2013 2014 2015
 
 
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December 31, 2014
 
It's officially the 31st. Happy Birthday, my dear old, fat and bald Husband!

* * *

My reflection on the past year (in no particular order):
My Husband and Kids
I LOVE these guys. Even though they drive me crazy, I couldn't be any happier to have them be a part of my life. I think life would be completely bland without them! We've had our ups. We've had our downs. But we've been able to stick through it all and come out of 2015 in one piece. I'm happy to have a husband who is willing to tolerate me (I'm sure part of it has to do with me being able to tolerate him as well). He's also been my voice of reason especially in those times where my emotions get the best of me. If it hadn't been for him, I would have walked out of a very important ceremony for my parents in 2013. It's unfortunate that my California Family can't see what a great person he is.

And my kids! Oh, life could NEVER EVER be the same without them! I remember setting days-old The Son down on a couch behind his dad and I would site onthe other side of the room just rocking back and forth and watch him from two angles: from one angle he would be shielded by his dad and it would feel like it was just his dad and me. And then from another angle he would appear and all of a sudden it wasn't just his dad and me anymore. It was an incredible feeling to know that we had created this little mini us that was now dependent on us (for the next 18+ years)! It was a beautiful moment. Now the little booger is 8! Oh how the years have flown by.

Then 23 months later, Little Miss The Daughter came along. The Son didn't know what to make of her. He stayed away from her for a good 3 months! I'm sure he was thinking, "What the hell is this thing? I'm suppose to be the ONLY grandchild of my grandparent's son!" Haha. Not so fast! I remember once when she was about 18 months where she just kept following him and hitting him. And instead of hitting her back, he just kept backing up with a look this terrified look on his face that said, "Mom! Dad! Help get this thing away from me. I don't know what to do!" The Daughter got a good scolding for that. But man, do they love each other! One momemnt he's pulling her down the sidewalk in the wagon and the next she's reciprocating the love when he sprained his ankle and wanted to be pulled in the wagon everywhere because he wouldn't walk on his bad leg.

I love how The Daughter-Lou gets jealous every time I hold a baby (even when I'm only pretending to hold a baby). I love how The Son will come to me for comfort just because he wants to egg her on. Ah! They make me so crazy but I wouldn't have it any other way!

My California Family
It's been one helluva year with these guys. We had a fall-out at the beginning of the year; one that I wasn't willing to look past. It has been one thing on top of another and I just said enough was enough. To hell with it all. I was just way too exhausted to put up with their shenanigans. I felt as though I'd gone beyond meeting them halfway on everything. Like as if I'd made it all they way to their door steps trying to do everything I possibly could to please them. Trying my best to look out for their best interests (at least my parents'). Trying to do my best to be the bigger person. And then that one voicemail. That one fucking voicemail: "Maisee! Stay the fuck out of my life! I'm gonna fucking kill your ass!" That was the last straw. First, my mother wished death upon my kids. All because I wanted her to be fair and not blame everything on my sister-in-law especially when the blame truly fell on both my mom and brother! Then, my brother threatened to kill me. Again, all for what? All because I wanted to protect my parents from losing $15K (yeah, you're seeing that right: Fifteen THOUSAND dollars) on a fucking ponze scheme?!! So I said, "FUCK THEM ALL!" and shipped them off to their own island. Well, I kept my dad on my island just because he hadn't done enough to piss me off yet (the keyword there is YET).

I can't necessarily say I felt good about my decision. It was not how I wanted things to end up. But I wasn't going to play their little games with them anymore. A line was crossed and I turned my back and walked away. When they are ready to grow up and are willing to meet me halfway, then the healing and reconciliation can begin. Until then, I'm fine without having them in my life.

And I don't give a shit if anyone of you folks reading this wants to judge me for my decision. You guys have never been in my shoes and do not know what I've gone through and been put through. So if you want to judge me, then go right ahead. It doesn't make you any better than me!

