Our Tween/Teen – Dr. Plastic Picker

Category: Our Tween/Teen

Mantilija Poppy

May 4, 2021

It’s someone’s birthday this week. Mr. Plastic Picker and I have two teenagers now in the house. One about to drive and another living in a world of dreaming about volleyball spikes and playing varsity. They both have such conventional lives with conventional concerns. For someone who grew up in a refugee household, I realize how unusual that is. Mr. Plastic Picker and I are who we are because of the way we were raised, within loving households that faced more struggles but anchored in a country that had opportunities for us. We are not trying to recreate ourselves in our children or recreate the circumstances that molded us. We are happy that the children have volleyball, and some of the biggest concerns is who is going to be taller than whom. Which SAT prep course to take? Summer house vacation with friend or go with your parents camping? I concentrate on them and also concentrate on the society surrounding them.

Did you hear about Bill and Melinda Gates divorce? Do you think money had anything to do with it? No money in the world is worth the dissolution of a marriage. I remember when Al and Tipper Gore annoucned their divorce. Because I had rewatched the Inconvenient Truth so many times, I was shocked. My own parents are still married. Mr. Plastic Picker’s parents are still married. And indeed when I was a young doctor mulling over the divorce of Al and Tipper Gore, a Dr. KJ who was older worked beside me and she came out and said “I’m still married.” That reminded me not to borrow the concerns of others.

Bill and Melinda Gates mentioned in their press release about their three children, and successfully raising them. Mr. Plastic Picker and I are in the midst of raising our two tweens. For me, our marriage and the family we’ve created which is an extension of our two families merged into these two teens – is the most important thing in my life. Maybe this is something a liberal feminist would disagree, but its more important than my career and more important than money. I don’t talk about my marriage and my family as much about plastic, but I wonder if my friends truly understand.

But that’s the wonderful thing about the new world. I can do it all. I can be married, have two teens, and be Assistant Boss and be an Eco-Avatar Dr. Plastic Picker. I can do it all and also be head of vaccine quality measures. It’s funny one truly understands who is supportive of your career, or those who gently push you along and help you along the way. Beware of those who subtly leave professional land-mines. Dr. Plastic Picker is all my years of being a mentor and Assistant Boss, I never told anyone to quit. I never told anyone that you could not do anything. I hope that I encouraged people along their career path and their family. There is no race. You can have children, a successful marriage, and be in leadership. I’ll clear the professional land-mines for you. Other people don’t see them, but as a litter-picker now I notice them all.

54 attendees to the Oregon Pediatric Society meeting, authentic connections.

April 18, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I am proud of our teen son this morning. I’m up later than usual at 6am. I was watching “The Crown” last night, and it’s okay. I don’t consume much media or popular entertainment these days, because I think the life in the real world and trying to save the earth is more interesting. But I did watch a few episodes, and was up just a bit later than usual. In about an hour, I’ll plog to the rec center. Surfrider is cleaning PB this morning, so with all those people there – I’ll go where it is more neglected and applaud them on Instagram.


It’s kind of anonmymous right? The Picture.

April 15, 2021

by drplasticpicker

These are my two kids. They could be any two asian-american children. I used one of those portrait apps to make the picture cool. It was taken during our trip about a month ago to Boca Chica Ecological Preserve in Orange County. We are on vacation again, and about the same distance as Orange County – just about an hour from home across the county line to Riverside. We are going to explore the wine country here and go on a few hikes, and stayed at a very nice Residence Inn, Marriot. I am hoping to go on a social media detox. It’s good to disconnect for a while. But blogging has always been for me a creative outlet, and a source of renewal.

Other than really really needing a cup of coffee right now, and I’m not sure where to get a cup of coffee at 447AM at the Marriot – I’m otherwise very happy and reflective this morning. During the National AAP Legislative Advocacy Conference, the plenary session by Stacey Abrams is still resonating with me. She was simply inspirational. She said in one part about her journey to a public life, that education was transformative for her family. Her parents were methodist ministers and raised them to know fundamentally the value of service. Service to others was never about giving back, service to children especailly is about survival. Never use the excuse that you have nothing to do nothing. So many phrases that resonate. I had never listened to her speak before and now I am inspired.

