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
lain mute and then drained
their meanings out and into
these floors?

What feelings, long since
streamed vague yearnings
below this ceiling
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


6.24.17 (photo credit:  Keri Tan Photography)




This is Us (A Christmas Post)

Today, Christmas Eve Eve, was the kids’ last day of school before six days off for their winter break.  It was also Kevin’s first day of vacation from work.  I will also be home the whole time.  We’ll all be taking next week off together to do or not do whatever we want.

I attended Micah’s class party in the morning.  Kevin and I then had about three hours together without the kids.  I hadn’t heard of any movies that I was dying to watch but I saw that a “Manchester By the Sea” was getting rave reviews.  Kevin warned me that he had heard that it was overly depressing but when I looked up the synopsis, I said, “Excuse me?  Do you not know me?  This movie is my soulmate.  It has everything I’m drawn to.”

No spoilers.  It was a story about a family.  And that’s my jam.  I love getting a glimpse of family dynamics beneath the surface.  Speaking of beneath the surface, I’ve been able to bask in the holidays this year.  When the boys were younger, I would feel such holiday angst and an overload of emotions I didn’t know how to channel:  Memories of how my parents had to work so much they could not prioritize celebration and how I wanted to rewrite that story but not feeling equipped to do so.

I don’t know exactly how but this year, I am able to fully embrace this Christmas season and it feels downright magical, with gratitude oozing out of my 40 year-old pores.  Nothing feels like pressure.  Everything feels like a privilege.  Unlike my immigrant parents whose peak season as storeowners was the holidays, we are blessed with more than a week of luxuriating in free time together, neither of us having to run ragged at any store, with our only “job” being relaxing and enjoying (and maybe some cleaning).

Halleluyer for this breakthrough.  Thank you, God, for new traditions and just plain enjoyment.

And…while not the only reason for my holiday inner makeover, I would like to take a moment to share our Christmas joy.

Early morning of my 40th birthday, while the rest of my family slept, I walked over to the CVS across the street, calmly made a single purchase, took that purchase to my gym bathroom, ironically, for some privacy.  I was there to confirm what I knew in my gut.

Pregnant for the third time after about two years of Should We or Shouldn’t We Go For It (Of COURSE We Cannot, It Would Be Crazy, Right?).  Actually, we are the biggest fans of NBC’s “This Is Us” and I just wanted our children to be able to do the Big Three chant.

While it was a completely natural conception, the story of this baby’s creation is supernatural.  I hope to share more in 2017.  And I don’t believe in TMI.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  Wishing you the best for 2017.  (And if the holidays are tough for you to navigate, you are not alone.  You are loved.)


We’ve celebrated the conception of each child at the same restaurant.  We didn’t realize until after we had ordered but our entrees were perfect for the occasion:  a trio of pasta for our trio of children.





Storm Queen aka This is 40

I used to get embarrassed for folks who were all, “It’s my birfday!  We gotta go out for my birfday!”  I was like, “You turning 38, don’t act thirsty for a bouncy house or a tiara.  Have several seats and act grown!”

Living in the age of social media, I see more stories of lives taken too soon and those asking for prayer for health problems.  So, as I get older, fully FEELING how everyday is a gift, I want to celebrate everything. (And I repent my previous years of judging the birthday-thirsty).

Though I didn’t get a chance to reflect some more about my big 4-0 (beyond the previous blog post written when I was a tender 39) or set any goals for the new decade, I wanted to share a couple favorite moments.

My 10/4 (4×10) birthday landed on Rosh Hashanah, on day two of two consecutive school holidays after the weekend celebration of Ellis’ 4th birthday. His casual school party, World’s Maker Faire, Ellis’ Bowlmageddon Party, then two days dedicated to me.

Kevin took two days off and drove us to one of my fave spots on the eve of my birthday.  Storm King:  one of the world’s leading sculpture parks in the lower Hudson Valley, about an hour north of NYC.  (We also stopped by the tiny Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens on my actual birthday the next day, but that was a drive-by half-hour visit, after dropping by the gorgeous waterfront Costco in LIC next door, before escaping the city again).

Being outdoors in nature is one of the most life-giving gifts for this California gal.  I would love to hike and swim all year long, nekked if I could.  The boys took me to Storm King so that I can trade in all that car-honking in Queens for some geese-honking.  (Actually, even the geese of Storm King were very quiet.)


We took a 40-minute shuttle ride around the grounds.  While it was lovely, it was not restful or peaceful because I sat next to Ellis the Clown who would exclaim after placing various objects on my body, “Mommy, guess wha-a-at?  You have a rock on your shoulder!  Why don’t you pretend to throw it?  ahahahahahah you still have a rock on your shoulder!  Mommy, do you think I’m going to throw this bottle out or do you think I’m going to just pretend?  Litterbug or just pretend?”

