Ruben Studdard had “Sorry (for) 2004,” Here’s Mine for 2011

Babywatch 2014.

As a life-long baby enthusiast and Elmira (“I want to hold you, love you, kiss you and squeeze you tight!”), I still get at least three rounds of goosebumps and shivers when I see a birth announcement on Facebook. A new life is among us. I think about the family’s first moments and naturally reminisce about our own in 2010 and 2012.

My favorite part is the first picture and the Name Reveal. It is so Lion King.

I no longer have babies. At 22 months old and 3.5+ years old (44 months old if you wanna be gross), they are full-fledged toddler and soon-to-be preschooler.

As I reminisce about the first few months of my firstborn’s life, I would like to take this time to officially apologize for 2011.

When Micah was a newborn, our Thanksgiving 2010 baby, there were times when I naively thought this motherhood thang was cake. After a whole year of getting showered with platitudes in various forms of “Oh, get ready for your world to be rocked!” or “Life will never be the same as you know it,” it wasn’t as bad as all the hype. I was nursing, cuddling, and falling in love ’round the clock. Most blissful I’d ever been. I didn’t give one crap about losing my freedom or no longer accessorizing.

I then began to hear some tales from the trenches, some confessions from mamas with older kids. About something called tantrums. And how their kids have the uncanny ability to stoke the fieriest fireball of anger within them. I honestly could not imagine my sweet angel baby, bursting with cheeks for days, EVER displeasing me, much less angering me. I even worried, “At this rate, I am going to be so attached to this sweet little human that I don’t think I can rejoin the work force. Ever.” My mama laughed at me and told me to give it a couple years.

This naive former self flashed into my mind today at Boston Market. My boys and I were going to stay out all day so I wanted to grab a decent lunch for them between events, while packing my own lunch to save money.

They were getting too riled up, egging each other on while standing in line with me so I seated them at a small table right in front of the line where I can keep my eyes on them, Ellis in a highchair and Micah in a regular chair. They were cracking up and squealing with delight.

What’s wrong with laughter and delight? Who am I, the Happiness Police?

Nope. I’m Mama and I know that the laughter was getting too amped up. I saw Ellis trying to climb out of his highchair, one leg already swung over, and reaching for the pepper. Micah was already out of his seat, reaching for the paper menu pyramid of today’s specials. I’m no fool – even a good thang like brotherly excitement can lead to nekked sumo wrestling on asphalt in about 90 seconds flat. I rushed back and yanked the pepper and menu out of their little hands and brought the boys back in line with me.

Ellis started to gag like he had swallowed wrong. The moment passed.

Until he actually hurled seconds later. The line quickly dispersed and no one could look me in the eye as I caught his vomit in my hands. Whatever I could not catch, I wore. It was a very NYC moment as no one dared to offer up a kind word or a few napkins.

“Keep it moving…moving away from Throw Up Mom and her two Littles.”

I waved down a cashier and said, “Hi, I’m so sorry but my baby just threw up while we were in line,” so that they could properly mop up that nastiness immediately.

Fortunately, Ellis was not sick at all. He had either had too much (green) breakfast smoothie and scrambled eggs a couple hours prior or I had been holding him too tightly around his tummy when holding him in line after he and Big Bro had gotten all riled up. So, Dude was still a ball of energy.

In the bathroom, the Li’l Kims still wanted to play with everything. The door lock, the door handle, the trashcan, the toilet handle, my dress. Micah wanted to engage me in deep conversation.

This is the exact moment I got overwhelmed, not the vomiting in line.

“Mom!? MOM!? *I* didn’t throw up right? Only Ellis, right, Mom? Mom!? Mom? Do you know what? Do you know what? I had a nightmare. I did. Last night. I had a nightmare about four giraffes dying. Did you hear me, MOM? Do you love me?”

He then went on to try to hug Ellis when they both had Vomit Feet and I was trying my best to clean up. My patience was wearing thin. I stank. I had to repeat myself over and over again before I could wash off both of them in our makeshift public sink shower. They continued to get attracted to the trash can with the fliptop lid.

We continued with our day and all was salvaged.

Not the worst parenting stress moment BY ANY MEANS (chile, please!) but I just remembered how I truly could not imagine even getting ANNOYED by my beloved offspring in his infancy.

I am sorry for my smugness and naivete of 2011, and tail end of 2010.

As I type this, I can hear Kevin getting frustrated with them as he tries to corral them to bed. Never have I heard a more comforting sound.

When that “F*CK YOU” slips out…

Today I yelled at Micah while we were out with others.

It wasn’t too loud in terms of decibels but I felt a rage within.  I should have taken some deep breaths instead as my thoughts and emotions come charging way too fast.  I had given him a few chances before the outing, nearly canceling the trip altogether to show him that consequences are real.

But of course, being cooped up all day in our small apartment on a gorgeous summer day in NYC sounded more like a punishment for Mama and I hadn’t misbehaved at all!

It wasn’t just his not listening to me in that moment but other factors, too.

Isn’t it ALWAYS other factors though?