Another line she said that is resonating is that education was transformative for her family. This is giving me so much creative space to think about life and environmentalism, and even with my children. Mr. Plastic Picker speaks about his schooling the same way. That his education at the Pingry School was transformative. He grew leaps and bounds as a scholar and as a person during his high school years. I felt the same during my high school years. That metaphorphisis I felt again during the first few years of pediatric training. And then life became dull and lifeless. Petty almost. But we were worried about the mechanics of life. Job, housing, kids. That transformative time I’m feeling again these last two years after embracing climate activism.

And I think that is what we all want for our children. Transformative education happens everywhere. We are getting closer to the time that our children will be applying to colleges, and honestly I don’t think about it so much anymore. I used to worry so much about whether they would be able to get in to Crimson University. But deep in my heart now, I know that worrying about the tomorrows and the what ifs really does take away from the today and the right now. They are on their path and each day and each challenge at school, is an opportunity to learn and to grow.

The medal our tween daughter earned. It is special because I know how much work she put into it. For her that project was transformative. She submitted her film documentary to the State competition and we are waiting to hear back about Nationals. I’m looking most forward to watching it with our extended family, whenever we know when this project will reach it’s natural resting place whether it be state or nationals.

New Growth That Makes Me Think Of You

April 4, 2021

by drplasticpicker

Dear Daughter,

Yesterday we were together for much of the day. I mixed up the time of your volleyball practice, and we showed up at the park without any practice. You were already dressed in your volleyball clothes, the shorts and the jacket that are your favorite. You looked like an anime volleyball character, and I know that is part of the reason why you love volleyball. I love that you love volleyball, because it is important to move your body and realize our bodies are special places that our spirit lives and to care for that place. We had a wonderful day instead wandering around the old park that I grew up. You climbed the big hill and wandered around the woods there. This community is safe. This is where I grew up. I didn’t worry about you, and the others around the park because I knew they were there with their families doing much of the same thing. Spending time together in a place that they know belongs to them. Indeed this earth belongs to all of us creatures, and that is why I was picking up trash yesterday. Wasn’t that such a big bag of trash we gathered? Thank you for showing me all the pieces of plastic littering the earth.

Yesterday we talked several times and I told you stories. I told you the story of how really sick you were when you were a baby. And the three distinct times when the doctors asked me, do you want to continue? And each time, I put my hand over you through the skin overlying my womb, or through the isolette and said – yes, please continue. I’m the only mommy she has, if I don’t fight for her life alongside her – who will? You are older now and the stories I told you yesterday were brief and matter of fact. Those times were hard for me, but I was already a woman physician grown and graduated. You were small and fighting for each breathe, each moment and each day. I promised you while you were in the neonatal intensive care unit a full and loving life. And that is the life you have. It’s what you call the “bubble” mommy and daddy created for you. And like the isolette that they put you in as a premature baby, that is the “bubble” of community, family and love that we surround and protect you.

But I forgot to tell you something yesterday, and I am typing it here before I forget. I may read it to you later, or maybe you will wander onto the blog to read it later. I know sometimes you come to check to see what your mother the silly Dr. Plastic Picker writes about sometimes. This I won’t tell you for a little bit because I don’t want to be too melodramatic. Sometimes these stories we tell, need to be given in small bits and pieces as even wonderful stories can be overwhelming.

When we were over at your grandmother’s house, my mother’s house, for the first time in over a year – we walked by the ancestral alter at the house. We were more focused on you giving your grandfather the first hug that he has received from you in over a year. But I forgot to point out the ancestral alter and the picture of my grandmother, your maternal great grandmother. It’s one of the few pictures my mother has of her mother. Our family lights incense there and leaves symbolic gifts of rice and food to her spirit. She lives there, in the spiritual and literal sense with us still.

