The Pressure of Going Viral

So…

my previous post, “You Set Me Up,” went viral.

I’mma stay down-to-earth though and not let it get to my head.

Mind you, “viral” is all relative. I think talking blog stats is a sensitive topic, maybe like sharing one’s weight, but I’ll just put myself on blast.

“Viral” for my tiny blog is about 250 views in two days, after sharing it only on my personal and Ajummama Facebook pages. For professional bloggers, they may wanna off themselves after reaching such a small audience, whereas I was downright giddy.

I don’t know the rhyme or reason behind why some of my posts get more clicks than others. I write about different things but the reader doesn’t know what it’s about UNTIL they click on it. This post that went “viral” was about HOPE, a universal topic, but y’all didn’t know that UNTIL you clicked on it. So how did it get so much love?

Anyhow, the day after I went viral, I woke up thinking that it was going to be another inspirational day of testifying. I wanted more “Glory Be!” moments.

Felt downright sheepish. After all, I had TESTIFIED! I was in “Can I get a witness?” mode.

Instead, the next day turned out to be so gnarly that I will keep it to myself (for now).

And THEN, when I wanted to write more of a snarky post, which was writing itself inside my head, I felt like, “How you gonna go out like that? Your 18 readers like the Hope stuff! You can’t Debbie Downer them.”

But back to being myself. We are all complex creatures. All of us are grasping for Hope as well as not so inspired in our less-than-best moments.

So lemme be True and tell you about a pet peeve that I encountered today. See if I go from Viral to Incubated – experiment with this blog game.

I took Ellis to his gym class. (Wish this could be anonymous at times like these but alas.)

Noticed that the teacher doesn’t hide her preference for certain mamas. For those of us she isn’t quite feelin’, she insists that you MUST call ahead to see if you can do a make-up. If she likes you more, she will let you just show up informally while she is extra sweet to you and your child.

I’m in the former category. Prolly have to call her TWICE. She’s a loud kooky lady. I’m a loud kooky lady (in a different way, in corporate packaging). Sometimes other loud kooky ladies don’t take to me and prefer other types. That is fine.

She was asking the little ones if they wanted a turn in the Donut. Other moms ask their Littles, “Do you want a turn in the Donut?”

This mom just grabs Dude and puts him in the Donut.

You gonna ride in the Donut unless you cry and shriek. Mama paid for these classes so you gonna try everything. Twice.

I placed him in there as we sang “Row Row Row Your Boat.” He looked frozen but like he was secretly enjoying himself, too.

He has this look often.

Teacher says, loudly and kookily, while trailing off from singing, “You never gon’ win an argument with YOUR Mommy, are you?”

So this post ain’t about something as beautiful as Hope. Just a pet peeve of mine when people categorize you after three total hours of interacting with you, over the course of three weeks, and then speaking to your child about that impression, loudly and kookily.

I also don’t like it when a teacher doesn’t do a better job of hiding her preferences.

I ain’t no PUREBRED Tiger mama just because I placed my still-small child in a little ride without asking him. I’m sure there is part Tiger in me somewhere (I AM Korean) but don’t assume! I’m all mush for my kids.

I’m sure we form our impressions of each other within SECONDS of meeting each other BUT don’t be speaking on it to my toddler.

Just keep it to yourself.

The only acceptable adult-to-toddler commentary of When I Met Your Mother would be, “Now I know where you got your pretty brown eyes from,” or “Your mom looks like she lost at least 1.2 pounds this week!”

Can I get a witness?

Do You?

“Hi! Wow, the last time I saw you, you were pregnant with him,” I said, pointing to the baby she was wearing in her carrier.

She looks utterly confused. She has no idea who I am.

Jihee, please, girl, just keep it vague and say you seen her around at the park. AND KEEP IT MOVING.

Oh, I kept it moving. Kept my mouth moving.

“Yeah, we were stuck in a storm together at _________ Park last summer. It was a crazy downpour. One of those torrential downpours, remember? We had to stand under the train tracks together for a good long while since it was coming down so hard. You were just about to give birth. Time flies, huh?”

She looks downright bewildered the more I talked.

Self, stop talking now since she is NOT going to remember that one random day in July.

But I kept thinking if I broke it dee-own for her, it would click! She may recall those moments that were playing so vividly in my head when I saw her at our mutual friends’ kiddie birthday party.

“You had to take out a potette for your little girl right before the storm hit and we had to wait it out together?” I was feeling like Chris Farley in the “Re-re-remember when…?” sketches on SNL.

Now at this point, even *I* knew that I had to leave it be. I could have gone on to say that she and some other mamas were making jokes about how “potette” is a funny word for portable potty, how she was telling us that you can totally use plastic bags from the market instead of buying the expensive refills for those things, and other details that kept gushing forth in the movie reel playing in my head. Images of her being way pregnant.

I’ve always been like this, remembering stuff that other people couldn’t care less about, not just now because I am at home with the kids, swimming in the mundane rather than speeding along on the “fast track,” whatever that means.