Stuff in my head that was begging to be paid attention to as we stopped at our usual spots in the zoo, after observing for the umpteenth time that Micah is sensitive like his Mama and how that word is so loaded.

How often has it been used to absolve the offender after he/she hurt me with their INsensitive words and actions: “Oh, but you just sensitive.”  Or from my parents, “Why are our children so sensitive?  Why can’t they be strong like ______?”

Throw in intense sun.  Crowds of kids on fieldtrips with their daycamps.  And though preoccupied, always on high alert.  Making sure the kids don’t fall, run ahead, or pull each other down.

Then sheepish and judging myself for being the only one to yell during this outing with a few other buddies.

After both Micah and I got it together, I apologized to him for yelling and asked him to forgive me.  I also asked if he would like to apologize to me for anything.  We talked it out and resumed our lunch, meaning they hardly ate because they wanted to go throw sticks and I was famished but waiting to eat at home if/when things were less frenetic.

Right around this time, a stranger, well, acquaintance of an acquaintance, began to comment on the lunch I was feeding the kids.  I was feeding them some bahb and gheem (rice and roasted laver aka seaweed) since my kids almost never eat sandwiches.

“Oh!  I didn’t know you could do that!” watching our food like a hawk.  “Wrap rice in there like that!  Ohhh!”

I know she was trying to be friendly over some chitchat about our kids’ respective lunches. No malicious intent.

Seemingly innocuous comment and if it came from my friends, I’d be straight or at least I’d clown you…but hey ma, I just met you and you got me during a moment where I’m just coming off another er…moment.  

I’ve always had less patience than Kevin for the times we have to provide the Land of the Morning Calm tutorials at restaurants. I’m fine until it gets really nitpicky and acquaintances start asking about each of the 12 bahnchans in a more National Geographic way than I’m comfortable with. “What IS that!?! WHOA!” when it’s perfectly obvious that it’s a pickled garlic. I wanna say, “Gnarled toad testicle. You’re not down unless you try it!”

Back to the mama at hand. When I mumbled about how it’s just crazy raising these little ones, MY attempt at being friendly by talking about our commonality, she said something about how her girl is SUCH a good girl instead of throwing me the obligatory parenting bonding bone.

“Yeah, this is seaweed.  The same thing they use for sushi rolls.  Of course, you can wrap it around rice.”

“But that’s all crispy.  It looks different.  My kids like that stuff but augh, I don’t like it.  It smells.  I mean, I like sushi but…”

“Fuck you.”

Okay, I didn’t say that but my face did for a split second.  First of all, WHILE someone is eating something in front of you, don’t be saying that you think it STANK.  Basic manners.

But the silent “FUCK YOU” in my mind made me think.

…of how so many of our hurts and unexpected “FUCK YOU”s that leak out of seemingly nowhere are not about ONLY the present moment.  It’s oftentimes the SUM of past hurts PLUS the brand new one, however small or trifling.  They are all added up together and then suddenly, you hear yourself, whether out loud or in your brain, let out a “FUCK YOU” like a fart that surprises you during a meeting or crowded elevator, surprising you so much that another fart honks in aftershock.

For instance, seaweed is loaded for me.  When I was a little girl, being bussed to my gifted magnet elementary school with rich white kids whose families were movers and shakers in Hollywood, with a few classmates even missing school to audition for parts or be in a movie, some of them made fun of my packed Korean lunches.  Squealing and pointing at me, staring and surrounding me at lunch screaming, “Ewwww, she’s so gross! She’s eating black paper with fish eyes!”  (Seaweed and anchovies).  Yes, my mama packed me some KO-rean lunches while I wished that she could gift a girl with some PB&J or bologna samich.

Decades later, those kids are now crowding up my sushi joints and banh mi spots, talking about algae and tofu and the benefits of an Eastern diet and my initial reflex, before I can catch myself, is “Fuck you.”  The reaction is unexpected but visceral and Kevin has had to process my childhood stories with me over and over again.

So when this lady I had just met seconds AFTER I felt like a jerk for yelling at my 3.5 year old was talking about how she thought that my black paper stank, my initial response in my head was “Oh fuck off and go hump a meatloaf,” but I checked myself, tucked away the “Fuck you” so that I can be a productive member of society and instead said, “Really?  You think it smells? Must be a cultural thing ’cause I don’t smell anything.”

Thankfully, we kept it moving and moved on to other small talk.  Well, after she asked me how to make rice.

This mini-interaction made me think again about how everything is connected.  If you’ve never healthily processed a grievance, or fully let an emotional wound heal, don’t be surprised when you find yourself overreacting in an unrelated, new interaction or relationship with a new person, be it spouse, friend, or child.

In the meantime, if you talk shit about my gheem, consider yourself warned.

7.11 MLK, LeBron, LeJeremy, LeKeith

Oh, Life. You can be devastating but also bewilderingly beautiful. Sometimes I wanna hold a grudge but you have that way of charming me back.

Last night, when Kevin walked in the door, I started blubbering. I haven’t cried in a good long while but oooof! From 9 am to 6:30 pm, I…I have no words. To give you a brief glimpse into the very long and agonizing, heart palpitatious day, lemme leave you with just one of my screaming thought balloons from The Day That Wouldn’t End:

Can Mommy just insert her tampon in a public bathroom without you two MacGyvering out of the stall onto the street!?

