My Balance, Revisited

Nearly a year ago, I was inspired by a post by Oil and Garlic to write about my balance. So, where do we stand now?

1. What’s your work schedule?

I still drop Baguette off at 7 so I can be at work at (or around) 8, and I still work until 5 and am home a little after 6. All of this is likely to change on Friday, however, because the Rampture is coming–and that means all bets are off. I have no idea what my commute will be like for the next year, except that I know it won’t be good.

2. How do you handle childcare?

We still love Baguette’s day care. Mr. Sandwich’s parents come over to help around the house, but are less likely to babysit on weekend evenings; they have their own busy schedules, and it’s a lot harder to keep up with a toddler than it was to monitor an infant. However, one of her favorite teachers left the day care (not for reasons that concern us), and we’ve had her over for a get-reacquainted evening so that she can sit for us on occasion.

3. What do you find best about your current set-up?

It works, but just barely. Because of our jobs and commutes, we just don’t have enough time with her on workday evenings. We get home, go for a walk, eat dinner, give her a bath (while the other person fixes lunches for the next day), play a little, and go to bed. There just isn’t a lot of leeway in that schedule. But at least we have a routine.

4. What advice would you give to other moms about the juggle?

It doesn’t last forever–at least, not in this form. For a long time, I barely cooked at all. Now, I can manage to make a big batch of food in the slow cooker on Sundays, and that means lunches for several days that week. But being able to do that, which previously I could not, tells me that some day I will be able to cook meals with more than one dish.

5. Do you think the juggle is harder for women than for men?

Yes. There are no Daddy Wars, not even in the media.

Separation Anxiety

For almost a year, J has been involved in a management training program at work. He’s had lots of meetings, a group project, a mentor, you name it. This weekend he also had an overnight retreat to wrap up the program (although there are a couple of months of work remaining).

That meant that yesterday morning I dropped him off so that he could take the charter motorcoach up to Lake Arrowhead. He and his group headed off for the mountains, and I went to a friend’s house to do some scrapbooking.

My scrapbooking efforts are never-ending. We don’t have children yet, but we do have a lot of photos. There are “daily life” photos from individual events (I’m caught up to 2004) and trips (as of yesterday, I’m working on the Caribbean cruise I took with my parents in 2002).

In addition, there are the historic family photos I inherited, which stretch back to the late 1800s. I refer to them as historic not because they have any larger significance, but to distinguish them from the more recent family photos. My mother pretty much abandoned scrapbooking in 1987–although even she was running behind. The last year that went into a book under her auspices was 1977. I’ve made my way into the early 1980s, so I’m making progress. But without a good work surface, it’s slow. I don’t get to my friend’s house very often–she doesn’t live nearby, and we both have busy schedules, particularly since she had a daughter–but I make a lot more progress at her home than I do at mine.

But then I came home to an empty (and with the weather, very VERY hot) apartment. J and I often go our separate ways during the day, but it’s very unusual for one of us to be away overnight. I think he’s probably been away a bit more than I have, because he and his dad have made a couple of hiking trips that required 1 a.m. departures. Those are rare, though, and their last trip of that sort was probably more than a year ago. I’m glad neither one of us has a job that requires lots of overnight travel.

I’m even more glad that he’ll be home tonight!

I Should Be Working Out

But I’m not. However, that still is one of my goals for this afternoon, while J is off on a road bike ride in Malibu.

It’s been a busy weekend, and it’s barely Sunday afternoon. Yesterday we decided to see Iron Man, so we headed over to the theater to buy tickets. However, we soon found that between us and the theater was a huge traffic jam, due to a nearby car show. We decided to continue with our errands and go to a different theater once we were done. The next stop was at the Goodwill donation point, where I gave away the first item for the 29-Day Giving Challenge–a lawn bag full of clothes. Now, there were probably more than 29 items in the bag, so I suppose I could have doled them out over the course of the Challenge. But that doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of much of anything, so I’m counting the bag as one item.

Next, we went to the pool, where I swam 900 meters and J swam 1100. I’m hoping to be swimming twice a week, and doing 1000 on one of those swims for at least a few weeks before the triathlon. We also need to do some ocean swimming, and I still need to get on the bike. Well, not this weekend.

After the pool, we ate at The Stand. This is probably the fanciest hot dog stand you’ll ever eat at. J had the Chili Dog and I had the Kraut Dog. The sauerkraut didn’t have the tang I was hoping for, but the hot dog and bun were quite good. This is a little splurgy for hot dogs, but I’d come back. Oh, and they have Thomas Kemper cream soda on tap, which is very nice.

We made a brief stop at home, where we learned that the car show was over, and headed out for Iron Man. The movie was a lot of fun, and Robert Downey, Jr., did a great job as Tony Stark. I’m still not all that taken with Gwyneth Paltrow, but I think the problems I had with Pepper Potts had more to do with the writing than with Paltrow’s performance.

Back home again, I said, “How do we not own Raiders of the Lost Ark on DVD? Check TiVo and see if it’s showing tonight.” J did and said, “Believe it or not, it’s starting in 10 minutes.” So we watched Raiders (as edited for television) for the umpteen-millionth time. It’s always good.

Today has been a little slower, although of course there was plenty of laundry to do. When J left on the bike, I headed out with a grocery bag full of movies on VHS. We’ve been replacing our VHS tapes with DVDs wherever possible, and the stack of outbound tapes was getting pretty high. This seemed like a worthy second day of giving for the Challenge, so I dropped them off at one of the local libraries.

