I want to announce that I survived my teen’s first driving lesson with me 2 weeks ago, but it was survived in a most unremarkable way.

“You can step on it more.” I said to the teen gently.

“Oh”, then the car picked up a bit more speed.

A short while later.

“You can drive a little faster.” me.

“How fast should I go?” teen.

“Well, this is an empty lot. You can go 15- 20 miles per hour.” me.

Empty lot good for driving lesson

“Oh!”, the car picked up speed, only to slow down again shortly after.

I had not expected this driving lesson to test my patience, which is often in short supply.

I turned to look at my teen, who was tensely looking ahead, with both hands tightly holding on to the wheel.

“Should I get out of the car, and push it from behind for you?” me.

The teen laughed, then protested with, “I am scared of going too fast.”

“You are going at 5 miles per hour! You need to drive faster, if we want to try driving on a real road later.” me.

“I am afraid of your car! It is so huge and expensive!” teen.

My mind momentarily went back to the mid 1980’s, when I was 16 years old, learning to drive in an empty parking lot with my uncle. My father was working 6 days a week far away from home, and I wanted to learn to drive. So my uncle offered to give me lessons. In his old beat up Pinto.

Pinto had been discontinued in 1980, and those who know the Pinto might remember it as a laughable car whose best selling feature was being cheap. But this car had been my uncle’s first car since arriving to America. He was mighty proud of it.

So, there I was, driving the old Pinto painfully slow in the empty lot. I had a real excuse for not wanting to go fast. The Pinto had no power brakes!! I bet most of you have no idea what that even means.

It means when you want to slow down or stop the car, you have to step on it with the force of your full body weight like Fred Flintstone!!!

“Okay, so this is a big car. But it drives smoothly. Haven’t you noticed, you pressed down on the gas pedal lightly, the car immediately responds with speed, you press down on the brake lightly, it immediately slows down or stops.” me.

“That is true! This car does drive nice.” teen.

“So don’t be afraid. Trust yourself, and trust the car. Now, let’s drive.” me.

After many more rounds in the parking lot, I instructed my 16 year-old to take the car onto the real road.

Open road

“Wow! I am going 40 (mph)!” teen.

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We picked out a beautiful day to visit San Francisco.

Golden Gate bridge

It was sunny, clear, and warm.

We had another reason for driving north on Saturday. I found this 100% gluten-free restaurant in Sausalito, a town just north of San Francisco.

Crossing the Golden Gate to Sausalito

Sausalito is an upscale seaside town full of tourists, bikers, outdoor cafes, ice cream parlors, bakeries, and countless boutique stores and art galleries.


Sausalito on a Saturday morning

The trouble with 100% gluten free restaurants is that I always order too much food. At most regular restaurants, my celiac child often only has 2 meals to choose from, so at Copita, I set my baby loose to eat everything.

By the end of the meal, we still had 2 full plates that were hardly touched.

24 hour carnitas

Half roasted Chicken

But we still saved room for their amazing gf desserts. And we had to ordered an extra dessert to go.

1 left as soon as this dessert arrived at our table

After lunch, we headed to Pier 39, a.k.a. Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco's Pier 39

Apparently a whole lot of people had the same idea. The Pier was packed with visitors.

We joined the crowd, sipped on drinks, bought snacks, fruits, and window shopped.

Pier 39's Mini donuts

Pier 39's fruit stand

We enjoy an outing to San Francisco every couple of months or so. We always have fun there.

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In plotting my baby’s road map to college, it occurred to me that she could use a backup sport. This kid may not make it on our high school’s highly competitive volleyball team.

I decided on golf. Why? Because it is better than badminton or bowling.

I offered golf lessons to the baby.

“Golf!? Is that even a real sport? I don’t think it is a real sport.” said the baby, totally unimpressed.

“Of course it is a real sport! It is even a big sport! They play these games on TV all the time.” me, defensive of the choice I made for her benefit.

“It is so boring to watch!” baby.

“It must be much more fun to play than to watch. Lots of people play golf.” me.

“Hey, how about we learn to play golf together?” me, fixated on achieving my goal.

Learning to golf

“You are on! I am going to kick your butt at golf!” baby, obnoxiously approving the plan.

The baby and I signed up for a package of 5 semi private lessons at a local golf course.

Two lessons and two rounds of driving ranging practices later, I was the undisputed better golfer.