So I had to monitor this charming but handful of a dude.  Later, Kevin wanted to gift me with a solitary ride in the same shuttle.  “Hey, you loved riding alone last time.  You have to do it again.  If you run, you can catch the last one and I’ll take these fools around to wrestle on the grass.”

I was torn for a second because I wanted to spend every moment with my morsels on my last day of being 39 (yes, I am SUPER sentimental).  But I caught a front row seat on the shuttle, all by myself.

As the shuttle took off, I heard, “MOMMY MOMMY!” coming from a tower.  I looked up and saw my three boys, Small, Medium and Large, sending me off on my 40 minutes of solo time.  They were beaming and waving at me from behind the trees, like I was going off to Seoul to teach English for a year rather than just 40 minutes away.

Naturally, I waved back like a maniac and teared up, thinking about how close we are as a family, perhaps due to the very thing that grieves me, the lack of an extended family village.  Also, memories came gushing forth, memories of when I was a 100% stay-at-home mom for a full 4.5 years, those years of being each others’ planets.

And now look at them, my emoji comedian who can moonlight as a food inspector as he WILL find even the smallest hair in any takeout order or couch cushion, my observant and profound MLK, who says things that make my mouth drop to the floor (“I still dream of Nepal, Mommy.  What’s going on over there now?”) and my husband, my biggest supporter and encourager, who also says things that make me go WHAT!?…(“Hey, so I’m not gonna wear shorts any more because I saw Pitbull.  THAT dude looks SO cool in his suits, like he would never ever be caught dead wearing shorts.  It’s just beneath him.”)

During my 37-minute shuttle ride, I relished in the quiet, thanked God over and over again for my gifts, and lifted up a few prayers for my new decade.  As we drove past the last few sculptures, I saw some masterpieces GALLOP past me!

It was my family, about to climb one of the viewing towers as we shuttlers watched.  The boys shyly waved at me.

It was a perfect moment I hope to replay over and over again.  This shuttle taking me around to each giant monument on the 500 acres was perfect for my 40th as I remembered the monuments in my own life, and admired the three greatest ones, now literally on display for me to gaze at.



Micah sitting on nickels



10.4.16 Socrates Sculpture Park






Christopher Walken heads at Socrates




Baby, I’m (Still) Amazed by You

The most joyous,


wonderful, literally wonder-FILLED,

time of my life thus far was when I was pregnant with my first.  I don’t even need to say “thus far” as nothing will surpass its top billing as the most wondrous time of my life.

All cliches made sense.  Growing a tiny human (and penis) in my womb was truly miraculous.  Just thinking about it made me want to lift my hands in worship even on the crowded R train during the morning rush (but I couldn’t only because I had to hold onto the pole).

In fact, it was so full of wonder and awe that towards the end of the pregnancy, I worried that when the baby arrived, that Lion King moment would turn out to be almost anti-climactic after 38.5 weeks of the most built-up anticipation.

Yes, a luxurious worry to have during a healthy and smooth pregnancy.

Needless to say, that “worry” was beyond silly as I couldn’t take my eyes off him that first night in the hospital.  Just staring and studying him. Falling in love so fast and furious that we were in our own world.  Hardly noticed when Kevin said he was leaving for the night (I had insisted – no place to sleep and no point in not investing in rest).

Similar to that silly initial “worry,” I also started wondering more recently, if being a mom to an older child would be less of a heartwarming experience since I can’t stare into his eyes while nursing or while nibbling on him any chance I get.

I even asked mom friends who have kids in their teens, “Is it gross?  Your boy’s little girl voice all deepening and them becoming straight up men?  Can you even recall them in their morsel-y baby form?  What’s it like when they are no longer cuddly and innocent?”

One friend said, “But he’s still him.”

Then I got reminded of just how silly this worry is when my firstborn says the darndest things.  He may not be my “baby” baby, but I’m still filled with wonder as I witness him emerging into a Big Boy at 4 1/2 years old, with a new, pointy (single) chin and strong feelings about who should win American Idol.

This list is mostly for me, so I won’t forget these fleeting sound bites.

On current events:  “If Optimus Prime was in Nepal, he could have held up the sky with his arms and kept the ground from breaking with his legs and all those people would not be killed in the earthquake.”

On Mommy announcing that she is going to eat a lollipop with a grasshopper lodged in the middle:  “Mommy, you are being so silly.  Look, I care about you so I don’t want you to eat that stuff, okay?”

