Driving With Me, My Son & Flo-Rida

Last week, my son and I took a road trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. I used to find the drive up and down the 5 Freeway boring. The only thing that was remotely intriguing to me was In N Out Burger at Kettleman City. So I would always opt to fly.

Things changed after I had my son. I now prefer the 5 Freeway over flying. Flying this short flight is a hectic rush. Between trying not to pack too much, avoiding liquids on the plane, and getting through security with a 3-year old, a carry-on, and a stroller, I never felt relaxed. On top of everything, for whatever reason, my son always demands milk instead of water or juice on the plane. Sometimes, security would let me take milk on board, other times, I would have to dump it, since it wasn’t classified as “infant formula.” On the plane, flight attendants were never too happy to serve milk because, apparently, it was in limited supply. The reaction I got from ordering milk was what I would expect to get if I were asking for a shot of tequila instead – disapproval. With driving, I can carry a gallon of milk in my trunk and no one dares question it. For all of these reasons and more, driving is now my preference.

That same mundane scenery on the 5 is now my peace, entertainment, and quality time with my kid. Ironically, I get to have more tranquility in the car than I do at home. My son usually does a pretty good job of entertaining himself with books and toy cars for 30 minute spans. 30 minute sessions of peace and quiet are hard to come by these days. During my last road trip, one of these sessions was interrupted by my son demanding that I get off the freeway. When I asked him what he needed, he replied “the sun is in my eyes and I can’t read my book.” I told him I had to stay on course. He said, “fine, can you just turn off the sun then?” Turn off the SUN? How can I not love spending time in the car with him when he thinks I’m omnipotent? He wouldn’t have thought that if we were flying.


Driving also allowed me to provide Thai lessons to him. We played games like naming what we see with Thai words. Once I caught him playing finger puppets, with his left index finger talking to his right one. The left said “where are we going?” The right answered, “to FranCEESco over the Golden Gate Bridge.” Then the left said, “oh, look at the mountains!” The right scolded, “that’s not mountains, it’s called “Poooooh Khao (mountains in Thai), remember that!” I’m not sure if I would get to witness my son having a language conflict with himself (or his fingers) if I wasn’t driving.

We sang too. Well, I should say my son sang. Since he turned 3, he claimed exclusive rights to singing. He decided that my husband and I should no longer sing along with him. Maybe he only wanted to hear his own voice. Or maybe he figured out that we were tone-deaf. So I patiently listened to him sing while I drove. First I heard his little voice behind me belching, “es es es em em em” to Rihanna’s S&M. I started to wonder if it was appropriate for him to listen to current music. Surely, it wasn’t the right time to be learning his alphabet. Then he started to sing along to Fun’s We Are Young, focusing on the part, “friends in the bathroom, getting higher than the PIE-UH state (Empire State).” I really questioned myself if he should be repeating that. The last straw came when my son enthusiastically sang, “can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby, let me know.” Forget you Flo-Rida, the radio was OFF!

My longest peace was when he took a nap. I turned the radio back on and whistled to Flo-Rida’s song (it was played a lot). My tranquility came to an end when my son woke up yelling, “I need to go POO POO!” I looked around and there was no exit in sight, so I pulled over on the shoulder, parked, and turned on the hazard lights. I got my son situated on his portable potty, on the floor, behind my seat. A few minutes passed, a highway patrolman pulled up behind us, walked up to my window, and asked, “car trouble, ma’am?” I told him no, but explained that my son was doing his number two in the back. The officer looked utterly confused, so I rolled down the window for him to see the action. He was speechless. The only thing he was able to say was “why couldn’t you just pull over at an exit?” I smiled and politely asked him if he had ever potty trained a kid before. He said no. So I explained to him that I only had a small window to get my kid on the potty. I couldn’t afford to wait till the next exit – the consequence would have been dire. He was amused and stayed with me until my son was all cleaned up. That was some serious public safety service if you ask me. Again, I wouldn’t have gotten that on the plane.

Packing for a Style Icon

I should be packing right now, but as many of you can relate, procrastination seems like a better alternative. I dislike packing and I hate unpacking even more. My aversion to packing has nothing to do with having to pack for my son. His stuff is easy. I made a packing list for him a few years ago and I make minor updates as he gets older. It’s MY list that I can’t quite master. My biggest trouble with packing is that I never know what to wear. Sure, I can always check online for the weather at my destination, so I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll be too hot or too cold. My main concern lies with fashion. And it’s not because I want to appear as if I share a closet with Kate Moss. I just don’t want to look like a frumpy mom.

I’m stuck again, this time, I’m knee-deep in a fashion rut!