With Mommy running seconds behind you, growing two years older in two seconds, heart beating frantically, eyes darting everywhere?

Wondering if God forbid you guys had wandered into the *^&%ing street without me!?

Only to find you in the closest spot outside by the bathroom door, nowhere near the street but sprawled out on the branches of your favorite low hanging NYC sidewalk tree?

As if this tree weren’t a sapling next to a NYC sidewalk but a magical banyan tree in Hawai’i?

As if you two aren’t 3.5 and 21 months old but Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, chewing on a blade of grass, beaming about the getaway you just pulled off.

hanging out at their favorite tree last month

hanging out at their favorite tree last month

Then 11 other things followed.

Though I’m happy that you two are fast becoming best friends, just like we prayed for, I hope you realize that how fast your mama is aging is directly proportionate to you two egging each other on.

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homies

homies

I took a breather last night. Literally concentrating on taking some deep breaths as I hid out in our bedroom, shaking my head, wondering if I had a Korean drama white washcloth to tie around my head.

Then, this morning, we woke up to a brand new day. Birds chirping, the scent of summer. Blank canvas.

Micah and I took an early morning walk to the mailbox across the street to mail a birthday card. He blew it a kiss as he slipped it into the metal flap. I like to squeeze in a bit of special time with him after our gnarly days. Just to check in with my guy.

On the way back:

“Mommy, when I grow up, my kids will hold my hand like this, right?”

My heart melts into a puddle onto our courtyard. With his perfect little hand in mine, any residue from the previous day is washed away.

“Oh, Micah, yes, you will hold your child’s hand just like this and give it a squeeze just like this!”

“And I will be the Daddy, right?”

“Yes, and I will be the Halmoni and I will hug him and kiss him allllll over, just like this! How many little kiddies do you think you want to have?”

Serious. Thoughtful.

“31.”

Today also turned out to be a memorable 7.11 Friday in the world of sports. Basketball news strangely reminded me of how my toddler’s (mis)adventures can be forgiven easily by their adorable shenanigans the next moment.

LeBron will be returning home to Cleveland four years after “The Decision,” after literally being burned in effigy and having an open hate letter addressed to him by the Cavs’ owner. My guy friends could not stop spewing venom at LeBron for the last four years.

I didn’t understand all the hatred. Why couldn’t it be all business? I’m not knowledgeable about sports but I do enjoy me a good feature story and today, the sports world delivered a doozy. LeBron’s unexpected return showed me that it ain’t all business, even in this billion dollar industry. He going back home! All is forgiven. No such thing as pride.

And Linsane LeJeremy will be in my hometown of Los Angeles! While he was not reviled like LeBron, he was buried in Houston’s rotation and not given a chance to run his style of offense. (Special thanks to Kevin for supplying that way technical sports sentence above for what I wanted to convey about redemption.)

We were saddened to see him leave NYC for the Houston Rockets but now, he will be in LA where the Asian-Americans will go buck wild. It will feel like World Cup 2002 when we Koreans of Los Angeles were jumping out of our Japanese cars to give each other tearful hugs, from youth to halmonis and halabujees. (I am fully aware that Jeremy ain’t Korean-American but c’mon, throw me a bone, I’ve had a tough week.)

In a totally unrelated baseball event, we also made a quick stop to our neighborhood Citibank thanks to a heads up by Uncle Anthony that Kevin’s beloved Keith Hernandez would be signing autographs. Micah spouted off with, “I don’t like him!” when he saw the macrocephalic, dopey Mr. Met coming our way for photo opps, so we became nervous that upon meeting one of Daddy’s idols, Micah would lash out with, “I don’t like you, Mr. Keith Hernandez,” which would have made it Daddy’s turn to blubber.

When I think of 7.11 next year, I hope to remember my early morning walk with Micah, LeBron, LeJeremy, LeKeith: all the kooky ingredients for a magical, redemptive summer day in NYC.

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Flight of the Butterflies

My Beloved Boys,
I’m writing this while my head is still a-buzz as a non-coffee drinker drinking iced coffee for the second time this year, so please excuse the clumsiness.

Also, I slept like a ninja with one eye open, after fetching Ellis when he cried in his crib in the middle of the night. I had to be ready to pounce if he ever got too close to the edge, which he loves to do. Your daddy had already been summoned to fetch Micah Hyung, whose initial cry got you going. They ended up entwined on the couch, Hyung cutting off Daddy’s circulation.

Mama feelin’ some feelin’s again this month but what’s new? My heart lights up when I see plush new babies hanging out in our beautiful courtyard or on my Facebook, with their parents looking exactly like how your daddy and I looked when studying every millimeter of your brand new face(s), feet and hands.

Fascinated. Captivated. In awe of the miracle of having created a delectable little human.

When I see these new kids on the block, then look over at you big boys scootering and running about, they look like fetuses. You’ve become rough and tumble BOYS right before my very eyes, though at the same time, it’s snuck up on me.

