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.)




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!

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

photo (6)

The Dark (K)night

Micah is so obsessed with this cool Batman character that when we finally introduced “Frozen” to him, he kept singing what I thought was, “Let It Back, Let it Back!” instead of “Let It Go, Let it Go!” I thought, “Man, this son of mine done flipped the script and remixed the song about shame by saying Let the Shame Git Back On You. Should I be concerned?” Then I found out, he was singing, “Let it BAT, Let it BAT…” as in “Batman,” even rebelliously pointing at Elsa and Anna, scolding them, “No, you Batman and Batman!”

He even told me somberly with his signature earnest expression, slight drool pooling on his tulip bud mouth, on his smoove-skinned three-and-a-half year old face, “When I am Micah, people say to me sometimes, ‘you cute, oh you nice’ but when I am Batman, people say, ‘Who is that!? Cool! I feel safe, wow!'”

This struck me as profound.

I feel lost these days, even with the anchor of husband and two sons I get to hug and kiss in buffet portions.

I’d take “cute” or “nice” any day, but I am amazed by this little human’s assurance in his Batman identity that he can assume simply by donning his worn out, cheap Batman costume. His whole posture and countenance is different when he comes home from school and puts on his Batman garb, complete with sunglasses he added under the mask and Little Bro tagging along as a superfly Superman.

I wonder what my Batman costume looks like. I don’t feel like I’m enough these days, pouring myself out for my kids. I feel like there’s so much potential in this 37 year old brain and body that I’m not able to tap into. And it’s not as simple as “Well, why don’t you go work outside of the home then?”

In some ways, being an at-home mama is truly my calling. Not in the domestic duties as I get overwhelmed easily with all things housework but in the engaging my kids and gobbling them up and showing them affection and telling them stories for days. Plus, now that I’m a mom, I have to be more selective than ever regarding what type of paid job is worth being away from my kids. Can’t be whitefisting through some meaningless job just for that paycheck. Anyways, I don’t want to digress too much as this is a loaded topic, something I’m not ready to blog about.

Micah has also expressed sadness about the upcoming end of his school year. We’ve been blessed with a good first school experience. He said he wants to take his teacher with him and that if he gets new teachers at a new school, he will be very mean to them. It touched me as I recalled how quiet and serious he was on his first day of school.

It also made me think about how different toddlers are from us grown folks. Change scares him. He loves his current everything. His routine, his classmates, the objects around his small classroom, his teachers.

On the other hand, Mommy feels beyond ready for change. Almost idolizing it. As blessed as we are with our lives, we’ve outgrown our current life in so many ways. Many families in our ‘hood are making the grand exodus away to the ‘burbs for their next chapter. Makes me wonder what’s next for us, how we can clearly identify our individual and family goals, and how we can achieve those goals to break out of our status quo.

So, to combat worry, I am practicing mindfulness. It is hard! I wake up, pray for strength for the day with the kids, and purposefully pause to listen to the birds chirping outside the window. I look into my kids’ eyes as they talk or try to communicate with me throughout the day. I enjoy the warmer weather and our enchanting courtyard.

I even try to play mind games with myself, to trick myself into fully embracing and even enjoying the annoyances of life which persistently chap my hide. I try to change my perspective by reminding myself that I am blessed enough to have a parking space albeit three blocks away, and a laundry room we have to visit in the basement of our building. They will someday be part of the Kim family narrative, “Remember when Micah and Ellis were three and one, we’d have to go visit our car blocks away and make a little fieldtrip to the laundry room?” And it will make me appreciate what we’ve (hopefully) moved onto.

Sidenote: I have noticed that when trying to Change Perspective, the “At Least…” method does not work for me. “At least you don’t have bigger problems than this, you should be lucky that you only get annoyed by these mundane factors…” It makes me feel needlessly guilty and pissy.

What is next for our little family. I’m nervous. What if we don’t figure it out? Sooner than later please? What if I’m a loser? What if I never realize my potential? What if my husband doesn’t feel the same urgency I do?

