and the boy…

We approached our swings as we do every weekday morning after dropping off Kevin at his train stop.  Our micro morning community.

M, the grandmotherly case worker of D, the bespectacled young man with cognitive disabilities, who always swings with us.  I hadn’t seen them last week so I told M, “I was worried.  We have NEVER not seen you swinging next to us.  It’s pretty amazing how people make an impact in your day.  We see each other almost every day so I had to find out if everyone was okay.  So great to see you guys again.”

M:  “And you?  You’re missing one today.”

“Yes, he’s grown up.” (Throat closing up a bit.  Suddenly parched.)

M:  “They do that, you know.”

“Yup.  He suddenly doesn’t want to stay back here with the family in the mornings.  He now goes on campus early to meet his friends.”

I felt my heart swell up and my eyes water.

Of course I was happy to see Micah growing up.  As he should.  What a blessing we never take for granted, especially after wondering what his transition from NYC to LA might be like.  But just like so many parenting moments, a rush of many emotions at once.

He now jumps out of our minivan each morning to go cross the street by himself, with one of the crossing guards on duty.  He yells, “Thank you!” after they’ve escorted him across.

Ellis, Olive, and I watch from the other side of the street, on top of a grassy mound, wet with morning dew, before these younger two go claim their swings.

I can barely make out Micah laughing and running around with classmates.  I can’t help but think of “The Giving Tree,” the book that gutted me as a child and then annoyed me as a mom because the darn boy should have reciprocated with some seeds or some water,  ANY little token of appreciation.

And the boy had grown up.  The mom was happy.  (But the mom had no shame so she watched him for a beat longer from her Honda Odyssey like paparazzo before driving off and before she could embarrass him.)

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New things

Just saw that it’s been exactly four months since my last post on 4.27.18.

Keeping with the 27s, one month since my family and I moved from NYC to LA on 7.27.18.

I left in 2005 for my then long-distance boyfriend, now husband and babies’ daddy.  I remember sitting around sharing desserts after a birthday dinner in Los Feliz, and my girlfriends expressing concern that I was moving out to NYC without a ring on my finger.

I was touched by their love for me but I explained that getting long distance engaged wouldn’t actually be any kind of guarantee.  What if I moved out there and he turned out to be a jerk?

I do remember saying, “I can always move back if things are awful.”

Sometimes, things were awful.  Not because of who Kevin was but because NYC is a tough place to live with small kids, harsh winters and no family.  Plus marriage is always tough even without the East Coast West Coast Biggie and Tupac tension.

Then I started to resign myself to thinking that maybe we’d have to keep staying because jobs weren’t as easy to come by as strangers and acquaintances seemed to suggest.

About the third child in, I just accepted that while sun, nature, childhood friends, family, oceans of parking spaces and quiet were life-giving to me, it just wasn’t part of God’s plan to open that door for me.  I’d just have to brave the subway and recalibrate my expectations to the suburbs of NYC, a common transition for many Queens families.

As we got ready to put an offer on a house on Long Island, all the while feeling like, “Something doesn’t feel right.  Shouldn’t we be more excited about buying a house?,” Kevin’s job offer started taking shape.  As you know, I am a very gut feeling / signs / intuition gal and when one realtor said, “Welcome to Long Island,” all my cells clenched to say, “Nope nope nope nope.”

Right before Kevin went to fly in for his interview, we visited a huge playground on LI.  Suped up.  Inviting.  (But still SO cold in the spring).  If anything, all that play space should have lured us into seeing what LI has to offer.  I asked him, “So?  Whaddya think?  You think we’re gonna live here?  Or can we dare say we might end up in L.A. after all these years?”

Kevin hates to jinx anything and has all these rituals during sports playoffs.  He didn’t want to spit it out but he was willing to say, “I don’t think we’re gonna end up here.  I know we might make an offer on that house and I can totally picture us living there but I just feel like we won’t be here.”

There was a 37 day period of limbo even *after* Kevin received and accepted the job offer.  We didn’t know if we should be online looking for housing in L.A., Queens or Long Island.  We gave quasi-notices at our jobs.  We prayed a lot.

And here we are.  Exploring our new neighborhood.  Reconnecting with old friends.  Trying to remember to take in our own bags at the market.  Getting used to “May I help you find anything?”  Referring to NYC  as “back home.”  Feeling myself calmer as I don’t soak in all the beep-beeps and honk-honks.