Work
Earlier this year I walked away from an awesome work family after spending 8 incredible years with them, in hopes of finding a better me. My entire career had been based on this one perspective. And even though I had everything going in my favor and the sky was the limit, I walked away. I needed a different perspective. I needed to know what else was out there for me. How could I say I'm the best I can be when all I knew was this one perspective? As hard as it was, I left. Everyday that I step into my new job I miss them more and more. I guess they must miss me too because they keep inviting me back to their outings. And I've seen people leave and not get invitied back even if they left on good terms. So really, I must have done something right in the 8 years that I spent with those people. Sometimes I wonder if I were to leave my new work family if they would fell the loss from the "MX factor" in the 8 months that I've been there...

Depression
I finally made the decision, along with my doctor, to wean myself off of my depression meds. I've been taking them since July 2012 and with the bulk of the drama (see above) on its own island I was ready to start 2015 without depending on the meds. I don't know for sure, but I'm assuming that depression has been a HUGE part of my life growing up. I think it was definitely a contributing factor in who I've become. I was proud of myself for finallty coming to terms with it and seeked medical attention before things got any worse.

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December 30, 2014
 
The Husband had gone deer hunting today after work and came home right when I was finishing up my dinner. I picked up on my offer to make him a bowl of pho. He began telling me about his sad deer hunting story as he was striping out of his hunting clothes. It's been a really tough deer season for him. When he finished, he walked over to where I stood in the kitchen as I prepped his dinner. He blended on the counter so that he was at my ear level and said, "Thank you."

I thought he was drunk. I mean, this is a guy who seldom says those words - as if they don't exist in his vocabulary. I didn't ask for what. I just assumed it was because I was willing to cook him dinner even though he had been out having fun while I was home caring for the kids. I looked over at him and said, "You're lucky I like you."

"Thank you for letting me go deer hunting."

Again I replied with the same response. Then I paused and thought about it and corrected myself. "Actually, you're lucky I don't like you. I let you go deer hunting so that you won't be home, so that I won't have to deal with you!"

We both laughed. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and slapped my butt before walking away. I find it quite funny how sarcastic we've become and how we know what we say is all for fun. Maybe it's just a sign that we're both confident of who were are and where we stand with each other. But really, I was touched by his sentiment tonight. For as much as I allow him to go hunting, I'm just glad he realizes just how lucky he is. I mean, being out almost every night after work, every morning and evening on the weekends is a lot. Especially, when I work full-time and have two kids to care for. It's A LOT for one person to handle when it doesn't have to be that way.

And you're probably asking why I allow him to go so often. Deer season is about 4 months long. That's 8 months where he's home and helps out. So I can share a bit of him with the deer. Plus, he knows I'm happy when the freezer is filled with deer meat, sticks, summer sausages, etc. I get to reap the benefits of him deer hunting. Not only that, but if I was really getting to the point of burning out, he would stay home if I asked him to. He would force me out of the house just so I can get away and do something for myself. Or I can just sit on my butt and read a book while he handles the kids.

We have a system down and it works for the both of us. I'm just not that type of girl to put him on a tight leash. He does whatever he wants, short of cheating or having an affair. And in return, he doesn't keep me on a short leash either. Maybe this wouldn't work for you, but it works for us. That's all that matters.

Oh! And tomorrow is his bday. Guess what I'll be doing with him? Get your head out of the gutter! I'll be out deer hunting with him! In 18 degree weather and he won't hear a peep from me complaining about the weather either. Now that's one hell wife, wouldn't you say?!! LOL.