You have to remember our stories, even if you do not choose to continue formally what our family has done for generations which is to honor our ancestors. You have to remember and to keep in your heart that the woman in the picture, your maternal great grandmother, loved your grandmother unconditionally. Your grandmother, my mother, loved me unconditionally. And I love you, unconditionally. Each of us as women have had traumas and challenges, and life has not been easy especially for your great grandmother as a rural woman in South Vietnam with six children and a husband long dead after the colonial war with the French. But somehow, loving our daughters has made them stronger and allowed each generation of women in our family to gain strength.

Our culture was originally a matriarchal culture before we were colonized by the Chinese who brought the idea that boys were better than girls. I think we still are a matriarchal culture, because what is culture but the traditions of a people? This is why what you do at school and who you are, is celebrated by your grandmother so much. Next time we go over to your grandmother’s house, I will show you the picture of your maternal great grandmother and tell you what each object on the alter means. And did you know that the name you carry, which is Thao actually means together with Hieu – Hieu Thao means filial piety, faith in your family. I forgot to tell you that. But in our family it is not the children who honor the elders, it is the mothers who honor their daughters.

I love you, unconditionally.

Your mother who has the same name.

Art Installation by Christine Nguyen, artists I did not know about.

March 20, 2021

by drplasticpicker

We were at Casa Romantica as the last stop on our brief but much appreciated and much needed OC vacation. We were mostly there to look at the Native Pollinator Gardens, the Monarch Way Station and the views, but the kids surprisingly wanted to wander into some of the historic rooms. And when we did, we saw this beautiful art installation by artist Christine Nguyen. https://www.christinenguyen.art/public-art

Our last name is so common, and I was surprisingly delighted to see it so prominent in such a public sapce.

The piece is indeed beautiful and I will enjoy getting to know her art more, now that I’ve found her webpage. But I was intrigued by her last name which is as Vietnamese as they come and prominently displayed against the very white walls of a very established cultural institution in Southern California.

What does this have to do with #STOPASIANHATE which is now trending on social media? I haven’t commented on this at all on my personal nor eco-avatar social media sites. I was trying to figure out why I didn’t have a visceral reaction to the hashtag or needed to adopt it. Neither did Mr. Plastic Picker who is actually Korean, and indeed was a Korean citizen until medical school right before our marriage. I was born an American citizen, my mother having popped me out on American soil after having been pregannt in refugee camp. So I can become President of the United States of America if I wanted. Not Mr. Plastic Picker. And I did mention to him years ago that he should become a citizen before we got married, so that I would know he was not marrying me for my citizenship.


Picture I took yesterday of our daughter’s sand drawing.

March 13, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I took this picture yesterday. It was a sand drawing my daughter did. We had both been home virtually working, she at school and me with work (work work and climate work). We had both had been sitting at our computers from morning until about 3pm. I was also working on our refinance paperwork, which is time-consuming (I find fun) but very detail oriented to get all the right paperwork to the lender. Our tween was finishing up her last day of school and giddy about approaching spring break and having an entire week off. Eventhough we were both home and I had made kinda vegan muffins with dried plums and an overripe mango (which was surprisingly good!) for breakfast, by 3pm we were both irritated. A just menarchal and almost menopausal (just kidding, I have a few more years) daughter and mother pair that are irritable is not a good combination. Our tween daughter had the previous night learned that her National History Day entry into the Individual Documentary Category had won at the Middle School Grade 6-8 category at the San Diego County Level and she is moving onto State. She was excited and proud, but toward the end of the day she realized that she would have to spend some of her school break editing her documentary on Mahatma Ghandi. This is the burden of trying to to do more. There is always more to do.


Left Over Food Some Random Person Gave My In-Laws.