She smiled, still a bit uncomfortable, and found her way towards her friends, the people she actually knows.

Naturally, we end up bumping into each other again because her baby was playing near the rest of my family in a different part of the museum. Kevin starts saying, “Aww, how old is the little guy?” about her baby and AGAIN, I hear myself say, “awww, and he wasn’t even born when I ran into them last.”

She looks thrown off AGAIN and mumbles softly, “Yeahh…..I guess.”

AUGH! This was such a painful little interaction. And I had invited it.

On the rainy drive home, I told Kevin, “Yo, I feel like a doofus. I think I just gotta shut the hell up! I get so excited and happy to see familiar faces even when they are TOTAL strangers who only wanna talk to THEIR people. It doesn’t sink in for me that these people are not interested in a ‘remember when’ moment. Why do I embarrass myself? And did you see me hug up on that other mama just cuz I hadn’t seen her in months? She didn’t see that coming but I’m such a hugger! I just have too much jung for people, it gushes out before I can stop it, like an excited puppy!”

Kevin was firm. “No. You don’t have to shut the hell up. You just keep doing you. If they don’t remember you at all, don’t be embarrassed. That’s them and you’re you. If you get excited and want to bring up meeting them, go ahead. Still do you.”

“Really!? I feel so stupid that I bust out hugs or remember stuff in SUCH detail. I just gotta act like I don’t remember and that I’m not as excitable as I really am. I should learn to just not mention it. I just get so dang bang-gah-wuh.” (Happy to see someone.)

“No, I say Keep Doing You.”

We had arrived at home so I took the sleeping second son into our home while Kevin temporarily parked on the street, watching March Madness in peace, on his phone, as Micah snoozed.

Once I got home, I iMessaged him from our bedroom: “Hey, you know my crazy infallible memory? Remembering every detail about being stuck in the storm with that lady I scared off today? I got the wrong woman. She had bounced before the storm hit and I was actually stuck under the subway tracks with another mama, her girlfriend.” (To which he replied: HAHAHAHA)

I do love the message that Kevin had for me, but maybe I need to be more refined as I creep towards my 40s? Not busting out with bearhugs on the subway platform when I run into a mere acquaintance, or saying, “heyyyyy, remember when….?” to a stranger (especially when I got the wrong person!?).

But then again, some of the friendships I’m now blessed with have sprouted from the most random of initial interactions.

Do You? or Do You, But Less Doofus’d, More Refined?

Do I even wanna be more refined, though?  photo by Jodee Debes

Do I even wanna be more refined, though? photo by Jodee Debes

Charles E. Quest

What’s the opposite of a Bucket List?

Things I Need NOT Cross Off My List before I croak, and am more than fine with never experiencing:

I have never eaten an Arby’s sandwich (or an Arby’s anything).

I have never gone to Applebee’s. I had to look up how to spell it (Applebee’s or Appleby’s? apostrophe?).

I have never had a nosebleed.

I have never seen any of the Star Wars movies.

I have never had a coffee or soda habit.

I have never been to a Chuck E. Cheese.

Chuck that. I had never been to a Chuck E. Cheese…until two Sundays ago.

Kevin takes the boys there on his own every now and then, especially during this endless winter when outdoor play is not an option. They visit their friend, Chuck, to give me some time to myself. It’s become their boys’ club.

When I was sick one weekend, Kevin hit up the usual spots with the Li’l Kims. They’d already explored the museum and mall, before he sent me an iMessage (technically, I still don’t have text on my phone):

“We going to Charles E. Quest.”

Later, I found out that he had meant to type “Charles E. Queso” for “Chuck E. Cheese” but autocorrect had struck.

I’d always been certain that I would naturally loathe the place. I have zero interest in video games or arcades. In fact, they give me major headaches. Can’t deal with stale air. Hate mice, hate noise. And terrible pizza is a terrible waste of calories.

On another frigid Sunday, the boys were headed to see Chuck again and I needed to stop by Target within the same mall so the boys’ club gave me a ride. I realized that passing by the boys’ stomping grounds with nary a looky loo was just plain silly. NOT going somewhere JUST to keep the Never-Been-There routine going was pointless, so I dropped by to see what this Charles E. Quest had to offer.

Wow. Just wow.

Immediate thought: Good Lord, this must have been what the Superdome was like after Hurricane Katrina.

Teeming with too many children and too many weary parents.

Dirty. Even the air. Stank like parmesan cheese stuffed into a pair of size 12s. Well-worn size 12s. And balls.

No order. There were no sections. No separate eating area from the game area.

Where you ate was smack dab in the middle of where you played.

Commotion everywhere.

Kids taller than me were running around. Fast.

More lights and sounds than Times Square.

AND A SALAD BAR RIGHT NEXT TO THE PRIZES. A salad bar!? Right next to where you redeem your tokens for a prize.

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I had to call Kevin to locate them amidst the din and blinking lights.