On his friend’s dietary habits:  “I want you to drink more milk okay so you can be healthy. You can’t just drink water.”

On Gramma telling him to choose one toy at Wal-Mart:  “One, huh?  This is like American Idol.  There can only be one winner.  One can go home with me but one has to stay.”

On transportation:  “There goes another white bus but that one’s not for the people in jail.  Anyone can ride it.”

On theology:  “So when Jesus died for people’s sins, who are these people?  Do we know their names?  Do we know who they are?”

On Mommy and Daddy’s HUGE age difference:  “Mommy, you said the younger people should walk in front and the older people should walk in the back so that we don’t wander or get taken or walk into the street.  So that means Daddy should walk ahead of you since you’re older, right?  When you were five, Daddy wasn’t five!  He was only 4 1/2, right?  Do you get more tired than Daddy because you’re older?”

On private parts:  “Ellis, stop hitting Mommy in her Giovanna.”  (He knows the word “vagina” since babyhood, but after a slip-up, now prefers to call it by the more beautiful girl name.)

"Ellis, you're growing up fast but this weed is still taller than you."

“Ellis, you’re growing up fast but this weed is still taller than you.”

Happy Two…while it drizzled at the zoo

Dearest Ellis,
Today, our little Kung Fu Panda Mong Sheel-Ee dared to turn TWO on us! The baby of the family thinks he’s allowed to grow up like this!?

Of course I reminisced about your birth. How your dad and I were watching the season premiere of “Homeland” (Season Two) when I went to the bathroom and saw a little blood on my underwear. Your brother had arrived within 24 hours after the bloody show so we knew that most likely, you were on your way, ten days before your due date, JUST LIKE YOUR MICAH HYUNG!

You were gracious enough to let me (mostly) sleep through the night though some painful contractions did wake me up and I decided to jot down a quick letter to Belly Baby Gender Unknown.

The morning of October 1st. Your Lee Halmoni/my mama was scheduled to touch down at JFK but because my contractions were coming regularly, we sent her a Korean cab instead of picking her up ourselves. We were getting ready to go to the hospital when the contractions slowed down.

I told your dad to go to work to save his days off.

You so kindly allowed Halmoni to arrive and learn the ropes of how to take care of your big bro before you called Game Time on us. I was able to school her all day on all things Micah before your dad finally came home from the office. He came armed with a Buffalo Chicken Panini for me to take me to the hospital that evening. I am always fearful of getting hungry so I even ate through tearful contractions because a girl dunno when the next meal comin’ through with all that laborin’ in between.

It was still gorgeous and sunny that early evening. As we drove over the RFK/Triboro Bridge to get to our hospital, we realized this was it. We had to finalize your name. We joked that it had to be RFK.

We were already set on the first name. We had chosen “Ellis” a few weeks after finding out we were expecting, whether you were a boy or a girl, though now I see that I strongly prefer “Ellis” for a boy. We wanted everyone in our family to have five-letter names but broke the rule for your middle name as we thought the “Z” initial was too cool to pass up. Your dad wouldn’t let me go through with “Zion” and we both really felt peace about the “Zachary” you ended up with. “Zachary” means “remembered by God” in Hebrew.

Within a few hours of checking in at the hospital, you arrived. Those few hours were beyond painful but I can hardly recall the pain now because I only see YOU. It only took about 15 minutes of pushing and the doctor yelling, “STOP” instead of “PUSH!” for the final push because you were shooting out so fast.

Sorry, this letter hardly sounds like me. I’m rushing to write it because Mama is so wiped from this week of nervous weather-stalking for your (early) birthday celebration yesterday. I ended up postponing it at the last minute due to the threat of rain after a whole day of showers yesterday for the outdoor gathering. Not too Accu, Accu-Weather! Was praying for a flood of Noah’s Ark proportions after I ended up canceling but of course, not a drop.

So today, on your actual birthday, I wanted to hook you up with SOME kind of outing to commemorate your special day. But it turned out to be the same deal as yesterday, only worse. Rained all morning AND threat of continued rain in the afternoon. Even darker skies.

Mama said, “Not again, Accu-Weather. You don’t fool me! Mama taking her birthday boy to the ZOO!”

So naturally, I got lost driving to the zoo we go to only every week! The GPS led me to some shady road behind Citifield, the U.S. Open Tennis Courts, and some United Nations Drive. It went from, “You are three minutes away” to “You are 26 minutes away.”

I still don’t know what happened.

When we finally arrived at the zoo, your bro had fallen asleep. I took you guys out and placed you in the Strollerus Prime.