March 8, 2021

by drplasticpicker

It’s crunch week for the kids. Our son has four finals this week and he is in the inbetween area for several classes. It’s stressful being a sophomore high school student. These are all honors and AP Classes, and it was his choice to take them. Mr. Plastic Picker is somewhat stressed about this week, and it spills over to me. All in all, our son is going through something every teen should go through. He seems more relaxed then he really is. I created him in my womb so I know. It definitely is that crunch time and he feels it. My job is to make sure he gets to bed on time, and is eating nutritious food. He asked for a new video game, and Mr. Plastic Picker bought it for him. I put my mommy foot down and told him no video games until he is done with finals. Sometimes my husband who is usually really smart is not so smart. I might rename myself Dr. Common Sense at some point. But then he definitely can’t be Mr. Common Sense.


My son. Home from cross-country.

February 12, 2021

by drplasticpicker

My siblings and I met virtually for various family reasons and the subject came up on how much do you give your children? It’s funny how life has taken each of us in different directions but our core values are the same. For those that are given much, much is to be expected. That much is what one contributes to the world. Yes, we don’t want to end up like societal leeches that accomplish little like the Trump children and the teen children from all those reality shows that are just horrible with ennui so early in life. But also in terms of material wealth, you should leave them something but not too much. Money should certainly give one security in case there is a grandchild or family member with some unexpected medical condition that needs long-term care, but otherwise money too early or the knowledge there is a pot at the end – will take away one’s chance to earn one’s place in the world.

What is earned is so much more valuable than what is given. The picture above is my son from the back, home from Cross-Country. He is proud to wear the jersey every sports season because he earns it from running 3-7 miles a practice. Those are real miles run, foot to the dirt. Pounding that he voluntarily subjects his body to. It’s part of growing up and this is why sports for so many kids is character building. It truly isn’t about how fast one is or how you place. It’s the journey, and the miles run.


Purchased bird house.

January 4, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I had baked 4 potatoes and 2 sweet potatoes last night. The house was cold and Mr. Plastic Picker was bringing home some Rubios. We mostly try to cook at home but some days are harder than others, and when my tween daughter becomes irritated at me – I tend to give in and just order out. Over the holiday we only ordered out 3 times over two weeks. That is pretty good. Last night was one of those nights. Our kids are doing very well, and I’m inordinately proud of them. I do realize the irony of it all. I used to think I was pretty hot stuff when I was younger, Crimson University grad and all. Now in my mid 40s I was annoying my tween who is an ex-preemie, who literally was trying to read excerpts of her Ghandi book as I was watching a romance movie on Amazon Prime. Earlier in the evening she was annoyed at me because we went jogging together and I couldn’t keep up, and after about 12 minutes asked if I could walk and pick up trash and she could finish running (she runs cross country). And then the Girl Scout project that we’ve been organizing together, she spent a good amount of time organizing it for the troop and is going to present a beautiful program today. Whereas I just cut out some slides from my previous Climate Change and Clean Air talk to the UCSD PRIME HEq program, and recorded what I thought was a half-hearted talk on Pediatric Health and Clean Air.


Wow. Who knew we had so many board games?

January 3, 2020

by drplasticpicker

I spent the last week decluttering the house. Well, not actually decluttering but rearranging and trying to find more space. It all started when my younger brother had a leather office chair almost new that he passed down to me, and a shoe rack. I showed the picture of the chair to the kids, and they both wanted the chair. So began, this round robin of shifting furniture and decluttering to find out where that chair fit into our lives.

The chair ended up in my room, because the back is a bit too extended for the kids’ comfort. For now with a large body pillow draped behind it, it’s the perfect ergonomic position for me. My chair ended up in my daughter’s room, as she had always liked my office chair. Then her chair ended up in the game room built-in office space, and that chair ended up back in our master bedroom where I was trying to create a reading nook/yoga space. Then I realized that the large fancy leather Costco Euro-Lounger in our bedroom reading area should go into the Game Room. The bunnies were permanently moved from the Game Room onto the adjacent balcony that has a weatherized hutch. They have a huge space out there, and I have no guilt about permanently moving the two thriving bunnies outside.