents had come over the weekend before to do a pre-Christmas thing so we’d already unwrapped some presents. My parents got us all sweaters from Old Navy, and Allie got a great cat keyboard that incorporates karaoke with an attached microphone and different keyboard sounds (one being cats meowing in the key[s] of the note[s] hit), from my grandma. Allie loved it and kept giggling playing with it. Christmas morning, since the stepkidlets wanted to do an afternoon thing, Mr. W, Allie and I went to my parents’ house and Allie got to play with her great-grandma. We came back for her nap, during which time the stepson came over, and the stepkidlets and I hung out with the stepdaughter’s room while Allie and her dada napped, as very young and, uh, old people tend to do. =P

After Allie’s nap, there was more present-opening. Allie is less dainty about ripping the wrapping paper than she was last year. She just needs a good grip, sometimes with assistance, and then it’s a big sweeping motion with each arm, leaving scrap remnants on either side of her. She was so excited getting 2 more dolls from her grandparents and nanny Auntie Jayne that she lost interest in the clothing she was unwrapping from other people. Before the dolls came into the picture, when she unwrapped clothes, she’d put it up against herself, and ask her to help her “put it on Allie.” For example, this Minnie chef outfit that her grandparents (Mr. W’s parents) sent her. This set also came with a matching oven mit (not pictured because we hadn’t unwrapped it yet when we took this photo). It was perfect for Allie when she “cooked” in her play kitchen. We’d never seen anything like it, which we later discovered was because Mr. W’s mother made this outfit from scratch herself!

Also among her grandparents’ present was a giggling and bouncing baby doll. When Allie popped open the box and saw a bit of the doll, she gasped and said as if in disbelief, “It’s a baby doll!” You’d think she didn’t already have a baby dolly, 6 Disney princess dolls, and countless stuffed animals. Auntie Jayne also got her a play-stroller for the doll, which Dada put together right away. The moment that was done, Allie refused to open more presents and instead pushed her new dolly around in the tinkling stroller around and around in the kitchen and hallway. Despite our inability to see her (cuz she refused to return to the living room), we knew she was alive because we could hear the rattles and clickers incorporated into the play-stroller making noise for…well, it was a long time. Nonstop.

The stepkidlets joint-purchased us a really neat photo frame made up of lots of other frames put together in different sizes and directions, with an attached typewritten letter that the plan was to take professional family photos together and fill the frames. “This will be the last photos we can take as just the 5 of us because come August, we will have a bearded German,” she explains in her letter. The letter opens with her expressing her gratitude for living with us and having us in her life, supporting her. She has a section of her two-page letter that was addressed specifically to me that they made me read aloud, which wasn’t nice because it made me cry. To commemorate in case the unsentimental Mr. W tosses the letter:

Cindy, I just wanted to let you know that I have noticed over the past two years that I tell everyone “on yeah, my parents…my parents this…my parents that…” Because it truly wouldn’t feel right to just say “my stepmom” after all that you have done and continue to do for me. You’re a huge part of my life and my story and I love you so much! Thank you for taking my dad in (haha!) and loving him and his kids from day one. And thank you for giving me the best gift EVER — my little sister! 🙂

It was a really nice evening. Everyone got to hang out, stepson even caught me up on his love life and decisions, and stayed to hang out way later than he’d originally planned to. It didn’t even matter that much that Allie refused to eat her meal at McCormick & Schmick’s (she ate much of her fruit plate and much of my veggies, altho she refused to eat her own cheeseburger) and is in a “difficult time” right now, very emotional when she isn’t allowed to do some small thing, such as run amok in the restaurant while other patrons are trying to enjoy their dinner.

As you can tell, we ate out a lot. I really do want to do my own cooking and have a family gathering, or at least make a dish to participate in one elsewhere…someday. Just not while Allie’s still got her midday nap going. =P (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

I’m going to post 2 photos from the afternoon with the stepkidlets. Look at the adoring gazes. What’s the focus of everyone’s attention?

That’s right. Those darn ipads.

Today, I went to a coffee shop I semi-frequently visit for matcha green tea lattes, and on the way in, saw a bearded man sitting alone at an outdoors dining table. He was shabbily dressed, unkempt, and had a wire cart near him full of bedding and miscellany, from what I could tell. He wasn’t pan-handling or anything, just sitting there with no food or drink in front of him, unlike the other patrons who were at the outdoor seating of the food court area where the coffee shop is located.