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December 25, 2014
 

Maisee Xiong: The Son & his Pokemon cards Maisee Xiong: The Daughter & her My Little Ponies

Maisee Xiong: Text Messages w/ Santa Everyone's happy! The only one who voiced any disappointment was The Daughter. She was totally expecting some more glow-in-the-dark stars for her room. She asked me to send a text message to Santa to let him know that he forgot about the stars that she had on her Christmas list. After reading his response, she whispered in my ear, "Tell him 'That's OK.'" She's so cute!
* * *

The husband has plans to do an evening hunt today. Actually, it's not a hunt. He's going to go scout the area where he plans to deer hunt with a few of his buddies from Iowa. I think the kids and I will head out to the movie theatre to watch Big Hero 6. Then come back home and play some Monopoly. Maybe.
* * *

Maisee Xiong: Family Selfie, Christmas 2014

From my family to yours: Merry Christmas!

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December 24, 2014
 
Maisee Xiong: Christmas 2014 Maisee Xiong: The Kids setting cookies and milk out for Santa Maisee Xiong: Christmas 2014

Well, the cookies were baked and set out. All of the presents are wrapped and under the tree. The mess Santa Clause left behind has been staged! I'm so excited for tomorrow, but I'm also nervous at how The Son will react once he realizes he didn't get everything he wanted on his list. At bedtime, he told me he really hopes that Santa will bring him the laptop and cell phone he asked for. I'm thinking, "Damn! This kid is going to be disappointed tomorrow!" The Husband did mention to me that his coworker's 7-year old is also expecting a laptop as well. I'm pretty sure The Son won't be the only kid that will be disappointed tomorrow!

I do have one "trick" present under the tree for The Son. Grandma and Grandpa are out of town visiting their daughter in Southern California. They gave me $50 and asked me to purchase a Christmas gift for The Son. Since The Son wanted to save the money instead, I took the liberty of wrapping it up. That money is now inside 4 boxes!! I cannot wait to see his reaction tomorrow! Haha.

I also sent text messages as Santa Clause to both of the kids! Earlier today I had set up iMessage on both of the iPads that the kids have taken over as theirs. They were both stoked that they can now text both their dad and me. You can be sure there were some pretty strict rules that were laid out. But yes, I've erased all evidence from the device that I used to send the messages. Haha. They are going to get a kick out of this tomorrow!

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December 23, 2014
 
This morning I woke up at 6AM. Not because I wanted to. Not because the alarm went off. Not because one of the kids came into my room. Nope. Eyes wide awake at 6AM for no apparent reason. The one good thing that came out of it, though, was that I phoned the Council Bluffs Toys R Us store and confirmed they did have the fart blaster in stock. Again, another problem (because everything just can't go smoothly without problems): they couldn't put the toy on hold for me because it was the Christmas season. Lovely! So it's go now or go later; later would mean after work. I decided to go now. I didn't come this far to find them and then risk not having them if I went later. I ended up buying one for each hand! Oh, and I even have a trench coat! That's a Chow Yun-fat reference for those who care. You know, fart blasters as my Desert Eagles. Yes? No? Okay. Whatever! Haha.

* * *

The cheesecake was a little overcooked, but still tastes great! My biggest mistake while making this cheesecake was adding the vanilla right on top of the flour which then created little brown clumps. I tried to beat them out but that only led to more air bubbles in my mix. Next time I'll beat all wet ingredients and save the flour for last. And I won't cook it as long. The recipe said to cook for 1 hour, but that wasn't with the water bath. I figured since I had cooked the pumpkin cheesecake for an additional 30 minutes using the water bath method, I would do the same for this one. I guess it was too much. Next time, I'll leave it at 1 hour and let it cool in the oven and see what happens. I'll make adjustments as I go.

Anyway, The Son was happy. He'd been waiting for a plain cheesecake since he had some several weeks ago. The husband, on the other hand, requested for cherry pie filling to top his cheesecake. Otherwise he wasn't going to eat any. What a tough crowd to please! I ended up fetching the filling from the grocery store as I really wanted him to eat the cheesecake. Can't let it go to waste!

* * *

This evening The Son helped me make the chocolate chip cookie dough for Santa's cookies tomorrow. A few of the reviews said to let the dough sit in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight and I went with overnight. Tomorrow we'll bake the cookies and set them out for the big fat old guy. Santa. I'm talking about Santa, not the husband! LOL.