Last week, Micah, your class released butterflies after weeks of watching them transform from caterpillars. You told me that each one was named after you and your classmates as you recited all 13 names of your classmates/butterflies.

The symbolism was not lost on me. As we approach nursery school graduation, your teachers were freeing you guys to flutter about in the world, or at least out into preschool. How precious to name each one after you and your adorable classmates!

On your first day of school, the sparrows did me in, and now, the dang butterflies got me verklempt.

You told me, “Micah the Butterfly flew out first, Mommy!” You quietly sang me the song you learned, with bright eyes and accompanying hand motions:

“I’m a little caterpillar, cute and green.
Hiding in my chrysalis, can’t be seen.
Wait a little while and you’ll see why.
Pop! Now I’m a butterfly!”

Oh, my ex-caterpillar son, Mama hears you, Mama sees you! You’ve grown so much, about to graduate as a butterfly!

This week, I brought it up to your teachers because I just couldn’t get over the cuteness and wanted to hear more about it. “That was so precious that y’all named each caterpillar after the students so that when they were released, it was symbolic of next week’s graduation! That really touched me, Ms. B.”

Ms. B and Ms. C looked downright confused. I repeated myself and added, “Oh, and how did you keep track of which caterpillar was which since they all look the same?”

Ms. B explained, “Oh! Um, that’s a really cute idea but we didn’t name them after the students. Seems like maybe Micah imagined that or named them with his classmates.”

Of course, that touched me even more that it was your idea, or something you and your buddies had conjured up together. Mama loves a good story.

When I strolled you to school on the first day, you still looked babyish, a few months shy of three. You were frozen as you settled into your new surroundings, sitting back-to-back with a fellow frozen classmate. Now, all of you are so playful with one another, like a little family. Actually, you now look a bit silly sitting in a stroller, with your feet dangling and your head protruding above the canopied tops.

Next week is game time, son. I promise not to do the ugly cry at graduation. Well, I promise to try my best. I am so proud of you, my White Tiger, ex-caterpillar, butterfly firstborn.

I love you to the moon and back,
Your Mommy/Mama/Ummah

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Battling Strollerus Prime and Mazd(a)cepticon: Rainy Day Edition

The lengths we go to to play somewhere other than our place.

I mentioned that yesterday, the day Ellis went missing for two minutes, we initially thought our trip to the local science museum was cancelled due to heavy rain.

But when it let up, our friends and I decided to meet there as planned.

First of all, if someone is waiting for me somewhere, I get crazed. I tense up and try my best to hustle while sweating rivulets, pressuring myself to get there fast, even though I knew the rain had thrown off everyone’s schedules and we hadn’t even agreed on a set time.

I packed up the boys, their lunches, umbrellas, and their doublestroller that is heavier than it’s ever been with the weight of my growing boys. We may have to give in and buy Micah one of those stroller boards he can stand on instead of sitting with his legs dangling towards the ground and head protruding above the canopy.

After squeezing the long contraption into our snug elevator and strolling out the lobby, I realize I hadn’t grabbed the rental car keys. Totally forgot that we were using a rental this week.

The thought of rushing back with about 75 pounds of toddlers+stroller was too much so I grabbed a familiar face and begged him to do me a big favor and stand there with the boys while I sprinted upstairs for my keys. I made it back in record time and thanked him profusely. Micah referred to these 88 seconds as “when that man babysat us.”

On the way to our parking space, it started to rain again. I buckled the boys into their carseats and attempted to break down the stroller. This thing was a huge Transformer. Strollerus Prime is never too heavy for the hubby to break down and load into the trunk but for me? OOOF!

You know when you are trying to break apart something and you start sweating and you wanna curse in the most creative ways? Strollerus was stuck and oh-so-heavy. I actually took several deep breaths and practiced mindfulness so yay(!) for progress.

I finally got it to fold but couldn’t maneuver it into the new small trunk.

Slipped a bit outta my sweaty and rained on hands, when the stroller handle punched me in the jaw. Then it landed in such a way that a long, sharp vertical prong violated me. What would our kid look like?

It continued to rain on me, mixing with my rivulets of sweat and I thought about scrapping the whole trip and strolling back home with my tail between my legs. I was already emotionally spent from Ellis’ vanishing act.

Strollerus cooperates and I finally drive off.

“Uh-oh, Micah, something is wrong. This car sounds very strange. Please let Mommy focus, okay? We can’t talk right now, please!”

Micah says, “Mommy, why this car sound like Bumblebee? Or is it a Decepticon?”

I even wondered if I was driving a stick shift, which would be impossible since I don’t know how!

I suppose I should have pulled over right then but that would be way too logical. I just tried harder to step on the gas. We couldn’t go past 40 on the highway! I came to my senses and pulled over on the local streets.

I stared at the, er, car parts that say “Park” “Rear” and “Drive.” Your name escapes me at the moment (gearshift!?). I call Kevin at work and sarcastically lash out, “Is your family’s safety not too important to you? Why didn’t you give me a heads up about this Decepticon? Like how to drive it?”

And as I was talking, I realized that I had to shift the thingamajiggie into the FAR RIGHT to truly be in Drive mode. I had been driving in something called “M” mode.