Please Lord help me to be still and stop striving. To know that I am enough because You made me and therefore, I don’t have to grasp and claw for my worth. To know that You are Lord and take comfort in that. That even though it may not be evident that You are on the throne, You are. Please gift me with patience, the very thing I try to teach my own kids, while we wait on You for direction. Thank You for Your Word:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Lonestar, Lone Yellow Face, Getting Schooled

Every little thing that you do
I’m so in love with you
It just keeps getting better
I wanna spend the rest of my life
With you by my side
Forever and ever
Every little thing that you do
Oh, every little thing that you do
Baby I’m amazed by you

How was this cheesy old song by Lonestar making me catch feelings?

It came on as Ellis and I drove out to another potential preschool for his big bro, while Big Bro was busy at his current school ’til we swooped him up before noon. Maybe I was just relieved and happy that I knew some song lyrics for once or maybe the

“Every little thing that you do
Oh, every little thing that you do
Baby I’m amazed by you”

took a hold of me as I kept looking back at my cutie, tickled by his constant companionship in his ubiquitous polar bear hat and puffy navy jacket on this “warmer” day of the week (high of 30). Growing up so fast. Would definitely be needing a new carseat next month. Mo’ money, mo’ money.

I had just left the open house of the prior school, stuffing the application packet in its nice maroon embossed folder into the back of Ellis’ stroller. Our car, streaked with winter wear, was parked on the street that still showed vestiges of the most recent snowstorm. This song from 1999 came on while my second son cooed and babbled at his mama stealing glances at him from her rearview as we drove away.

All of that coupled with my realization, AGAIN, that my boy was going to start PRESCHOOL this fall. NOT pre-preschool or nursery but PRESCHOOL where, depending on the school, he would be grown enough to wear a UNIFORM to school, like a bonafide little scholar.

I’d been learning about this whole NYC preschool selection process and at first, it was too daunting. Too many choices for preschool and too many factors to consider. I know it’s “only preschool” but that doesn’t mean I can skip the due diligence required to ensure that my son attends a safe, stimulating, fun, nurturing school.

As I drove, I started wondering if my parents could have afforded to take time off from running their store to go on preschool tours for me. Then I realized, WE WEREN’T EVEN IN AMERICA when I was Micah’s age. This blew my mind for some reason as that Lonestar chorus continued to replay in my head: “Baby I’m amazed by you-u-u…”

I attended a couple months of preschool in Seoul before we immigrated to Los Angeles. I vaguely recall standing around in a big circle with a bunch of other kids. I also remember my mama telling me that I wasn’t quite feeling it one day so I walked home during the school day, telling her an elaborate story about how Soojin (imaginary friend) and I were not enjoying school so we decided to come back home.

My East Coast boys were already growing up so differently from their mama. I was born WAY east…Seoul east. They have professional, English speaking parents who take preschool TOURS, not hesitant to ask any questions due to their limited English. Being the most vocal parent during the tour, asking about the school’s general philosophy, daily schedules, and whether our new mayor’s push for more universal pre-kindergarden could affect the upcoming academic year, and teacher-student ratios. Stark contrast from my own parents gathered in a huddle with other Korean immigrant parents after our kindergarden class let out, to group-translate the memos pinned to the back of their children’s shirts.

The second school Ellis and I checked out was comprised of 100% African-American students, from age two through third grade. One wide-eyed little girl said to her classmate, “It’s a Chinese baby!” as she gazed at my boy.

When I saw the classrooms filled with all Black students, I time-traveled back to my childhood, where my brother and I were the only non-Black kids in the neighborhood my parents ran a Chinese take-out store.

I was already a bit emotional after the unexpected Lonestar infection (“Every little thing that you doo-oo-oo…”) but it got cranked up a notch, maybe to Snow Patrol proportions (“If I lay here, if I just lay here…”). I am the first to admit that these songs are clearly the wrong soundtracks for this school tour day but I had no control over the DJ in my head.