And did I mention that my hand mixer finally drew its last breath? Actually, it's not mine. It was left behind years ago when my SIL moved out. Bad memories. But, yes, the motor finally gave out. Hand mixer vs cookie dough and the cookie dough won. Now it's time for a new one! I'm thinking about getting the KitchenAid 9-Speed Professional Hand Mixer from Williams-Sonoma.

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December 22, 2014
 
Maisee Xiong: The Daughter - Influenza 2014 The Daughter has the flu. She'd been coughing since Saturday and woke up this morning with a fever of 103. She must have been exhausted as she took two naps today between the time she woke up and her doctor's appointment. She didn't eat much either. Now she's on Tamiflu for treatment and the rest of us are on it for preventative measures. That stuff isn't cheap either. Forty dollars for 10 pills and that's with insurance!

* * *

I also promised the kids that we'd make a "regular" cheesecake this evening. The Daughter didn't help out since she's sick and The Son decided he would help me make it in spirit. He felt screen time was more important than making a cheesecake. He said, "How about you make it while I think about you making it." Afterwards I thanked him for helping me and he said, "Anytime." What a kid!

* * *

I spent nearly 1.5 hours at a local Walmart Supercenter trying to track down a Despicable Me 2 Fart Blaster: A Despicable Minion Gadget toy for Christmas for The Son. It wasn't on his Christmas list; however, he couldn't seem to get enough of the toy when he purchased it as a Christmas gift for his best friend. I thought it would be cool if I bought one for him. The problem was that I couldn't find this toy anywhere. Surely I could have order it online. But we're talking 3 days before Christmas and everyone who is trying to sell this toy has the price marked up beyond what I was willing to pay for it.

Well, there I was at the local Walmart, which according to their web site should have this toy in stock, combing through all of the toys in the toy isles only to come up empty handed. I was even able to get one of the employees to call around to all of the other stores to try to track down this toy. No luck.

Sad, but feeling quite determined, I made my way back to a local Toys R Us store. That particular store didn't have any but according to the associate, there were 6 of them at two other stores: Lincoln (45 minute drive) and Council Bluffs (25 minute drive). The problem was that we were getting close to midnight and they were in the process of unloading a truck so neither stores were able to locate the toy. Fine, I suppose the best thing is to wait until morning.

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December 16, 2014
 
Maisee Xiong: Mother & Daughter Selfie I love taking selfies with my little mini-me! This was taken during her classroom's Winter Celebration. The kids sang a couple of Native American songs as they've been learning about North America. We ate mini pumpkin muffins and snowball cookies for snack. And then she shared several of her classroom work with me.

One of the works she shared with me was the stamp game. She asked me to write down two 4-digit numbers for her to add together. She then started to build each number using tiles of ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands. For example, 4,678 would require 4-1000 tiles, 6-100 tiles, 7-10 tiles and 8-one tiles. After both numbers were built, she combined the tiles by each group and began with the exchanging process. For every 10-1 tiles she put back into the bucket she would get 1-10 tile. For every 10-10 tiles she put back she would get 1-100 tile. The tiles that were left on the desk was the answer to the math problem.

She completed 3 problems and spent about 5 minutes per problem. Had she used the method we're all used to where we add right to left and carry over to the next set of numbers to add, she would have completed each problem in under a minute. And she's very capable of adding numbers as such since that's how we do addition at home. I know kindergarten was a LONG time ago for me, but I don't recall learning how to add numbers the way she showed me. Perhaps this is how it is done in Montessori. I'd be interested to know how addition is taught in a traditional classroom.

Nevertheless, it was interesting and fun to see.

* * *

The Son has started on his multiplication table at home since he is learning multiplication at school. I'm just glad that he looks forward to filling out 144 boxes every night! Haha. Well, except for tonight that is. He decided he was done after completing the 2s. I'm guessing that spelling homework wore him out. At least spelling homework is done and we won't have to worry about that for the rest of the week.