He saw the “Oh, uh-uh!” look on my face as I took it all in. The boys were entranced by sensory overload.

“How can this really be your first time here? You never went as a kid? You really that surprised – whaddid you expect?” he CHUCKled.

“I thought there would at least be sections so that you can eat and THEN get your game on. You actually volunteer to come to this Superdome with the boys!? Is that really a salad bar or are my eyes wigging out from all these flashing lights? I could imagine an ICE CREAM bar next to the prizes, but SALAD? In case you just have to have some greens while up in this piece? Look at that canned baby corn, just waiting for someone to holla!”

But then again, Kevin loves video games so he’s probably been waiting to have kids so that he can swing by a spot like this on the reg.

It wouldn’t be wholly fair if I gave this spot a 100% negative review. At least it is free admission unlike every other kiddie play place. But “You get what you pay for!” never rang truer, especially for highly sensitive souls like me, with my supersonic hearing and low threshold for noise.

Charles has another thing going for him – his security. I wasn’t able to walk out with Micah and Ellis because they had come in with their Daddy. I had walked in alone after them, thereby not receiving a stamp on my hand. When you enter, an employee stamps everyone with the number of people in your party, and will not let you leave unless everyone in your party is present to leave together. So, the boys got to leave, only with Kevin, once their infrared stamps marked “3” were verified under the special flashlight. I liked that.

This is a much needed security measure as this is THE backdrop for a Lifetime movie about a desperate dad abducting his child after a bitter custody battle, while the boy is hunched over a game of “Need for Speed” (after a trip to the salad bar and token redemption bar).

Chuck E. Cheese’s: where a kid can be a kid…and Daddy can play video games, and have wings and greens…and Mommy can swing by at the end for a cute family sketch that only costs one token or approximately 33 centavos.

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Subway Snooze Spectacular

So, I survive the afternoon with the Christmas Spectacular Superfan.

We get on the train to return home…sweet home. It’s past Micah’s naptime and he’s had an extra active day: school in the morning, followed by the subway ride, running through Rock Center and all that energy crying through Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular.

I’m relishing my cuddle time with him on the train especially after his getting so upset at the show that I hardly worry about what may happen if he falls asleep on the train. He’s so happy, back to his usual self. We admire a cool dude’s bright gold Nikes. Micah puts his little red Nikes next to his, remarking, “WOW!”

Soon, Micah becomes more subdued, putting his head down on my lap. The motion of the train lulls him into the heavy-lidded phase before slumber hits. “Micah, we’re almost there. Just wait a little longer and then you can sleep at home, sweetheart! C’mon, my Micah, don’t fall asleep please!”

It was useless. He fell into a sound sleep at 4:10 pm, when we had just three more subway stops to go.

I hate to wake him from a nap. For so many reasons. Primarily, I want him to get his rest on and be himself when he wakes up, the Micah who is not going to whine and scream and carry on about being carried. When he wakes up prematurely while we are out, he cannot be consoled.

And like I stated in the last post, I HAD DECIDED TO LEAVE MY STROLLER IN THE CAR. I wanted to take a risk and not bother, remember? Frontin’ like I was free as the howling wind outside, not like the mama of a young boy who should be prepared for any combination of scenarios.

Sound familiar? Just like when I hadn’t wanted to “bother” with peeing before my drive from Long Island with the boys.

We exit the train and I try to wake him up gently. “Micah, Micah? We have to walk home now. We’re almost there. We can go see Daddy and Baby. Mommy can’t carry you. Mommy has big AHH-yah from carrying you in and out of the show. I can’t walk home carrying you because Micah’s my big boy.”

Dude slumps down on the cold subway platform to continue sleeping! Even with the loud subway sounds and low temps (30s outside). I scan the premises and realize that there are no benches on this end of the platform. There is only a blue metal contraption, maybe housing some electrical units that the MTA uses?

I hoist myself onto it, with Micah sound asleep in my arms, sharing the space with a young couple gazing into each others’ eyes. It’s about 4:15 pm. I decide that this world rushes too much these days. I’mma sit on this blue steel thingamajiggie and let Micah complete his nap, at least a catnap for the next 30 minutes. He hadn’t asked to come to no show so I will not rob him of his nap.

Plus, if he got woken up right then and started screaming for me to carry him all the way home, I wouldn’t know what to do. I just could not do that again after that last time that hero named Bruce tried to rescue me.

I mean, it was 30 degrees outside, maybe even colder now that it was dark, and the subway was so very loud like multiple car accidents to my supersonic ears, screeching and clanking in and out of the platform every few minutes on both sides since it was peak hours (commuting hour). But hey, I wanted to let my boy sleep.

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So I sat there. I asked the couple to take a picture of us before they can start making out. I was using our jackets as blankets for Micah.