The mommy golfer

The baby was not pleased, but not surrendering, and waved a fist at me, “NEXT time!… I will kick your butt.”

Last Sunday, after hitting 3 buckets of golf balls with the baby at a driving ranging, I was nursing the sore muscle on my right arm, and a new callus on my left hand.

“And you don’t think golf is a real sport…my arm is so sore.” me.

The baby popped up from the sofa, arms on her waist, chin pointed at me, and said, “ What is wrong with you! I did rock climbing for 2 hours yesterday, then volleyball for 2 hours, then played golf with you today, and I am not sore at all.”

The baby golfer

Whoever said that girls are all sugar and spice, neglected to add that this blend of sugar and spice turned into a bag of sassy when aged.

I wobbled my arms at her, “I have these noodle arms!”

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I found out that our Chinese school was closed for good the week before it was set to start. I wanted to complain that they didn’t notify us sooner, but I couldn’t find anyone to bark at.

The next best thing to do was to find a new school. I quickly hit up my trusted know-it-all friend we call google, and located another weekend Chinese school in the area. It is no where as close to home as our former school, but still within tolerable driving distance.

I called up the school immediately, and got invited to go to the school that afternoon with my baby. They wanted to make sure that the baby is qualified to enroll in their 8th grade class.

I brought along our old 7th grade class textbook, and the final test paper, where it was clearly marked a 100% for verbal test, and 99% for written test.

Old 7th grade Chinese textbook, and A+ final test paper

Of course we are qualified to enroll in the 8th grade class!!

“Your textbook has pinyin everywhere. Our 8th grade textbook has no pinyin at all.” the Chinese teacher at the new school stated as she flipped through our book. She showed no interest in our proud test paper. This was a bummer.

She walked over to a cabinet, pulled out a drawer, and pulled out a book.

“I think our 6th grade textbook is more suited for her.” she walked over with the book.

My baby took the book from her weakly. The poor child looked intimidated.

The teacher took the book back from her, flipped to a page, and said, “Here, read the first paragraph.”

The baby stared down at the page, and I leaned over to peak at the paragraph. The cursed paragraph was based on a Chinese idiom story starring a Chinese general.

Ancient Chinese general and his horse race

“This paragraph is kind of hard. She does not know how to read “general”, and this general has a difficult Chinese name.” this lame excuse served as my best effort to help out my nervous child.

“Oh yes, this is a difficult lesson to read.” said the teacher, finally showing off that she can smile.

“Here, read this first paragraph in the first lesson.” she opened the book to the beginning.

The baby sent another pleading glance at me.

“What is that” I pointed to the title.

The Star Fruit

“Oh, you don’t know. That is a fruit.” she looked at us, then added, “ well, we don’t have them here. It is fruit that looks like a star when you cut into it.”

The Star fruit. We have seen them up on a tree in Hawaii once.

“She has been out of the school for the whole summer. She forgets everything. I think it is hard to read about something you don’t know.” me, continuing my bid to bail out the pitiful looking thing that sat next to me.

“No problem….” she took the book back and flipped some more, “ Here, how about the Great Wall! Everybody knows that. Read the first paragraph. Or any paragraph is fine.”

The Great Wall of China

“You have been to the Great Wall, remember? You can read it.” I said to the poor baby cheerfully. There was no getting out of reading with this teacher.

The baby struggled with the paragraph the best she could, skipping many characters, red-faced, and sweating on the forehead.

“You guys don’t speak Chinese at home.” she said to me accusingly.

“We do…sometimes…” I fumbled for words, and added, “she understands Chinese very well.”

“Oh, you speak to her in Chinese, and she answers back in English?” teacher.

“She knows how to speak Chinese.” me, insisted.

“The most she can enroll in our school is 6th grade.” she said to me.

The baby and I shared a look.

“Okay.” We surrendered fast.

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I had an exceptional summer…. I didn’t get to go anywhere fun this summer.

I spent the whole summer driving my kids to their summer job, summer school, and summer camps. Actually, that is not all I did. I pestered my teen all summer long to get her driver’s license.

I thought all teens will leap into action on the day that they are just old enough to drive. But my teen allowed her 15 and half birthday slip past without making a peep.

“Don’t you want to drive?” I asked, driving her to school one morning.

“No, not really.” teen, shrugging her shoulders.


“Why not?!” me.

“I don’t need to. You drive me everywhere I want to go.” teen.

