Friday, March 31, 2006

The Sociopath Next Door..

It seems like everyone has a problem friend. No matter where you live or what you do, there always seem to be that one person that just upsets the rest of the balance in the group. We try a variety of measures to cope with this person. In my circle of friends, we even tried the kill her with kindness tactic. We started to refer to this difficult person as our "pro bono" friend. Our line of logic was that if we spent enough time with her, and she saw how we interacted with each other and with our children, maybe some of our better parenting traits would rub off on her. Not that we are perfect, but as a collective group, I must say we've got a pretty good handle on this job we call being a mom.

But, alas our pro bono problem only grew more tiresome. I managed to remove myself from this person last year when after repeated attempts at just taking me for granted, I created a boundary that she hasn't even come close to crossing. As Thing Two tells it "she's afraid of you Mom!".

Recently, some new friends have joined us in our neighborhood group of moms. When retelling of the escapades of our resident toxic female, the newbie said "oh man, you SO HAVE TO READ this book". It is called The Sociopath next door by Martha Stout.

I wasn't making any promises. After all, I've already admitted my issues with reading non fiction. But, I found the topic to be fascinating and was thus able to get over the fact that it is a nonfictional work. The author does a good job of weaving interesting case studies into her presentation so you are being enlightened/educated while also being entertained (if it is proper to admit to being entertained by the tales of misery involving others?)

For starters: did you realize that 4% of the population has no conscience? And that absence of conscience is the basic element of a sociopath? Not every sociopath goes on to commit the horrific acts we often think of when we hear this term. In fact, most identified criminals are not sociopaths but instead have normal personalities whose behavior is the product of negative social factors such as drugs and abuse.

Well, without boring you to tears, I will say the jury is still out on whether our resident toxic friend is a sociopath. I'm not a psychiatrist, nor do I pretend to play one on the internet. But I would say that enough of the traits described in this book apply to her and add insight into the frequent tales of woe that star her and her family. So, at least for now, I will have to say, yes, there seems to be a sociopath next door (thankfully, not technically next door but close enough).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Metrosexuals sprouting up all over the House of Chang

It started when hubby started to hang pictures here at the new house. I realized he had a "real eye" when it came to grouping photos and awards and creating a couple "I love me" walls. I remarked that he was morphing into a metrosexual. Needless to say, he was not amused with my lame attempt at humor/teasing. Yet, he continued to hang a wallpaper border in Thing Ones room (on his own, not because it was a request of mine). His most recent project has been creating poster sized enlargements of car related art to hang in the garage. If he starts to take an interest in skin care and hair products, the deal is sealed: he'll receive his welcome packet into the Metrosexual Club!

Well, now it appears as though Thing Two is also showing signs of being in tune with the world of appearance. Today while getting dressed, he rejected three different shirts determining that they were no longer in style! My six year knows and even worse, cares about "style"? This is so wrong! It is supposed to be one of the perks of having boys: they don't make an big production of what to wear. Grab the essentials and go, right?

Thankfully, the stylish shirt he finally decided on: had a Harley Davidson featured on the front. Big sigh! I think this trait is still emerging and perhaps it will still be easier dressing this boy than had I birthed a girl.
(and a special shout out thanks to Ms. Nancy who keeps the Things clothed in the latest of Harley fashion straight from the HQ in Milwaukee! Nothing but the authentic product for these Things!)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

If you have nothing nice to say...

why is it that we are supposed to say nothing? I know this is what we've always been told. And, logically, I understand why it is a good habit to have. But, every so often don't just want to really let it all out? You know, start with a little venting, add tequilla and escalate it into a full blown bitch session? That's what I've felt like doing...but since it is only Tuesday and I still need to get the Things to school this morning, I"m guessing it would be frowned upon to rinse out the coffee and start drinking the "good stuff?" But, surely it is noon somewhere in this planet?

So until then....I leave with you this: Do not disturb, I appear to be disturbed enough!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Fixing A Quirk...

