The Power of “Me, Too”

Two weekends ago, I had to call my girlfriend from Six Flags to pray for and with me.  Because we’ve had our own disjointed, shorthand, can-talk-over-each-other language since seventh grade, she is the only friend I can still call without feeling like I am disrupting someone’s busy weekend, even though I *was* disrupting her as she set up for her daughter’s birthday party.

As soon as I heard her voice, I started crying, still holding Olive, first trying to find half a bench to sit on, then pacing so that I can have some privacy away from the benched Funnel Cakers.  I was holding her awkwardly, trying to keep her out of the sun while the sun kept following us.

After wasting our time yelling at each other and NOT hearing each other, Kevin had taken the boys to a different section of the park.  I felt abandoned but looking back, it allowed me to catch my breath and stop raging in front of the kids.

I was grateful that Olive was too young to later say, “Remember that time Mommy was crying at Six Flags?”

I continued to my friend:

“…on top of all that, I am now spiraling, feeling like WTF is wrong with me, looking around this dang park with today’s perfect SoCal-like weather and everyone taking selfies, Funnel Caking and heeheehee, able to enjoy themselves.

I feel like a f*cking failure ‘cuz I couldn’t put our fight on pause like a mature ass adult and parent but girl, I just felt so unheard and still do.  No matter how many times I tried, I could NOT just ‘snap out it,’ take a deep breath and re-emerge as Mom who is able to Funnel Cake and Batman ride right now!”

My friend and I talked over each other, which is what we do.  I told her that rehashing it won’t get us anywhere so let’s just pray.  But before she prayed, she shared with me, “STOP!  Stop it.  LOOK, I been there!  And it is OK that you couldn’t collect yourself to take your kids to the rides as a family.  It’s not fair to put such a time pressure on yourself for being OK.  It’s OK to show your kids that Mommy had to go collect herself and yes, even at Six Flags.  And if you think you the only one melting down, trust me.  Some of these families you comparing yourself to?  They already had their meltdowns on the way in or will have them later as they leave.”

She also shared just how “been there” she been, which helped spare me from beating myself up even more.  All while speed-talking before her girl’s birthday party.

Of course, as a friend, she couldn’t just co-sign on all my bad habits.  She did acknowledge that I can work on some thangs, but she let me know that I was not the only mom who had failed.  In this age where phone calls are obsolete, I’m so glad I was able to reach her.

Also, this past week, I’ve been chatting online with some dear mom friends and the power and beauty of that chat was all in the “Me, too.”

Sometimes, a “Me, too” is more life-giving than any, “I’ll pray for you” or “Have you ever considered…?” or “At least you…”  (Actually, no one enjoys an “At least you…” ever).

And I don’t know why my self-talk can be so damn mean.  “Snap out of it” is the worst message, something I would never tell anyone else after being told that when I suffered from clinical depression decades ago.

I don’t know about others but I am my own harshest critic and I would like to work on that.  If I don’t check myself and remind myself aloud, like Stuart Smalley on SNL, my negative self-talk can be downright fatal.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“How come other moms don’t experience such a range of emotions?  Why are you so extra?!”

“How come I’m not more like Kevin?  He can handle so much more.”

“How is that other mom so damn calm?  Does she ever yell?!”

And in the darkest moments, “What if my kids are better off without me?”

I’ve constantly asked myself, even on this blog, why I am prone to confessions while some are never prone to any self-deprecation.

I think I’ve always been drawn to the power of “Me, too,” to help others (and myself) know that we are ALL broken.

Sometimes, I hear church folk talkin’ about how we are all broken but for the life of me, I can’t imagine this person in front of me ever breaking down.  So when someone shares their weakness, it is downright life-giving.

This is why I can relate to addicts and recovery programs, though I have not been an addict myself – the opportunity and ability to share low moments with each other, to remind each other regularly that we all struggle.

And to be clear, “Me, too” is not to be mistaken for having a pity party where we bring each other down and stay there, or excuse bad habits together but to remind each other that we can be imperfect, that there is always more grace.

We can fail in big and small ways, but as long as breathe air in and out of our different-shaped nose holes, we can seek redemption for moments and narratives we want to shed.  And one thing is for sure:  we will mess up again, and His mercies abound.

Lamentations 3:21-23 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

 

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Precious Moments

As I grow older, I am realizing time is as much of a commodity as money.  In some cases, more.

Right now, I have to use the bathroom but I want to write so badly before Olive wakes up from her mini-nap.  I would choose writing over eating, depending on my mood that day.