Hum….The kid is wise. Why bother with driving when you have a 5-star rated personal chauffeur at your disposal?

“But I want to retire from driving you around!!” me.

“Oh! I will try to get my license then.” teen.

That was a conversation 6 months ago.

Nag, nag, nag, pester, pester, pester.

I made an appointment for my teen to take her written test last Wednesday at our local DMV office.

I hate going to the DMV office. A trip to the DMV office always feels like stepping into a tiny communist country run by uncaring dictators.

We stood in the line for people with appointments.

A stone faced DMV lady waved us to her station. I promptly produced our application and birth certificate, a required certificate for teens to take the written test.

“I need documentation that shows proof of address.” DMV lady.

I had called and looked online, nowhere did it say that we need to bring proof of address documentation.

I scrambled to see if I had anything with me. Hey, my driver’s license has my address on it.

“We don’t accept driver’s license as a valid form of proof of address.” DMV lady.

WHAT?! The DMV won’t accept my driver’s license. They issue these things.

“Oh, I have my vehicle registration in my car, that has my address on it.” me.

“Go get it, then get back in line.” DMV lady.

We got back in line with my car registration paper in hand.

I hand her everything, along with my registration card.

“We need two forms of proof of address documentation.” DMV lady.

“Oh, I also have my driver’s license….” me.

“We don’t accept driver’s license.” DMV lady.

“Well, I don’t have anything else with my address on it.” me.

“You can go home, and get another documentation.” DMV lady hand me back everything, trying to wave me away.

“What about my appointment? Will you still honor my appointment?” me.

“Your appointment is at 2:40, you have half an hour, you need to be back by 3:10” DMV lady, waving the next people to approach.

I needed Superman to fly me home and be back by 3:10.


Get A Driver's License !

I had set a goal of getting her driving written test done before school. School was starting on Monday!

I drove out of the DMV parking lot, turned into the next street, and saw: BANK OF AMERICA.

Capitalist to the rescue…

I swung into the B of A parking lot, ran into the office, and asked a friendly personal banker to print me a banking statement.

I was back in line at the DMV office, and got to our DMV lady station by 3:07.

We made it!

A short while later, we were called into another window. Then to the station to get the photo ID picture taken, then on to the testing area.

I went to sitting area and waited.

20 minutes later. Two teens came out of the testing area, and informed their parents that they did not pass the written test.

You can fail this test? I thought this is one of those tests where everyone can pass.

Oh no, I can’t stomach another round of this torture.

I spotted my teen coming out, looking long faced. A sinking feeling assaulted me.

“How was the test?” I asked.

“I passed.” teen answered looking unhappy.

We waited around some more, and finally got our driver’s permit.

“Congratulations!! ! You can now take driving lessons.” me, inside the car, very happy.

“Cool.” teen.

“Why do you look unhappy?” me.

“My picture ID is terrible! When can I change that picture?” teen, looking at me all sad eyed.

Ha, ha, I can’t wait to see it.

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Category: Kids, Parents  One Comment

Last week I had the best week ever! All thanks to a wacky idea I dreamed up the week before.

Two weeks ago:

“I really miss when you guys were little! Living with teens is not nearly as fun.” me.

“Because we are not as cute as before?” the baby.

When they were still cute

“That is true! But it is not even that. You guys act all moody on me for no reason at all. ALL the time!” me, and continued with an angry passion, “you take your anger out on me, and I didn’t even do anything to you!! I don’t even know why you are mad!!!”

“Like what?” said my 15 year-old, with an air of being falsely accused.

“Exactly! I have no idea WHAT. You gave me the silent treatment when you are mad, and won’t tell me what is bothering you.” me.

“I do NOT!” teen.

“You do too.” the baby beat me to it.

“And you!” I pointed at the baby, “you are not even thirteen yet, you are already giving me teen attitude.”

“Like what?” said the 12 year-old, look innocent.

“You make ugly noises, and grunt at me for no season when you are in a bad mood.” me.

“I don’t do that!” the baby.

“Yeah you do!” 15 year-old shot right back at the little one.

“I don’t deserve any of this. And I am quite bored with your moodiness.” me.

“What do you mean bored?” teen.

“You guys are in bad moods a lot, so it is always the same every week. The same silent treatment, and the hollering.” me.

Then an idea popped into my head…

“Hey, how about we mix it up a little? If you guys want to use me as a punching bag, at least make it interesting for me.” me.

“Like how?” the kids.

