Category Archives: Parenting

Lifestyle Parenting

It’s a Pipeline Thing

CNN Money
Image credit: CNNMoney

A couple of months ago I was in a story on CNNMoney which features a photo of me taken by my 9-year-old daughter.   I’ve had experiences with a variety of photographers over time, from newspapers, fashion magazines to private studios — and the pictures that come out best are always the ones that my daughter takes. Maybe I’m just happiest and more natural when I’m with my family.

The story was about diversity in the tech / startup sector, and I was interviewed based on my past experiences as a woman in the space, as a past startup founder and CEO and now as part of another venture-backed company. In my experience, the lack of diversity isn’t the result of overt and intentional discrimination — I’ve had numerous male mentors and advocates throughout my career — but a pipeline issue. To date, there have been fewer women than men who’ve pursued fields of study or expertise that might land them in the tech sector.

Why does this matter? A lack of diversity hurts all around — in the venture capital world for instance, it can limit the type of investment and diversification of a portfolio — I saw this when I raised money years ago for a cosmetics venture. It can also reinforce stereotypes — the dearth of women in tech may make some believe that women aren’t capable of performing in that sector.

I was raised in an Asian-American family where it was expected that I would perform in math, and I went to a high school for science and technology where we cloned violets as freshmen, so tech was never something that was ruled out for me — in a way, it was expected.

I know that’s not the case everywhere, and it starts young. At my daughter’s school, some friends and I noticed that our daughters were saying that they weren’t good at math — even though they were getting As. This confidence issue isn’t  uncommon. We’re lucky to be at a great school where, once she was aware of this, the teacher worked hard to correct this distorted perception — but it did take work.

I’m hopeful that things are changing. I’ve seen more female VCs recently than I ever have. As a society, we’re more open-minded now about gender roles, more aware of early negative self-perceptions of girls in math, and there are clubs and organizations springing up that introduce girls to computer programming (which, by the way girls, is really fun!). Exposure to these types of disciplines helps build strong analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. We could all use some of that.



Poof and Pearl

For her birthday, my 6-year-old wanted to get a pet fish. Not being much of a pet person, much less a fish one, I started off my setting up a set of seemingly unattainable hurdles (“Collect enough small, yet unbroken, shells from the beach to fill the bottom of a tank!”) to buy myself some time. Finally, though, I relented, and for her birthday my parents covered the cost of turning us into a fish household.

I wanted hearty fish, so we got two betta. I was told by the PetSmart salesperson that though you can’t put two male betta together, it was fine to put two females in the same tank. I have two female kids, so that made enough sense to me, and I thought it would be nice for them each to feel like they had a special pet, and for the bettas to be friends. So, off we went with Poof and Pearl in their betta store containers, traipsing through Trader Joe’s so that I could complete a last-minute errand, and then back home where we began to set up their habitat. Which I really enjoyed –I think I’ll be adding “undersea decor” to my hobby list.

Once we added both fish into the tank, it was clear that there was some type of interaction going on. Poof (bigger, and pink) was frequently chasing Pearl (smaller, and bluish green). Poof would also eat any food that was dropped in, before Pearl could get to it. And when Pearl finally did get to a betta bit, it was too big for her mouth. Trouble.

I ended up staying up late reading up on female bettas. The frustrating part of it was that most of the available information was wiki-style, meaning that random people just posted information or answers to question (and I mean random — there is no filter against people who can’t spell or who write “yo yo yo” in their responses). I didn’t feel like there was a real, definitive betta authority out there, but here is a collection of what I found out about female bettas:

  • They can live together in a tank.
  • But why would you force them to do that? It’s stressful and against their nature.
  • No, they can’t live together.
  • Well, they can, but you can’t have just two. One will bully the other til the other dies.
  • It’s best to have three females so they can form a hierarchy.
  • It’s best to have at least four females so they can form a hierarchy.
  • Females can be aggressive and territorial.
  • Some betta bits are too big for some bettas.
  • Chasing is ok as long as the fish aren’t nipping each other’s fins off.
  • Horizontal stripes mean the fish are distressed.
  • If you see horizontal stripes, the fish are healthy.