I realized I was really cold. My lady bits and butt were actually numb from the cold. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

People watched me. Some were obvious about staring. Some may have wondered if I was hard up. Where was my sign? That thing I was sitting on was NOT for made for sitting so I stood out to onlookers. Cold and uncomfy to sit on so I must be desperate. It became obvious that I was staying for a while. One man watched me, perplexed, trying to figure out why I was just sitting there in a weird spot with my sleeping child.

“You not taking the E OR F trains?” he asked, shaking his head while I let train after train loudly pass by without us on them. (Writing this, I’m wondering what HE was doing there, missing train after train, watching me!)

I couldn’t call Kevin because there was no reception underground, and my phone had died shortly thereafter. I didn’t seriously think about enlisting his help. Maybe because it was really cold out and I didn’t want him and Ellis to get involved when we’d soon be on our merry way. I was the one choosing to let Micah continue to nap.

Also, I felt like I was caving in to too much damsel in distress syndrome lately. So many scenarios where Kevin comes to my assistance because it’s just too hard or overwhelming while he is so capable, able to handle so much more than me. If I can’t fix something around the house, Micah immediately says, “Maybe Daddy will fix for us, Mommy? Ask Daddy!”

Maybe God was trying to teach me to work on cultivating gratitude once again. My rebellious spirit had been having a hard time being TRULY thankful for our NYC co-op this year. While once so thankful for it, I now only see its flaws, lacking the space and amenities I desperately crave, even encroaching upon my emotional health this postpartum year. And yeah yeah, I knew that others have it exponentially worse all around the world but I didn’t care.

But sitting there with my frozen butt and labia, I sure was missing home. Though small, it was toasty and it kept us safe from the elements. Together. Fine, Lord, I repent. Can Micah wake up now?

Forget 30 minutes later. Micah was sleeping a delicious sound sleep, even making sounds like he was enjoying food, it was so yummy. So deep he was grinding his teeth. I was staring at him and giving him butterfly kisses all over his face. A handsome Latino Yankee fan tried to help me. He may have been the only one to ask if I need help.

“So uh, where’s your person? Do you have uh, your person you should be able to call up for help? How can I help? You want me to carry him for you?”

(I couldn’t take him up on his offer because he was going to miss his train and Micah would wake up if I transported him into someone else’s arms. What would I do then after this man left?)

“Do you need to borrow my phone to call anyone? How far do you live?”

And later, after I told him that Micah should be waking up any minute now and thanks: “Are you from the Philippines? It’s crazy what happened out there.”

Approximately 75 minutes later, I flag down a woman exiting the train and ask her if she can send my husband a message. She let me type it out on her iPhone and assured me she would send it once she got above ground. It was just to let him know that we had arrived at 4:15 but had been on the platform so that Micah would continue sleeping.

So after a grand total of 90 minutes, I start to stir Micah awake. At this rate, he may have been able to do a record three-hour nap and I was really too cold without wearing my jacket I was using as his blanket. I hoped he was well-rested enough to not get upset…which was THE WHOLE POINT OF MY LETTING HIM NAP!

But of course, he got upset because he was still sleepy. “Waaaahhhhhh! Mommmyyyy, Mommmyyyy, carry up, carry up!” Inconsolable. My waiting out his nap was all for naught.

I ended up carrying him up the stairs while a kind older woman insisted on carrying my bags up the stairs for me. I went into the pizzeria right next to the subway stop and asked to borrow their phone. Called Kevin to come out and help me.

Soon, Kevin and Ellis came with the doublestroller to help us. I felt a little better that even with Kevin and the cozy doublestroller awaiting him like a horse and carriage, Micah demanded to be carried all the way home. I strolled Ellis while Kevin carried Micah.

Later, Kevin pointed out that I should have called him er, 90 minutes earlier from the pizza place to avoid that crazy cold waiting period.

Apparently, my brain had frozen too. I could have spared myself this 90 minutes on the ice tundra. If I had accepted that man’s offer to help, I could have made it up the stairs then called from the pizzeria! I had lamely thought that I had to get him ALL the way home – the pizzeria idea only hatched when I realized there was no way I’d make it home. D’oh! I really wasn’t thinking straight that night.

My recent battle against envy, namely house/space/amenities envy, is ongoing and sometimes very acute, but I was extra thankful that particular night for my cozy couch, warm food, and heat in our apartment.

…Even with Kevin shaking his head at me over and over again, laughing, muttering, “I can’t believe you sometimes! The things you put yourself through!”

P.S. The lady’s text message came through about an hour after we were all snug at home. “Hello, this is the lady from the subway. My phone had a malfunction and I was not able to get this message to you until now. Your wife and son are down at the subway platform. Sorry for the delay.”

Christmas Spectacular Superfan

“Listen to your gut!” was warring against “Don’t overthink it. Just live a little!”

I was on a Facecbook thread with a group of local mamas who were going to take Micah’s little buddies to NYC’s iconic Radio City Music Hall show, “Christmas Spectacular.” I hadn’t even thought about it since Micah wasn’t turning three until the end of November.