And I keep coming back to how this verse shouted out at me this year:

Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

I perceive it.  I receive it.  And I am rejoicing in it wildly.  Thank You, Lord.

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New things:  Olive and I start off on our own as Kevin starts new job and boys resume week three at their new school.

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unpacked our handmade ornaments from Family Camp exactly two years before we moved out to LA; the date gave me chills, as did the fact that Olive was not even a sure thing back then and here we all are

Reflecting on Roots during March Nor’easter

And just like that, we are back in NYC.

During today’s magnificent nor’easter, where umbrellas are turnt and the wind is pushing us around like a bully, I have this moment to reflect on our visit to LA.

“Just like that” included 30+ hours of flight delay, our worst flight experience ever.  This was 4.5 hours trapped on a plane that never took off, countless pilot announcements that assured us that “once we get to the de-icing machine” we would be taking off and then getting timed out due to FAA regulations, getting to the hotel at 3:30 am after the shuttle was delayed, schlepping loads of luggage on ice-covered stairs beyond the hotel parking lot, and living at the airport the next day after checking out of our tiny hotel room.

I am beyond grateful for no one getting sick despite the exhaustion.  In fact, the boys hardly noticed the plane delay as they were content, watching airplane TVs directly in front of their mugs for hours upon hours.

This was baby girl’s first flight outside of my womb.  Dramatic first flight experience.  She hardly cried out on the plane despite usually sleeping only in her crib.  She was just happy to sleep on my body, whether stuck on a plane or camped out the next day waiting for our make-up flight.

I had a talk with my oldest that traveling is a huge blessing in that it takes health, time, and money to be able to swing it.  When this monstrous delay hit, Micah thoughtfully said, “We had the money and health, but not the time.”

When I was pregnant with Olive last year, we opted to travel to Orlando instead of LA for various reasons.  One of the reasons was that LA is always loaded for me.  It is my Sliding Doors city, though I never aspire to be a Gwyneth in any form.  This could have been my other life.

So, visiting my hometown always makes me more emotional than traveling elsewhere.  It’s a trip to drive around the places I grew up.  Memories flood me as I recall moments, as blurry as they may be.

It almost seems like fiction that I was ever 20-somethang, meeting up with girlfriends, working my first full-time job in West Hollywood (you mean I gotta do this almost everyday!?), eating sushi complete with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger from my lap while stuck in traffic on Sunset Blvd., commuting from Chatsworth to UCLA for graduate school, blasting POWER 106 while cruisin’ the Valley.  Or even before then, attending high school and being a teenage girl feeling all them feelin’s.  Junior high when it was still called junior high, all the way through when we first immigrated to Koreatown LA when I was almost five.

And when I’m back with those I lived those moments with, my NYC life seems like it was all a dream…until I look at the husband and three New Yorker kids who are living proof that NYC happened…and is still happening.

I used to think that staying in your hometown wasn’t truly living and drooled at my globetrotting girlfriends’ experiences but I now see the beauty of staying close to home as good things are often right under your nose.

I am super grateful for all of life’s moments and while the “L” word is sacred to me, I can honestly say I have love for everyone that has ever been a part of my life in some way, those who were visitors and those who remain.

Only the good Lord knows where we might end up next.  I would love more sun, slower pace, lower cost of living, nature, nature and more nature, people of color, good public schools, at least one fat life-giving job, and people to do life with.  (Kevin said most of my list points to Florida but NO, please NO!)

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Olive is 8 (months) and “When Breath Becomes Air”

On 1.28.18, our Olive Tree turned eight months old.  I’m finally getting used to saying “my daughter.”  It seems like fake news that she ever lived inside of me even though I have pictures and witnesses.  She looks like both her brothers though lately, favoring Micah more.  I wondered aloud if she resembled Oliver Platt when she pouts but Kevin got offended.

She still looks a bit like Governor Christie, just like Micah resembled Paul Giamatti as an infant.

She joined our family when The Middle was 4.5 and Firstborn was 6.5 but to think of those years without her, with just the boys, seems odd and made up.

Everyone comments on her how serious she is.  Her stare game is strong.  Her gentleness is evident too as she coos and babbles and tries to suck on her own toes.

We never had to cry her out for sleep because she only cries when it’s an emergency.  I teased Kevin for jumping up to spring her, Mr. Let’s Cry Them Out When Newborn, Oops, Is That Too Early.  He claims he is not being easy on her because she is his little girl but that once he tried to ignore her cries and she had vomited a bit so she trained him early that she means business when she cries.