* * *

As far as Christmas is concerned, the shopping is done and I've wrapped all of the gifts. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not done. I still need to pick up gift certificates to the local Chinese buffet for my in laws. Okay, whatever. I'm not done:
    • Purchase Chinese buffet for Grandma and Grandpa
    • Purchase Chinese buffet for Grandma's brother and wife
    • Purchase a gift for myself
    • Purchase a gift for the Husband
The gift certificates shouldn't be too difficult to obtain since the restaurant is within walking distance from the Job. And I suppose, if all else fails, I can find something in the closet (with the tags still attach) to wrap for myself! Hahaha. Maybe as a joke I'll give The Husband a half-finished bottle of Cab.

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December 14, 2014
 
Pumpkin cheesecake for breakfast! The Daughter and I couldn't be happier!

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December 13, 2014
 
Maisee Xiong: Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake at it's finest! This is the second cheesecake I've made using a waterbath. The first one ended up with a small crack and the center was cooked just enough to not flop. For this second one, I made the following adjustments:
    • Baked for an additional 30 minutes.
    • About 1 hour into the baking process, ran a plastic knife around the rim of the cake to prevent cracking while it finished cooking and cooling.
    • Left the cake to cool in the oven for 3 hours before moving it to the fridge
These adjustments are definitely keepers. There are a few other things I'd still like to try next time though: 1) Use an electrical hand mixer, and 2) Use boiling hot water.

Maisee Xiong: The Daughter, Sous Chef And I should give credit where credit is due! I'm pretty sure this cheesecake would not have been possible had it not been for my precious The Daughter-Lou. She's the greatest sous-chef I could ever ask for! I did get a few "Ew, gross!" along the way, especially when she saw the Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin. I'm glad she wasn't grossed out to the point of not wanting to eat pumpkin cheesecake for the rest of her life! Of course, it would be her loss if that did happen. Her dad falls into this bucket as he is not a fan of pumpkin. I see it as "more for me!" I suppose that's why I come back to this recipe time and time again. The Son, though, did ask when I was going to make a regular cheesecake. Yeah, you guessed it. He's not a fan of the pumpkin cheesecake either! The boys just don't know what they're missing out on!

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December 08, 2014
 
Maisee Xiong: The Kids with Santa 2014

I was convinced by The Husband to have the kids in "normal" clothing. I figured it would be no big deal since he broke the dress-up-for-Santa-pictures tradition last year. This year, as you can see in the picture, we went with being silly.

I'll also let you guys in on a little something-something. As depressing as this may sound...I scout for the better Santa Clause before taking my kids in for the photo shoot. Is that horrible or what? I suppose I started doing this the year after coming across a horrible looking Santa. This guy was the better of the two on duty this evening. The Santa at my first stop sat with his shoulders hanging down, looking frail and sick. He was rather depressing looking. No one should ever put me in charge of hiring Santa Clauses. Call it discrimination or what have you, but if you want to play the part you need to look the part. I mean, do you ever recall from your childhood a scrawny and frail Santa Clause? Because I don't.

* * *

Guess what I found in my email inbox at around 4PM today? A response from Gap Customer Service.
Dear Maisee,

Thank you for your recent gap.com order, #XXXXXXX. We apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced due to the SWEET promotion not applying as you had expected. As a one time courtesy, we have applied a discount in the amount of $23.95 to your purchase. Please note, because your request was received prior to shipment, you will not see a credit on your account. Your new order total is $9.17, which is the amount that will be charged to your Gap Visa account at the time your order ships. Sadly, we won't be able to update your invoice with your new total.

We have submitted a request to have a $20 egift card sent to you under the Visa Checkout promotion.

We appreciate your business and look forward to shopping with you again soon.

If we may be of further assistance, please contact us at custserv@gap.com or by calling 1-800-GAP-STYLE (1-800-427-7895).