I’m not sure how I’m going to fulfill the Challenge during the work week, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out. I do know that I need to get up off the couch and work out!

Remembrance of Black Bean Sauce Past

All of my life, we’ve eaten a lot of Chinese food. When my brother and I were very young, our family didn’t eat out much. One of the few excursions we could afford on a semi-regular basis was dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I think there were two reasons for this. For starters, Chinese food was proportionally cheaper than it is now. And also we would only order three dishes–one for my mother, one for my father, and one for both my brother and me (that one was usually Beef with Oyster Sauce).

Later, it turned out that we just liked Chinese food, although the restaurant name wasn’t supposed to be that all-encompassing. In my mother’s opinion, a restaurant that didn’t specify its region wasn’t going to be any good. It wasn’t enough to advertise “Chinese food,” it had to specify Szechwan, Hunan, Cantonese, etc. We liked them all, so a specific region wasn’t the deciding factor. She felt that if the restaurant didn’t have a predominant regional identification, the owners and/or cooks didn’t know enough about the food they were making. Interestingly, many of our favorite restaurants did not meet this standard.

In Rockville, Maryland, the Far East Restaurant was our establishment of choice. Although the naming principle doesn’t seem to have held here, we always noticed that the Chinese patrons got porcelain teapots, while the European-descended patrons got plain metal teapots. These days that policy has changed, and there is equality of teapots at the Far East.

We moved to San Antonio, where we found the Wah Kee Seafood Restaurant. After several years in San Antonio, a multiplex movie theater opened near us, and the Wah Kee opened up in the adjacent shopping center. Another favorite was the Chinatown Cafe, which we liked so much that in 2004 J and I had our wedding rehearsal dinner there.

I found good Chinese food right away when I moved to New Jersey (good Mexican food proved more elusive). Unfortunately, several months later the restaurant burned to the ground. While that was definitely a loss, I can recommend Lotus Cafe in Hackensack and Taipei Noodle House in Teaneck.

There is a surprising lack of good Chinese food on the Westside of Los Angeles. About the best you can do is Hop Li. It’s pretty good, but not what it could be. No doubt this is largely because the center of Chinese restaurants in the area is in the San Gabriel Valley, but it’s still surprising that so densely populated an area can’t do better. When my grandparents lived in Monterey Park, my favorite restaurant was the Dragon Regency, where one night the chef made me a special dish of lemon cod fillets. I never ordered anything else, and eventually they put it on the menu. My grandparents and I were such loyal patrons that not only did they make me special dishes, they also gave me impromptu birthday celebrations, complete with bean cakes and gifts. Prior to our wedding, J and I went to Engaged Encounter (we will never get that weekend back), and I suggested that we have dinner at the Dragon Regency on our way to the seminary. I was devastated to find that the restaurant had closed, and I have yet to find anyone who can make that perfect lemon cod. Not even the excellent NBC Seafood, where we had dinner with two of J’s friends last year, can manage that particular dish.

So Chinese food has always played an important role in my family’s meals, although these days I haven’t got the slightest interest in Beef with Oyster Sauce. Chinese food was my brother’s comfort food when he was home sick from school, and I love it so much that one year I gave it up for Lent. And it’s one of the ways that my brother and I choose to honor my mother on her birthday. The two of them both loved Peking Duck, so that’s one of the dishes he’s sure to order. I don’t order any particular dish–but aside from the Dragon Regency’s lemon cod, I’ve never had one.

Tonight J and I had dinner at Yang Chow, in L.A.’s Chinatown. We found it a couple of years ago with my brother and his girlfriend (now his wife), and it seemed like the right place to celebrate my mother’s birthday this year. That was a good choice, as was the Beef with Black Bean Sauce that the chef made on request (oddly, the menu does include black bean sauce–but only on squid).

I just wish she’d been there to join us.

Yep, It’s a Cold

I’m glad that I bought a really comfortable couch when I moved to New Jersey, and that I brought it with me to California when J and I got married, because I’ve spent a lot of time on it over the past two days. Both days I went to work in the morning, and then came home. Yesterday I spent all afternoon on the couch with a book, and I don’t think today shows signs of being any different.

Sadly, my weekend isn’t going to be a chance to recover. Tomorrow I have a fundraising benefit for my alumni club, and I can’t skip it because I’m the president. That ought to teach me to agree to run for office. After that we’re getting together for my sister-in-law’s birthday dinner. She and my brother are in town, and we’ll be joining them and her dad and stepmom. All of this is good, of course, but I wish I felt healthier so that I could enjoy it more! Plus I’m not entirely sure why people would want to be around me in the condition I’m in. Blech.

By the way, if anyone is looking for the old blogs (Cake Batter and the previous incarnation of Tragic Sandwich), they’re still out there. But rather than reconceive them, I decided to start fresh. But “Tragic Sandwich”? That’s a keeper regardless of blog hosting site.

Christmas Cheer

I’m not training, but I’m definitely eating. Frosted cookies, fudge, carrot cake, gingersnaps, triple sec pound cake–and that’s just the desserts.

I’m also enjoying the influx of holiday cards. I really like seeing all of the photo cards. But here’s a note to many of my friends: your children are adorable, and it’s fun to see them grow up. But you know what? I’d like to know what you look like, too. Include yourselves in the family photos. And if you’re sending a regular card, please don’t pick one with glitter. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and I’d rather it didn’t.

Regardless, I love having a tree decorated, and I really enjoyed having my family spend several days here. It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m having a great time celebrating the season.

And now, let Linus explain the meaning of Christmas.