The time travel was fast and furious. It had to be since I was a grown woman now, a mama, checking out a school for her firstborn. SWOOSH. Back to the present now.

I took it all in: the blue mesh cots stacked on top of each other for the kids’ naptimes after lunch. Different patterned blankets that each student had brought from home. It was clear how much they loved this place, even gathering around the staff member who was showing me around, repeatedly saying, “Hi, Mr. ______.” A teacher was giving a two year-old little boy some water to drink, the boy draped on her, looking so comfy.

I asked the staff how they thought my son would feel as the only non-Black face among his classmates. They explained that it was a very personal decision for our family but that they welcomed everyone.

The two school visits made me think about how much power we have in impacting our kids’ lives. By submitting a few sheets of paper, we could have him enrolled in school with all Black classmates, mostly Jewish classmates, or about 50% Japanese classmates (what his current class demographics ended up being, though still diverse). That would definitely shape his worldview, just like it did mine.

Ultimately, Kevin and I decided that the schools Ellis and I visited today were not for us. The first school simply did not fit our schedule and we would definitely mind that Micah would be the only non-Black child in the second school. Likewise, we would not want to send him to a school where the student body was 100% or nearly 100% of any race, be it White or Black or Asian.

Looking back, I loved having always attended such diverse schools though I did feel inferior when some of my classmates in the gifted magnet school I was bussed to from fourth to sixth grade were well off, with parents who were so involved in school activities.

I was in shock when I attended Kevin’s high school reunion where we were the only people of color. Well, us, and one Japanese-American dude that Kevin’s classmate had married, and of course, one other classmate actually went up to the dude and yelled, “Kevin!” while draping his arm around him, having to apologize to both repeatedly through the night. Kevin tried to show that he was just as down as me by peppering conversations with “all you white kids….” when a drunk classmate complimented him with what she probably deemed as the ultimate compliment: “Oh come on, KK, you’re as white as the rest of us.” Coming from schools where people of color outnumbered the White folk, it just felt gross. I wanted to open up my tattered copy of Malcolm X and read it near the bar.

And as much as we can help it, we do not want our sons to be the lone Asian-American representative at any school.

Aside from the racial composition of his school, we could end up choosing a school that he just did not like, or a school he absolutely loved. A school with loving staff, or a school with bad seeds. Or a school that just didn’t care enough. Or just a bad fit for whatever reason. Then we would just have to go back to the drawing board.

Education is such a personal choice for families. I just didn’t think too much about it since I didn’t have to when my kiddos were younger.

Of course, education is highly valued in most cultures, including mine, but I’m talking about the different paths parents choose for their kids. Homeschooling, charter schools, private schools, even UNschooling, just for starters. One common point of discussion while shopping for preschools is whether it’s “academic” enough and whether that’s even what you’re looking for. Some folks are certain that there is no place for “academic” among four year-olds, since they will be SCHOOLED for many years. No rush to pressure them into formal instruction. Preschool time should be child-led, letting the child choose areas of interest.

On an instinctual level, that sits well with me. Our dude will only be turning FOUR come November, no need for worksheets or memorizing anything…until I talk to some other mama while double-parked next to each other during pick-up time at Micah’s school, talking about how one school is “only nurturing, not actually teaching enough” or when a parent who moved away from our area tells me that her child is learning SO much more at her new school. Then the hibernating Tiger Mama in me wants to jump out my chest like in “Aliens” and start preparing Micah for his SATs.

“Micah, finish your cereal. You have to feed yourself! Stop dropping your sippy cup! And tell me again, what does ‘tergiversation’ mean? Use it in a sentence before I take you to the potty.”

Or when I’m good about our decision to send Micah to only a few hours of preschool since kindergarden and beyond will be full-time unlike the limited quality time to spend with Mama and Brother…until I hear a preschool director tell me that kids really need to prepare for kindergarden by getting used to the hours in preschool, and acquire “more skills.”