Kevin answered, “I didn’t think to tell you because I thought it was too obvious.”

ok, NOW, it's obvious but not while I was driving with precious cargo

ok, NOW, how to drive this Tetris looking mofo is obvious but not while I was driving with precious cargo

Reminded me of the time I was brand new to NYC. After the first day of taking the NY Bar Exam, I couldn’t get to Kevin’s place because I was looking for the “Fulton St” stop on the subway. I went back and forth about four times in the humid July heat until someone on the platform finally saved me by informing me that “Fulton St” is also known as “Broadway-Nassau.”

Obviously.

I apologized to Kevin later for lashing out about the Decepticon but asked him to always put himself in my shoes and err on the side of OVERexplaining if necessary.

“Practice explaining things as if you’re talking to an alien from several planets away. Don’t ever assume that something is obvious.”

The boys and I ended up having a blast at the museum with our friends. It was well worth the trouble.

We went home to curl up with our Transformer books.

Two Minutes

Ellis left home today.

Most panicked two minutes of my life.

Micah was home from school due to “Anniversary Day” aka “Brooklyn Queens Day.” I have yet to Google what those NYC days mean.

It was raining dramatically so we thought our local trip with friends was cancelled. We painted and did a quick science experiment all before 9:30 am.

We said our goodbyes to Daddy as he rushed out of the house for the subway. Micah and I were talking in the kitchen while I was making a breakfast smoothie. I figured Ellis was rolling around in the boys’ room or on our bed or quietly playing with toys or quietly looking at one of his fave books.

After about a minute, I started calling for him.

“Ellis!? Ellis!? Where are you? Mommy can’t hear you!”

I quickened my pace as I looked for him in the bathroom, the boys’ room, our room, our closet he likes to play in. Nowhere to be seen. Or heard. No adorable babbling or exclaiming.

I got frantic right quick.

All the adrenalin of sheer panic hit me at once and I felt like I was jumping out of my own body and also like I was going to poo out all of my organs.

“ELLIS!? ELLIS!?” Micah sensed my panic and grabbed onto my clothes as he started to cry. He started echoing, “ELLIS! ELLIS!”

I ran out the front door to see Ellis standing there, not quite at the elevator yet, staring at our door.

He was wearing his Superman cape. He wasn’t tripping. Little dude knew we’d come for him.

THANK GOD he didn’t go for the stairs or get snatched up by some deranged visitor. This adventurous little one who always goes for the stairs knew that once he was all alone, it was a whole different ballgame so he bess stay put.

Apparently he had left when Daddy rushed out. I was in the kitchen so I was none the wiser.

Lesson learned.

NEVER go into the kitchen again.

But seriously, lesson learned: Watch everyone when they leave home for a proper goodbye, no matter how rushed or busy. THEN LOCK THE DOOR BEHIND YOU.

Grateful for no mishaps during those two minutes. Heart still beating fast as I type this six hours later.

“Just”

I’ve stayed away from the Stay-at-Home Mom vs. Working Mom discussions.

They simply don’t interest me.

Even though I’ve been an at-home mama from the moment my firstborn arrived, I get turned off by memes on Facebook that are “rah rah rah Stay-at-Home / ‘Full-time’ Moms (both labels sound off to me).

You know, those posts about how being a mom is the hardest job in the world and how at-home mamas’ tasks as chef, chauffeur, entertainer, consultant, if assigned a $ amount per task, would command a six figure salary.

I prefer “At-Home Mama.” Dropping the “stay” makes it more true for my experience.

Yesterday, my well-meaning working mom neighbor paid me a “compliment.”

She always asks, “How are the kids?” and wonders how I can wrangle the both of them as she finds even one toddler to be a handful.

I like her.

So I know she didn’t intend to give me a small jellyfish sting when she said, “People think that just staying at home is easy but I’m telling you, I know that just staying at home is not always easy. It’s a hard job. I have two jobs myself. I work at my job then come home and work at home, taking care of my baby.”

Reminded me of when working moms say, “Well when I have a sleepless night, *I* have to go to work the next day!”

As much as I don’t like the tired old debates, I do see why at-home mamas feel compelled to toot their own horns. To try to glean some respect and appreciation even though you won’t really understand.

I didn’t like her repeat use of the word “just.” I struggle with the “just” myself in a society where multi-tasking and being too busy is revered. I no longer bow down to multi-tasking because we don’t know what lurks beneath. What is the hidden cost of all that juggling? I’m sure it’s high.

Neighbor went on to share that she needs a break so she’s going to have brunch with girlfriends and run errands to have the day all to herself. I have to confess that as much as I abhor the SAHM v. working mom judgments, I found myself thinking, “Yo, it’s Sunday. You away from your child at least five days a week, so what you yearning to take a break from exactly?” I thought this KNOWING that when I worked outside the home, I was spent from my work week by the time Friday rolled around, all that commuting on the subway and office politics.

I knew that this mama can have whatever the hell break she craves but the martyr within sized her up against me, myself and I, a mama who generally spends seven days a week with her kids, all day, everyday (though I’m working on this as martyrs die before their time).