Once Olive is up, we have to be on our way to fetch the boys who will stick their sweaty heads into her Snap N Go to give her kisses all over her chubby face as I repeat myself, “Give her space!  She is a person!  Here’s some Purell!”

Hours later, I will get to hand the three off to Daddy as soon as he gets off the subway to release me to Parent Engagement Night, aka Back to School night.

As packed as our days (and nights) are, I can tell these are the very days Empty Nesters will remind us to enjoy every moment of.

I’m not sure what I want my blog to be.  I often wish I could be the blogger who writes about tips on taking trips with kids, or recipes, or other how to’s but I’m not wired that way.  I am prone to confessing, sharing too much, and talking about my inner life, aka being a Non-Monetizing Blog.

My kids take my breath away.  I won’t be able to share much as they get older but for now, I can still share these mundane but meaningful moments:

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Photo #1: Alone but Together

My big one wanted to assert his independence by riding alone on the kiddie ride this past weekend at Six Flags.  This was a precious moment as Ellis and I beamed when our ride would line up with Micah’s and Micah would beam back with his one missing tooth.  I will carry that moment in my heart and hopefully conjure it up when they are pre-teens.

He wanted to be on his own but did not find it uncool yet to be thrilled to see us next to him.

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Photo #2:  I Spy with My Blue-Lashed Eye

“Micah, can you make sure Olive…”

“Yeah, I’m already holding her hand and foot so she knows she isn’t alone.  I checked to make sure the sun is not in her eyes.  She has some tears on her cheeks so I wiped them.  She has some on her lashes, too.  And I’m gonna sing to her now.”

Though Big Boy and I butt heads from being wired too similarly during our low moments, he blessed me so much when he told me yesterday, unprompted:

“I appreciate you taking us to the library program even though it was crowded and loud.  I’m proud of you, Mommy.”  HIGHLIGHT OF MY DAY.

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Photo #3:  These are the Days of Our Lives

When there is a new baby on the scene, folks immediately and naturally relate it to their own stage in life.  “Oh, we are SO done!  I can’t even imagine going through that again!”  “Now we get to travel!  No diaper bags!  We sleep so well.”

It’s been extra busy with Back-to-School events and forms that have got me cross eyed, those darn blue cards with fonts shrinking every year, this time in Spanish first, then nearly invisible English.

Kevin and I have not been able to soul-talk after a big fight because we have to talk about the more mundane but necessary items like how to keep us all clothed, fed, bathed, hydrated, schooled, homeworked, and bedtimed, and other -ed’s.  And yet, I can just feel that these are the very best, most tender days of our lives, while the kids are still so pure and while we are still not decrepit.

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Photo #4:  My Olive Royl at 3.5 months old, post Baek-Il

Cracking us up by being so calm, down for every family adventure, suddenly drooly like Biggest Bro was, sucking on her whole fist and wrist like she workin’ on a jokbal (Korean roasted, seasoned Pig Foot).  She has moved on from smiling to trying out this sound called Laughter and splashing lots in the bath.  I must capture on video.

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Photo #5:  Don’t Forget Me, Mommy!

My Middle has expressed that he would like to be born again so that Mommy can love him again as a baby.  Awwww.  Imagine being snuggled so much until a smaller, cuter thang arrives out of your mom’s swoll belly, monopolizing her time, energy, and teat.

With three kids, there isn’t as much of Mommy and Daddy to go around.  I pray that we can still make each FEEL loved.

Olive is up and we must get going.  Thank You Lord for each moment.  Please give us more energy for the second half of our day.

Behold: New Things Have Sprung Forth

I know the timing of this post sucks. Hurricane Harvey hit Houston about a week ago and now Floridians are bracing themselves for Hurricane Irma.

So I feel sheepish and rude to share that while catastrophes swirl about on our green globe, in my personal life, I am happy. Quite possibly the happiest I have ever been.

I recently realized that I respond to “How are you?” by sharing laments or struggles because that seems to be the easier way to connect to others. I know I can’t connect to someone if they only share green pastures, Happy Happy Joy Joy, perhaps because there is no risk involved in sharing only the shiny moments.

But because I am the opposite and lead with difficulties first, I want to work on sharing praises more, without worrying that others might be like, “Well, congrats to you, bitch. Can’t relate.”

I’m repeating myself but having a baby at 40 was an answer to a couple years’ worth of prayers, asking, “Please remove this impractical desire for a third baby OR somehow work it out for our family as I am consumed by this desire.” I shared before that Kevin had a vision from God and it was realized when I conceived at the age of 39.

