“Oh shit, I can’t find my handbook”

Many folks usually say to me that parenting should be easy since I have three kids. However, being a parent is not easy. Each time I was pregnant, I felt like I had to do it all over again. My morning sickness affected me differently each time, that was something I will never become an expert on. It was emotionally and physically draining; my body was going through all of these changes and I had no control over it. I would have different types of food cravings and no control. As parents, we all have stories to tell about how we made it through those tough days and nights. We all struggle to find our way to be the best parent that we can be for our child(ren).

Society puts huge pressure on us to get everything right because we don’t want to be labeled as awful parents. From the day my kids were born, the struggle continued; I remember being challenged with breastfeeding because I felt the need to get it right. There were times that I cried because I couldn’t get my child to latch on. My breasts would be sore, but I still focused on getting the job done and couldn’t give up. My mom was there to support me, albeit from afar. She would just say it’s not that hard, just do it! I don’t think it was a result of her not wanting to help me, but sometimes I don’t think she understands how to give advice like American moms.

As a result of the war in Cambodia, she was separated from her parents at about 14 years old and had to fend for herself. My mother had me on a refugee camp in Thailand and there was no one there to coach her or stay up at night with her. She raised all 7 of her kids by herself and we were all fine… I guess. She didn’t understand why it was so hard for me. I guess us Americans are more emotional beings because we like to express our feelings. My mom doesn’t cry, she doesn’t confess her emotions, she is just a tough lady who just deals with it. I mean, she lived through a war.

My three kids are all going through different stages and I must adapt and try to meet them where they are and support their growth. My oldest is 11-year-old, and he is going through this weird pre-teen stage where he wants to keep to himself. He doesn’t want to do much and is lazy. He wants to play his video games and be left alone. He does well in school, but I have to say things over and over and its pretty annoying.  My 4-year-old, is the middle child so he is full of energy and craves 110% of my attention. He talks a lot and make up stories in his head. He confesses his love to me all the time, but then throws a fit when things don’t go his way. My 10-month-old baby girl is so precious and adorable. She is always happy, but she wants to have playtime all day long. She cries wolf when it’s time to get in the car seat and wants to listen to toddler songs on repeat in the car. Once again, so annoying, but I love them to death.   

I wish I can say that being a parent is easy and that I read the best handbook that prepared me for every aspect of parenting, but, there is no such thing. We just figure it out as we go. Our love for our kids is so strong and unconditional no matter what they do we still love them. Even when we don’t agree with them. We grow to learn how to be more supportive and patience. We make life seems easy so that they never have any worries or stress.

I look forward to sharing many more stories with you about my family and kids. Just remember “parenting does not come with a handbook and it is not easy, but it’s the best feeling in the world.”

I Want to Fall in Love With “Me”

All my life I have struggled with accepting myself and learning to love “me.” Ever since I was young, my mom focused on how “fat” I was. If you are on the heavier side in my family, everyone (meaning your relatives) would tell you how “fat” you are and give you weight loss advice even though they could lose some damn weight themselves. This became a normal conversation around my mom and her friends. They often talked about weight and diet as if they were weight loss experts. My mother would often tell my friends how fat I was when they came over to visit and how I loved food. My older cousins would say “wow you are bigger than the last time I saw you how much weight did you gain?” So, they say in these situations, you’re supposed to have thick skin and can have a sense of humor as if sensitivity did not exist. It happened so much that I learned to just accept it.

Over the years, I learned to cope with this thing called “stress” when you become an adult and have responsibilities. I used food as my escape through those stressful days. I love going out to eat and had no limit on my portion size. I would just eat until I can’t anymore. I used to say I am truly blessed to be able to go out to eat and have a good life. I associated eating out with moving up socially and economically. Growing up we never went out to eat because we just could not afford it, plus my mom was a homemaker so she would cook every meal that is in a Cambodian cookbook.

During high school, I was physically fit, but I never felt pretty or comfortable in my own skin. I played sports and was super active. I don’t think I weighed more than 150lbs at a height of 5”2”. I was so insecure and just was embarrassed of my body and the way I was. I am pretty sure many women can relate. I just could not pin point why, but I did. It’s a feeling I can’t explain. Then in college, I gained my freshmen 15 from eating “dorm food.” I went to U.C. Berkeley and I never turned down a late-night run to Blondies or Fat Slice pizza then of course binge drinking and coffee runs. I would procrastinate on my projects and papers and then pull an all nighter finishing the day before its due. By the end of college, I probably was at about 165 – 170 lbs. It was crazy. My insecurity got worse. At this point, I was like damn no matter what I do it won’t work. Then I would say things like “oh well, whoever I will marry will just have to accept my love handles and muffin top.” I started approaching my weight gain with my jokes to make myself sound like I was not tripping out about it.

In May of 2006, I had my first child, over the pregnancy I gained 15 lbs. This put me at 185lbs. I was like oh my god, this is crazy, but then I had no self-control and I just would go on these yo-yo diets and kept struggling with my weight. In June of 2013, I had my second child, and I gained another 10 lbs. I shot up about 200 lbs. Even breastfeeding didn’t help because when I stopped I over ate and the weight just stayed frozen at 200 lbs. Then in December of 2016, I had my third child and I was at about 210 lbs. The heaviest I have ever been. I never thought that I could get this big, but our skin is like elastic so it can just keep stretching. I am back to 200lbs, but I can’t get under this weight. I keep going up and down between 195 and 200 now.