He appeared to be talking to himself when Mr. W and I passed him going into the coffee shop. When we came back out, he was no longer talking, but seemed to be wearing almost a serene smile as he sat and looked into the distance.

I mentioned to Mr. W that I wanted to buy him a cup of coffee, but wasn’t sure if the guy wanted or drank coffee, of what kind of coffee he’d like. Mr. W frowned and said if I did that, I’d have myself a stalker, since I go there somewhat regularly. I said I could just have a coffee shop employee bring it out to him and say it was an anonymous purchase on his behalf. And then I thought aloud that maybe I ought to buy him a meal instead from one of the restaurants. Mr. W said I would be encouraging unwanted behavior from the guy and that the restaurants and coffee shop would not want freebies for people loitering there. He said for business reasons, the coffee shop wouldn’t want vagabonds to hang out there. I said I didn’t think that was the case with the coffee house, as they had done a Suspended Coffees program a few months ago that I’d participated in. Despite Mr. W’s disapproval, I got up and went in to run this by the coffee shop employees, and if they objected to my suggestion, I’d respect their wishes and not do it.

I spoke to a semi-new barista who looked to a regular male barista (are males called baristas, too? barrister?) who appeared to have the authority of a manager. The male shook his head at me and said, “That guy’s got plenty of money.”
“What? Really?”
“Yes. I’ve seen his wallet. He’s got plenty of money.” Somewhat cold tone, I felt.
“Okay, that’s good to know. So he gets money from working the freeway corners or something?”
He shook his head and with steely eyes, said, “He used to work for Carnival Sales. I talk to him all the time. He’s fine.”
Oh. Okay. Glad I checked. As I left, the female called after me, “Thank you.”

Not sure how to feel about this. Was I almost swindled (not that the man outside had asked for anything) and had gotten saved by the coffee shop clerk? Was the coffee shop clerk just telling me stuff to prevent me from encouraging “bad for business” practices? Was he speaking the truth, but just simply unsympathetic to people now down on their luck no matter what job they used to have? Am I a gullible sap?

The stepkidlet got engaged tonight!

Her fiancé kept us in the loop since the summer, when he took the opportunity of the stepkidlet’s being away in Spain to come talk to us and get Mr. W’s blessings. Since then, we’ve secretly been talking ring styles, sizes, etc. And then mid-week, he said he found “the” ring, and texted me a photo, saying he was going to propose in a few days. On Friday (today), shortly before he left to visit family in Germany for a week and a half, he and the stepkidlet spent what she thought was an intimate early Christmas celebration at his place on their own. She had assembled a collection of thoughtful gifts for him, and for her, he’d packaged a mere $40 Target giftcard in a box with paper towels in lieu of gift box tissue paper. She was offended but tried to be graceful about it, biting her tongue. It wasn’t the value of the gift as much as the lack of thought and personal touch behind it that annoyed her.

And then they went to go look at Christmas lights in a neighborhood. He’d actually scoped out the place ahead of time and discovered a small grassy park with a wooden gazebo that had electrical outlets. So he’d bought colorful Christmas lights and decorated the inside of the gazebo, then had friends hide out there. Apparently the stepkidlet was uncooperative and a bit grouchy, and had to be convinced, tricked, dragged out to that area. She wondered why the gazebo in the middle of nowhere was so beautifully lit up. And then her then-boyfriend stood her in the center of it, pulled out a letter, and started reading to her what she meant to him, how he’d never thought a girl like her could be interested in a guy like him when they’d first met, how he’d used to nervously text witty and funny things to her when they first started talking and then stare at his cell phone every 20 seconds until he got a response (I remember that time; I had just had Allie and the stepkidlet was dancing around laughing at all the witty and funny things her new friend was texting her), and how he wants to spend the rest of his life with her having kids and growing old. Then he proposed. Friends took photos and videos and then they all went out to have a little surprise dinner celebration. I got the call later that night (I felt special). Apparently I was the only family she’d gotten a hold of, because her mom didn’t pick up and didn’t call back, she didn’t bother with her dad knowing he’d be sleeping and not pick up, and she imagined how unenthused her brothers would’ve been, so she called me next. I’d been expecting it to happen, and had looked at my watch here and there that night, wondering if it’d happened, yet.