Sincerely,

Gina
Customer Service Consultant
I have to admit that I TOTALLY didn't expect this exact response! I was expecting more disappointment, really. But WOW! Now that is customer service at its finest!

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December 07, 2014
 
Anyone who knows me, know that I'm frugal and always out for a good deal. This weekend GAP stores were offering 40% off all merchandise. In addition to the promotion, customers were able to redeem their GapCash. If you're not familiar with GapCash, here's how it works: Earn $25 for every $50 you spend. When it's time to redeem them, you just have to spend twice the amount of the GapCash. For example, spend $50 to redeem a $25 GapCash coupon.

So there I was, yesterday, at a Gap store trying to redeem my coupons. The selection of merchandise I picked out retailed for $260. I instantly saved $104 with the 40% promotion and was able to redeem $75 of the GapCash which brought my total down to $81. That's roughly a savings of 69%! Furthermore, I'm racking up points on my Gap Silver card since I used the card for my purchase. I'm feeling pretty good about myself at this point except I still had another $25 of GapCash to burn. I figured I had until 12/7 to redeem it and would check online to see what is available.

Fast forward to about 11PM tonight. I'm tired and my bed is calling for me but I really want to redeem this darn coupon. I'm looking through www.gap.com and settled for two logo sweatshirts: one for The Daughter and one for The Son. The total came to $56. The web site was also running a 40% off promotion. I'm thinking: "Sweet! I'll just use the GapCash on top of this 40% off!" Add items to cart. Checkout. Apply 40% off code. Apply GapCash coupon. What?!! I can only redeem 1 coupon?!! No way. I read the fine print of the 40% off promotion and it says, in black and white, "cannot be combined with GapCash." Now I'm thinking: "Well, that's just dumb considering I was able to combine both promotions in-store!"

Okay, don't panic I told myself. I'll just call the 877 number next to the "Need Assistance" label. Ring, ring. Eighteen minutes of hold time later. Verdict: the representative said no to combining the 40% off and GapCash for me. Well, that sucked. And as sucky as the situation was, I decided I would move forward with my purchase. But then, right before I completed my transaction, I see a banner on the site that says "Spend $50 and receive a $20 Gap Inc. eGiftCard when you pay with Visa Checkout." I was already planning on charging my purchase to my Visa card, so why not. The only problem was there was no "VISA Checkout" option at checkout. My situation was only getting worse. Okay. Whatever. When it was all said and done with I paid $33 for the two sweatshirts.

By now it's close to midnight. I'm tired. I'm cranky. I just want to go to bed. I decided against sleep partly because I knew this whole debacle was going to bother me and I wouldn't be able to sleep right away anyway. I ended up sending this email to Gap Customer Service (oh, yes, I did!):
To Whom It May Concern:

I currently made a purchase at one of your local stores, where there was a 40% off discount throughout the entire store. On top of the discount, I was able to use my GapCash. Because there weren't many sweatshirt options in the store, I decided to shop online (unfortunately I did this after all the stores in my area were closed). Before I finalized my purchase online, I called the 877 number for assistance and had to wait for 18+ minutes. I was disappointed that you guys wouldn't honor the 40% off (as the site was offering that discount as well) and allow me to pay using the Gap Cash (just like how I was able to in the stores). Had I known this, I would have gone with the limited selections available in the store.

Furthermore, I was disappointed that I wasn't able to locate the "Visa Checkout" button to take advantage of the $20 eGiftCard either.

As a Gap Silver cardholder, I would have expected an exception to allow the 40% off and gap cash combination, especially when I was able to do it in stores and as I took the time to call and be placed on hold for 18+ minutes. Additionally, I understand that the VISA Checkout promotion was based on "while supplies last;" however, if this was no longer available, the promotion shouldn't continue to stay on the site. Otherwise, instructions should have been more clearer.

Tonight's purchase was just disappointing and frustrating overall.

Regards, Maisee
Now I feel better. I'm ready for bed!

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Maisee Xiong