Gut feeling: He still too young. There will be many more opportunities for him to attend shows when he’s a bit older. Also, not exactly holding weight in the decision-making process but I can’t stomach musicals. They make me wanna yell, “Oh, UH-UH! C’mon now! Singing dialogue?! Just no!”

Live a little: I could arrange to take him alone so that I can have rare one-on-one time with him while Daddy and Ellis bond at home. A special date. It would be one special memory. He would love a musical. The theater would be so cool. And going on the subway is always a big treat for him. And you never know…maybe we won’t even be here next year so we should go while we can.

After going back and forth, I purchased the tickets. None of us mamas could work out our schedules to go together so we were each going separately on one-on-one dates with our firstborns.

I told Micah about it the week prior to attending to get the anticipation going. After all, sometimes anticipation is more exciting than the real thing.

Our day arrived.

“Mommy, we going to Christmas Show on train NOW!?”

“No, not yet. When I pick you up from school today! Mommy will park the car and then Micah and Mommy go on train to see the sho-o-o-w!”

“Oh, THAT’s riggghhhht!” (One of his current favorite sayings)

After collecting him from school, I wonder if I should take the stroller into Manhattan. Hmmm…great for emergencies like if he insists I carry him but such a pain. Direct ride into Rockefeller Center, minimal walking.

Will take a risk and leave the stroller in the car. What could go wrong? (mmhmm…famous last words)

Big Boy Micah and I walk to the subway in the howling wind. While waiting on the platform, Micah and I sing and dance until I say, “Wait, Micah, let’s not get too wild. We have to stand in the middle, far away from the train tracks, OK? Let’s not dance while waiting for the train. I don’t want you to get too excited and go near those yellow lines.”

But then I would forget and we would sing and dance again (in the middle of the platform) until he said, “Mommy, ‘member? Stop singing. No dancing. We waiting for train. No yellow lines. Mommyyyyy – you forgot?”

As always, he enjoyed the ride so much. Pointing out people’s shoes, “I like that one Mommy! We have that one at ho-ome!” Looking all around and telling stories. Hugging me, strumming my side fatty fats with his little hands, and laughing with his hand over his mouth like a cartoon critter.

Once we got off?

He enjoyed himself TOO much at the underground concourse level of Rock Center. He would not hold my hand as he ran around among the bustling lunch crowd. Oh, Lord, help me. He was so small in the crowd but he did not have a care in the world while I feared losing him.

“MICAH! You HAVE to hold my hand!” I was carrying a mess of bags as usual, all our winter gear, sippy cup, and snacks.

He would smirk and leap forward and run away while I chased him down. “MICAH! You have to listen to Mommy!”

He slowed down when he looked like he had seen the pearly gates of heaven. It was a store called GameStop. He pressed his face and hands against the store window, completely mesmerized, “Mommy, I want to go in there. I want to play that one,” about the huge video game display.

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“Micah, we have to go to show now, remember? That’s why we took the train? To come see the show. Maybe after the show, I can bring you here?”

We get through a very short line. We look around the gorgeous lobby. He refuses to go near Santa who is awaiting little boys and girls on the floor below. He would like to visit the candy bins instead.

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I wasn’t planning to buy him any overpriced candy but hey, it’s a special occasion and he looks really excited so I let him scoop out some gummy candies and end up paying $10.98 for a handful in a cellophane bag. $10.98.

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We squeeze ourselves onto an elevator to get to our seats. One lady in the back yells, “Hey, you, the person who just got on. Get off!” I want to shout back at her some choice expletives, including a lecture on entitlement but then I remember I am on a date with my boy, so I play the part of a mature adult and declare, “Sorry, I am with my toddler and we need a few minutes to settle in before the show so we needed to squeeze in.” It wasn’t even as crowded as some NYC elevators get. I think I was too nice (why did I apologize?) to that spoiled lady but I digress.

We get seated. I’m relieved that I can still see everything clearly from my seats even with my eye issues which made me have to wear glasses all month. I look over at his little face sitting in the theater. This was really special to be on a real date with my firstborn. Look at that little face, entranced by this beautiful theater. What a memory.

In fact, hmm…his face looks downright frozen with anticipation.

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Theater turns pitch black.

Show starts. Booming intro music. Aww yeah, great acoustics.

Sound of a baby wailing hysterically. Not a baby but maybe a toddler.

MY toddler!

I turn to see Micah horrified and bawling uncontrollably.

“waaahhhhhhhh! MOMMYYYYYY! I want to go home. I want to go home now!”

I scoop him up and run out the theater. I sit down on the floor right outside the theater, rocking him back and forth.

“Micah! I’m so sorry! I didn’t know you were scared! You’ve been to the circus before and planetarium too with your friend A! Was it too dark? Was it too loud?”

“Mommmyyyyyyy! Too dark! Too loud. I want to go on train and go to my home!” He is still bawling.

Some tourists are getting escorted to their seats and look over at me consoling Micah.

