Mae-Ling's Blog
blogging in Shanghai

July 2008
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My Young Padawan
Filed under: General
Posted by: Mae-Ling @ 7:48 am

A Padawan is an apprentice who learns how to use the Force from a Jedi master. The Star Wars Clone Wars animation is coming out in August, and Kyle and I started reading a children’s book which tells the story.  It’s perfect timing for me to work on my new parenting focus of teaching Kyle good behavior.

After reading the first couple of chapters, I came up with the idea that Kyle is my Padawan, and I am his Master. Taken straight from the book (it’s great that Annakin is his role model who must learn to control his emotions because we know what happened to him…), I can now remind Kyle that it’s a privilege for him to be learning the ways of the Force (rules and manners), and that it’s his duty to practice to be good at it and to respect me as well. I’ve also told him that a Padawan’s job is to shadow and mimic his Master’s moves, but he can also help me by being mindful of appropriate behavior. For instance, sometimes I get tired and cranky and might snap at him. That’s not behavior becoming of a true Master.

We’ve been talking a lot about how to work through his tantrums. They’re so exhausting!  I already told him next time he gets upset, I’m going to ride it out. All he gets is my hair (it calms him to touch my hair).

May the Force be with us during our training!

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A Real Summer Vacation
Filed under: General
Posted by: Mae-Ling @ 7:38 am

I’m in Hawaii with Kyle and staying at Alan’s mom’s house. It’s a familiar setting which is stable for Kyle and comfortable for me. After our Disney cruise to the Mexican Riviera (an adventure more than a vacation) and 2 weeks in the Bay Area, I was really looking forward to finally having a real vacation - no schedule, beach time, undistracted time to read, and most importantly, an opportunity to truly relax and pursue what brings me joy - all the above plus scrapbooking, writing in my diary (now blogging), quality time with Kyle, and hopefully, going to the movies as well. One other important aspect about a real vacation is I finally get a chance to slow down and think about my life, my dreams, my goals, and plans for the future. I’m a big believer of “happy parent makes a  happy child and marriage”, and isn’t that what we ultimately want in life? I have more energy and focus to live my life successfully, to love and give to the people and community around me, when I first take care of myself. It’s my personal vision statement. I think it’s a bit Ophrahish.

I’m aware of how extremely fortunate I am to be living the life I have. For the most part this blog will focus on the positives. But, I also want to admit that life isn’t all glossy for me. There are stresses and challenges as well, which are too personal for blogging. I say this so that whoever reads my blog is aware that I’m not living a charmed life every day, that my life is not perfect, but generally speaking, I am happy with the cards dealt to me.

Blogging is interesting as I am fully aware of everything I write is accessible to friends, family, and perhaps even strangers who happen to visit Therefore, I don’t necessarily write as freely as I’m careful about what I’m writing.  One trick to blogging I’ve learned is to just cut and paste portions of emails to friends or even Alan where I was writing from my heart and uncensored. Admittedly, it’s a great way to document my thoughts without having to save all theose emails. Some entries below may also just be a summary of what’s going on in my activity-filled life.

So here goes:

August Schedule and Ladies Fundraising Luncheons (from an email to a SH friend)

My August is crazy! The first week I’m back I have 2 sets of visitors and an overnight to Suzhou on the weekend.  The 2nd week I’ll be joining Alan in Lijiang  (Yunan). He has a meeting at the Banyan Tree so I couldn’t miss that opportunity to join him! Then the 3rd week, Alan has another meeting in Spore so Kyle and I will join and catch up with friends in Spore before heading to HK the 4th week to visit family and friends. We’ll be celebrating my godmother’s Aunt Rose’s 60th birthday.  And, at this point September and October look full as well with more travel. Alan will be getting a 4-week sabbatical from PayPal during those months.