Let’s admit it, we all have comfy clothes stashed up in our closets and like to break them out on rainy days…or any day that you don’t have to face the public. You know what I’m talking about: sweats, PJ’s, lose jeans, snuggly T-shirts, etc. Well, you see, that’s the trouble with being a stay-at-home mom. I spend a lot of time at home with my not-yet judgmental 3-year old – away from public eyes. I call it the “hobo” mommy style. My uniform consists mostly of plain white and black Ts and jeans that are unintentionally ripped at the knees (courtesy of squatting up and down to clean up after my kid). My son often asks me why I don’t just buy new pants. Sadly, I do buy new jeans every once in a while but they just don’t last through my rigorous mommy activities.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to care a lot about fashion. I loved fashion magazines, I subscribed to most, and found shopping therapeutic. I loved clothes and shoes. I remember the good ol’ days when my girlfriends used to ask me for fashion advice and complimented me on my style. Although, I never wore a lot of make-up, I enjoyed buying make up. I knew all the brands and what looked good on me. I was good at getting dressed up for events. On top of everything, I was obsessed with skin care. I tried lots of products, inexpensive to very expensive…La Mer, anyone? I had a nightly skincare routine that could take up to an hour. I would swear by whatever I was using. All this stopped when I became a mom.

My focus shifted to my son. Life was no longer only about me anymore. The combination of having a sleepless infant and feeling like everything I was doing as a mother was wrong really transformed me into a hobo mom. My initial hobo stage was the worst. I continued to wear my maternity clothes and didn’t even care that my stretchy elastic pants/shorts kept falling off. I knew this wasn’t a good look for me, but it didn’t matter. At that time, I considered myself lucky if I got to shower that day.

Once I felt more settled at my new job as a mother, I packed away my frumpy maternity clothes. I replaced them with a plain T-shirt and jean uniform. I let all my fashion magazine subscriptions expire because I could no longer relate to the contents. Clothes shopping is no longer therapeutic, it’s stressful. I hardly like anything I try on because most of the time I end up picturing how these pretty tops would look with my son’s food and coloring mess. At 3, he can’t help making my clothes his creative canvas, but it’s not the look I’m aiming for.

These days, I barely know how to put on make up and look decent. My daily skincare steps are reduced down to washing my face in the shower and using Olay Regenerist cream (it may not be La Mer but it works pretty good). I rarely get asked for fashion tips or receive any compliments on how cute I look. I traded high-heels for Tom’s canvas shoes and flip flops (thanks to pregnancy that turned my already plump feet into giant elephant feet – went from size 8 to 11, no joke!). My feet shrunk down sizably after I gave birth but not enough to fit in my old shoes. Heartbreakingly, I had to get rid of over 50 pairs of shoes.

It’s time for me to return to packing. I’m now questioning myself if and when I should really try to get out of this fashion rut. I’m gonna comb through my closet to find shirts that appear fancier than T-shirts and jeans with no holes. And if I can’t find anything that meets the criteria, at least, I can find comfort in knowing that I can hide my boring tops under a jacket because I’m heading to San Francisco, where it’s foggy and cold in the summer!

Because I’m Not His Nanny…

Nanny Love

Before my husband and I became parents, friends and even strangers would tell us, “you guys would make the cutest babies.” As much as I would like to imagine that people made these comments because they thought my husband and I possessed the looks of super-models (let me emphasize the term, “imagine,” because in reality, we look nothing like super-models); they made these remarks based on the fact that we were a mixed race, Asian-Caucasian, couple. This is not an assumption on my part. It’s the truth, because that flattery about making the cutest babies was usually followed by, “mixed babies are always so cute.” I never took offense. These comments were generated equally by both my worlds. In Thailand, people went even further to say that our mutiracial babies would likely become models or actors in Thailand because they would be so good looking. I skeptically dismissed the idea that doors of opportunity would magically open to my unconceived children.

I was also dubious about the generalization of mixed-race couples making cute babies. Surely, they couldn’t bypass all the genetic coding just because they were making multiracial children. But I’m not gonna lie, sometimes, I did wonder if my husband and I would, indeed, make cute babies. What I never expected, though, was that one day I would have a child of my own and people would assume he wasn’t mine.

“I don’t charge anything to take care of this child since he’s MINE! But I would probably charge you an arm and a leg to take care of yours,” I once replied to a lady I met at a park. She wanted to know my nanny rates. She even complimented me on how I was so unusually affectionate toward the baby, for a nanny. On another occasion, a nanny approached me and said “the baby is so adorable, what are his parents?” Confused, I asked her to clarify. I was pretty sure I didn’t give birth to a Vulcan baby. She was shocked to learn I was the mother. Some were more reserved and would not say it outright, instead they would simply say, “what a beautiful baby, must look a lot like his daddy.” Ouch! I didn’t know which one stung my motherly pride more; the assumption that I was a nanny to my own flesh and blood, or the fact that my child couldn’t have possibly inherited his good looks from me. Either way, I was wounded.

The worst one happened in Thailand when my son was 1.5 years old. It was his first trip there and I couldn’t wait to introduce him to everyone. My parents took us to an old temple in Ayutthaya Province. While I was holding my son, a man accosted me. He demanded that I returned the child I stole from the Italian couple walking ahead of me. Imagine that, I went from being a nanny to a child snatcher.