She loves to pull on glasses and grab noses.  She also loves to grab her brothers’ cheeks and wants to be included in play.  She is an old soul.  Her smiles and sighs still make me want to pass out from delight.

I recently read an unforgettable memoir called “When Breath Becomes Air.”  Dr. Paul Kalanithi blessed the world with this book before he passed away from Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 37.  His book took my breath away as he was clearly brilliant and unbelievably in touch with his mortality.

Kevin, on the other hand, read a few chapters and put it down.  “How could you put it down!?  I wanted to read it in one sitting.”  I suspected he didn’t want to read it because it is just too sad.  Kevin explained that he didn’t want to read it because the dude is on another level of brilliant and he could not connect to those heights.

True, his intelligence was almost comical.  Laughably smart.  And as a neurosurgeon, his contributions to the world were quantifiable yet immeasurable.  Death does not discriminate.

I also happened to read this book when Olive was the EXACT SAME AGE as Dr. K’s own infant daughter.  Here is a message he wrote for his daughter before he passed away, before he had a chance to complete his memoir:

“When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied.  In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

If I may bite offa this brilliant man for a moment…

Olive, I hope we always remain as close as we are right now, as you peer into my eyes and beat my bosom as you nurse.  I know mothers and daughters are notorious for butting heads and not seeing eye to eye later, but please know that you were just a daydream of mine until God deposited you in my 39.999 year old womb.  Unlike Dr. K, I *had* known a joy like this in prior years, through your brothers, but I didn’t know that I would get to experience this again, for what must be the last time.  Please know that when your not-young mom swings you at the freezing playground, she still resists the urge to lift her mittened-hands to the heavens in gratitude and in awe of you.  (I also don’t lift my hands because I got to spot you on the baby swing.)

Olive you.  I hope I get to be around for a LONG time.  To see my Olive tree grow.

Thank you, Dr. PK, for sharing your story with us and reminding me again that every gummy, babbling, suddenly-not-sleeping-through-the-night, pudgy-cheeked, breast-pumping-at-work-during-appointed-time-slots, moment is a gift.

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December’s Double Doctor Delight

Dear Micah,

First things first:  I’m sorry for telling you to leave your homework on the table for Mommy to check after she makes dinner, actually, hold on, after she gives your sister some butternut squash, oh wait, after she fetches your brother some rice so he won’t “help” by climbing into the fridge to get it himself.

When you were already in class this morning, I saw the homework still sitting there, unchecked.

I’m also sorry for the less-than-yummy dinner I made last night.  I forgot to add a whole cup of water to the Instant Pot so the pasta came out crunchy, while I told you guys to eat up.

I’m sorry for always asking you to get something for me these days – “Micah, plug in the tree. Micah, grab me the wipes.  Micah can you make sure your sister doesn’t roll onto the floor?”  While it’s imperative for everyone, young and old, to pitch in, I do wonder if I ask of you the most.  You, your dad, and I are all firstborns so we get it.

I’m still thinking about your doctor appointment on Saturday, when you were seen for your seven year-old wellness exam at the same time as Olive’s six month exam.  I was so happy to score one appointment for two kids.  Your brother got to spend a bit of special time with Daddy.

You were such a bashful baby and toddler, offering up all your toys to any little one who came near you, even before they asked for a toy, while I was like, dag, you got to be able to handle confrontations, boy, especially as a minority!  Stand your ground.  Use your words.  Don’t let entitled moms and kids alike come and grab your thangs out of your hands.

So it’s fascinating to watch you speak directly to adults in recent years, like when the doctor asked about Olive, and you became her little papa.  You made me recall that I always daydreamed about having a big bro or two, a big bro who would play basketball with his friends and come home for some Sunny D and then one of his cute friends would notice me in the kitchen with a big island and boojie fridge, but I digress.

When the doctor was asking ME about what Olive is able to do, you answered, “Yes, she’s able to recognize faces.  She knows me.  Yeah, she is starting to say lots of stuff.  She can say vowels AND consonants.  We started giving her rice and oatmeal cereal.  She likes it.  Yes, she can hold toys with both hands.”

And when it came time for her many shots and I braced myself needlessly, as she was my least crying baby yet, you suddenly appeared between me and Olive, having squirreled your way in.  At first, I was annoyed:  “Micah, you got to give me space!  Where did you even come from, Flash?”

