Thought Catalog

Today I Grew Up

Yup, for the rest of my life I’ll actually be able to pin point the day – Sunday, February 12, 2023 – that I realized I’m a grown up now. A real life adult.

So it wasn’t when I graduated from college. It didn’t happen when I got my first job. I was not an adult when I bought my first apartment. Or when we sold and bought another apartment. I didn’t become an adult when I bought my mom her own apartment. I was definitely just a young woman when I got married. I was not an adult when I bought my first house. Nope, it did not happen when I became a mom. I was also not quite an adult when I had my second child.

So what, you ask, was that magical moment when I thought to myself, “Ok, I’m definitely growing up now”?

It was when my Weee order came in this morning. When I bought my first chili oil.

You see, growing up, my fridge was not really my fridge. It was my parents’ or my grandparents’ fridge. They bought the refrigerator itself of course, and all the groceries and condiments in it. I didn’t have a say or any interest in what went into our fridge at home, because I was a child and the grown ups took care of that.

Once I started living away from my family, when I moved in with Daniel, I finally paid for my own refrigerator, but the groceries were not really quite mine. Yes, we paid for those too, but in my 20s I didn’t really know the type of food I wanted to eat. I had cravings based on my emotions, and I ate things that were convenient. Our condiments were super basic- ketchup and oyster sauce.

When Olivia joined our family, we started paying more attention to planning our meals, but we would still eat out a lot. We tried meal kits like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, and those were great for some time, but the meals still didn’t feel like they were my own. I was still eating based on convenience.

Then, we had Chloe and life started becoming more planned out out of necessity. With two young kids, you really don’t have time for an empty fridge. You always have to have ingredients that could turn into meals, and you have to have instant noodles in the pantry and frozen items for backup. Luckily, my mom has been able to help us with Chloe since Daniel and I both returned to work, and she brings groceries over every week. For almost a decade, since I moved out of my mom’s house, I was never on a consistent homey Chinese diet, but for the last month we have been really good about having meat and veggie dishes for dinner. I love that home cooked meals have become our default meals as opposed to take out. (To be fair to Daniel, he does basically all the cooking in our household and he has cooked a lot prior to the last month, but over the last month he’s consistently made Chinese dishes as opposed to a mix of whatever we were in the mood for at the moment.)

So back to the chili oil. I was never interested in chili oil, but now that I’m a mom of two, I find myself wanting to reconnect with my roots and my tastes often gravitate towards Chinese food, because that’s what I want my children to associate as their homey, comfort, childhood food. Chloe just started solids last week, and Olivia has been doing so well lately with being open to trying new foods. Last weekend I had chili oil with dumplings at my mother in law’s house, and it was such a delicious yet simple combo. For the past week I’ve been craving that flavor again so I ordered chili oil from Weee last night and it arrived this morning.

I had some of the chili oil with dumplings tonight and each bite filled me with some more joy and pure happiness. I finally had the first condiment I chose for myself and bought for myself that wasn’t a default purchase based on what my mom and grandparents had in the past, even though the two are tangentially related. I was finally marrying my past (the craving for homey Chinese tastes) with something I’ve discovered myself in my 30s (the craving for chili oil and dumplings).

And apparently, for me at least, that was what it took for me to feel like a grown up.

In short, as a child, my mom introduced me to dumplings and I learned they were delicious. Thirty years later, I learned how to combine chili oil with dumplings to make them a different kind of delicious. And now I look forward to passing that on and sharing them with my children. Perhaps growing up is really taking the base of what we learned from our parents and making them our own, to be shared and taught to our own children.

Life Thankful

Happy 2023, and 2022 in Review

Every December 31st, I can’t believe a whole year is over and another one is about to start. Yesterday was no different, but I am very grateful for everything that happened in 2022, and I am so excited for all that’s to come in 2023. Throughout 2021, and the most part of 2022, I was looking forward to having a happy and healthy second child, and I was praying and hoping we’d sell our Forest Hills apartment. By the end of the year, we’d accomplished both, so it feels like a lot has been lifted off our backs. After a brief moment to pause and bask in our reality, it will soon be time to get back to work and get better. I will always strive for continuous improvement, and I look forward to leading a “do better” life.

