Dear Friend

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

                                                                      Benjamin Franklin

 

It has been a couple of months since my last blog. My goal was to post at least once a month. Things have been kind of crazy for me. I am in the process of selling my condo (my first home) and there are so many things to do to get it ready before I list the place. Therefore, I have been super stressed out. I keep telling myself not to, but it’s so hard not to stress. I am trying to manage a lot of the work for this project with the handyman while I am working my full-time job. So many things to do and so little time, how do you prioritize?

Yesterday, one of my good friend that I have not spoken to in a while reached out to me and mentioned that he always use me as an example of a success story and that he respected me. He wanted to know what does it take to live a quality life without being broke from paying rent and raising his kids. He feels like his whole life this issue has been a vicious cycle that he can’t seem to break out of. He further asked how do you mentally get yourself out of feeling this way. I thought wow this seems like an easy question to answer, but yet its a bit more complex to answer in a text message. I am not in anyway a subject matter expert on this. I think that it starts with you sitting down and being real with yourself. Take out a notebook and jot down notes. First think out loud to yourself:

  1. What would a quality life look like to you?
  2. If you could live any life you want, how would you describe it?
  3. What financial situation is making you stressed?
  4. Do you have a budget?
  5. Create one if you don’t have one.
  6. Once you have a budget, do you see trends in your income or your expenses?
  7. Do you have daily routines?
  8. Do you feel positive, energetic and productive daily?
  9. Do you exercise?
  10. Do you have access to healthy food options? If so, do you eat healthy food?
  11. Do you drink 8 glasses of water in one day?
  12. Do you care a lot about a pair of Jordans or money in your pocket?
  13. What are your fears in life?
  14. What are your successes?
  15. What are you most proud of?
  16. What makes you insecure?
  17. What makes you happy?
  18. What makes you sad?
  19. What are you grateful for?
  20. Do you set goals (short and long-term)?
  21. Do you have personal time to relax without the kids?
  22. What are your favorite activities?
  23. If you could travel the world where would you go?
  24. What is an important cause to you?
  25. What is your long-term dream?
  26. If you could do anything for a living/career, what would it be?
  27. What do you want to change about your life? Be specific.
  28. Are you a lifelong learner?
  29. What are you learning now?
  30. What book are you reading?

These are some of the questions I would ask myself and I would ask others who want to try to establish some plan for their future to think about them. I understand everyone may not have written a plan down before or even thought about these questions out loud, but you should always start somewhere. Success is a result of planning. 

Staying Focused

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building new.”

                                                                                                        -Socrates

Back in October of 2017, I shared with everyone that I will work on learning to love myself. I started hitting the gym and changing my diet. I organized my schedule as much as possible so that I can go to the gym during my lunch breaks at least three times a week. As a busy working mom with three babies, staying focused is always a challenge.

 I was so afraid of failing, but I knew if I did not take that first step I would never get there. I started my workout with a lot of cardio. I felt like the “Tin Man” from the Wizard of Oz with no oil. I was rusty. I started walking on the treadmill for 45 minutes the first week. Then I started incorporating jogging and on days I struggled I just power walked at a higher incline. A month later I started introducing myself to weights and made it a part of my routine. I noticed I felt great, but I was not dropping the weight I wanted to see so I joined a fitness club that had an intense workout program. It helped me break up my workout routine and pushed me to challenge myself. I felt my body getting stronger over a few weeks and I was so proud of myself. However, I still did not see the weight loss result I wanted and this made me think hard about what and when I was eating.

 I am not perfect and I am still struggling with my food choices today because it is so much easier to eat the bad stuff. I make sure I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I use to skip meals depending on my crazy work schedule or binge on coffee. I eat cleaner meaning I eat less red meat, no fast food, a lot of baked chicken and salmon, fresh vegetables, substituting jasmine rice with sweet potatoes or quinoa. I also intake more water now because I realize that water is what flushes out the toxins in your body.

 My struggle is eating right on the weekend because I keep wanting to reward myself by eating badly. This is not an option. I don’t want to deprive myself, but I want to make a lifestyle change so I don’t have room to eat badly. I am still working on this. I just have to find ways to eat out at healthy places and stay away from Dim Sum and Pho restaurants.

 It has been a total of 4 months now and I’ve lost 24 lbs. I am so proud of myself. I feel great, but I still have a long way to go to reach my weight goals. I celebrate in increments of 5 lbs this way I don’t forget to pat myself on the back for my progress. Many of my friends ask about my routine and honestly, it is nothing magical. You need to just be honest with yourself and commit to a plan, be patient, challenge yourself and don’t give up.