“Next week, when you are mad,” pointed at the baby, “ you give me the silent treatment for a change.”

“And when you are mad,” pointed at the 15 year-old, “You holler and grunt for a change”

The kids exchanged a look with one another, and said, “Okay.”

One week ago:

When baby got mad, I reminded her of the silent treatment, then I went on like this:

1) No, no, too angry. You are to give the aura of anger, without displaying too much anger on your face.
2) No, no, not pouting. Pouting looks like you are just trying to have your way. It is not proper silent treatment. Flatten out those lips.
3) No, no, never direct eye contact with me. Direct eye contact looks like you are angry at me. Silent treatment is very vague. I just know that you are unhappy, but I am not sure why or with whom. Then I try to think really hard, and go crazy.
4) No, no, that is just not it. You go to your sister, and practice with her. She is really good at silent treatment.
5) No, no. Angrier. Angrier!!!

When the official teenager got mad, then I went on like this:

1) No, no, that just sound constipated.
2) No, okay, you don’t sound constipated anymore. You sound like you are succeeding at pooping.
3) No, not that kind of grunt. You sound like you’re in pain. We don’t want pain here, we want anger.
4) Louder!! It needs to sound more like a howler monkey. A very angry howler monkey!Hollering and showing off big sharp teeth!!!
5) No, no, the corners of your mouth are curving up. There can be no smiling here.

The kids failed miserably with their cross anger display. They quit trying, and were nice and pleasant with me for the rest of the week.

This week:

The kids came up to me, “Mom, this week, we decided that you and dad should switch roles.”

I considered it for a brief second.

“He can’t play me! I make all the food. Your dad can’t cook. He only knows how to use the microwave.” me.

“That’s okay. He can buy food.” the teen.

“He has very little to say. He can’t make talk to you guys all day, and for a whole week!” me.

“And you have to be quiet all week.” teen.

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Sometimes, there are perks that come with chronic diseases, like a membership to a very exclusive and impressive club.

Last weekend, my 12 year-old and I descended to Pasadena, CA to attend Celiac Disease Foundation’s National Conference and Gluten Free Expo.

Celiac Disease Foundation National Conference & Gluten Free Expo 2016

Upon checking in at the registration, in addition to our name badges, the smiling staff handed us two gigantic bags filled with gluten free treats. We were sad that we only had room to bring one bag home on our plane ride.

Free gluten free samples

The conference hall greeted us with wonderful displays of 100% gluten free breakfast buffet.

Gluten free breakfast and lunch at the Celiac Annual Conference

We cheered that the food options were not limited to protein and eggs. No! They had pancakes, donuts, bread, and bagels, too.

gluten free bread and bagels

My baby took a plate, walked from station to station, tried to figure out how to eat the most of everything, and regretted having only one stomach.

Celiac people (and their care takers) from all over the country congregated here to attend this conference.

The conference set up

It was very easy to socialize with other attendees. A certain flawed gene made us all close allies, and turned strangers into quick friends.

At 8:30AM, the conference kicked off right on time. A string of keynote speakers from the medical profession, to scientists in research, to PhD’s in biotech, to nutrition specialists took the podium to deliver the latest findings in Celiac research, gluten free food, and the path to a cure.

Speaker on the podium

Why is Celiac disease a disease, and not an allergy? Celiac is in fact an autoimmune disease. When protein from wheat, barley, and rye entered into a celiac patient’s body, the patient’s immune system will attack it and cause damage to the patient’s small intestine, rendering it unable to absorb nutrients. There are currently no cure or medication for celiac disease, the only treatment is to follow a lifelong dietary restriction of eating gluten free.

So, it makes sense to host a gluten free expo next to the conference with the most ferocious gluten free eaters in the country.

Gluten free expo hall

The following day, the baby and I spent hours walking booth to booth to sample the various gluten free treats: cupcakes, brownies, pastas, bagels, donuts, pizza, pot stickers, bread, sausages, soup, gourmet sauces, and even ice cream.

“Mom, we got to do this again next year. This is the best gluten free buffet ever!” 12 year-old said with two thumbs up.

Having fun at the conference

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Merely a month after snowboarding at Whistler, Canada, we found ourselves on the sands of Maui for Spring break.

To the beach!

Yes, it is really rough being me.

We visit Maui frequently, and being regular visitors, we don’t need to jam pack our vacation days with activities that are must dos on Maui. Because we have already done everything twice over.