For 2023, I am excited to watch our girls grow up. Olivia is already such a firecracker at age 3.5, and we’ve seen so much growth since she first started Montessori school at age 2. It’s incredible how much she knows and how much she can communicate to us. I love talking to her and getting a chance to see how her brain works. Just two years ago she was learning to speak, say mama and dada, and now she can say things like “I love daddy, mommy, Chloe, and our family. When I grow up I will buy a purple and pink Tesla and take Chloe with me wherever I go!” (and she can say this in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin!). At 4 months, Chloe is no longer a newborn and she’s also starting to express herself a lot too. It’s so fun to be second-time parents because we can see so many differences between baby Chloe and Olivia when she was a baby. They both seem to love each other so much (Olivia is very protective of her baby sister and Chloe lights up whenever big sister is around), so I can’t wait to see how their bond grows as they grow.

We’ve got a pretty cool trip coming up this year- Singapore and Tokyo! It will be an adventure for sure with a toddler and a baby, but I think we’ll be just fine and everyone will have a lot of fun. Daniel and I hope to buy our first investment property sometime in 2023, and we’ll also sprinkle in some smaller trips and weekend hotel stays. We’ve got plans to be productive, and I hope that we will use our Forest Hills experience to push ourselves.

Reflecting on 2022, it was a really good year overall, and we all experienced a lot of growth. We started the year in January knowing we were pregnant, but were cautiously optimistic given our previous chemical pregnancy. My morning sickness with Chloe was way worse with Chloe than Olivia and I remember throwing up multiple times a day, for many days, with absolutely no appetite. My diet consisted of crackers and fruit chews. I legit had a water aversion, which was worse than not being able to eat. During the day I was somehow able to get through work without any issue – as I enjoy my job, perhaps the work itself distracted me from my symptoms, but after 5PM I would basically crash and have to curl up on our sofa in the living room while Daniel took care of Olivia. I was very careful with my pregnancy, as I was with Olivia’s, so I didn’t want to take any medicine for my nausea, but around 10 weeks or so I had to start taking diclegis because it was very, very bad. After maybe 18 weeks or so I was finally able to eat again, but I didn’t truly get my appetite back until after delivery and then confinement.

In May we took a family vacation (first vacation in the pandemic era) to Cancun and stayed at the Finest in Playa Mujeres. It was really nice as we had a pool in the back of our hotel room, and Olivia’s cousins were only two rooms down, so we were able to all hang out together in the pool. The all-inclusive aspect was great to make things easier for our family group. My mom and brother did not go with us, but Olivia was really cute and kept telling my mom she’ll bring her with us next time (we asked them but they had no interest in Mexico).

Work was pretty good for me throughout the year. I started helping more with the business operations team, which is one of the perks of having a supportive manager and working for a startup where there are many opportunities to improve efficiency. Right before I left for maternity, literally the week before, I was working with a really demanding client and almost made a huge security mistake, but thankfully I did not. I didn’t plan it that way, but end of August turned out to be a great time to start maternity leave. I was supposed to go back to work in the middle of December, but my manager suggested I take some of my unlimited PTO and just come back in January, so I said thanks!

Chloe arrived a couple of days after I started mat leave. Daniel and I had been wondering how it’d work out with Olivia, because if we had to go to the hospital in the middle of the day, it would’ve been less than ideal for someone else to pick her up after school as we didn’t want her to feel like we left her behind. We ended up going to the hospital at night, so we were able to leave Olivia with my mother-in-law. I had a pretty good labor and delivery experience, which I can dedicate a whole post to another time, and we were so happy to meet Chloe and settle into life as a family of four.

I really cherished the last four months of 2022, as I got to know my new baby, and learn what Olivia is like as a big sister. September was actually a rough month for us because we sent Olivia to a subsidized 3K program near us and she did not enjoy the school at all. Thankfully, we were out of there in October and went back to Montessori. Even though September was not fun for us or Olivia, it turned out to be a necessary growth experience as Olivia matured a lot and we now appreciate Montessori more than ever. In November I received a promotion and a raise from work, which was awesome as I thought I wouldn’t qualify for the current performance review cycle but my manager fought for me. Along with the good news we also received some bad news – our buyer’s offer for our Forest Hills apartment was rejected by the board. We were so dejected as it meant we had to start over in rising rates environment, but I posted my situation to a local Facebook group and got an idea to increase the offer price to match the appraisal. I don’t understand how it’s legal, as basically the board wanted us to make up a sale price that they like, but we had the buyer resubmit with the higher price (which we offset with a seller’s concession, so the only people to lose out was us as we had to pay higher transfer taxes, but whatever), and our buyer was accepted shortly after Thanksgiving.