On a message board that I frequent, a recent discussion centered around what are your quirks. I'd like to say that I'm quirk free but too many of you know the REAL me and won't buy that line of bull for even a bribe of a Dove Bar. But, I do have one quirk that I really need to correct and so today I dedicated my creative energies to saying Goodbye to the "Picture Frames with No pictures" quirk.

Yes, folks, I am one of those people. I take a ton of pictures and always think "oh, this one would look nice framed". So, when I'm out and about and a picture frame catches my eye, I buy the frame. But the problem comes in putting these two elements together. The picture frames remain empty, containing the original photos of what hubby has come to call his "imaginary family".

So, last weekend, I had hubby hang the most recently purchased collage set on the wall. For as we all know, when those hubbies are in the mood to do a "honey do" chore like hanging pictures, you'd best tell them where to hang them and worry about what goes into the frame later on. It could be MONTHS before he is in the mood to hang pictures for you again.

Since then, hubby has teased me about starting a poll amongst my gal pals (whom he calls his other wives, as they spend a fair amount of time sitting at my kitchen table) to see how long I take before I replace "Joe and Fred" (his imaginary family that features a Caucasian father and son photo) with a real Chang Gang father/son photo. Apparently, the most popular bet was that it would take me four weeks before replacing said pictures. Gee, thanks for your support!

Well, I am proud to announce that Joe and Fred have been replaced by The Things and their grandparents. That was the easy frame to fill. It took me the better part of the afternoon to find a picture of me and the boys to put in the other frame. I'm guessing that is something else I should work on. Getting myself into some of those thousands of photos I take...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The mystery of the Lost and Found box...

I'm sure most schools have a lost and found box or area designated for all items lost and all items found. I'm consistently amazed at the things I find in our school's box. Some of the stuff, I understand how you might not notice it is missing for awhile.

  • Sweatshirts: sure, in this unpredictable climate of ours, you start out the day bundled up, you shed a layer, you forget about it. Most families have an assortment of sweatshirts, so if Johnny doesn't come home with one, you might not even miss it.
  • Mittens: another easy one. You take them off to put in your backpack and you drop one. It is warm after school so you don't miss them. The next morning, you can't find it, but hey, who knows where you might have dropped it. Even I'm guilty of that charge.

And then we move into the gray area:

  • lunch boxes. I sort of get that: maybe you forgot you brought lunch from home and thus leave your lunch box at school. But then the next morning, wouldn't Mom say "where's your lunch box?" As a mom, you might fall for the line Thing Two fed me last month: "Mommy, I think I accidently threw it away". MAYBE, but only after checking lost and found.

And now we move into the just plain UNEXPLAINABLE...

  • Snow boots: but not a pair. Just one boot. If you wore two boots to school and come home with one, isn't it safe to assume your other boot might just be in the lost and found? Wouldn't you at least check? And if so, then why are there an assortment of single snow boots lining the base of the lost and found box.
  • Jackets: I'm not talking Spring jackets or sweatshirts. I understand how those get left behind. But, your heavy winter coat. Maybe I'm just cheap, but we have only one heavy coat per person (maybe a spare could be located in the hand me down/going to goodwill box). But, for the most part, it is one per customer in this household. But, many of these jackets look brand new and are certain to be missed at home. At least I would notice if the Things didn't come home with their heaviest of winter jackets.
  • Glasses: at least they don't toss the glasses into the box. But, the office ladies easily have 10 pairs sitting on the counter top. I understand how kids misplace the glasses, especially if they are not really liking their glasses or they don't notice a big difference whether they have them on or not. But, again, wouldn't the parents say "dude, where are your glasses? Did you check the office?". Several of these pairs have been there for the better part of the school year. I'm thinking that maybe next year when I screen the kids for their vision, and the same ones tell me "i forgot my glasses" or "I lost them", I should first march them up to the office and tell them to pick a pair, any pair! We might solve two problems at once: clearing off Ms. Liz's countertop AND helping Johnny/Sally pass their vision test.

So, I guess I will remain lost and confused when it comes to some of the mysteries of the school lost and found bucket....

So, you want more cute pictures?

I heard from a couple of you that enjoyed the picture of my pal sledding. And, that you'd like a bit more cute. Well, lets move on from Carol to some other friends. Can you guess who this adorable duo might be?