See what I mean? Ok, so this is the worst part — now that I was feeling like God of the Bettas and had personal responsibility for them, I had a sleepless night wondering if Poof was going to kill Pearl, if Poof was just showing dominance over Pearl, if Pearl was ever going to eat, and why I was up at night thinking about Poof and Pearl in the first place (didn’t help that that afternoon some guy on NPR was talking about how fish have feelings and feel pain). I have enough things in my life that cause me to lose sleep, and I really don’t like to lose sleep.

So the next day I ended up putting up a divider between Poof and Pearl, just to ensure that Poof didn’t kill Pearl, that Pearl could have something to eat once in a while (we have to manually crush her pellets to make them small enough) and so that they could get used to the sight of one another. Now I’m obsessively researching whether I can remove the divider once they’re used to one another — seems that it would be nicer for them to have more swimming space. No matter — last night my overly excited daughter fed Poof five pellets (she’s supposed to have one a day) so this all could be moot soon.


Mean Girls

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but since then I’ve been 1) to Asia, 2) working, and 3) to Disneyland. I will write about none of those right now, but I did want to talk about something else. My oldest daughter, Amelia, hasn’t wanted to go to school lately — and I’ve recently uncovered that she has a bully! It’s like Mean Girls, Preschool Style.

She used to be friends with these two girls, but they have turned on her and now make her miserable. I am totally reliving all the stuff I would just as soon forget. The good news, though, is that having had 36 years of formulating come-backs after the fact, I am now much better at them — so I have been working with her on rehearsing comebacks. Like when one girl tries to scare her by saying that there is a ghost in the room, and I told her to say something like, “Yes, there is a ghost, and it’s your smelly fart!” Or when a mean girl tells her that’s she’s a nincompoop, I told her to say “I know you are, but what am I?” (that, I know is not very original). I was going to make her wear these funky striped pants (that I would wear were they in my size) but she refused since one of the mean girls makes fun of those pants, so I actually reconsidered (remembering what my mother made me wear) and put her in khakis today.

This is not as bad, though, as a case I know of (I think this took place in second grade) where the mean girls, also ex-friends of the victim at hand, invented a play about the girl they were being mean to. I guess at least nobody created an adaptation of Ulysses for use in my ridicule.

I am realizing that, in a sort of reincarnation, I am going to have to go through everything all over again — the mean girls, the awkward phases (though no one can outdo me on that one), rejection and bad tempers…I can’t wait.

Parenting Whining

Mew, mew, mew

I am totally over-extended at work. I am having conversations at home with my 2-year-old along the lines of: “I am going to be on a conference call. Do not scream during the conference call. If you scream and disrupt my conference call, I will lose my job and we will not be able to live in this house and have to live in a canyon.” [read with a teeth-clenched-together type of tone]. Following this type of conversation, 2-year-old screams while I run around the house to get away from her so I can pretend like I have everything under control. I sometimes wipe my kids’ butts while on calls, sprinting away as the toilet flushes.

So it’s 1 AM on a Friday night, and I just wrapped up my work for the night. In the past few weeks something has happened wherein I have completely lost the boundary between home life and work life. I’m still trying to figure out what happened, but most likely my need for approval and praise resulted in me agreeing to several assignments which are technically not possible to complete within the bounds of my normal work day. That, and we’re coming up on one of our peak periods in our business cycle. That, and a few days ago I had one of those days where everything exploded (Venture partner freaks out at legal liability and drops our very profitable deal! In-house counsel stands me up several times for meetings on time-sensitive matters! Other parts of organization made decisions without informing me that significantly affect my ability to meet targets! I spill my entire lunch on the break room floor!), so I am really not feeling like I’ve got very much under control at all.

Don’t even get me started on this new, humongous, spontaneous mole that appeared on me. I am about to develop mountainous hills of cystic acne all over my face. Happy Thanksgiving!