“Micah, it will not be so dark if we stay in there a bit longer! Remember how much you loved the circus with Daddy, Mommy and Ellis? It was dark there too but it was so fun! We came on train to watch this show. Mommy bought candy to eat during the show. Your candy is still in the theater!”

“Daddy? I want Dadddyyyyy!”

One of the ushers is trying to help us out.

“Excuse me, where can I go to get my refund? There is no way he will sit through this. It is too much for him. He was NOT having it as soon as the show started. Too loud, too dark.”

“Oh, there are usually no refunds. Who did you purchase through?”

“Ticketmaster.”

“We wouldn’t even be able to issue you a refund then. You would have to work it out with them.”

NO REFUNDS? Micah, sorry bro, we staying.

“Micah, do you want to try sitting in the way back where there are some lights in the theater? And special chairs? Let’s try that. If you don’t like it, we can run back out again, ok?”

The usher takes us into the nosebleediest corner back seats of the entire theater with some dim lights on the ceiling. “Micah, how’s this? See there are some lights up here?” Few seconds pause.

Booming sounds. Theater gets darker again.

“Mommmyyyyy! I want to go home! Let’s go home. Daddyyyyyy!”

We rush back out of the theater. Micah is still crying. I’m thinking about joining him.

“Micah, Mommy can’t go home right now because when Micah was crying, Mommy left all our stuff on our seats so I have to grab them first, OK?”

Another usher tries to help. “Hey Michael. You wanna stay with me so your Mommy can get her stuff?”

He starts crying more. “Mommyyyy!”

“Micah, if you stay here with Mr. _____, I will go grab our coats and bags, okay?”

The usher held him in his arms like a long lost son while I went back in to retrieve our things.

Micah was starting to calm down. We sat on the floor outside the theater and made a call to Daddy. “Daddy?! I was crying so much!”

Another usher came and explained that the other parts of the show won’t be as dark. “Mommy, I have to pee pee.”

We go into the restroom and Micah is back to himself. “Mommy, here is not loud and dark.” I mutter under my breath, “I’m not about to pay good money to stay in the women’s lounge, boy.”

“Yes, Micah, if we stay in the theater without leaving so much, it won’t be as dark in there, too.”

“Mommy!? Remember when I was crying so much?” Is this guy for real? Yes, I remember! BECAUSE IT HAPPENED 0.8 minutes ago, son!

We make another attempt to go back into the theater with the usher’s guidance. We see multiple Santas dancing (creepy, I have to admit) in the pitch black theater with small spotlights on them and Micah starts crying again so I immediately run out, carrying him, perhaps for the fifth time.

I feel like crying too. From weariness. From beating myself up for not listening to my gut. My glasses fog up. It was such a cold day and he was already a handful to chase even before the show had started. I had NO IDEA he would get scared at the theater since he’s been to puppet shows and other shows in dark theaters!

“Micah, please try to be brave. I know you’re scared. But Mommy is with you, holding you tight. GOD is with you always, too. You don’t have to be scared. It’s all for fun. Remember we wanted to watch the Christmas show together. You don’t have to stay if you are really scared but we can at least try to watch some parts of the show. Mommy’s stuff is in there again so we can’t go home.”

“Mommy, you need to get our stuff? I weel stay with that ahjushee who carried me befo’!”

It went on like that for a few more segments. In and out, in and out. A nice young usher helped us out a lot by telling us which segments may be less scary. He even gave Micah a “Superfan” pin to pin on his sweater. Ohhhh, the irony. Superfan!? I thanked him profusely and took a picture of him and Micah after the show since we were practically family after that ordeal.

Micah the "Superfan" and Mr. Jeremy, our kind usher

Micah the “Superfan” and Mr. Jeremy, our kind usher

Micah was able to enjoy the nativity scene. “Mommy, camel!” and some of the fake snow.

When we were leaving, Micah was back to himself, even stopping to dance and ham it up. I was taking deep breaths but relieved that we caught more than 60% of the show, and that Micah was able to be persuaded to give scary things a chance.

I had forgotten how small and young he still is. Because he’s become so Little Man-like with the things he says these days, I was treating him like I was at a movie with a peer, practically asking him how he’s liking the latest developments on “Scandal.” Just when I treat him like he’s grown, he reminds me again that he is still a young tender who needs his Mommy.

On our elevator ride down, a tour guide asks me how he’s doing. She is guiding a group of tourists and explains to them, “Yes, remember we saw this little guy having a hard time before?” and something about, “All kids are different. Some little ones can handle it.”

Apparently, we had become one of the attractions on the behind-the-scenes Radio City Music Hall tours.

Of course, I feel all defensive and want to explain, “He’s been to the circus and planetarium before and he was fine, I swear. It was a total surprise he got so scared,” but I have some sense.

I’m sure the senior citizens from Nebraska weren’t interested in hearing about his developmental phases.

Before we got on the subway, Micah pauses and says, “Mommy! You said you gon’ take me to video store to play game after the show!”