I really like this guy. Best one she’d brought home, yet. Mature, down-to-earth, modest, loyal, makes her happy and keeps her balanced (unlike all the other guys before who caused so much emotional drama), funny, respectful, responsible. Heck of a talented musician, too. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s definitely one of “the good guys” and I’m glad he’s not finishing last. And Allie’s known him her whole life.

Jayne had this conversation with Allie recently…
Jayne: [Stepkidlet] and [her fiancé] are getting married!
Allie: Yeah!
Jayne: Do you know what it means to be married?
Allie: Yeah!
Jayne: What does it mean when people get married?
Allie: It mean…mmm…it mean…people getting old.

I don’t know where she gets this stuff.

This morning, seeing on the babycam that Allie was already awake, I entered her room and sang, “Good morning to you, Good morning to you, Good MORNING dear Allie, Good mor –”
“No, that’s Happy birthday to You,” she corrected me.
“Yes, but I changed the words,” I explained.
“No! That’s not…that’s not…that’s wrong! That’s Happy Birthday to You song!” And then she proceeded to sing. “Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to Allie, Happy birthday to you! See? I eat cake.”
“I see. So I can’t sing Good Morning to You with the Happy Birthday song?”
“No, that’s wrong.”

I love how she demands accuracy. Like her mommy does. Poor Mr. W, he’s gonna get corrected a lot. 😀 As it is, he’s already getting boundaries placed on him left and right by the flying rugrat. When he tickles her, she says, “Nooo, don’t do it, Dada. That’s MY armpit. Don’t tickle Allie’s armpit!” “No, Dada, don’t sing! Mama can sing. Dada don’t sing.” “No, Dada, don’t look at my iPad. That’s MY iPad. *covering the iPad screen with her arms* I block it. Mama can look. Not Dada.” HAHAHAHAHA!

So swamped. Only have time for a quick Allie story, just to keep in touch with my blog readers.

Yesterday, upon my return home from work, I saw mysterious white dried smudges and streaks on the corner of the stove by the knobs.

Me: Allie, were you playing with the stove today?
Allie: *running into the kitchen and looking where I’m pointing* Yeah…
Me: What IS that? *looking closely* Allie, what was on your fingers?
Allie: *looking at her fingers* Fingerprints!

I had ordered a sparkly little bauble from Amazon online that I’d invested ridiculous amounts of time (days’ worth) into researching and selecting, and was crazy-excited to receive it in the mail last week. It was gorgeous and fit my hand, both in size and in appearance, like a dream. The ring had so much shine even Mr. W was impressed. Later the same evening, I noticed one of the tiny side stones under the beaded prong of the center stone looked irregular. The metal next to that stone also appeared to be scraped. There definitely was some poor workmanship going there. I wasn’t happy about that, but Mr. W pointed out that it wasn’t like I paid thousands of bucks for a real diamond ring. But still, it wasn’t free, and it wasn’t inexpensive…I thought I’d see if I could live with it.

A few days went by. I still love the look of the ring on my hand, but my eye was always drawn to the irregular part the way the tip of a tongue is drawn to a hole in a tooth. I finally took a really, really good, close look at it last night in the light. And saw that the tiny stone was actually broken, partially chipped off. It looked irregular there because half the stone is missing where the metal holding it is scraped and the light, instead of bouncing off a shiny surface, just gets lost in a dark tiny hole. Now I was really unhappy, seeing that it is damage and not irregularity.

Last night, I tried to find a way to contact the seller via Amazon, and couldn’t find contact information. So I wrote an email to Amazon customer service, selecting on the drop-down options that the item had arrived damaged although no damage was done to the shipping box. My simple message requested contact information for the seller as I would like the item to be replaced.

This morning, I saw two emails from Amazon customer service. One was a notice that they’d looked into the delivery status of my item and saw that there was no delivery confirmation, so it appeared as if I’d never received the item. This notice was full of apologies and an explanation that they aren’t able to replace the item via Amazon since the item was from a 3rd party seller, so instead, I can reorder the item via the same seller and they’ll upgrade my shipping to next-day for free, and/or I can have my money refunded for the “unarrived” ring now. The second email is a confirmation that shows all my money refunded.