I think all women should support each other and not body shame each other. Working out and mindful eating should not be a chore. You can make it fun and take it one day at a time, but have an action plan and go for it. Sometimes, we want to wait for the right time, but there is no such thing. Loving yourself starts with you and not the people around you. You need to start by changing the way you eat and start taking more steps each day than the day before. Losing weight is not easy, but you can do it one step at a time. I have been holding strong at 195 for a couple of weeks now. Follow me as I embark on this journey to love myself.

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Fun Day @ Farmer’s Market

img_3294.jpgI used to go to the Farmer’s Market in Old Oakland (Oakland, CA) with my mom back in the days. It was on Friday mornings so skipping school was not an option. I would have to wait to be off of school to tag along. It was a lot of fun sampling all the different types of fruits available by the vendors. Farmer’s Market is now in every city throughout the Bay Area and opened on various days and time. This is very convenience for working families especially if you want to include your kids.

My mom still loves going every Friday because it reminds her of the public markets in Cambodia where everything was freshly picked and available for the day. There was no refrigeration system available when she was growing up in the 60s and 70s out in the countryside so families grew their own food or shopped daily for fresh ingredients.

In Downtown Concord, close to where I live, Farmer’s Market is usually opened on Thursday evenings in the middle of Todas Santos park. It is an awesome time to take your kids on a hot summer evening where you can grab food and sit on the grass while listening to some music in the background.

Over the years, I have been struggling with my weight and I am now practicing mindful eating and healthy choices. I try to fit in 2-4 exercise session at the gym for a minimum of at least 30 minutes. It is not that easy, but every step I take counts. I am also trying to make eating fresh vegetables fun to myself and my kids. My oldest son will eat it, but is very particular about what kind. My second son will not eat it at all. My daughter is only 9 months so she doesn’t know the difference yet.

This morning my husband and I took the kids to a small Farmer’s Market in Walnut Creek. It was only about 15 vendors. It was super small, but it was a lot of fun. The kids were excited about tasting persimmons, peaches, and pomegranates. They even tried Afghan flatbread. We saw a variety of fruits and vegetables. My 4 years old asked a bunch of questions and we went around and named a bunch of vegetables that he is not familiar with. He learned about “Kale” and “Persimmons” today. I was excited as kids seeing all the beautiful colors and fresh smell of the flowers, the peaches, rosemary, cilantro and tomatoes.

I am definitely going to work on being more organized with my grocery shopping to avoid waste and make better healthy choices. I learned that eating healthy does not have to feel like a chore on my checklist; instead you can make it a fun adventure. Plus, I think if I include my family on this journey I will be successful.

 

 

I Love “Bok I’hong”

There is nothing more satisfying then a plate of some good ole’ bok l’hong. Bok I’hong is a green papaya salad dish that is loved in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Each country has their own version of it and the taste varies.

The taste of the unripe papaya blended with a hot & tangy taste filled with fish sauce just makes my heart melt and take my soul to a happy place. Why I love it so much? Because the fact that it just taste so damn good. I want to quit my job and create a Southeast Asia tour for all my bok I’hong lovers. We will hit up all the spots in Southeast Asia and taste the finest bok I’hong. I say the more spicy and smelly it is the better it will taste.

I have been spending my last few years as a mom trying to perfect my recipe, but it seems like every time I think I have it down it changes. I use the same spices and ingredients each time, but I believe the way you blend it and how you are feeling emotionally on that day effects the taste. Please don’t think I am crazy, but I am just saying.

Bok I’hong Kitchen Cookware & Tools

  • Mortar & Pestle
  • Vegetable Peeler
  • Vegetable Shredder
  • Citrus Juicer

Bok I’hong Main Ingredients:

  • Thai Chili
  • Green Papaya (Shredded)
  • Carrots (Shredded)
  • Garlic
  • Lime
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Anchovy Fish Sauce
  • Frozen Brined Crab (Salty)
  • Shrimp Paste
  • Sugar or Palm Sugar
  • Roasted Peanuts
  • Thai Basil Leaves
  • Lettuce

Prepping the Vegetables:

  1. Peel the green (this is the outer peel) off the papaya, cut it in half, clean out the seeds, and shred it
  2. Peel the carrots and shred it
  3. Mix the shredded papaya and carrots in a bowl-set aside
  4. Cut the cherry tomatoes in halves-set aside
  5. Cut the limes in halves and use the juicer-set aside

Making the sauce:

  1. Peel a garlic and put in the mortar and use the pestle to mash it, add the Thai chili and the sugar
  2. Add the frozen brined crab, add the shrimp paste, and anchovy fish sauce (add some shredded papaya as you are doing this to limit the sauce splashing)

Mixing it all together:

  1. Leave the sauce in the mortar & pestle
  2. Add a handful of shredded papaya at a time and smash it into the mortar with the pestle (repeat until papaya is all in)
  3. Add carrots & cherry tomatoes

Garnish:

  • Decorate your plate with lettuce, add the salad on top, garnish with roasted peanuts and Thai basil