The last month of 2022, we were eagerly waiting to close, trying to figure out a plan for childcare once I got back to work, and also trying to get Chloe to practice good sleeping habits so she would be easier to handle. We ended up not closing until the end of December, which was crazy but we’re just glad it’s all behind us and asked my mom to come help us because nannies are really expensive and it’s so hard for me to trust a stranger with my baby. Chloe is doing well- her night sleeps are good; she can fall asleep on her own after I place her awake in her crib. She’s still eating twice in the middle of the night but goes back to sleep after eating. We are still working on her naps, but it is taking time.

The last day of 2022, I woke up with a huge clog from nursing. We were originally going to go out to the mall but ended up staying home because I wanted to prevent mastitis and get the clog out. Chloe needed contact naps the lat couple of days, so I assume my baby wearing caused the clog since baby was all smooshed against me. I tried a bunch of ways, but was unable to get the clog out, though it no longer hurts as much as when I woke up, so I think I at least loosened some the clog. My brother-in-law invited us over for dinner, and we were treated to homemade beef Wellington, candied apples, mashed potatoes, and mac n cheese. We brought over a strawberry cheesecake from a local bakery that specializes in cheesecakes. Dinner was fabulous- I’m truly so lucky to have married into a family of awesome home chefs – and we were able to get home at a reasonable time, around 8:30PM. I put Chloe to bed, Daniel put Olivia to sleep, and that was about it for the last night of 2022. Family time and great food- what else could you really ask for?


How to Cope When Things Are Not So Rosy

So far, my blog posts have been mostly about gratitude, having fun with my family, and being happy, because most of the time, that’s what my life is about. However, I’m currently dealing with a not so happy situation that we are still trying to work out. Due to my superstitions, I won’t talk about the sitch until it’s resolved, but I got up at 4:30AM this morning to work on some personal projects and now feel too dejected to be productive as I woke up to an email notifying me of an unexpected setback. Sigh.

Whenever something bad happens in life- and admittedly, I am grateful that there are really only a handful of times I can count where I feel like this – my instinct is to question why. I believe there is a reason for everything and a lesson or lessons to be learned from all challenges. Everything works out for the better after it’s over.

When I got rejected from colleges I wanted to get into simply for its prestige, I ended up spending my first year at Cooper Union, which was great because I had a full scholarship, and this led me to apply to USC for a transfer, and USC turned out to be an excellent experience for my personal development and growth.

When I graduated in 2010 without a job lined up, I ended up being able to take advantage of the time to join a free Chinese immersion program in Taiwan, and that was one of the most fun things I did in my 20s. I left the program early by one or two days to interview with Turner Construction, a job where I would go on to meet the best coworkers who I’d share so many good times with, and I was able to go into the interviews with jokes about jet lag as I’d just flown back from Taiwan the night before.

When I went through a family breakup over money (my mom’s siblings decided the cost of their relationship with us was only worth $125,000), I learned how money can really change people and I was able to remove a lot of negativity from my life. I also vowed not to let myself be such a slave to money that I’d screw over family members like that.

When I got rejected from out of state MBA programs, I ended up at Columbia, which turned out to be the perfect fit as I didn’t want to do another round of long distance with Daniel. The commute was also not bad because there was a bus two blocks away that took me straight to the Morningside campus.

When we were trying for Chloe it took much longer than expected, and each month was a wave of disappointment, but ultimately we were blessed with the perfect baby and her timing was impeccable in terms of where I was at work and also so we could hibernate in the winter time while she’s so little.