Parenting Uncategorized

Fire fire

So if any of you are wondering, “Why the hiatus from the useless information?” I’ll tell you: I was evacuated early Monday morning because of the San Diego wildfires. It was my first evacuation, though my college roommate and I used to play hypothetical games all the time, like, “If you were in a fire, what would you take with you?” so I did have some preparation. So what did I end up taking? My kids’ toys (especially the key stuffed animals), pillows, blankets and dry food in case we ended up at a shelter eventually, two changes of clothes for everyone, our important documents like passports, house stuff and birth certificates, cell phones / chargers and my camera (I really like my camera. My husband took his bass.). I also packed cotton balls and some water.
Later on, after we left, I saw a list on TV of all the things you’re supposed to pack. They said, “Don’t forget your medication!” which of course was thing #1 that I forgot (for my daughter — I’m not vying for any mother of the year awards). They also said that you should take photos of everything in your house for insurance purposes, which I also didn’t do — though I had my camera so I could take pictures of dogs on the street in case they would help my insurance claim! I’m very lucky my house didn’t burn down (for many reasons). It came as close as six miles away.
The really cool thing was how San Diego really pulled together. Qualcomm Stadium, one of the evacuation sites, had to issue a press release saying that they could take no more donations at their site — there was apparently entertainment for the kids and bands for the adults there. Other shelters who posted for help were similarly bombarded. My husband went to Target and then to Qualcomm to drop off some air mattresses and pillows, and for the most part people were really grateful (except the teenager who hovered around and said, “So are you giving away that computer?”). Friends called friends offering refuge.
The best story I heard was about a guy who was walking on the street with a gas mask (the really major WWII type), a wet suit…and a surf board. That’s San Diego for you!


Photo session

So I decided that while my kids are still cute and before I’m too ugly, we should get some family photos taken — professionally. There is also the added benefit of being able to Photoshop me out if necessary.

Ok, faithful readers (um…all four of you?), let me know what you think we should use as a backdrop. We live near the ocean, so part of me thinks that we should do ocean pics while we’re here. Here is a link to what that might look like (see “Melissa and Casey”) — pretend that there isn’t a couple making out on the beach and imagine instead a suburban family of four, including two kids who hate the ocean. And rest assured that I will not be posing for any swimsuit shots, unlike Melissa and Casey who evidently have gym memberships. I’m worried about the wind at the beach — wind in my hair looks less “California girl” and a lot more “hurricane survivor”. Click here to see what it might look like in a park setting. I love all the park colors, but parks are a dime a dozen.

Parenting Travel

The beach

This is a photo I took of my daughter while we were at the beach this week. In preparation for the upcoming photo shoot I’ve been gauging the kids’ behavior in each environment. The ocean — beautiful, vast, humbling, soothing…yeah, the kids still hate it. The only way I was able to bribe them to sit on the beach with me was to bring boxes of salty snacks and juice boxes that a good mom wouldn’t buy. So I’m leaning toward park pictures now — I’d prefer not to end up with a photo essay entitled “The day we spent a ton of money hiring a professional photographer so we could have pictures of crying and whining and look more dysfunctional than usual”. I keep telling the kids that they’re going to be ostracized in California for not liking the beach.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine, who apparently spends quite a bit of time hanging out at a publishing company, recruited my kids to be photographed for a children’s book. My 4-year-old liked it. A lot. I’m worried she could easily be led down the Britney Spears path. My 2-year-old, on the other hand, frowned harder whenever they told her to smile. She is tending toward the opposite path. She has a real talent for chugging milk, so it’d be a serious loss to the college fraternity party scene if she ends up becoming a recluse.Posted by Picasa

Parenting Uncategorized

Good cheap fun

I have a headache. I have hip hop dance class tonight, so I’ll be even worse than usual (that’s sort of like saying “greater than infinity”). Instead of spending quality time with my kids like I’m supposed to after work, I’m letting them engage in some good cheap fun: playing with ice cubes! Yeah, it’s really fun at my house.
I think I got the headache from work. I don’t understand why we can’t have windows that open in office buildings. It’s like they’re trying to make it a germ incubator. I’m tempted to walk around the office with a mask and gloves now that flu season is starting — it couldn’t make me any more of a pariah than my recent spanking and biting incident (by the way, I have been avoiding walking by the IT department at all costs.