But for a moment, I found myself judging as a reflex to her earlier statements about “just staying at home” and “I have two jobs.”

Tooting thy own horn is a defense mechanism to society viewing you, subconsciously or very consciously, as Less Than.

I remember speed-strolling with Micah when he was an infant when I had to say, “Excuse me, can we please get by?” to a sidewalk hog.

After she grudgingly let me by, she said loudly, “You see her? She ain’t got nowhere to go! Rushing with nowhere to go!” Of course, as rushed as I was, I made time for a quick U-turn to drop some knowledge.

She had immediately assumed that because I was strolling with my infant, I ain’t got nowhere to be. Or if I did, it wasn’t that important, “important” in the worldly sense. If I were wearing my Theory slacks, Banana Republic blouse, heels, thumbtyping frantically on my Blackberry, carrying something akin to a briefcase, my rushing would surely be justified because clearly I have an office to get to.

But no, I am JUST a mom.

just a mom, cleaning out her car

just a mom cleaning out her car

The underbelly of the age old Mommy Wars is about worth. Who is more worthy? Society answers that it’s the multi-taskers and income-earners.

Tonight, I didn’t want to fall into the trap of trying to “rest” at home once Kevin walked through the door because it is straight up the opposite of rest when the kids know that I am not really gone, just tucked away in the bedroom. They even knock frantically like an episode of “Cops.” I have to leave the house.

I ran to my gym with my earbuds in.

I caught a glimpse of the same neighbor mama once I crossed the street. She was just standing on the street, sipping on a large Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, looking weary from a long Monday.

We looked at each other for a moment, smiling, nodding our heads. I waved as I ran by.

At first, I speed-judged again! “Why isn’t homegirl rushing to be with her baby she’s been away from ’til 7 pm!?” Then I realized I have no idea what her day was like, just like she has no idea what mine was like. She was standing there on that busy street, under that awning, decompressing before she went home to her family.

I realized why I loathe the tired old debate about which type of mama is more of a superhero. Rarely have I seen a balanced debate because both sides are too busy passionately defending their choices without considering the perks of both sides.

Too busy demanding to be heard and understood, like quarreling spouses.

As an at-home mama, I confess that I DO have down time when their naps overlap. Down time to sneak in a blog post or crack my toe knuckles as I go over my to-do list until one of them emerges. But then again, working moms can also zone out at their offices and phone it in from time to time, sitting in front of the Internet (with the exception of some jobs like surgeons – I pray that you never phone it in). I was part of the workforce for years to know that some days you’re getting paid to sit on your butt in your cubicle.

Making judgments or rather, forming “impressions,” is part of being human. But we can work on gifting each other with grace, cutting each other a break.

I enjoyed the micro-moment from tonight, as I ran by that fellow mama. My fleeing from my beloved rugrats as she braced herself for what awaited her at home.

We just trying our best.

Not Just the Most Popular Korean-American Girl’s Name

When I happen to score some down time during the day, like now, about one hour of nap overlap between the boys (if and when Big Bro succumbs to a late nap), I have plenty of tidying up, organizing, planning, or preparing to do.

I am choosing to write instead. For mental health reasons. I gave Kevin a heads up about this. I let him know that if I can squirrel away some quiet moments during the day, I will most likely use it to open up the laptop without one monkey trying to convince me that it’s YouTube time or another monkey climbing up my body, babbling, “mmmma-mmmmmmaaa!” in such an irresistible way with his Puss in Boots eyes and delectable cheeks that the next thing I know, I got him banging on the keyboard with his strong little fingers and mama forgetting which email she had to respond to.

In case people are wondering, it’s not just the physical work of looking after little ones all day, the hypervigilance I wrote about before, but the invisible emotional energy you are expending. So I choose emotional health by doing something calming and enjoyable during these precious breaks, even though I technically have the time to do the pile of dishes or get the stroller packed up for our evening excursion into Manhattan.

Emotional energy like:

Being patient spill after spill,

tantrum after tantrum,

after someone makes a run for it, out of the playground with a proud smirk on his 20 month old face,

running to grab the little guy who is more fearless than Big Bro at the same age, climbing up some advanced apparatus while you were adjusting Big Bro’s scooter helmet for him,

watching Big Bro slide down a new, steeper slide then realizing that Little Bro’s bedtime prayers were answered: the perfect Distracted Mommy opportunity had presented itself to jump into a shallow lagoon that had accumulated during the rainstorm,

speaking calmly, like a hostage negotiator, to convince both boys to climb down “slowly…slowly…easy…” from something they got attracted to.

So this morning, I had exactly 30 minutes to get ready and out the door. I really need to get everything ready the night before but again, I plead mental health reasons for wanting to completely exhale late at night and NOT have to be a responsible mama in advance.

Well, I learned my lesson. I hate having to rush so I will definitely prepare what I can the night before. I can’t even watch my husband’s favorite show “24” because the countdown stresses me out way too much (and that movie “Before Sunrise” where Ethan Hawke HAS to get to the airport and I’m freaking out way too much about the countdown to actually enjoy the movie).