I am not cut from the same cloth as parents who’ve already formed their firm convictions about how to do thangs. I always enjoy chatting it up with others to see if I have a blind spot or if I should reconsider. Even with our choice for me to stay-at-home with them indefinitely, there are many days I waver in the conviction or confidence behind that choice. On the one hand, I’m glad I’m open-minded enough to talk to others and sift through different opinions, taking most with a grain of salt.

I also know that I need to remember WHO I’m talking to, as all opinions do not hold equal weight. Are they the type of parents or educators or people I respect and wish to emulate?

But on the other hand, I’m reminded of what Keith Urban said on American Idol this past week. He said that sometimes, listening to everyone’s critiques and ideas about what kind of singer you should be, can actually drown out your own natural voice/style and make you sing without heart.

I’m sure I have a lot of learnin’ to do as I mature in my parenting over my kids’ lifetimes, but what I do know is that I’m all heart. And when I do get nervous about choosing wrong for them, I’ll have to keep in mind that their mama couldn’t even speak English when she started kindergarden but still rocked the SATs, got herself jobs with zero connections, passed the NY Bar Exam on her first try, and started a blog with a readership of tens of tens.

But I do want them to surpass me in every way. Have more joy and confidence and peace. THRIVE.

I want to do right by them…

Cause “Baby I’m amazed by you-u-u…”

"Mama, you up there by the window again?  Choose a great school for me, aight?  Good lookin' out!"

“Mama, you up there by the window again? Choose a great school for me, aight? Good lookin’ out!”

Morning at Jericho: “I’m good, Ma!”

Two Chinese nannies, three Japanese mamas, one Chinese daddy, and Ellis and me reppin’ Korea waiting on a dingy couch and a couple chairs.

No, not the premise of a joke that racists relished telling when I was growing up, but the scene right outside Micah’s classroom this morning.

Today was the first OFFICIAL day of school after Orientation Week. Micah would be off on his own for nearly three hours.

I wasn’t sure if he was going to need me to stay. I had prepped him all summer with pick-up lines for snagging friends. Short and sweet: “Hi, I’m Micah. You wanna play?” He repeated it to me, trying to be a comedian. “Hi, Mommy, I’m Micah! You want to play weeth me?” while giggling uncontrollably.

It was Game Time. He plopped himself down on the carpet where some cute little kiddies were already engrossed in play. He beamed at a green bunny and took it to them. “I have at home. I have deess one at home!” Here I had been feeding him lines when he went with what he knew. Atta boy!

He was ready. My little birdie was ready to fly.

“Micah, Mommy wants to give you space to make friends and play on your own today at school. You’re gonna have so much fun. I promise I will be right outside if you need me, okay? Ellis and Mommy come pick you up later, OK? I promise I will be right outside.”

He barely acknowledged me as he moved on to play in different areas.

I wore Ellis and parked our doublestroller on the patch of dry grass out front, and walked around his school a countless number of times, like it was Jericho (though I wasn’t wishing that the walls came tumbling down, down, down, dooby dooby down).

Every now and then a child would run out looking for their adult. When a child came running out, either wailing or crying softly while trying to be brave, another child or two would follow like little ducklings, looking for their caretaker in the waiting area. In one case, one little girl was in such hysterics that the teacher went for a walk with her.

One older Chinese nanny was too cute. Her child came running out when she least expected it and she didn’t want to be seen so she tried to hide behind her friend, the other older Chinese nanny. They were both completely in plain view but in her desperation, she tried to act like a statue, then hide.

Ellis was extra jolly, thriving in my undivided attention and affection. Gurgling away and poking my eyes, booty-shaking and motorboating me. I didn’t mean to wear his growing body on me for the entire time on this sunny day but I wasn’t thinking straight as I thought I might have to run into the classroom at any moment. Ellis gladly took his morning nap on me, in deep, angelic slumber.