You mostly spoke to Olive in response as you pet her cheeks, “I have to see her!  It’s gonna be okay, girl.  Look at me.  Look at me.  Don’t be scared.”

I laughed.  “She doesn’t even know what’s about to go down right now.”

As we walked home, with Olive succumbing to sleep in the Snap N Go that is already too snug for her, and you karate-chopping the air and jumping from tree root to tree root, I was struck by how the seemingly mundane life of a mom is full of miracles.

I get to witness my fetuses turn into puppy-like morsels, and morsels into full humans that grow, transform, and blossom, like my babbling, rolly six month old to my newly minted seven year old jack-o-lantern with a missing top tooth at this double doctor appointment in December.

I’m excited to see you after school and do some Advent activities tonight.  The Tooth Fairy must be busy this holiday season – her ETA is some time this week, I heard.  Thank you for being a super big bro to Olive, and to Ellis, too (most of the time).

Love,

Mommy

 

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11.29.12  The original double doctor appointment five years ago, when you just turned two and E was almost two months old.  Look at you, both in diapers!

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Your photo of Olive while Mommy held her head.

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My First Chuseok Birthday

Thankfully, birthdays are just once a year.  Makes it all the more special.

Any more frequent and I wouldn’t be able to recognize myself, oozing entitlement and extra fat:

“If I want left over chow fun for my first meal, the last of the chow fun I was saving for my ‘fat noodoo’-loving second son, I shall eat that chow fun.  It can’t always be about the kids.

And if that handful of beef chow fun doesn’t look like it’s going to fill me up, I shall help myself to some leftover pizza as well.

Oh, and I don’t want to take care of x, y, and z today.  SO I WON’T.  It’s my birfday!  I see Kevin over there, tryna regulate the boys but I will just sit here.  It’s my birfday and only a few hours left.”

This birthday was a breath of fresh air as I didn’t have to hustle for my worth all day.  I seem to give myself permission to not hustle when I am sick or on special occasions like my birthday.  This year, I was sick on my birthday.

I woke up feeling moved to tears, grateful to be alive, for the breath in my lungs, for the beaming baby in the bassinet she has outgrown, and for the family members climbing in to our King to wish me a happy birthday.

The world is grieving after major hurricanes hit Texas, Florida and most recently, the entire island of Puerto Rico.  People are suffering and our President does not know how to show compassion and respect as he throws paper towels at the people of Puerto Rico, like a big buffoon mistaking the gathering to be a sports event.

A few nights ago, as we tucked in our newly minted five year old on his birthday, an American terrorist killed at least 59 people at a concert in Vegas, in what has been reported as “the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.”  Thankful for small graces as we were spared news of this horror until the next morning, when it was no longer E’s birthday.

For the first time that I can recall or maybe the first time ever, my birthday landed on the same day as Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving.  It also landed on the same day or around the same time as friend’s losses.  I honored life, in all of its beauty, its fragility, its robustness and its unpredictability.  As cheesy as it is, I was so grateful to be alive.

I am jotting this down so that I can look back and recall that on this birthday, I was blessed with:

-a friend’s visit, her arms full of a ridiculous amount of hand-me-downs for Olive, along with a cupcake for Mama and a welcome gift for Olive,

-my kids’ cards and the accompanying innocence and confidence that those sheets of markered up paper would more than suffice (and they did),

-hearing from friends throughout the entire day,

-my mom singing me “Happy Birthday” on FaceTime and then getting embarrassed when I said oh, a friend is over right now,

-Kevin’s gifts and insistence on getting my own cake even though I texted him “No need for cake.  We have Ellis’ leftovers.  Don’t want to start forest (hills) fire.”  He didn’t get my reference to my mature age and forest fire due to number of candles and texted back, “Fire in FH?”

-Kevin’s surprise of surf and turf at home.  Surf – he picked up my faves, fried softshell crab and oysters.  Turf – he made us all galbi-jjim (braised short rib).

-I got to say a birthday prayer as I blew out my candles with my family surrounding me, including the new kid I am cross-eyed in love with.  Then she went to bed easily in her too-small bassinet so that Daddy and I can watch some TV.

It was a simple and gorgeous birthday I hope to always remember.  Gorgeous in its simplicity.  My heart is still bursting with gratitude.

Happy Chuseok!

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I love hand-me-downs!

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I love softshell crab and oysters.  I would stick candles into seafood if I could.

 

 

 

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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