That brings me to the current issue. I tried to think of more examples where I’d felt this way before, but really the ones I’ve listed are more or less it. Right now I’m still in the thick of a terrible situation, so I have absolutely no clarity on why it’s happening and what I can learn from it other than the immediate lessons of not making the same mistake again. I hate feeling so helpless and at the mercy of some authority figure. At least it’s just money. As a friend from Columbia once taught me, if it’s a problem that money can solve, it’s not a real problem. I should be grateful for that, and I am. It’s just been so long since we’ve been stuck in this situation and I am tired. I want this to be over already so I can move on.

Well, at least I’ve learned one thing- it’s nice to have somewhere to write this all out. Unlike a private physical diary, which might get displaced, I’m glad that my children might one day come across this post and I hope they’ll be able to learn something from it. The other day Olivia came home from school seeming very much unlike usual happy self. At age 3, her world is mostly rainbows, sunshine, and butterflies, and I’m proud of the happy childhood Daniel and I have been able to provide her with so far. So it was jarring to see her seemingly hiding some sort of sadness from us. We prodded her to see if we could learn if something was wrong, but ultimately perhaps she was just tired and she was fine as the night went on. Seeing her that way brought a sad thought to my mind that Daniel and I cannot protect her from sadness and disappointment forever. All we can do is help her build a good foundation to deal with the things life will throw at her. I’ve no doubt Olivia will be grow up with the mental strength to handle whatever comes, and I hope we are also able to teach her how to prevent some of these things, but however sad I’m feeling right now, it hurts 10x more to think of one of my children feeling this way. So kids, if you’re reading this, know that if you ever feel super down, you are still very, very much loved and I would do anything I can to help you feel better!

Remember- it’s not a real problem if it can be solved with money.

Events Life

A Belated 100 Day Celebration for Chloe

Since Covid-19 started nearly three years ago, it’s been difficult to plan events more than two weeks in advance, especially now with a vulnerable 3 month old baby. We’d originally planned to celebrate Chloe’s 100 days on the actual day, but had to push it back due to a family member contracting the virus.

Two weeks later, we were finally able to host Chloe’s party, but it really is like we’re in a whole new world since we hosted Olivia’s 100 days three years ago. For Olivia, we were able to have a party at Maiella, a waterfront restaurant in LIC. We were able to invite extended family, friends, and Daniel’s mom’s friends. It barely crossed our minds to wonder if guests were sick, both because we assumed they would know better than to come to a baby celebration if they were, and because it was just not a thing we thought about too much. The only thing on my mind was not wanting people to kiss my baby because I’ve heard horror stories about babies contracting herpes that way.

This time around, we were only comfortable inviting family. We were originally going to host the party at a local upscale sushi restaurant, but due to the recent uptick in covid cases, and the “tridemic” of covid, RSV, and flu that the media keeps talking about, we decided to scale back and have the party at Daniel’s mom’s place. It was still a good time of course, and I think it worked out better since I was more comfortable feeding Chloe there than at a restaurant bathroom, but it’s a little wild to me how different the world is now.

Anyhow, we had some awesome sushi, sashimi, noodles, and a delicious but expensive cake. My adorable moment of the day was when we had Olivia and Chloe take pictures with their great-grandparents, and Olivia held Chloe’s hand without anyone telling her to. She’s naturally so protective of her baby sis and it makes me so happy to see it. Got some nice pictures too, so happy 100 days Chloe love!

Cake by Taste Crème, Topper by CakingAtHome via Etsy

Life Thankful

Husband Appreciation Post

I met my future husband at 15 through an after school work readiness program. We became good friends while working at a summer job and stayed in touch throughout high school, despite attending different schools. I wasn’t ready for a relationship so we didn’t get together until the summer before I left for college…across the country in California. That was a pretty eventful summer, but I’ll save that story for another time.

Daniel was my first boyfriend, my first relationship, my first 3hr (LA to NYC) long distance relationship, and my first 12hr (Hong Kong to NYC) LDR during a semester abroad. Thank goodness we had a solid foundation rooted in friendship, because I don’t know if we could’ve survived long distance otherwise. As a first time girlfriend, I put him through countless emotional rollercoasters. I had very much bought into the storybook and Hollywood ideals of romance, so I thought I was supposed to be treated like a Queen (not wrong there) and Daniel was supposed to fight for me/us and “prove” himself this way (quite ridiculous…but he did pass all the tests!). We’ve been through so many fights in so many places…if it wasn’t for the ground rules set very early in our relationship that Daniel doesn’t curse (which influenced me to curb my sailor mouth) and not to say anything we didn’t mean during fights, our relationship could’ve been considered toxic. However, we mostly fought about wanting to be together but not being able to (family obligations and the long distance thing), and we always found a way to make up and get stronger. With the short time we were actually able to spend physically together the first three years of our relationship, I guess fighting was kind of one way to express our passion and also get to know each other very efficiently. After all, nothing grows in comfort.