Sure, we are tired because we have a wide-eyed baby with no official bedtime yet, in addition to two growing, active boys who need our attention, in some ways more than when they were babies. But even in that sharp tiredness, we sing and laugh each night, as our cheeky girl shimmies to our pitchy serenades.

We shake our greying heads in amazement that she has joined us when for years, she was a fantasy I tried to excise, only joking about it, wiggling my eyebrows and quipping at Costco, “I’mma just buy some prenatal vitamins, eh? My obsession won’t go away,” and Kevin saying, “Not funny.”

Also, after many of our weekends were devoted to house-searching, our prayers for a house were answered in the form of, “Nope, NOT YET!” Surprisingly, staying in our imperfect town has added to my happiness. I appreciate living closer to couple close friends, our non-family village.

Just a few weeks ago, we moved to a slightly more spacious apartment in the very town we wanted to graduate from, and we love our new amenities.

We sit on our tiny terrace to have family dinner together while the weather is still gorgeous. Kevin and I people-watch. We saw a dad screaming at his kid because the kid didn’t listen, causing some groceries to spill out. Now that we are parents, we completely judged the kid and commentated, “He should have listened. How many times the poor dad gotta repeat himself!?”

Biggest quality of life update: We have a second bathroom. Glory be! Even with such upgrades, by the grace of God alone, I remain down-to-earth puahahaha.

Because we live a quick jog away from our old co-op, we were able to drop by twice before we gave it up completely. Though we outgrew that space almost as soon as we moved in in the fall of 2010, all the memories came rushing back as we looked around the vacant space:

My parents, fresh from the airport, walking in to see their first grandchild, just days old, six pounds of fragile newborn, laying in his bassinet.

Another son joining his more laid-back parents two years later.

Hoisting my pregnant self off our high bed once again in 2017 and my water breaking for the first time, to meet our first daughter.

Just as Micah and I became teary-eyed about the memories housed in those 900+ square feet, Olive let out a rare yelp, as if to say, “Enough. Let’s roll out. I only had a couple months of memories here and I’m ready to make more with you guys.”

19″Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

Thank You, Lord, for letting us say goodbye in installments, to our old home. And thank You also for new things springing forth. I am so happy and learning to enjoy green pastures. Every good and perfect gift comes from You.

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If These Walls Could Talk

In less than a week, we will be waking up in our new home, our unexpected new home for just one year, while we soul search about where to lay down roots.

I might have to force the family to do vision boards.

Goodbye to our first home as parents.

Seven years, three babies, 900 square feet.

Thank You, Lord, for watching over us, through the laughter and awe, through the screaming and tears.  ALL OF IT.  Only You knew the answers to all of our questions.

I waddled in here on September 28, 2010, with baby Micah in my womb.

Now we walk out as a family of five.  Grateful beyond belief.

What words

have smashed against
these walls,
crashed up and down these
halls,
lain mute and then drained
their meanings out and into
these floors?

What feelings, long since
dead,
streamed vague yearnings
below this ceiling
light?
In some dimension,
which I cannot know,
the shadows of
another still exist. I bring my
memories, held too long in check,
to let them here shoulder
space and place to be.

And when I leave to
find another house,
I wonder what among
these shades will be
left of me.

“The New House” by Maya Angelou

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6.24.17 (photo credit:  Keri Tan Photography)

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That Robin Life

When we arrived at our annual retreat in NH last month, Ellis exclaimed that a mama robin was feeding her babies.  Since we were unpacking, we didn’t really hear him until we saw for ourselves, right outside our window:  these scrawny baby robins with their mouths open crazy wide, expectant for Mama Robin to drop juicy worms into them.

Perhaps this is a common sight in certain areas but for us living in Beep Beep Honk Honk NYC, it caught our breath.  We watched in amazement.  The birds’ beaks were open so comically wide it looked painful, almost 180 degrees.  They never doubted that their mom would return and drop in some sustenance.  They never said, “I ain’t no chump, opening my mouth like a fool.  I’mma front like I ain’t hungry and when she comes, THEN I’ll open up.”

I told Kevin:  I had no idea that the mom has to fly off as soon as she drops the worms into their beaks!  Why does she leave so quickly like she in witness protection?  Where is the dad?

“I don’t know.  I don’t have a PhD in Bird.  But yeah, I wonder why she has to leave so fast.”