So, everyday we just keep doing what we enjoy the most on this island: hitting the beaches.

Maui's sandy beach

Early in the morning, we grab our gear, and head to our favorite snorkeling spots to snorkel.

I have taught both of my children to snorkel since they were five years old, and my teen can snorkel dive like a pro.

My teen chasing after a colorful fish

When you can dive, you can take beautiful photos of things under the sea close up.

A beauty under the sea

You can also harass a poor eel out of its cave to go somewhere else. Sorry!

An eel getting away from us

We hiked on little known trails to reach our favorite beach front restaurant.

Beach trail

Avocado and crab omelette

It is okay to order alcohol with your breakfast on Maui.

tropical drinks

Then we go for a swim in the ocean.

A morning dip in the ocean

In the afternoons, we go to our favorite boogie board beach to play with the surf.

Boogie boarding at Kamaole III beach

And we boogie board until sunset.

Boogie boarding until sunset

Then we go out and feast on catch of the day.

Whole Opakapaka fish

And we always remember to save room for dessert!

The Black Pearl

Next morning, we start over with snorkeling again, and repeat.

My little mermaid

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I wished I had a picture to show you. But I was too busy holding my stomach and laughing to think to snap one…

Last weekend, my teen and I drove to a popular Chinese shopping center for a late lunch. As expected, the shopping center was packed. I was resigned to drive in circles a few times in order to find a parking spot.

But I was lucky! As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, a car further up was spotted to be pulling out. Even better, it had no stalker car following it! Mine!

Just as I drove to the open stall, a middle aged lady wearing a flowery dress stepped right into the middle of it, and was yapping away on her cell phone.

I flipped on my turn signal to let her know that I wanted to park where she was standing.

She glared at me. Shook her head. Pointed at the ground with her index finger, then padded her chest.

WHAT?! But you are not a car!

I glared right back at her, aided by a deep frown, then waved at her to get out of my way.

She stood her ground, and refused further eye contact with me.

I decided against mowing her down, only because I don’t want to go to jail. I drove off.

So I started to patrol the the large parking lot looking for an open spot. Just as I feared, I was driving in circles looking for people to leave.

I came around her aisle two more times. She was still standing her ground there. And she was pissing off other drivers who also thought that they could park there. I even saw a closed fist waving at her out of a rolled down window.

This lady must have skin thick as a hippopotamus to be guarding a parking spot like that for an extended period of time, with many cars circling the shopping center for parking spaces.

Finally, I found a parking stall somewhere in the middle of the shopping center. As I exited my car, I saw in the distance a small crowd had gathered where that lady was standing, and a black car was clearly trying to get into her standing spot.

Uh…I would love to see someone finally chase this obnoxious witch out of “her” stall. I quicken my pace to go see the big show down, dragging my teen behind me.

After walking around the shops, I finally got to where this lady was. I quickly noted that the crowded has dispersed by then.

The lady was still standing there, looking angry, but more wide eyed and stunned!!!

Then I held my stomach and laughed out loud. This was the funniest thing I ever saw.

The driver of that black car had parked his car horizontally in front of “her” parking stall, and left.

Ha, ha, haa….

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Category: Humor  Leave a Comment

We came home late Saturday night, and found our home phone answer machine blinking like crazy. I have been offline and unreachable for a whole week.

We took the kids on a snowboarding trip to Whistler, Canada, last week. Although Canada does not feel very foreign from the US, it is indeed another country, so AT&T wanted to charge me a hefty roaming charge, plus international calling and text rates. I decided to shut my phone off for a whole week. I am cheap like that.

So, how was Whistler?


Whistler Mountain Ski Resort

It’s majestic duo mountains were the home of the 2010 Winter Olympic.

It has a huge village, with an extensive number of restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops (the village had two Starbucks!), grocery stores, and endless shops throughout.

Whistler Village at night

We spent 5 glorious days on the slopes.

The kids riding down the slopes

It was never boring. In addition to a massive number to trails to choose from, the mountain was ever changing.

Which run??

You could have clear blue sky, and find yourself floating on top of the clouds one moment,

My baby on top of the clouds

to dense fog on a different section of the mountain,

Seriously foggy, can't see the trail ahead

to punishing whiteout condition,

Braving the whiteout condition

to warmer slushy conditions near the base.

It is so nice of the schools to offer a ski week off in the middle of the February every year.

The cool one.

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