I lie and say, “Yes, Micah. I tried to but the store was closed. We try again next time, maybe with Daddy?”

On the subway, Micah says, “Mommy, the game store? Sometimes, it’s open, Mommy. I know.”

IMG_3473

P.S. The hardest (and coldest) part of that day hadn’t happened yet. Remember how I left that stroller in the car? I hope to continue in another post but it may have surpassed my public urination day in suckiness, though I suppose it could be a toss up.

Christmas Spectacular. Special memories, indeedy.

Evite Reminder: MLK’s (Theme-to-Be-Determined) Ko-Mitzvah 11.25.2023

I can write at least 58 different posts on this one topic alone, the topic being “Things I Used to Judge Only to Do Them Now.”

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, MLK, I had somehow developed a stance against kiddie pay-to-play classes like Gymboree.

I’d be all, “Augh! Why would I pay more than my own adult gym’s monthly payments so that my kid can LEARN to PLAY? That is too yuppie for my taste. I’m old school. I’m au naturel! Why would my kid attend some sorta hakwon as a baby!?” [“hakwon” = Korean prep academy / afterschool enrichment]

Then I happened to take him to a trial class. Not only did I promptly sign him up, we became loyal Gymboree members, referring more than a dozen other kiddos and continuing our membership for longer than any of our peers. It wasn’t about learning to play as I had initially thought, but rather, having a colorful, inviting space to play in regularly, other than our same ol’ same ol’ living room or other buddies’ living rooms.

Micah started looking like Billy Madison among babies, when we finally quit two whole years later, at 31 months old. I almost couldn’t go through with terminating our membership because Gymboree was so beloved by both Micah and Mama, such a big part of our lives as newbie mama and first baby, but it was time. (Ellis as second-born never got to join Gymboree as you’re not allowed to bring your older sibling to the younger class. Too Godzilla-like).

When I was pregnant, people warned me mostly about sleep deprivation, or made vague and ominous declarations like “Your life will never be the same again,” but not about how my weekends would usually include a kiddie birthday party, sometimes back-to-back, before and after naps. Thankfully I still enjoy them, especially watching these little guys light up, but I used to judge elaborate kiddie birthday parties. Hward.

My natural gut reaction was to scoff at how fancy these parties were becoming compared to my childhood where my McDonald’s birthday party was my most pimped out.

We recently went to a sprawling gymnastics birthday party for a cute little three-year old friend of Micah’s (who we met at Gymboree as infants). The gymnastics academy was one of the best venues I’d seen for these active toddlers to tumble around in, complete with a foam diving pit and largest parachute ever. The hosts were so inclusive of their many little buddies that this was the biggest party we had been to…since her 2nd birthday party.

I was wearing Ellis, having a hard time side-shimmying through the crowd during lunch as everyone had to squeeze in behind their seated little ones on a long table and accompanying bench. I watched all the parents obediently file into line, shoulder-to-shoulder, behind their children, amidst commotion, to receive their standard party rations: pizza and cake. Because this party was so big, the tables and benches kept you from mingling about. Strictly single file line. You bess stay at your station.

I saw my good friend multi-tasking, feeding her son and looking out for Kevin by asking him quickly, “Did you get your pizza? You were able to eat?” Kevin, while keeping Micah and Micah’s juice from falling off the bench and table respectively, quickly responded, “Yup, yup, I ate, I ate. Plenty, thanks. You got one, too, right?”

It was heartwarming. They were Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman lookin’ out for each other in the prison mess hall.

Before I had these kids, it was all too easy to snub my nose at these modern day birthday parties because they just seemed too fancy compared to my own childhood. I’m talking gymnastics, carousel, museum, zoo, petting zoo, circus, water station, sprawling “treehouse,” Gymboree, My Gym, Bounce U, farm, and more.

Just yesterday, Micah came home excitedly after attending his buddy’s birthday party with his Daddy while Ellis and I had to miss due to Ellis’ fever.

“Did you have fun at E’s party? Was it fun on the schoolbus!?”

“Mommy! It’s not schoolbus! It’s Fun Bus.”

He had had a blast at the Fun Bus party. A Fun Bus is a schoolbus painted all cute with its insides gutted out so that kids can tumble and swing around.

Micah taking a break from Fun Bus er, fun, to peek out at his Daddy

Micah taking a break from Fun Bus er, fun, to peek out at his Daddy / photo credit: his Daddy

photo credit:  Claudia Douyon

photo credit: Claudia Douyon

I remember a childhood friend telling me, “Jihee, my son went to a party where they had a Bubble-ologist. The weirdest part is that he called HIMSELF that. With a straight face.”

I used to think that I would be able to resist this party culture for my kids but just like with Gymboree, I saw how much he enjoyed himself and how his little buddies, especially now that they aren’t babies any more, really understood that it was their special birthday celebration. Plus, many of us live in small NYC apartments so it’s a matter of practicality. There is just no way to host a party in our own homes unless you invite only two little friends and their mamas.