We arrived Sunday afternoon.  We watched this family several times a day.  The scrawny birds grew up and their wet tufts started looking more like their red-chested Mom.  I teared up when the teen robins started practicing their hops and flying skills, their growing girth now overflowing out of their starter home nest.

And on Thursday, they were gone when we came back from the lake.  In the span of just four days, they had become completely independent!  Their empty nest of twigs was the only remnant left from their formative days outside our window, the nest that had been overflowing with four robin siblings, weighing down the tree branch.

It was an honor to watch their lives unfold.  It also made me think about praying expectantly, like those baby robins who cried out until their moms dropped worms into their beaks.  I want to cry out like them with bold confidence that I will be cared for.

I want to cry out like a baby robin for big things like our friend’s baby who needs God’s healing touch.  For small things, like moving with three young kids and no grandparents to ship them off to.

My Olive girl is no longer a newborn as she is more than two months old now, my baby-est robin.

I want to memorize the beaming smile that emerged at Week 8.  I want to remember yesterday’s discovery that she may hate her carseat in the car, like on the way to NH, but she’s down for taking a walk in the summer evening with a breeze softly caressing her chins, the very chins we can push to lure a smile out of.

I want to remember my 6 1/2 year old son’s new jack-o-lantern smile with his first missing tooth that he was so excited about.

I don’t want to forget my nearly five year old son’s earnestness, crying when I forgot to roll down the window in time for him to yell out a final goodbye to his summer camp teachers.

And how much they love their baby sister, asking if we can show her to their classmate playing in the courtyard or to their summer camp pastor.  Unpacking schoolwork that says, “I am thankful for pizza and my baby.”

Now that I’m 40, I feel life moving even faster.  I see why older folks nudge us to enjoy every moment.  My hair is greying even more swiftly, my teeth yellowing, my back aching, my kids talking like teenagers, and my baby outgrowing baby clothes she used to swim in.

The other day, I couldn’t drive home because another car was blocking a one-way street, trying to score a coveted parking space.  It took so long that drivers behind me were honking, one guy got out and tried to walk over to see whassup, Olive was crying in her sweaty carseat, Micah was updating me on each detail of Olive’s cry, and Ellis added, “I have to poo.”

I started laughing maniacally and actually bursted with tender gratitude for the moment.  This was my life, my Mama Robin life before my robins fly away.

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07.10.17 – Baby O is 6 weeks old

Baby Olive,

I am typing with you sprawled out on my thighs. Skin to skin.

Around five weeks old, you decided that napping in your bassinet was played out and you craved the warm body mattress of Mommy who is preoccupied with packing.

You grunt like crazy and you have one eye all Round Eye while the other eye is shut, so you look more like Popeye than Olive Oyl.  Daddy looked up “Olive Oyl” recently and we learned about her parents, (Ba)Nana Oyl and Cole Oyl.  And brother, Castor Oyl, who has an estranged wife, Cylinda Oyl!

Not only did you shed your stellar nap skills last week, you very particular about how we hold you.  You don’t want us to look at the phone.  You want us to cradle you, tuck you in an armpit or two, offer up a nipple pillow or Mommy’s still fuzzy belly, with its faint linea negra, a souvenir from pregnancy.

(Now I am nursing and trying to type with one hand because I miss writing).

Daddy and I just celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary on fwine date 07.07.17.  We were able to celebrate in style by going back to Bermuda.  Oh wait, that would be our next door neighbors, not us.

Daddy and Mommy happily spent our anniversary with you while brothers were away at summer camp.  You were our most valuable gift, your little legs with blue Mongol spots, and your nose with two little lines near the entrance of your nostrils, like the creases of a dumpling.  Your swiftly growing rolls make it easier for Mommy to handle you, less nervous than when you were only 5.5 lbs.

One of your first longer car outings was when you were about 15 days old.  We chose the farther, waterfront Costco we frequent when we want both ambience and value.  I felt like a first time mom when you were crying so much from your middle carseat that your brothers were giving us updates on the foaming of your mouth.  I made your dad pull over and we decided to skip the carnival we were going to also just “drop by.”  We are learning to slow down and Mommy especially is working on her fear of missing out.

Your dad doesn’t want you to be in certain enclosed spaces like house parties and our big church but he somehow rationalized Costco and the mall.

Anyways, when I went to change you at the Costco food court bathroom, I saw that someone had left a big turd for us on the changing table.  My fuzzy brain somehow told myself, “That surely must be a prop turd.  Who would be so foul as to leave a real, steaming turd for the next person?”  But why would there be an emoji prop turd?  Even more absurd.