I kept hearing the countdown in my head as I made a smoothie, one cheese quesadilla for Micah to eat at the playground after school, one egg and cheese quesadilla for Ellis, packing small fish boocheengeh for them to nibble on, their drinking cups, Oh, Ellis you climbed onto the table and spilled the water on a book, lemme change you, doh, I gots to brush my teef and tie my hair and change, Ellis, get down from that chair, you will Ah-Yah! Ellis please, we have to get into the stroller now. No Ellis, we can’t take that outside. Oh, Ellis, Mommy just has to run and grab the library books.

Then things got real harried as I scrambled to grab Micah’s scooter from our tiny coat closet, where everything fell out as I tried to finesse his scooter parts and helmet out. The entryway had a few stray toys and shoes that I ran over with our huge doublestroller, thereby breaking Micah’s toy saucepan.

I can’t make a clean getaway as a HUGE BOX OF DIAPERS we got delivered yesterday had the audacity to CONTINUE TO REMAIN THERE.

That is when things go left in my head and I start going down a familiar path.

“I told Kevin that one of the big obstacles to peace in my day is the damn lack of space, especially this entryway. I told him a countless number of times that if he and I can both do our part to at least clear the entryway so that when I’m rushing out the door, I don’t have to try to maneuver my way out, RAGING. And by ‘he and I’ I clearly mean ‘he’!”

“I guess he just doesn’t care enough to actually move this HUGE BOX OF DIAPERS for me. God forbid he make my life any easier even after I’ve asked him so many times to please help in this way.”

Then, I caught myself. There was a flash of a word that zapped onto my brain, not unlike the countdown I kept hearing earlier. Holy Spirit, is that You?

The word was GRACE. Not just a common Korean-American girl’s name.

GRACE. Something Kevin pours out to me daily. And Kevin does more than most husbands I know.

Yet when there is a huge box of diapers that just happened to be impeding my path, something I didn’t even notice myself until I had to rush out, instead of tapping into some GRACE towards my husband whom I used to shower with grace (in the B.C. era – Before Children – and even more so during our long distance dating era), I went down a dark path that sometimes ends with a dramatic (rerun) finale called, “Does He Even Truly Love Me?”

So tonight, I’m going to think and talk about Grace and why I hoard it these days. One reason is because I’m skurred that if I gift him with too much Grace, he won’t respond to my requests for change, or receive them as Urgent. Even though he explains to me that it would only spur him on to do better, I keep thinking that my angry outbursts would do a better job of getting him to never dare leave the huge box of diapers in my path again.

Grace seems too soft.

Maybe, just maybe, to hold myself accountable, I will choose Grace over Criticism for the next week and see what happens.

See why no Korean parents ever name their girls “Criticism.”

I Love You, Bros

Oof. Lots of pain. In the news. In friends’ lives. Just too much these past couple weeks.

In our own home, too, when Kevin and I just cannot communicate effectively or hear each other since we are fixated on getting heard and understood first. Built-up resentment. Disconnection.

I want to thank the two dudes who help me to pause. Drink in their juiciness, their innocence. Force my heavy heart to shift during those moments I gaze at them.

My boys.

You TWO. TOGETHER.

First of all, my Ellis. I have to confess that when I found out at your birth that you were, just as I had suspected, another boy, I thought you’d be Micah 2.0 and that it would be a case of, “Oh, I already have one of those at home!” Blessed but not as exciting.

Quite the contrary. You look nothing like your brother, for one. Although…you look exactly like my mom. You’ve shown yourself to be my first Ellis, my only Ellis. The roundest, cutest circle eyes like Puss in Boots and a comical pout. You are more anime than flesh and blood boy.

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I have a tendency to record my harried moments with you guys more than the perfectly delicious moments.

Thought I’d at least capture a couple brother moments with Micah nearly 3 1/2 and Ellis 1 1/2.

Oh, how you both love John Mayer’s “Heartbreak Warfare.” You both squeal with delight and throw yourselves on our bed, entranced while the CD has a few second delay before the track begins. Ellis even beams and says, “shhhhhh!!” before the song comes on, with his little pointer finger to his pouty mouth.

A few weeks ago, you guys were so quiet, which I thought could only be a bad thing but when I walked into our bedroom and saw you both sitting on our high, King-sized bed, in deep thought. You were studying on your own, Micah his Jesus Storybook Bible that he loves so much, and Ellis staring at his Story of Easter book, at the page with the Asian family singing at church. Oh, my little Korean Flanders boys. What a sight.

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At that moment, I wanted to pull out another sibling from my womb just to see him/her perched along with you two, on the big spacious bed. Who am I kidding? There have been plenty of other moments, too.

It warms my heart to see you guys as best friends already. Even as you run around with other little cuties at the playground, no one is your Boy, like only your Bro can be. You hug each other so tightly that you end up on the floor of our lobby, with passersby having to go around the small heap of Korean boys.

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You guys hug at least four times in the morning, as if Micah is going off to war instead of 2.5 hours of school.

“Bye, Baby! I’m going to miss you, Baby! I see you later with Mommy, OK?!”