Then, perhaps this photo might make it a bit easier for you to pick out who that cute fella is? Yeah, I know, I'll probably get fussed at when Hubby checks out my latest blog posting and discovers what I've done with the photos he scanned this weekend. But come on, you gotta admit, he was a cute little guy, right?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Snow much fun...

When we first visited our new house, and I noticed the slope of the backyard I wondered if it was steep enough to sled. Wouldn't that be just the coolest: The Things could sled outside while I watched from the warmth of my kitchen window? It would also solve the age old problem: what to do when one thing is cold and ready to go home long before the other thing had any desire to call it a day. Cold things could come inside while adventuresome things could continue to play.

Yesterday afternoon we discoved that yes indeed the hill had enough slope to make it worthy of sledding. Probably won't keep them satisfied for too many more seasons but for now it works.

Our pals came over and before we knew it, even the moms decided to give it a try.

One drawback to Spring snow, is that it just doesn't linger for very long. Even after a couple runs, we were running into grass and mush. Oh well...they did have fun and I even managed to snap a photo of Thing One (our more camera shy child).

Monday, March 20, 2006

Shoveling for Two...

When we made the decision to move to the new house before selling the old one, we looked at the situation closely. And although we knew dual payments for a couple months would cause a financial strain, it really was the best solution for us. Because, honestly, my domestic skills would not have stood up to the challenges of showing a house while living in it and getting those phone calls that go sort of like this: "Hi, This is Perky Pam from KW Real Estate. We'll be showing the house 10 minutes ago". I just don't have enough "Martha" in me to pull off such showings on short notice. I knew we made the right decision: when we got THREE such calls yesterday!

But now it is Monday and we've had about 6 inches of snow fall in the past 24 hrs. The new house has a three car garage: which translates into a three car wide driveway. Old House is having a steady flow of showings. And since I just paid a lot of $$$ to have those carpets cleaned I figure I really SHOULD shovel that drive way too.

So, although I know we made the right decision, I can honestly say "I hope Spring arrives soon!"
Oh wait, maybe not...Because I think I'd rather shovel for two then mow lawns on two yards (especially if you could see my new back yard!)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Undomestic Goddess

Fear not folks, just because I've not reviewed a book in over a week, doesn't mean I've fallen back into my old ways of wasting time on the computer. I did indeed finish another book and just didn't get around to writing up my thoughts on the book. I am trying to review each book that I read, not just to entertain and impress you, but to keep track of how many books I can read in a year. I didn't set a goal for myself because I want to read yet not be forced to read in order to meet a goal. Oh brother, here I go, rambling...

This week's book was titled Undomestic Goddess and was written by Sophia Kinsella. She apparently has written the very popular Shopaholic series of books. I've not read those and thus wasn't familiar with her style of writing.

The premise of the story is that Samantha is a career driven, high power lawyer, about to make partner (the youngest ever) at her work place in London when suddenly she makes a multi-million pound mistake and she freaks and flees. She finds herself on the first train out of London with no plan in mind. She ends up asking for help at an estate and they think she's there to apply for the housekeeper's job and they hire her on the spot. She's tired, had a headache and needed a place to sleep for the night so she goes along with the story. And well, if you've read any chick lit out there, you can imagine how the rest of the story unfolds.

All in all, it was a light and breezy read. The book had a certain energy to it that had you reading through it rather quickly to see what happened next. But in terms of "is this story really possible?"...of course you can pick apart the premise of the story quite easily. I found it hard to imagine that even a high power career woman wouldn't know how to tend to even the most basic details of domestic life like making a sandwich or a pot of coffee. (I mean, even my very bachelor husband could make a Spam Sandwich and knew how to operate his washer before I came on the scene). But, the author needed to have the character be a total undomestic goddess in order for the rest of the story to work.

If you want a fun, quick light hearted read, then be sure to check this one out. But, if your time available to read is limited, I'd suggest you look for something with a little more power to it.

And now, I must sign off and start in on my next reading project. I know, I know: I don't like nonfiction but a friend recommended another work of non fiction that I simply have to check out. Tune in next week for my review of "The Sociopath next door" (SEE: even you find that title intriguing don't you?)