On a personal volunteer front, I’ve turned my Ladies Luncheons with young mommy and professional lady friends into Fundraising Luncheons. I’ll be choosing a different group every month. Before I left SH in June, I was able to raise 7k rmb for Half the Sky’s Children’s Earthquake Fund with just 30 ladies! I still think about organizing another AWC (American Women’s Club) family event or even mommy orientation, but I’ll just have to see how that fits my schedule. Kyle is starting 1st grade at new school in September so I also want to make sure I’m available to help him with the transition.
More about Ladies Fundraising Luncheons
I was recently quoted in a City Weekend (SH expat magazine) article written by Kathy Lawn, a SH friend and one of the founders of Kidtown:
Family Matters
Mothers get involved in order to help out the community

The Shanghai mom community is a subculture that is so much more than just a group of moms chit-chatting over lunch. Once you have a child, you become much more sensitive to the plight of children around the world. Something in your heart is triggered whenever you hear about a suffering child and you look at your own thriving child and wonder what you ever did to deserve such a lucky life. To spread this luck, I wanted to share more information on community organizations in Shanghai.
Mae-Ling Tien, mother of one, moved here from the U.S. three years ago. At first, she organized monthly morning “Mommy Teas” to gather friends together. “A year later,” she explains, “these ‘Mommy Teas’ turned into ‘Ladies Luncheons’ to include working moms and friends who didn’t have families yet.” After the recent events of the Sichuan earthquake, naturally, she decided to use her network of friends to hold fundraisers. Her first Ladies Fundraiser featured the Half the Sky’s Children Earthquake Fund. Half the Sky is a community organization that trains and places nannies in orphanages to work one-on-one with orphans as well as trains preschool teachers to teach in rural areas in China. Tien plans to continue these fundraising luncheons in the fall.
…If we all take five minutes out of our days to do something good for someone else, just imagine how much positive energy we can create in this massive city that we live in.
Email to Alan - July 26, 2008 - Raising a Son
Hi Sweetie,
It’s 11:15pm my time Sat night (in Hawaii) so that should be 7:15pm Sunday your time (in Sydney). Kyle was getting cranky right before 9pm so I got him to bed. I realized he has absolutely no bedtime routine so that’s yet another thing I need to work on with him.  He needs boundaries and consequences whether he likes them or not. I’m beginning to feel what I’m dealing with is a product of our own parenting (or lack of) and structure. Kids need a routine. We travel a lot, but we can still enforce rules for going to bed, TV time, eating sweets, etc. I don’t think moving around is the only issue. We are ultimately in charge of guiding his life no matter where we are each day and night. I think this is where the family retreat would be helpful so we make it clear to Kyle how we want to live as a family and involve him on what rules we’ll be making and enforcing.  I feel that what I discovered about our marriage back in Feb (and since then I’m extremely pleased with how far we’ve grown - and I hope it continues) is similiar to a wake-up call with Kyle now. If we don’t take action now, it’s only going downhill.  Let’s make sure Kyle stays a priority with us.
The good thing about Kyle going to bed by 9pm is I was able to catch up on magazines the last 2 hours. Your mom has a great collection of magazines! I love one interview question for Obama about his Middle East trip from Time magazine:
Was there anything you saw on this trip that changed your mind? John McCain, as you know, is saying, “Well, he already knew what he was going to think before he got there.”
Obama:  Well, I thought John also suggested that I’m always changing my mind, so he’s got to make up his mind about what he says about my mind.
Did I mention I was watching the Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus concert with Kyle tonight? (after note: the next day at the beach Kyle was singing her songs to himself while building sand castles) He wasn’t completely into it (he missed seeing the Jonas Brothers as I knew it was time for him to go to bed), but surpisingly, he knew one of her songs “Nobody’s Perfect” and even sang the first two lines before she performed it (looked this up on internet):
Everybody makes mistakes
Everybody has those days…
I actually realized she is a good role model with her songs. Here’s one other part which I repeated to Kyle:
Sometimes I’m in a jam
I’ve gotta make a plan
It might be crazy
I do it anyway
If I’m not doin’ too well
Why be so hare on myself?
Nobody’s perfect
I got work at it
Again and again
’til I get it right
I still dream about having a second child, hopefully a daughter to grow up with girl things like Hannah Montana! Instead I have Transformers, Bionicles, TMNT, and Ben 10 for our son. But, at least I like how Star Wars can help teach things with the Force and training at a young age. I think it would help if we found better role models for Kyle beyond all the superheroes.
On a different note, but still about music, I read that Yaz just came out with new new CD which has all their old songs re-mixed plus new ones.  When I return maybe you can help update my Shuffle with new songs including the “Only You” remix.
Love ya!
I Call It Mid-Wife Crisis - email to a girlfriend July 24th, 2008
You’re not alone. Back in February, I was really down about Alan and my marriage. The way I described it to him was I felt like it was a slow death since it’s not like we were arguing all the time.  It has been a lot of work to focus on re-building our marriage, and as you were asking, yes, Alan had to be a participant. I’ve been reading some books, too. Some to consider:

by Gary Chapman:

The Five Languages of Love

(my language is somewhere between Words of Affirmation and Quality Time; Alan’s is Acts of Service)

Love as a Way of Life (his newest one I’m reading now)

by Echart Tolle

The Power of Now (Alan has started reading it - check out his blog)
A New Earth (Ophah totally endorses this one for her book club)

by John Gray

Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus (good to read when you’re dating)

Forever Together (makes it more relevant for married couples who have lived together; gave me hope that Alan can support me emotionally)

I’m sorry it’s a tough battle for you… Hang in there. I’m a true believer in there was something which brought you together, and if you can re-discover that and figure out how to open communications, things can get better.

And, it helps when your children are so beautiful and loving!! Sometimes I just tell Alan that Kyle knows how to love his mom - why can’t you? ha ha!!

ML’s Summer Reading List Highlights
by Michel D. Borba

12 Simple Secrets of Real Moms

(has made me realize I have a lot of work/improvements to make as a mom and maybe one of the best and maybe last parenting books I have/need to read; one great idea is Alan and I will start a family retreat tradition to talk about our individual and family values and goals)

by Stephanie Meyers

Twilight Series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn)

from Wikipedia: Twilight is a young adult vampire novel written by author Stephenie Meyer, originally published in hardcover in 2005. It is the first book of the Twilight series, and introduces seventeen-year-old Isabella “Bella” Swan who moves from Phoenix, Arizona to Forks, Washington and finds her life in danger when she falls in love with a vampire, Edward Cullen.

from an email to Alan recently: The cover of Entertainment Weekly has the actors for the movie “Twilight” which is the vampire book I read on the cruise.  Turns out this random book I picked up is the next Harry Potter phenomenon! It’s amusing to me that I just found this book (not sure if you remember it took me forever to choose 1 book that day we played Scrabble). As you recall, I was really engrossed with the book, and no wonder. Literally, the book has sold millions. The 4th and final book comes out August 2nd (darn I’m going to miss getting it, but I still have 2 books in between to read). They say the fan club base is huge. Publishers didn’t think there would ever be another Harry Potter type of gem, and one year later it happened!

One other appeal is the author is a mother with 3 young kids and has a fan club of just moms. I may have to join…

also by Stephanie Meyers

The Host - for grown-ups!

by Joshua Ferris

Then we Came to the End - still deciding if I like this book which makes me reminisce about my Apple and dot-com days at GreatEntertaining.

by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief - an ‘06 best seller now in paperback

also from Wikipidia:  The Book Thief is set in Germany, during and post-World War II. The story is told from the point of view of Death, a reluctant collector of souls, who doesn’t enjoy the job appointed to him. One of the few pleasures he has is in the story of the book thief, Liesel Meminger, whom he encounters three times. Liesel’s story begins when she and her brother are sent away by their mother to the Hubermanns, a foster family…


I guess I’m a junkie for self-help type of books and bestsellers, and now I’m finding young adult books (which are intended for all ages) fun to read as well. Earlier this year, I zipped through The Golden Compass series by Philip Pullman. My theory is just before and even during the Disney cruise, Alan and I got hooked on the idea of dreaming.We saw “Shark Boy and Lava Girl” by chance in our hotel room with Kyle, and this whole idea of capturing and living out your childhood dreams really inspired us. Following our chlidhood dreams may be the key to finding our true passions.  Perhaps another reason I’m so drawn to the young adult books (other than the fact that it’s easy reading) is because I find them to be more imaginative on a young heart and mind level, and it just feels good to go back to that time in my life when I can dream again. I find adult books make me ponder and think and contemplate about life. Young adult books opens up my eyes to a time of innocence and perspective on life which isn’t cluttered with grown-up issues. And, they’re just plain fun!

A few weeks ago when I first went home to the Bay Area, I dug up all my old diaries to try to remember what my childhood dreams were.  I found more than just my dreams. I think two passions I found were how important friends are to me (and my current realization that my relationships with girlfriends around the world could also use some maintenance on my part) and my love for giving gifts.


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