Camping in Yosemite Valley

I think there is a universally accepted truth that camping with friends – especially those who have kids – makes camping 10,000 times easier with little ones. It took some coordinating; we met virtually at some early hour of the morning to reserve camping spots and miraculously found one that worked with all of our schedules.

There are some people that fill me with light, and the Willis’ are a whole family of such people. I’m grateful for friendships that have lasted since our awkward middle school years! Continue reading “Camping in Yosemite Valley”

Return to the Motherland: Taiwan

I took the kids to Taiwan for the first time. I hadn’t been back in many years, and was so excited to experience everything with Carter, Aila, my mom and Harv, though I almost didn’t survive the flight over. I sat alone with the kids, while my parents were up in the fancypants section of the airplane (read: no kids allowed up there!), I got hit by a bad stomach bug, got super nauseous, and had to run and throw up in the bathroom when all our meals were out. Luckily, my kids were so into the TVs they barely noticed I was gone, and I was fine afterwards. Trial by fire, I say. If I can make it on a 16 hour flight alone and sick with two kids, I have no fear traveling with them anywhere now! Continue reading “Return to the Motherland: Taiwan”

Family Photos 2018

Last year we attempted to take family photos, but Andy got a migraine the morning of the photo shoot and both kids had low-grade fevers…so that was awesome.

This year, we took photos with Katie Heiner Photography, who I discovered through a mutual friend after she posted a giveaway on her family travel Instagram account. Sadly, I didn’t win the giveaway, but this is a great example social media’s benefits – making connections that might not otherwise have existed.

I was looking for someone to take headshots for upcoming writer news (eeek!), and thought it would be perfect to get some family photos while we were at it. Of course, in the end, we chose mostly family photos and only a couple headshots…I don’t need that many photos of myself, amirite? Plus, my kids are cuter and I’d rather have pics of them.

We were thrilled at the pictures and so grateful we decided to do them this year. Katie did an incredible job. I love photos, and it’s so nice to have some taken by someone who actually knows what she’s doing! Continue reading “Family Photos 2018”

Adventures in Filoli

There is a special place in my heart for Filoli. When I was on (my insanely short) maternity leave with Carter, I purchased a season pass and went to stroll the ground with him every week. I loved watching the gardens changed with the seasons, the almost unworldly beauty of the grounds, the peace I felt when I was there. It was a perfect place to bond with my first baby.

This fall, my cousins invited us to Filoli for their Fall festival. The festival itself was just a stack of hay bales, and a couple craft tables, but the gardens were beautiful and we had a lovely time. Continue reading “Adventures in Filoli”

My Cousin is a Judge!: A Mommy-Boogie Trip to Baltimore

I took Carter on our first Mommy-Boogie trip to see my cousin Cathy’s investiture. She was sworn in as a Baltimore City District Court Judge – the first Chinese woman to become a judge in Maryland – because she is a total badass.

I’ve always looked up to Cathy, not least because she’s always done things her way. She’s never let herself be confined by others’ definition of success (or anything else); she made her own path and it wasn’t the same as anyone else’s. Let’s just say – and she shared this hilariously and openly at her investiture – that she’s played hard and she’s worked hard. She has always used her legal chops to help others.

I felt so proud watching Cathy become a judge. I was especially happy that Carter could see it too; he may not have really understand what was happening, but he understood that his Spicy Ayi is a powerhouse. I loved seeing the row of Cathy’s daughters, nieces and nephews (not to mention her parents, siblings and in-laws) looking up to her as an example of strength, perseverance and all-around awesomeness.

The whole time I kept thinking that Cathy’s investiture gave me hope for the future. She’s a mighty woman in power. I also told her I call dibs on writing the picture book about her when she becomes a member of the Supreme Court one day.

I was nervous and excited about going back to Baltimore. My mom, brother and I lived in Baltimore for a year when I was in fifth grade. It was the year after my parents divorced, and we moved in with Cathy’s family for a few months before moving into a small apartment on our own. I have some happy memories of Baltimore – I think it is where I became a confident student – but I tend to remember it as a place of pain. Going back meant revisiting places that have held memories of deep trauma.

I knew this going in, but I was unprepared for the emotional reaction I had as we drove through once familiar neighborhoods, and went to once familiar places. Nothing looked familiar. I remembered almost nothing, not the streets where we once lived, not the mall we used to frequent. At times, I was so overcome with memory and emotion that I had to hide in the bathroom and sob. I felt aware of an open wound in my body for much of the time I was there.

And yet, I felt like I was able to reclaim these once traumatic places and make new memories of joy. I always love spending time with my brother and cousins. I loved seeing old friends. I loved watching Carter make memories with his doting and goofy cousins.

I’m glad I went.

It was amazing spending so much time with just Carter. I loved being able to shower all my attention on him; and I think he loved being the complete center of all my attention too. A special kind of bonding happens when we go on adventures one-on-one, and after this trip, I’ve resolved to do more one-on-one trips or activities with my kids.

Also, we rode planes.

And, bonus! We got to walk out on the tarmac and board the plane from the back. Twice. Carter was in heaven.