The problem with flannel...

is that it just makes the bed TOO darn comfie and cozy!

Ever since we moved into the new house, I find myself not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. For those non-morning folks out there, you are probably thinking "yeah, so what?"

But, I'm a morning person and it is in the morning that I find myself to be the most productive. My thoughts are clear. I am energized and enthused. I can accomplish a lot before even taking the Things to school.

But not lately...
And I've decided it is the fault of those flannel sheets. We've turned the thermostat down just a bit and we know that the insulation in this house isn't as good as our old house. All those things create a colder world that I must enter each morning.

So, instead I just pull my comfie, cozy flannel sheets up over my head and linger just a little bit longer.

If Spring weather doesn't return soon, I'm just going to have to take some drastic measures: and bring back the regular sheets so that the bed doesn't have that strong hold over me in the morning. This chick's got too much to do without lounging in bed each morning...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Leprechaun Alert!

Thing Two has been very worried about the leprechauns. Apparently, his morning teacher has been telling them about all the tricks these little fellas like to play. The trick Thing Two is most concerned about? They might STEAL the car keys! He's repeated this worry several times over the past couple of days.

This morning, Thing Two was waiting proudly for me in the kitchen. He was standing next to our message board that has hooks for car keys. He announced "See Mom, I TRICKED those leprechauns! I put your keys way on the top hook so they can't reach them. You know they aren't very tall, right?"

I couldn't help but smile: he was so proud of his being able to outsmart those mischievous green men and he never for one moment doubted what Ms. J. had told him in the first place. You just gotta love life when there is a kindergartener in the house!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hurry Up and Wait...

I consider myself to be a patient person. Somewhere along this life journey, I sort of came to accept that often all you can do is wait for the problem to unfold and the solution will present itself and the situation will resolve. Just because I know these things, doesn't mean I have to like them!

Right now I've got a couple things on my mind that I wish I could just tuck away and be done with. We've got a house to sell. I know it will sell and that in a matter of months I will look back and go "gee, that wasn't so bad". But right now, I'm bothered by the hurry up and wait that comes with the selling of a house.

I'm hoping to start a new job later this Spring and recently a slight snag in the schedule occured that has left me feeling frustrated. Granted, the overall change will be good, but I feel bad that my change is having a ripple effect on others and this whole new project being put together.
Again, in a couple months, this will all be old news and I too will sigh "now, what was it you were so bothered by?".

So, for now, all I can do is wait...wait for the issues at hand to work themselves out.
And waiting just isn't a thing we Marthas can do without bellyaching just a bit....

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Our Rising Stars...

Saturday afternoon Thing Two and his team had their Destination Imagination performance. (That's him in the photo, he's the duck! Came up with his costume all on his own!)This was the Chang Gangs first experience with DI and I think we have become a bit spoiled. The dad who coached the little guys was fantastic and the kids all had a blast. As a parent, it was interesting to watch the process unfold: from taking 8 kindies and first graders and encouraging them to work together as a team to create a play that contained certain key elements with next to NO adult interference! So much depends on the coach and his understanding and enthusiasm for the project.

Last night, as I was reading to Thing Two, he called out to his older brother "hey, P, will you sleep on the top bunk tonight?" (usually they sleep in separate rooms, with Thing Two having bunks beds in his room but no consistent bunk mate). Thing One cheerfully replied "sure, I can do that for you!". Thing Two looked at me and said "you know Mom, some days he really is my VERY BEST FRIEND!"

And you know what boys....When you both are so kind to each other, I'm reminded of what bright shining stars you both can be (when you want to!)

Father-son bonding at its best...

I'm sitting in the front room, reading the paper (as is my Sunday morning routine), when I hear the laughter of my hubby. That can only mean a couple things: either his Army buddy has sent him yet another email featuring photoshoped photos that tickle only the male funny bone, or he's found Stooges on TV.

