We came back from New York last night after 13 hours of driving sometimes in the terrible road condition due to heavy snow. The only thing that made the long journey less difficult than it should have been was light traffic. People must have been somewhere inside ringing in the New Year.

You should have known by now that the thing I care the most about in this whole world is my family. I thought we were a loving unit that appreciated, understood and supported one another. After being cooped up in a small car for many hours, problems began to bubble up in the least expected way. It came to my attention that my girls were constantly ridiculing my and Joe’s Chinese accent or anything we said or did. After a while, it wasn’t cute anymore. So on day two on our way to the DC National Zoo, I told them what they were doing actually hurt my feelings and how they would feel if we constantly pointed out and laughed at their every little mistake. Jane and Michelle acted surprised, but over the cause of the trip, the sarcastic joking decreased significantly which changed the atmosphere in the car, at least for me.

About a month ago, Michelle told Joe that her laptop was starting to give her lots of problems. Joe said he would buy her a new one. Then Joe asked what Jane would want for Christmas. Jane said that since Michelle was getting a new laptop for Christmas, she should be given the equivalent amount of cash because she had been taking good care of hers. My husband likes to tease our kids and therefore he responded by saying something like “Okay, no problem!” When I joined the group chat, the three of them were deep into the conversation. I pointed out that we might have to replace Jane’s laptop one more time down the road and therefore she wasn’t going to get that much cash for Christmas. Joe supported my position with, “We’d love to give you the money but mom is broke.”

During one of our conversations in the car, Jane expressed her dissatisfaction with her Christmas gifts.

“We never agreed to give you thousands of dollars for Christmas!” I was ticked.

“But remember in our group chat, dad said ‘yes’?”

“I said ‘no’ because I just paid your tuitions and I didn’t have thousands of dollars to give to anyone. Even if I did, I wouldn’t!”

Then I turned to Joe, “Can you stop teasing our children? You built up their unrealistic expectations and now I have to deal with them!”

This conversation got us nowhere near a place of mutual appreciation and understanding.

The next day we went to the biggest outlet mall in Upstate New York. When Jane and I were alone, I said to her, “Be grateful of what you have, okay? The laptop and the Christmas gift are two different things. We’ll replace your machine sometime in the future.”

“But I don’t need a new laptop. Mine works fine. Plus when I get a full-time job, they’ll give me a laptop and so I won’t need my own.”

“I have a laptop from work. It’s not meant for personal use. Companies monitor what you do online.”

“Yeah, you are probably right, mom.” Jane flashed her cute smile.

The outlet mall has a comprehensive array of fine stores. We did some wonderful shopping in the pouring rain. Jane got soaked without an umbrella and she didn’t buy anything with her Christmas money and the cash my sister-in-law gave her. Even Joe purchased a colorful winter coat and some exercise clothes from Under Amour. I got Jane and Michelle each a watch that they had wanted for a long time at unbelievable prices. We left the fabulous mall wet, hungry but satisfied.

Last Saturday at the DC Capital Mall was lovely. It was 50 degrees and sunny. We took many pictures at the Lincoln Center, Supreme Court, Capital Hill, White House and the Library of Congress. We also watched a magnificent 3D space movie inside the Air and Space Museum. Monday in New York City was a bit crazy. We took the ferryboat to Staten Island and enjoyed the view of the Statue of Liberty from afar, and then we roamed around New York City fighting the crowd and the cold. Joe made a wise decision to take public transportation from New Jersey to New York instead of driving. We were all happy when we got back to my brother-in-law’s nice and warm house.

What I’ve learned from our road trip is that communication is the key to maintain vital and healthy family relationships, and that parents and children perceive fairness differently and therefore we need to learn to look at things from the perspective of the other side. Even though Joe had made detailed plans about our activities each day, we had to frequently adjust the plans because there were so many elements out of our control. A strong family is the one that is flexible and positive in the midst of uncertainties and discomfort. I’ve also learned that being a father is sometimes a thankless job. So I want to thank my husband for driving all of us and making this trip as enjoyable as it was.

An hour away from home last night, I asked everyone to share their New Year resolutions.

Jake’s answer, “Get some style!”

“What does style mean to you? Who do you want to be like?” Michelle asked.

Jake didn’t know but promised he’d get back to us after he figured out.

Michelle wanted to do well in school. Joe wished to lose a few more pounds (which Michelle and I thought was unnecessary). I wanted to stay happy. Jane had been dropped off in Indiana to spend New Year with Jim’s family and so we didn’t hear hers.

When we finally got home, Joe heaved a big sigh of relief “We survived!”

“What? I don’t want to survive. I want to live!” Jake claimed.

The 33-hour car ride revealed to me that our family wasn’t perfect. But who cares about being perfect when we are living?

Bring it on, 2014! Happy New Year to you all!