I was immediately horrified. Somehow communication got crossed and they didn’t get the drop-down selections I’d clicked that I’d received the item damaged. Now they think I don’t have a ring and I already got my money credited back to my card. I could now keep the ring (damaged) and it’d be free. This did not sit well with me at all and I clicked around frantically trying to find a way to respond to Amazon’s customer service to clear this up, but all the emails were automatically generated and contained a line that said “Do not reply to this email.” I went to the Amazon site a few times, trying to find a way to link off of there for a reference to the current issue, and eventually found a “feedback” section for Amazon customer service to call me immediately. In my haste I didn’t even type my phone number correctly the first time and wondered why the call never came through. The second attempt, a very nice man called me immediately.

I explained myself, and he remedied it immediately while I was on the phone with him. He told me to let the refund go through and he was meanwhile generating a free return label for me to return the damaged ring (which is supposed to be what happens), and said I can repurchase the item via the seller right now and he’ll do the upgrade to free next-day shipping. He even looked up UPS places near me that I can drop off the damaged ring to be returned, and said I have 30 days so to not stress about getting it done immediately. I repurchased the item from the seller while he was on the line, he immediately, on his end, upgraded my shipping to next-day, and I was able to print the prepaid return labels to return the damaged ring. I was impressed when I hung up the phone.

And then I thought, Am I a total sucker? How many people would’ve been all, “I don’t know what happened to the delivery confirmation, but woohoo, free ring! It’s a holiday miracle!”? If it had been more difficult to contact Amazon customer service so that I’d be forced to sit on my hands longer, would I have just decided to let it go, keep the ring and money? Does questioning this mean that I have a dishonest side, too?

Next, I thought, No, given how uncomfortable I was, how strong the urgency was to rectify this, I would’ve never been okay with letting things stay wrong. It’s unfair to the selling company, to Amazon as the middle man, to the delivery service that was going to eat the cost of ‘losing’ an item. I chose to stop thinking there.

Funny thing about the below photo. I thought we were sitting in the correct section because of the “Well Child Waiting Area” sign, and we were there for Allie’s Well Child 2 Year Appointment. And then I turned at some point and looked at the adjacent waiting area and saw that the sign there read, “Sick Child Waiting Area.” Oh. But we were in the correct area anyway, just for a different reason.

Turns out there were no vaccinations needed at Allie’s appointment, yay! She’s all up to date with her shots, and her next vaccination is at age 4. Aside from the flu annual flu shot, that is.

Her stats:
Height – 3 feet 0.81 inches (93.5 cm), 99th percentile
Weight – 27 pounds 6.6 ounces (12.4 kg), 59th percentile
Head circumference – 18.5 inches (47 cm)
Shoe size – between 7.5 and 8 toddler (I know this isn’t a doctor-related measurement, but she’s got big feet!)

The doctor said her weight is above average, but because of her towering height, she looks slim. However, he’s convinced she’s a healthy child. On nutrition, he’s happy with her continuing ability to eat her veggies and fruit and not candy and junk food, and warned me that most 2-4 year olds are dairy and carb fiends, so to watch out for that. I’m to switch her to 2% milk now, we’re done with the whole milk.
She’s well ahead in her speech (they’re looking for a 20-word vocabulary and the ability to put 2-3 word sentences together, and Allie was telling her doctor about the log ride at Knott’s she went on and how there were lots of people on the ride) so he’s not concerned about her mental or oral development. (She currently pronounces her “v”s like “b”s, i.e. “I neber neber go in there.” I wonder how much of that is because she’s compensating for the missing pieces of her front teeth. But then she also pronounces her “r”s like “w”s. “Mama’s puwse is hebby.”)
I asked him about some dry patches on her scalp that she occasionally scratches, and he said it’s just seasonal dryness and to use Neutrogena T-gel shampoo if she continues to be itchy, but it’s not eczema or I would’ve seen it start behind her knees and in her elbows (at which point in the exam Allie pointed to her knees and inspected the crook of her elbow).
Apparently I’m to start a pea-sized dot of fluoride toothpaste with her brushings now. He didn’t seem concerned that I wasn’t using toothpaste. We still brush morning and night, and floss nightly.
It was a pretty quick appointment, and Allie got a big princess sticker at the end that she correctly identified as Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.” We spent more time waiting than actually getting examined, and it helped that Allie was, as usual, super-cooperative at the doctor’s office. The nurses are always happy to work with her.
Since we’d spent so much time waiting, we sang songs together, one of which was Jingle Bells. I was surprised that she sang the entire song with me at the same time, which means she knows all the words. I whipped out my cameraphone and tried to capture this, and of course by now she had lost interest in repeating the same song. So this is what I got instead.