The answer was found just a few moments later, when he calls for his sons and announces: "it is time you learn all about the Stooges". Sure enough, Thing Two is laughing within the first few minutes of watching this classic "guy" show. Thing One is trying hard NOT to laugh as he's trying to pull off a pout (he was watching some equally mind numbing show when he got bumped from his command post of having control of the remote).

Ah yes, I do live in the Land of Testosterone! But that's ok, I've always said God knew what He was doing when He blessed me with boys!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Midnight at the Dragon Cafe

With our recent move, we made a few changes. And although change often takes some getting used to, it can often be a good thing. Such is the case with relocating the family computer. It used to be in the family room, right off the kitchen. It was centrally located and convenient. Perhaps just a bit too convenient. I found myself popping on line really quick while fixing dinner. Or, while watching TV, I would surf and blog. Yes, I wasted a lot of free time on the computer. But, now the computer is tucked way in the basement. And believe it or not, this is a good change. I'm finding myself with more of an interest in reading. While I wait for the water to boil (this far above sea level it takes awhile), I pull out my book and start reading. If there is nothing on TV, I grab my book and read instead of mindlessly surfing online.

So, with this new found extra free time, I've managed to finish yet another book. The title is noted above and it is by Judy Fong Bates. I admit, I am drawn to books that deal with the Chinese immigrant experience. Perhaps because I married into such a culture, I am always looking for ways to gain insight into my husband's family through the literary works of others. This book went a long ways in helping me understand and appreciate the challenges faced by those who fled Communist China in the late 1950s, in search of a better life for their families while still longing for their home country. (My inlaws left China around this same time period, taking a less direct path). It is set in a small town in Ontario, Canada and is told through the eyes of Su-Jen (or Annie, her Western name) as she shares her life living with her parents who run the local Chinese restaurant. The author has a very easy way of writing where you are drawn to the story but not captivated so much that you rush through it to find out how it ends. She created characters that are interesting and complex while maintaining the voice of a school girl. I found myself savoring the story, watching it unfold.

I'll finish up with this observation: When you aren't finding the time to enjoy hobbies you like (be it scrapbooking, reading, card making, whatever), you might want to try changing things around a bit. Granted, it need not be as drastic as the changes we've made this past month, but even something as simple as getting a brighter lamp for bedside reading might help re-ignite that spark that brings you back to the hobbies you enjoy! I never imagined the relocation of our computer would lead to me finding more time to read! So, off I go...with two more books waiting to be enjoyed. Tune in again for more boring book reviews by yours truly!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Which Muppet am I?

You Are Kermit
Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly, you get along well with everyone you know.You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems.Don't worry - everyone know's it's not easy being green.Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies!
This really shouldn't be any big surprise for those that know me, eh? I really strive to get along with everyone and although I would like to say I'm more Miss Piggy than Frog, truth be told I just don't have it in me to be a full diva. Ok, if you counted physical appearance only, it would be a hands down win for the Pig. But, really, beyond that, I'm Kermit!

Loving Life in the Cul de Sac...

Hubby had always commented that "we should have bought in a cul de sac". I knew he was right but it just never registered as being a high priority for me. But, as the Things got older, I too started to long for a safer front yard. So, when our new house was located in a cul de sac, I was eager to see how much we would use and enjoy this improved location.

Some random observations:
  • In the morning, if one Thing is ready for the walk to school before the other, he can go ahead and start heading out, stopping at the main street and waiting for us. If on the way home, one of them decides to race ahead of Mom (who is usually walking slower with her gal pals, enjoying those final moments of adult conversation before entering the zone of chaos more commonly referred to as after school), it is ok, he can wait at the driveway.
  • They've played basketball in the driveway while Hubby has tinkered in the garage.
  • They ride their bikes round and round in circles.
  • And Mom is so much more relaxed. I'm still not ready to let them be out front without one of us being out there was well, but I can see a time in the future when that might be an option.
  • And finally, I"m glad that Thing Two has outgrown his "word retrieval problems" that he had as a preschooler. When he was first learning to ride his bike (a couple years ago), he would ask to go ride in the "testicle". Shaking my head, suppressing a giggle, I would ask "the WHAT?" and he would try again. You know Mom, the tentacle where Nick lives. "Oh, you mean Cul De Sac? "Yeah Mom, I keep forgetting". I never quite agreed with their assessments of his word retrieval problems until I recalled this recurring conversation. :)

Friday, March 03, 2006


Webster defines respect not only as to consider worthy of high regard but to also refrain from interfering with (*one's privacy). It is a rather simple concept but one that others apparently seem to think "doesn't apply to them".