Parenting Travel

Hip Hop + Disneyland = Bad Idea

So I did end up taking a day off from blogging after my first hip hop class, because literally every part of my body hurt. It wasn’t the normal kind of exercise soreness — it was the type of soreness caused by extreme stress on muscles that have never before ever been used. I am not genetically predisposed to do hip hop. I probably don’t even have the muscles that are required to do it successfully. But my neck — after an hour of trying to alternate between snake-like and robot-like moves — was killing me the next day. Only, not right away.

You see, long ago, in a galaxy far away, before I had even made hip hop plans, I decided that the best time to take the kids to Disneyland would be 1) off-season, and 2) in the middle of the week. I mean, who can take their kids to Disneyland on a Wednesday in October? Apparently, millions of people. By the time I got there the lot was packed. And here is important Disney tip #1: do not bring a large double- jog stroller that does not fold up. Contrary to my assumption that a place like Disney would have wild accommodations for handicapped people and people with children (people handicapped by children?), the trams that take you from the parking lot to the theme park only have two rows that accommodate said passengers. So on the way in, I waited til 6 trams passed before I could get onto one that had space for me. On the way back, it was worse — it took me an hour to get on a tram because handicapped people had first priority — so every time I was at the front of the line, a handicapped person would appear and get ushered on. The “handicapped by children” people are screwed.

So I finally got to the theme park, at which point important Disney tip #2 kicks in: do not go to Disneyland after your first hip hop class because the stiffness will kick in at exactly 10 AM when Disneyland opens and you realize you have 12 hours ahead of you pushing 60 pounds of people around a giant theme park. I was feeling totally fine until 10 AM, when I suddenly became an octagenarian and groaned my way around the park.

As luck would have it, I then stumbled upon important Disney tip #3: check that there isn’t anything wrong with your stroller before leaving the parking lot. Yup, my stroller broke. I was 5 minutes into Fantasyland and I groaned my way down to the ground to assess the damage. Should I abandon the stroller and attempt to walk the kids around? Should I scream for help? After about 15 minutes of sheer determination I was miraculously able, with my hands as my only tools, repair the stroller. I will now fast-forward past all the whining, crying and saying that they have to pee after finally getting to the front of a long line, to the part where my girls met Ariel the Little Mermaid. My 2-year-old rightfully asked, “Why do you still have fins?” (She’s right — Ariel’s supposed to be a human now.) We also stood in line for over an hour to meet some other princesses, and they turned out to be the B-list (Belle, Pocahontas and Jasmine). Bummed out by this, my 2-year-old asked Jasmine where Cinderella was. I’m sure Jasmine was annoyed. I bet she hates those A-list princesses.

Anyway, add to that the traffic on the way back (add an extra hour on for that, actually) and I will summarize that I never want to do that again anytime soon.


How to stop thumb-sucking / pacifier / binky use

My older daughter sucked her thumb, while my younger one used a binky. I was able to wean each of them from their respective habits within a day. Yep, you heard it — cold turkey, all at once, in a single day. While I make no claims that I caused no psychological damage, but I will say that I used the most effective tool available: The Truth. The conversations went something like this:

Me: If you keep sucking your thumb, you’re going to need braces. [using a tone of voice usually reserved for ghost stories] Do you know what braces are?
Kid: No [but looking a little afraid].
Me: They put metal wires in your mouth and glue brackets on your teeth and then pull it really tight with a wire and it’s really owie. Do you want to see what braces look like?
Kid: Yes…? [looking very anxious now]

I took them downstairs to the computer and using the ever-omniscient Google, I found this website. Check out Case #4 — it’s the most graphic [insert maniacal laugh]. I showed my kids these photos and they were 1) scared, because growing up in Southern California, they’ve never seen teeth this screwed up, and 2) they shrieked, “I don’t want to be like that!” and immediately gave up their habits.

There you have it. Tried and true.