I would’ve preferred more Allie and less me, but oh, well.

On our drive back home, I handed Allie one of her little plastic bowls with a handful of cashews in it. (She LOVES nuts and will ask for cashews specifically.) She munched on her snack while I drove and sung and hummed along to Christmas music on the radio, and pointed out things outside the windows. I don’t drive my sports car very much these days, so I forget how much torque that thing has compared to the Prius V that I’m used to driving daily. While Allie was happily eating cashews in the backseat, the light turned green and I stepped on the gas to go, and I was more heavy-footed than I’d intended. The car surged forward and I heard the bowl hit my leather seat and sounds of many lighter objects raining on the seat immediately followed. Oops.
From the backseat, a little voice. “I spilled it…I spilled the bowl, mama.”
“You spilled it? Uh-oh! You dropped the bowl?”
“Yah. Nuts all over place. Allie’s all messy.”
I marveled at how Allie didn’t blame me for that, but it really was my fault.

We were blacked out from Disneyland on our limited annual passes for the entire holiday weekend, but Mr. W found another option: Knott’s Berry Farm! Turns out that we could get in free until January, so after Allie’s nap, we announced that we had a “surprise” for her.
She’d been wanting to go on trains and buses every time she saw them pass by, and Knott’s, which is presently decked out for the holidays and is calling themselves “Knott’s Merry Farm,” has lots of trains. That’s the first ride we went on.

And the next ride was Snoopy’s bus, which went around like a super-fast Ferris wheel.

Allie was excited to go on this ride, but afterwards, decided she didn’t like it. “It’s too scary,” she said.
Soon we found the Knott’s version of Disneyland’s Teacup ride: spinning Mexican hot chocolate! It was WAY faster than teacups. Mr. W got a little green.

I don’t know why, but from the beginning, Mr. W was convinced Allie would be able to go on the “log ride” with us. This is a roller coaster with a steep wet drop at the end, so I was sure there would be a minimum height requirement. Turns out, we were both right, because at age 2, Allie meets the 36-inch requirement.

We did buy the original print, but I snapped this photo of the displayed image, as well.
Then, more trains! This is the Calico Mines train ride. It had started to get dark, and Knott’s was lighting up.

Knott’s had a real train from the early 19th century shipped in from out-of-state. Two cowboy-like robbers, kerchiefs over their faces, even walked through with revolvers demanding money at one point of the train ride. One man demanded of a young passenger sitting with his girlfriend, “Do you have money?” The guy replied, “No, I don’t have any money.” The robber nodded toward the girlfriend, “Does SHE have all your money?” The guy said, “Yeah, she does!” The robber said to his partner, “Come on, none of these men have their own money here,” and moved on to the next train car. Allie said that was “funny.”

In addition to historic trains, Knott’s has historic buildings transplanted from other states that people can wander into, too. In the Old West section of the amusement park, we found this old 19th Century schoolhouse, complete with the original desks and an actress-teacher.

Allie was so happy that “I went to school!”, having only heard about “school” in the context of where her big sister goes in the day.
Then, we stumbled upon Santa! Allie got to have her photo taken with Santa for the second day in a row, the second time she’s met him! I noted that I’ve never taken a photo with Santa (since I’m an Asian immigrant), so Mr. W had all 3 of us go in on this photo. It’s at home somewhere, waiting to be scanned. This Santa is much nicer. Genuine smiles at the kids, and he went out of his way to chat with them, asking Allie her name, what she wants for Christmas (she just stared at him uncomprehendingly cuz really, is there anything she’s lacking?), and even jovially asked us what we wanted for Christmas. I said I wanted Allie to eat more vegetables. Mr. W asked for retirement. Santa didn’t make us any promises.

We did, however, get a free elf hat for purchasing a photo with Santa. Allie fit right into the Wild Wild West theme of this section of Knott’s with her elf hat, as you can see.

We wrapped up the night with dinner at Mimi’s Cafe, Allie’s choice. “Nooo, not Coco’s! I want Mimi’s Restaurant!”

Incidentally, Mimi’s Cafe (altho not this particular one) is the first restaurant Mr. W and I went to when we started dating 8 years ago…not that he remembers that.