I love that your second name is Baby. Actually, we hardly ever call you “Ellis.”

When I mentioned to Micah that Ellis cried at Mommy’s Women’s Bible Study meeting for the first time, Big Bro asked if it could have been because he missed his brother too much.

When Ellis accompanies me to pick up Micah from his school, Micah is so proud and announces, “This is my baby brother Eh-wiss!” as if the teachers and classmates hadn’t known that already.

I recently corrected Micah’s pronunciation of “Eh-wiss” but I do regret it now. Preschool speech need not be corrected in its unadulterated, adorably imperfect state.

You guys want to horse around so much that I paused mid-stroll to reconfigure the stroller seats so that you guys can face each other. Of course you guys promptly began to swat each other and kick, my two stooges.

You two imitate each other and yelp whenever you are reunited. Micah likes to do fake falls from his little scooter so Ellis started doing the same. Micah eggs Ellis on to say “Ahpuhdah!” (Korean for “it hurts!”) even though I ask him to at least give him a more positive message to mimic.

I never knew that brothers would bond this deeply and this early, while one is still a roly poly baby (at least in my mind). It is a type of cuteness that makes my teef itch.

I am blessed to be able to watch your moments daily. Feeds my soul though I do get crazed by all those spills.

I hug and kiss you guys about 77 times a day. Though Micah asks me, “Mommy, do you really love me?” almost everyday, I hope you do know that I am so very in love with you both.

Thank you for being my sons. You are my only Micah and my only Ellis. And I don’t mind one bit when you guys get obsessed with me because I know that I will yearn for these days soon enough.

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You Set Me Up

Today was tough. The boys fought oh-so-noisily to be the only recipient of my love. Flattering but tough.

Ellis at nearly 19 months old has been blossoming from EZ (Ellis Zachary) baby to a little dude, roaring his way towards the big Two.

roaring on the way to Easter brunch

roaring on the way to Easter brunch

Fight after fight,

excruciating headbutts (both accidental and deliberate) into my cheekbones,

both climbing me with their grabby little feet, using my forearms as makeshift rungs and gifting me with skin-burn,

both refusing to eat their lunch and dinner,

a tag team of whining and defying,

big old spill on the couch from Ellis insisting on drinking my water on his own,

big avalanche of toys and blankets all around,

no energy or will to regroup and take control of the scene.

Only the temptation to flee.

As I made them their dinner, I was daydreaming about the fetal position I would clench myself into as soon as Kevin walked in the door. And how I would greet him icily with, “You have no idea. Please don’t talk to me. Not a word…”

Premeditated ice was on the evening’s agenda.

Instead, I took a few deep breaths in our tiny, cold kitchen even while the boys continued to fight and demand that I put the other one down. I ended up cooking while holding Ellis and began to marinate like the sukiyaki dinner on the stove, marinate in thoughts about how I am surrounded by too many needs and zero glamour and luxury.

NOISY ASS NEEDS.

But something shifted.

I felt like either I was maturing in that moment or I was being showered with GRACE, or both.

I didn’t feel the urge to break down or take to bed or plan to take it out on the husband as soon as he walked in the door.

Sometimes, fetal position is overrated.

Sure, it was still an objectively relentless day but I felt a moment of, “This is Life. THESE HAIRY MOMENTS. Noisy, annoying, relentless, unpaid, insane, not the least bit glamorous but pretty dang abundant.”

Reflecting further, I feel like I’ve been getting setting up in the past handful of months.

Getting set up for Hope.

I had told the Lord with a scrunched up face and my hands raised in surrender, months and months ago, that I do not know how a good marriage actually plays out. I’d only witnessed cautionary tales. Tales that have unfortunately become my default when the going gets tough.

Last December, He led us to a real life example of Happily Ever After through a marriage retreat that we were miraculously able to attend. Childcare for two full days straight had been downright UNHEARD of in the 3.5 years we’ve been parents.

Marriage is still SO hard but I always think of the couple who led that retreat. I sat in the front row and studied them like they were a different species. They broke it down for us – how they are able to truly live in love more than four decades and TEN kids later, actively seeking God’s grace. I was in awe.

I also told the Lord I don’t know why I love to write and NEED to write, but that I do and I want to do more of it. Soon after, an email about an Artflow workshop awaited me in my inbox. I spent a quiet, rainy Saturday in March, learning that He cares about my desire to create, my desire to write, and that it’s not trifling or something that needs to be killed because it’s not in alignment with real life duties.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I am getting set up for Hope.

Sure, I regress here and there and it is DAMN painful when I fall back into unhealthy default modes, but lately, I do feel like I am getting injected with hope through community, books, blogs, sermons, moments, my boys, emails, Facebook and even this here tiny blog.

So consider this a belated Easter post.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.”
John 20:1 (emphasis added)

Our pastor, Rich Villodas, preached from John 20:1-16 on Easter Sunday, that WHILE IT WAS STILL DARK, He had risen!

So while we are wandering about in our own darkness, whether it be infirmity, loneliness, sorrow, lack of finances, or just the general tough stuff of life, we have Hope. Glory!

It’s nice to be set up.