I just remember being so embarrassed to introduce you to this grimy world outside of my womb, where people will leave their shit behind for you to deal with.  I tried to make up for it by showing you the water but it also looked like Law & Order SVU setting, some drunk topless men were fighting over the free soda they had scored, a teenager was passed out next to his bicycle and the bushes, and a couple was about to have sex in the front seat of their sedan.

Ok, this typing with you on me is ridiculous.  I just want to remember everything and blogging is a little more fun than journaling.  Peace out.  Time to fetch the brothers.  Olive You!

 

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Tried to make up for the Costo turd by showing you the beauty of the sculpture garden next door but there were scary goat displays.  You were still so scrawny that it must have looked like we came straight from the hospital to Costco.  Mommy’s friend said I should have worn a hospital gown.  Realized that this Costco and sculpture garden were the first two places we headed to upon finding out I was pregnant – to load up on prenatal vitamins!

5.26.17 Clementine, a pre-birth story

Since the last post, we have officially become a family of five.  Thank You, Lord.

Our tiny Olive Hope Kim is already 12 days old today and just about 6 lbs after losing then gaining lotta ounces.  She was nearly Olive Poema Hope but a family vote knocked (my) choice out pretty much immediately though I campaigned for it after I heard a sermon on Ephesians 2 on our being God’s “Poiema,” God’s workmanship and masterpiece.

I also considered “Clementine” for a split second when I had to rush to the hospital two days before her birth, but the back story is just gross and not meaningful.  She is the only one of my kids who took me to the hospital before their official arrival.

I am itching to write for the sake of writing and sharing and feeling more myself, though some of this is while holding Olive.  I want to feel more balanced as I’ve been nursing ’round the clock and trying to catch up on sleep in short little spurts during the day.  Sleep deprivation is a beast especially after I’d been sleeping soundly for years.

I took the boys to get their hair cut yesterday when they were home for Chancellor’s Day, one of THREE days off from school this month of June.

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Their barbers were asking me details of how I want their hair to look and I loved that they cared enough to ask.  But I closed my eyes for longer than I had planned and said, “Can you please excuse me for a moment?  I haven’t been getting enough sleep so I can’t even answer the most basic of your questions.  Just one moment.  Please forgive.  Thank you.”

Where do I start?  Lemme back up to 5.26.17, Friday before Memorial weekend.

Micah had been home with me four out of five days that week, with a bad cough attack similar to what had landed him in the hospital nearly a year ago.  I felt bad for him as his cough shook his skinny little body but I confess I also felt sad that this possible final week of being pregnant was not as restful for me as I had daydreamed about.

I went to go use the bathroom while Micah coughed away on the couch.  When I wiped, a clementine-sized sac protruded from me.  Though I knew it was NOT the baby’s head as i was in no pain, I completely freaked out and started crying, imagining myself on a reality show, Geriatric Multigravida Gives Birth in Co-op Toilet While Son on Nebulizer.

I called my doctor and the nurse told me not to get up.  But how could I not.  I had to pack for hospital and get someone to come over.

I called my friend, our emergency contact that God had provided.  My biggest fear of going into labor was that no one could take care of my big kids especially if I had to go in the middle of the night.  Our friends graciously and gladly offered their help, a true answer to prayer.

I got Micah’s albuterol treatment started as my friend rushed over.  Her husband was ready to pick up Ellis from pre-K later that afternoon.  I was beyond grateful for these helping hands that allowed me to get to the hospital without worrying about my boys.

Once I got to the hospital, the nurses asked me lots of questions.  I told them that all morning, I felt something different down there, almost like I was sprouting a penis.  I kept telling them it was a clementine sized flesh sac/water balloon that decided to hang out when I was on the toilet.  The nurses tried to make me re-enact what happened but the clementine hid itself.  They also told me that my descriptions were disturbing and terrifying.

Since they could not figure out what happened, I was discharged.  They said even if they had figured out exactly what was protruding, the baby was doing fine and there was no reason for me to stay in the hospital.

They advised that next time, I take a picture of the clementine.  I berated myself for not doing that in the first place.  Kevin assured me that I was normal and not a perverted sicko, to not think of taking a picture of my privates during that alarming moment.

So that is the story of how 5.26.17 was an alarming day leading up to her actual birthday.  We ended it happily eating Chinese food with our dear emergency contacts, not knowing that baby would be arriving within 48 hours.

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