I lusted after a cold beverage, but I didn’t have my wallet on me and I wasn’t about to borrow money from new classmates’ mamas. It didn’t matter as I had no plans to leave the school’s general vicinity. Not on the first real day. After all, I had given Micah my word that I would be right outside. I was preoccupied, thinking the teacher would call my cell at any moment while I was walking ’round and ’round the block.

I kept thinking that when they were off to their next activity, Micah would cry. I wasn’t being entirely paranoid as this dude would NOT separate from me for months as a younger toddler when I tried to attend a weekly women’s Bible Study. Even after he turned two, it took months and months for him to attend Sunday School on his own. Now he practically runs to Sunday School, eager to see his favorite teachers.

Playground time was the finale today. I made sure I couldn’t be seen when the kids all walked together from the classroom.

Ellis and I hid behind a toolshed next to the school, near a dirt pile, to catch a glimpse of Son/Brother. (Please note: if you see a suspicious adult creeping around any given playground, before you call the popo, take pause and consider first that she may just be an anxious parent on her son’s first day).

I didn’t see him at first among a batch of kiddies, so I inched over a bit while still hidden, and there he was, chasing after a ball and looking like he was having so much fun. We later saw him riding on a red trike, looking like Christmas Day. He looked so happy! Like he ain’t never cried hysterically for mama before.

Ten more minutes ’til dismissal. I nursed Ellis while sitting on some cement steps in the blazing sun. My body will be aching come tomorrow morning. The Chinese nanny had returned and we just kept smiling at each other as her English was as good as my Cantonese.

When I entered the classroom to pick up my dude, he squealed with glee, “Mommy! Mommy! Wook!” as he showed me his art project. A mama who ended up having to accompany her little girl today, reported back to me that Micah had fully participated in each activity and had a blast.

I know he will have needy days and independent days but today was as perfect as they come.

Thanks for the precious memories, dear week of 09.09. Reminded me that while these are some of the most hair-pulling times, these are also some of the sweetest times of my life.

Plus, First son/Big Bro being off at school in the mornings couldn’t have come at a better time. Mr. EZ is knocking on the door of toddlerhood, protesting the stroller and highchair, spitting out foods that he doesn’t like, always needing to be on Mama, and nursing like he’s going to be cut off soon. Stage Five Clinger had to be carried on my back after Micah’s school today, all the way home while I strolled big bro in the half-empty double.

But don’t worry, my dude, I find separation anxiety the ultimate form of flattery and I will be right outside the nearest toolshed when it’s YOUR first week.


First Day of School is For the Birds

Dear Micah,

As September hit and the weather cooled, back-to-school season was upon us. For our family, it was not BACK-to-school but the START of your first school ever.

You will get to know this about me soon: I am needlessly rebellious. Too much of anything and I run the other way. I try to act macho during movies, for instance, while the entire theater is bawling, or worse yet, I ask my girlfriends or your daddy if they cryin’.

So, as 09.09 approached, and I heard more buzz about school, school, school and so many First Day of School pictures all over Facebook, I may have started to rebel, without fully realizing it. Of course I filled out your many school forms ahead of time and prepared a shoebox full of items that your school requested but other than that, I wanted to go against the grain and make a smaller deal about you going off to your very first school ever, after hanging with Mommy nearly everyday since you arrived on Thanksgiving Day 2010.

We went on another trip this weekend to Miss J’s wedding. You were excited because you now have a taste for hotels, hotel pools, eating at restaurants for every meal, and sleeping with your entire family within touching distance. Our family partied hard at that very special wedding, your first taste of dancing on a dark dance floor with crazy adults who like to get down. Daddy and I changed you and Ellis into your pajamas for the long drive home, the night before your first day.

Upon returning late at night, I felt cool for not making this First Day thang too big. We weren’t at home marinating in it all weekend.

I didn’t even decide what you were going to wear until minutes before we left the house. I put you in a Montel Williams-looking Nehru-collared sky blue shirt with grey jeans and used one of your markers to make a “First Day of School” sign for pictures.