We were the only ones there. It was drizz…it was raining.

But I will always remember how happy you were to look at your bears and feed your goats with Mama on your one and only second birthday. With your brother sleeping the whole time and waking up only as we pulled out of the zoo parking lot, thinking he must have dreamt that he had been asleep near a sheep’s face.

Thank you for joining our little family two years ago today.

You too EZ to love!

Your biggest fan and paparazzo,

photo 1 (12)

photo 2 (11)

photo 3 (6)

photo 4 (3)

See? See?!

My guilty pleasure, “Bachelor in Paradise,” came to an end last week. One moment that stayed with me was when Claire poured her heart out to the camera about wanting to finally find a man who would just SEE her for who she is and say, “Hey, I want you.  You are it.  I’m signing up for all of it.”

Last week was my firstborn’s first week of full-day school. Pre-kindergarden.

It surprised me by turning out to be a bigger week than I had imagined. After all, he had already been attending nursery school in the mornings so this was just an extension of that, right?  Not quite.

And it wasn’t just about getting the logistics down, driving to and from another neighborhood everyday, timing Ellis’ and my morning activities, lunch, and nap so that they would all be completed in time to walk to our parking space three blocks away (though I’ve still had to wake up Ellis from his warm, toasty nap each day).   Then, we finally get to go pick up Big Bro just in time for us to be waiting eagerly on the sidewalk by his school door, like paparazzi.  I even snap a pic of him on my iPhone just to record how happy he looks after enjoying school all day, and also about reuniting with his family.

That is our favorite time of day, to catch a glimpse of our very own Micah, strutting down his school stairs with a radiant Denzel smile and a backpack bigger than his torso, exclaiming, “Mom! I only cried so little today!”  We are his own little entourage of two.  Ellis has even cheered loudly as Brother walks down to us.

Back to Claire from the Bachelor. She just wanted a dude to see her for her and say, “Yup, I see you, even your weaknesses, and I still want to be with you.”  Somehow this reminded me of my boy starting school.

I have been at home with him since weeks before his birth. I see him. All of him. I know everything about him, from bowel movements to quirks to weaknesses to stremfs. I know his body better than I know mine. I know what sets him off, what makes him happy, what makes him sad. This is such a precious time because it won’t always be this way.

I see him for him and because all of his traits are a part of him, and I am the one who birthed him, he is the one for me. Now that he will be spending his days with his two teachers and 17 classmates, I wondered, “Will they be able to SEE him? Beyond him winning the #1 Crier award at dropoff the first few days, will they be able to SEE my Micah as I see him?” I hoped so.

Of course it takes time but slowly, I wanted them to be able to see the boy that I see. I’m sure all parents want the same for their precious little ones.  And big ones.

Before his first week, I observed him at Orientation. He and his new classmate were playing house when she said, “You spit when you talk.” I gave them their space and just observed. He asked her, “Me? I DO? Me?” while rivulets of drool rolled down his chin.

So this is what it was going to be like to let him do his own thang for a full day. I wasn’t going to be there to run interference when classmates said things, or pushed him. He tends to freeze when attacked and I wasn’t going to be there to remind him to use his words.

And I know he ain’t perfect either. If he don’t act right, I wasn’t going to be there to tell him to come correct right quick.

Definitely some growing pains for Mommy. To send him off to grow and learn on his own.

I also didn’t think about the effect this going away to school business would have on Little Bro. I had heard on Facebook that many little siblings were having a hard time. Though my dude does ask about Micah hyung wherever we went, especially when we saw things that reminded us of him, which was pretty much everything since we three were rollin’ deep, homies 24-7 over the summer, my little guy also relished that Mommy was able to SEE him, just him. In fact, he loves to say, “See? See!?” after pointing at anything these days. “See? Supe-man!? See? Bah-Man!? See see? Mommy, see?  Animals, see!?  Squirrel, squirrel ova they-ah!?  See?”

Yes, I see you and everything that you’re pointing to.  What a treat it is to see you without having to split my attention. I get to see you with laser-sharp focus, with new eyes now that brother is off to school for the day, and I am honored. I am excited to see you grow up this upcoming year.

I love this concept of truly being able to see someone.

When you make friends in your 30s, you want them to be able to see you beyond your current struggle with your job or your spouse, or even your life stage, that you aren’t JUST the circumstances you met them during, but a whole person.

The question always seems to be, “Who do you even WANT to see you? More of you?” As I get older, the answer is, “Not as many as befo’!”

Therein lies the beauty of childhood friends, your people you can use shorthand with to say, “This is me. You’ve seen me, warts and all. And you’re still around!”