These awkward encounters seem to happen less now that my son is 3. Maybe he is starting to resemble me a bit more. Or maybe it’s because he can now speak like a little human and refers to me as his mother for others to hear. Every now and then, I hear people telling me that he looks more like me now and then a few hours later, someone else says he looks more like my husband, all in one day. To me, he looks like a good mix of both of us, but then again, I’m his mother, so that makes me biased. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter to us who he looks like, but the one thing we know for sure, from the moment he was born, he’s the most beautiful little boy we have ever known. And he’s ours.

Feeling Stuck…

Bridging Both Worlds

“I feel stuck,” I lamented to one of my girlfriends over the phone.
“Stuck with what?” she questioned.
“Everything in life,” I replied.
“Why don’t you start a blog?” she suggested.

Here I am, attempting to “unstuck” through blogging.  I hear it can be therapeutic, so I’m going to try it out.

I was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. The first 14 years of my life were there and then I relocated to the United States.  My parents and siblings never came here to live with me.  I never returned to Thailand to reside…yet.  So I still have strong ties to my motherland, while the U.S. is intrinsically home to me.  I regularly shuttle between the U.S. and Thailand.  Having felt “at home” at either place also means feeling unsure where I truly belong.  Stuck.  It’s how I feel. Stuck between two worlds.

It’s been 20+ years since I moved from Bangkok. I’m married to a wonderful man and raising a beautiful boy who possesses endless curiosity. I feel stuck, yet again, this time in marriage and parenthood, but in a really really good way.  Before my little 3 year old was born, I paid very little attention to how I managed to cross back and forth over the invisible cultural divide (or the massive Pacific Ocean) or over the imaginary bridge between my two worlds.  Now that my son is here, I am no longer being stuck alone between the two worlds, he’s stuck with me.  The last three years, I’ve been navigating both cultures more carefully with him piggybacking on me, while dealing with the everyday highs and lows of being a parent.

I thought long and hard about the main title of my blogs. Then I thought, one of the things Thai people love to do is eat. Yes, they love their food and all the spiciness and heat that comes with it. It’s no secret that some Thais make a habit of sneaking in dried chilies through customs when traveling around the globe. Contrary to how Americans believe that Thai people add peanuts to everything they eat, Thais actually don’t consume that many peanuts. It’s the spicy chilies that they want. They put that stuff in everything from breakfast omelets to hot dogs to make it more “Thai.” With this little quirk of being Thai, Tom Yum Soup (Wikipedia defines it as “a spicy clear soup”) was aptly chosen as the first part of my title. The Soup is one of the national prides. The second part of the title, “hamburgers,” to me, is the quintessential food to eat in the U.S. Why else would anyone, in their right mind, wait in the long and tedious line at In N Out Burger? Together, the title “Tom Yum Soup or Hamburgers Tonight” sheds perspectives on my life with my family. Every day, I’m confronted with attempting to make decisions that would make sense for both cultures, especially at dinner time. A lot of moms and dads can attest to the difficulty of feeding a 3-year old. Getting my son to sit at the table and eat anything at all is a challenge in itself. On top of it, I also have to worry about whether or not he’s consuming enough of Thai-ness or American-ness today and if I can sneak in more of one or the other at dinner time.

If you have free time or are feeling stuck too, I invite you to come along on our journey through this blog.   Though most of my writing and reflections will likely be about raising a child to survive, flourish and cherish his special gift of being a child of two worlds; it will also deal with the struggles and triumphs of being a mom.  As we often hear about authors having writer’s block, I too, like many moms (or dads), occasionally suffer from “mommy’s block.” Mommy’s block often makes me feel stuck and question my parenting skills and choices.  I’m not sure what I will accomplish from sharing my stories and experiences, but I hope that you will find it entertaining or may be even helpful.

Thank you for your visit and Sawasdee (hello and goodbye in Thai).

About Me

Mae Waen

Hello & Sawasdee ka! My name is Waen, which means ring in Thai. There really isn’t a proper way to phonetically pronounce my name, so it gets butchered a lot (and don’t get me started on my legal first name). People often confuse my name for Wayne, which to their surprise, Wayne turns out to be a woman. I also get called Win, Wynn, Wen, and of course When, which usually ends up as a joke of “When, when are we going?” So when I order coffee or take-outs, I just tell them to call me Gwen to speed up the process.

For this blog, I call myself Mae Waen. The term, Mae, means mother in Thai.  It’s what my son calls me (his version is MaeMae).  It’s also common for Thai people, who are close friends or relatives, to add Mae before your name once you have a child.  Thus, I’m often referred to as “Mae Waen” when I’m in Thailand.

I became a stay-at-home mom unexpectedly when my son was 5 months old. It was a decision I never regret but had many doubts. The past few years were filled with a mixed bag of emotions and reflections I never knew I had:  love, true happiness, heart-warming, elation, selflessness, rewarding, triumph, failure, exhaustion, mental breakdowns, self-doubt, under appreciated, etc. I’m sure many mothers can relate to these extreme emotional conflicts.

Although life with my son has been a roller coaster, it’s the ride I love, cherish and never want to get off.  To date, my husband and I only have one child.  We don’t have a definite answer on what our future holds.  But who knows, maybe we’ll want to jump on a new roller coaster again when the time is right…or just keep riding the one we love.