An incident occurred last night that still has me angry. My hubby is a good man. He's passionate about some topics that, although I don't necessarily share his passion, I respect that he is so dedicated to these causes. Even my father, who looks at the world from the totally opposite end of the political spectrum, agrees to disagree with my husband on certain matters. It is about respect. Respecting a person's right to his beliefs.

But last night, we were rather shocked when he got an email response from a college buddy that totally shocked him. Hubby will occasionally send email information to friends that share in his interest in the cause. So, when he came across an article that he thought would interest his pal, he sent it to him. From the response he received, it was very apparent someone had intercepted his friend's email and ANSWERED the email assuming the identity of his pal. No, we aren't talking hackers. We're talking a family member. We've since learned it was the wife.

Man, there is some serious trouble in that household! She not only reads her husband's private email, she goes on to respond in a pretty snarky manner all the time while assuming the identity of her husband. When hubby reached his pal by phone this morning, pal excused the wife's actions by saying "oh she thought she was being funny!"

I'm guessing his pal was just trying to save face because trust me...There is nothing funny about the lack of respect KIM RICE showed towards my husband and her husband. If she were any sort of a decent woman, she'd be doing some serious apologizing. But then again, if she reads her husband's email without his permission, then I doubt she'll recognize that she did anything wrong.

Oh my, here I promised myself not to use this as a venting forum. But, I hope that when I look back someday on this post, the anger I feel won't return. Instead, I'll be reminded that respect is an important element in any relationship and that my husband can always count of having me respect him! Love ya honey!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It only seems right and proper that Thing One and Thing Two take a moment to wish one of their very favorite authors a Happy Birthday! Thing One wouldn't cooperate with a picture, but Thing Two is always happy to oblige.

Today in school he made his stylish hat and dined on Green Eggs and Ham!
Good thing the teacher remembered because this weary Mom forgot!

Resumes and reminiscing...

Last night I was filling out an online job application. I've not applied for a job in almost 9 years. I've not worked outside of the home in almost 7 years. The job is not in my specialty, nor is the pay anywhere near what I made in my last job. But, it is a job that interests me and seems to be the right thing to do now that the Things are both in school full time.

So, as I'm getting started, the website tells you what documents to have ready and to be prepared to spend 15-20 minutes completing the online application. 2 hours later, I finally reach the review and send page!

I guess it wouldn't have taken that long, but as I pulled things out of my "employment and education file box (I KNOW, only Marthas have all such documents stored in a separate file box, labeled and categorized even though I've not even opened the box in some 8 years), I kept getting stuck in memory lane...

Ah, those days in the Army. Back in 2000, during the Gulf War I, as my former co-workers were suffering through the Saudi summer heat, I was studying to become a nurse practitioner while watching the waves hit the shores of Carmel Beach (hazardous duty, I know).

Or how about those first years, out of the Army, and I was working and going to grad school in Maryland. Surely I spent more than just a semester in grad school before life got in the way? Nope, I guess not as I can't find any documentation supporting that I took more than those two classes. No wonder my boss at the time questioned "are you sure it is smart to move to Virginia to be closer to some fella you just met?" It did all happen rather suddenly, but since we just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last fall, I guess my heart and mind knew I was doing the right thing.

I spotted names on old reference listing that I hadn't thought about in years. I found performance reviews that pointed out that yes, I was good at my job. In those early years of signing things as Mrs. Chang, you could read every letter in my last name. Now, you are lucky if you can figure out that the first two letters are Ch, the rest is just a scribble.

It was a happy trip down memory lane and that gentle reminder that one not always be in such a hurry to toss out trivial pieces of paper. Sure, keep them in one spot, but keep them....They will serve as memory joggers of your past experiences!