When you start dating someone, you want them to be able to see your quirks and weaknesses and not just put up with them but welcome them as they are a part of you.

And even as I write this very typical Mommy post, I hope that folks can see that while I sound like Just Another Mommy, waxing poetic about her kids, this is just a part of me. Just as I am, though I fear eyerolls and being insufferable as I am fully aware that anecdotes about your kids are usually only interesting to you or their relatives.

Speaking of “see”? I’ll SEE y’all later. It’s almost our fave time of day!

YOU the Mom, SuperDad!

Kevin was doubled over in the corner near the sanctuary at church yesterday.

On September 7th, the boys will be moving up in rank in their respective Sunday School classes. Since he will be turning two in October, Ellis will be officially stepping up from Nursery to the Giraffe Room and Micah, as a preschooler, from the Giraffe Room to the Elephant Room.

I had told Kevin that we should just drop off Littlest Kim in his future classroom so that he can get adjusted and have a Sunday or two where he can attend WITH hyung (Big Bro).

Kevin mumbled something about, “Well, he could poo so maybe I should stay,” and some other excuse like, “But will he be able to follow direction?” Kevin has been gifting me with time to go to service when one or both of the boys needed a parent during service time. (Though he is an altruistic and selfless dude and always has been, this act ain’t completely saintly, since I am much kinder after I’m fed a good sermon.)

Kevin was hesitant about sending off our baby to an actual Sunday School class instead of the baby nursery he’s been hanging out in during his entire church attendance. But Daddy had no choice because in one split second, Micah grabbed Ellis’ hand and they both walked into the Giraffe Room, without looking back even once.

photo 1 (9)

We kept peeking in to see if one or both may need Daddy to hang around.

Nope. They sat with their backs to the door and started coloring like it’s their job.

Just as I was thinking, “Wow, DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS!?…that we have time to run out before service and grab me a Chicken Mushroom bun,” I looked over at Kevin who had literally doubled over in the corner like his appendix had burst, while carrying the diaper bag I had told him we didn’t need to bring in.

When he finally straightened himself out, I noticed that his eyes were red and he was breathing hard, with his hand over his heart. He was sheepish and laughing at himself but he managed to spit out, “But that’s my baby! He can’t be sitting in a classroom like that!? NO! I’m not ready.” He even confessed that the excuses he had made earlier about why Ellis should still stay in the nursery were bogus reasons.

As I processed this, I judged myself. Here I am, the mama, and I don’t even bat an eye when her baby marches right into the Bigger Kids’ room for the very first time without a parent. What’s wrong with me?

And then I realized it’s because of who he is. Sure, he’s the baby but he is pretty much P.I.M.P.: laughing after diving head FIRST off a steep slide, toddling up to all of our co-op staff to give multiple high-fives and daps, grabbing museum employees’ hands to carry him up so he can see an exhibit better when Mommy and Daddy were otherwise occupied, and singing along in the car.

Big Bro, on the other hand, was still wearing a drenched bib at age two, and would let other kids hit him as he stared wide-eyed, ever cautious and observing, always standing back and observing. I was emotional when HE, my only child at the time, was ready for Sunday School.

In other ways, though, Ellis seems like more of a baby than his big bro was at this age. After all, Micah had already become a big bro at 22 months old. But because of Ellis’ outgoing personality, he didn’t seem like he should be “confined” in the baby nursery any longer.

But Daddy had been the one who stayed with him in the church nursery on many a Sunday, when there weren’t enough volunteers to leave him with. Daddy was the one to witness Ellis still playing with the other babies and playing peek-a-boo from the communal pack n play.

This was the first Sunday in MONTHS where we were able to sit together to worship. I kept looking over at him and each time, Kevin was about to lose it. Tearing up, laughing at himself, taking deep breaths, then tearing up again, shaking his head.

You the Mom, SuperDad. When people told us that this ALL goes by so fast, I didn’t realize the specifics. FAST as in YOU ONLY HAVE THE FIRST THREE YEARS to attend Mommy-and-Me type activities together. TWO YEARS in the church nursery, apparently. After that, it’s school for a big chunk of the day and soon, birthday parties and baths on their own. NO WONDER parents are always chanting, “ENJOY EVERY MOMENT!”

I’m so glad that Kevin, our rock, was the one who was overcome with emotion this time.

A real man won’t be ashamed to get verklempt over his boy growing up.

A real man won’t be ashamed to weep and convulse when emotions hit deep.

A real man won’t be mad at his babies’ mama when she publishes this while he at the office.

photo (17)

photo 2 (8)