(Note for my girls if you are reading this- I am in no way advocating for always fighting with your partner as a sign of a healthy relationship. Your father and I had very specific circumstances and like I said, our fights were not nasty, there were no name calling. It was mostly me testing the limits of the Hollywood romance. I legit once got mad because your dad made a joke about not knowing my birthday. He spent so much time trying to make me feel better about that, poor guy.)

All is to say I know I was a crazy girlfriend and I appreciate my husband for never even suggesting we break up, even though I did because that’s what they do in the movies before they made up. But even though we put all that work into our relationship and made it through three years of long distance, there was really no way to know that we were going to end up together together. In your 20s, so many things change as you evolve individually, but I feel very lucky and blessed that we both changed together instead of drifting apart.

I don’t subscribe to opposites attract in the Hollywood sense anymore. In real life, I think what’s worked for me and Daniel is that we have opposite/complementary skills, but we very much started off sharing common interests (cuisines, humor, and in true Asian form, we both enjoyed advanced math) and we have grown together to share even more (tv shows, travel, Japanese culture, and so much more based on experiences together). He’s great at cooking, I enjoy doing the dishes. I excel at navigation and remember how to get to places, he definitely needs Google Maps or me. I manage big picture ideas and strategy for bobagreen, he executes.

So off we went getting married, and life as a twosome was great. But then came the next life event- having kids, and this is where Daniel has really surprised me with his awesomeness.

After everything that I put him through in our boyfriend-girlfriend years, I knew that Daniel’s patience is one of his strong suites. But seeing how he handles Olivia’s tantrums really shines a whole new light on how patient and understanding he can be. To Olivia’s credit, she doesn’t throw a lot of fits (I like to think it’s because we’ve taught her well, to express her feelings in words, and we model rational behavior as we are now grown adult parents who talk through disagreements), but she is a toddler and sometimes toddlers have big emotions. It’s ok. Sometimes Olivia would just whine and throw herself on the floor because something didn’t go the way she wanted it to, and Daniel would get down to her level, ask her what is bothering her, talk through it as many times as necessary with her, and figure out a solution to her problem. I get impressed because that’s exactly what I would do for our children too, but I didn’t have to tell him. Daniel just does it as if he’s reading my mind and I love how aligned we are on parenting styles. Sometimes Olivia’s tantrums would really push my buttons, so he is able to take over, and I do the same for him. Complementary skills.

When Olivia was still in my belly, I started reading about Montessori and how to raise a child using the Montessori way. The philosophy – letting children lead, respecting the child, encouraging their independence and curiosity – fit perfectly with how I’d envision my parenting style. I was really excited about it, so after reading some books I summed up the important parts for Daniel (I love to read, he really does not) and to my surprise, he didn’t need much convincing to get on board. He agreed that he liked the Montessori way as well as it also spoke to his natural parenting style. Whereas I need to read to get ideas and learn, I was amazed that Daniel knew how to use Montessori principles without much research. I can’t express how important it has become that we are both on the same page when it comes to child rearing. This wasn’t something I was able to plan for when we were just getting to know each other, but it’s another example of us growing together, sprinkled in with a bit of luck, and it makes parenting so much easier and more fun for me because we are truly doing it together.

In our household, I manage planning (finances, kids’ education, weekend activities), and Daniel takes care of physical needs (trash, cleaning, yard work, heavy lifting). We enjoy sharing with each other the things we have in common (movies, shows, restaurants, places to go, things to do). It’s a balanced life and relationship. I don’t question whether he’s doing more or if I’m doing more – I assume we are both trying our best and have the best intentions for our family, and being Daniel’s partner is just natural and easy to me. I am so grateful to call Daniel my husband and I am endlessly thankful for the life and family we’ve built and continue to work on every day.