And we were off. Mama started strolling you (just you today, no Ellis). With the shoebox full of a change of clothes, tissues, underwear and a snapshot of you. (I apologize if anyone thinks your name is Anne Klein. It’s not like your friends can read anyhow.)


To get to your school, we started on the same 17-minute stroll we had done a countless number of times to get to the library, your friend K’s apartment, and your playground.

I had been talking to you about school for months now. How your friend, A, is already there and how you’re going to have so much fun and how Mommy and Ellis will pick you up just in time for lunch. Maybe this wasn’t the big deal others were making it out to be?

But during this very ordinary walk, Mama started feeling an extraordinary welling up inside. Like a volcano’s rumble. Or a bloodstain growing larger and larger on white cloth.

I tried to get real macho, real fast.

As I strolled you, I looked down at you with your skinny neck and spiky hair, sitting there with your clear, wide eyes, observing the world as you always do, acting like you ain’t never been a no-necked, rolly baby. You asked about the ongoing construction and the men doing the work. “Mommy, they working today? They fixing street again?” Our usual topics of conversation.

And then a bunch of sparrows flew around us and sat down in a row on the porch of a building we always pass by.

Oh, Micah, those birds. They just about did Mommy in. Mommy wanted to sit down in the middle of the street and do the Korean drama wail, wrapping a white cloth around my head like a proper wailing Korean mama.

Do you know why those birds are so special to us?

Mommy’s Mommy, your grandma, used to walk Mommy to school, telling me how the chahm-sehs (sparrows) were flying and chirping just for me, Nature’s perfect escorts to kindergarden.

Fast forward to now, and this gang of sparrows was also chirping just for you as you went off to school with YOUR Mommy.

They had watched us walk this very walk when you were just a few months old and we had already endured about eight major snowstorms. Mommy was nervous about taking you out on the slippery sidewalks that weren’t paved completely but when she did, she was so happy to stroll you around, getting both of us fresh air into our lungs. Feeling so accomplished. Feeling like maybe she can do this motherhood thang even with the mood-crushing weather and no family around.

Mommy had asked her friends what I should do for you, other than nap you and feed you and change your many diapers. They told her to just show you around and talk to you. So Mommy would tell you what she saw on the walk, including the snowed in sidewalks and the birds who wanted to see Micah in his stroller.

Mommy had been rebellious up until this very morning because you going to school WAS a huge deal and I didn’t trust the floodgates to come crashing down. I find myself doing that these days, Micah, not being able to cry because there might be too much in there.

Whether I made a big deal of it or not, here we were. So many moments flashing before my eyes. All the sweet “i wuv you, Mommy” moments, not the moments where Mommy has a pool of urine and chicken broth in her Crocs from an eventful afternoon.

I love you so much that if I pause to think about just how much, I feel like my heart will stop. I still cup your smooth face in my little hands, just like I did when you arrived brand new. I just can’t believe you were the little blueberry in my womb.

And I have to admit, it’s been REALLY HARD as you are not a baby any more and you want to do things your way.

You drive me crazy some days, when you don’t listen, and I have gotten so frustrated after how many spills and how many times you ask me for something after I tell you “No!” But you will always be my scrawny newborn who ballooned into a big-cheeked Gloworm, then became a sweet big brother at 22 months old. My firstborn. My baby.

Always remember that birds chirped just for you today as I took you to your first school, though sometimes, they sure did sound like they were chirping, “You ain’t hward, you ain’t hward!” in Mommy’s direction. Mommy got too verklempt to point it out during the walk, so here it is in print.

I still haven’t been able to cry but maybe your Mommy is growing up, too. Or the volcano will erupt next week when Orientation week is over.

P.S. I forgive you for asking if there was a baby in Mommy’s belly last week. I hope you can forgive me for greater offenses, like yelling at you and saying I want to be back at the office because you won’t listen. God bless you while you are at school. You’re all mine again after a few hours each morning. I love you to the moon and back.

my li'l Montel:  don't blow up my spot, ma!

my li’l Montel: don’t blow up my spot, ma!