Thank you, 2017! Hello, 2018!

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

                                                                                                    -Walt Disney

I am filled with gratitude today as I reflect on 2017 and filled with excitement as I look forward to what 2018 has in store. My 2017 was not perfect, but I am proud of my accomplishments. It was not easy and came with many nights of headaches, tears, disappointments and hard work.  

On December 23, 2016, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Ava. She made it into this world right in time to bring in 2017. My husband celebrated his second year on the job as a web programmer. I was physically and mentally trying to recuperate from a difficult labor & delivery. We moved into our dream home on Labor Day, rented out my condo and Pharoah started middle school in the Fall at a new school. His first report card was a 4.0. Then I started my mommy blog to try to give Cambodian American woman like myself a voice in this field. I started my weight loss journey and closed out 2017 with a total loss of 20 lbs so far. So many big changes all in one year, but they were all great ones.

As I look into 2018, I have three resolutions for myself:

Live a healthy life

I will continue my weight loss journey until I get to my weight goal and completely change my eating habits and portions. I will take care of myself by not feeling guilty about requesting my family to have “me time” so I can reset and focus.

Live a simpler life

I will remind myself every time I go shopping to not buy things I don’t need. Instead to reward myself with experiences and build long-lasting memories with my family than to overload with materialistic things that only bring temporary happiness. I want to have many stories to share with my children and grandchildren not just stuff crowding our home.

Live a  productive life

I want to be the girl who lived life to its full potential and not be filled with regrets. I need to learn how to live and enjoy every moment. This means to never stop learning regardless of how old you are. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

 

Important Lessons My Son Has Taught Me

My oldest son, Pharoah, is 11 years old and he is slowly becoming a young man in a blink of an eye. A few days ago I stood up next to him and he is almost as tall as myself (mind you I am only 5’2”, but still). I remember the day he was born and how tiny he was. I was so scared to hold him because I was a young mom at 24 years old and was so intimidated by motherhood.  I come from a traditional Khmer family and I was in an interracial relationship and was an unwed mom. This is looked down upon and I was so afraid to tell my parents. I am pretty sure my mother was aware of the changes that were going on with my body, but I didn’t break the news to her until I was 7 months pregnant. I was forced to tell my mom by my sisters. They held me hostage and did not allow me to leave until I shared my pregnancy with my mom. I was so embarrassed and nervous. I felt like I let my whole family down. I never had a chance to enjoy my first pregnancy. Deep down inside I felt so blessed with my son. He was my everything even before his arrival. Every time he moved around inside of me I felt so amazed. It was definitely an incredible feeling I can’t find words to explain. I just wanted to give him everything I never had, provide him an experience I never got a chance to, and protect him from all the crazies in the world.

The lessons my son has taught me:

Be Resilient

As a young mom, trying to figure out life on my own I felt depressed and alone. I felt like no matter what I did, I just could not get it right, but every time I looked at my son he reminded me that failure was not an option. He gave me strength that I didn’t know existed and he pushed me to my greatest limits. I learned that having resilience meant being able to be flexible, learning to cope with hard times, and never giving up.

Live in the present moment and don’t forget to smile

I was so obsessed with what I needed to do to please others and win over their acceptance that I often forgot about myself and taking care of “me.” My son reminded me to live in the present. I wanted to be there at every stage of his life. I took thousands of pictures to remind me of his “first time” for everything. The day he crawled, the day he walked, the day he ate, his first birthday, his first day of school, his first plane ride, his first time on a bike, etc. I tried to capture every moment so I will never forget it. Now I realize, in those moments instead of trying to capture the best photoshoot I needed to be “present” and smile. Enjoy it and have fun.

Lead by example

As I mentioned in my previous post, there’s no handbook on how to be the best parent, but you definitely have to lead by example. You can’t tell your kids not to lie and turn around and tell one. You can’t tell your kids to have compassion when you turn around and say awful things. We are all not perfect nor will we ever be, but we should attempt to be a better person in every way in our life. We need to show our kids how to love, to dream, to work hard, to be kind, to listen, to share, to never give up, to try, to not be afraid to fail and to be happy. To be successful with these things, we have to show them how. Sometimes, it may take us a lifetime to teach them everything we want and this is why it’s so important to just be patient. Growth is slow.

“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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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