I’ve slowly come to realize that I can’t keep comparing to my McDonald’s party of yesteryear because this is a whole new world. I was learning this new invention called “computer” on an Apple IIC or IIE in our elementary school’s computer lab, stressing about learning how to play a new game called “Carmen Sandiego” while some toddlers these days have their own iPads. Naturally, the landscape of birthday parties, especially in cities like NYC or LA, would get suped up.

I know I’m a dinosaur but what is up with themes? These days, great parties and weddings all seem to have a theme. Was just thinking that today’s hipsters may throw an ironic McDonald’s-themed party, complete with retro uniforms and modernized purple fondant Grimace cake.

“Does Ellis have a theme for his doljanchi?” asked one of my best friends recently, as she planned her son’s in LA.

“Watchoo mean ‘theme’? The ‘THEME’ is that he turnin’ One and we feeding our friends and family a gluttonous amount of food and dduk. And hiring his music class teacher to do some dope kiddie songs for 45 minutes!”

“No, girl, a THEME!”

Online stores like Etsy make it easy to choose a theme like “Carnival” or “Rock Star” and buy accompanying decorations but it’s just one more thing to have to make a series of micro-decisions about. That is what I am allergic to in event planning: how tending to just “x,y, and z” soon sprouts into tending to “a thru w, and don’t forget the x, y, and z,” even though it’s all for such a happy occasion. So, no, we didn’t have no theme for both boys’ doljanchis other than, “Get Yo Grub On, and Watch Our Son Crawl Towards The Object Which Scientifically Foretells His Destiny aka Doljabi.”

I got married more than six years ago and thank God people didn’t ask me “What is your theme for the wedding?”

My “THEME” is marriage. That by God’s grace, my crazy ass is getting hitched.

So, back to these modern birthday parties. Special venues do allow parents to relax as they usually have most of the details covered. Most of the time, even a built-in THEME!

I recently heard my girl, Wendy Williams, talk about her 13 year-old son’s Bro-Mitzvah complete with a celeb date for him to walk around with and recording artists for entertainment, fancier than my wedding. Also on “Basketball Wives,” Shaq’s son, Shareef, got a Bro-Mitzvah with a stylist picking out his multiple couture outfits and of course, per his request, fire.

While I did end up booking the gymnastics academy for Micah’s 3rd birthday party (with a very short guestlist to keep it intimate), I do draw the line at throwing him a Ko-Mitzvah.

For now.

Home is Where the “Hart” is

This past weekend was an especially kid-centered weekend. Lots of fun playing and celebrating at three little friends’ birthday parties, including one Dol, one Bounce U. party, and one Gymnastics party. Thoughts about kiddie parties of 2013 deserve their own post for another time.

On the way there, I did something I rarely do these days. I looked in the mirror. I was sitting in the passenger seat as my husband drove us to the first party.

Some mamas of small children are able to swing it but for me, mirror-checks don’t happen with a toddler and infant around.

The vibe is almost always loud and harried. I’m just happy to be able to wash my face without having to carry on a conversation mid-splash, so a gaze into the mirror isn’t even on my radar. “Yes, Micah, Mommy do seh-soo, right now. Please be patient. Mommy get you Acai berry juice after!”

Constant conversation and negotiations.

Packing sippy cups and a bevy of snacks.

Putting on shoes and tiny socks.

Sniffing butts.

Pleading with the boys to not cry or whine after being belted into their doublestroller and almost out the door when Mommy realizes she has to dig up her keys from another bag.

Running back to the living room from the bathroom because all is too quiet.

Rushing back to the gated play area to make sure #2 didn’t climb to new heights.

Even when their naps overlap, I have to take a deep breath, calm myself for a moment or two before eating some leftovers, making phone calls, responding to emails, and cleaning up messes. (And maybe some blogging on a good day).

The bright light from the passenger seat mirror revealed something I hadn’t seen before. A chin hair. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve sprouted a different, lesser strain before: a long, fine, almost invisible hair the color of straw. So even if it was as long as half my finger, it was magically invisible. But this new guy was short and wiry and black, with an attitude. I named him Kevin Hart. He had been planning to roll to all three parties with me that day, trying to steal the show! He sounded like the Budweiser “WASSSSSSUP” commercial circa 2000.

For some reason, this Kevin Hart made me think about the concept of Home.

Not a metaphorical Home like in the movie “Garden State” or the Home mentioned in one of the most earnest and heartfelt wedding toasts I’ve heard (“May you find a Home in each other”) but an actual physical Home that embodies such longings and sentiments.

As a Christian, I do believe that this world is not my Home in the eternal sense, but as a human, I can’t help but yearn for a worldly home.

A fortress. A sanctuary. A haven.

Perhaps because I keep catching myself waiting to exhale during my current joyful but frenzied life stage.

I don’t have one childhood home I think about when I think about Home.

We immigrated to Los Angeles (Koreatown) a couple months before I turned five, then moved around every few years within different parts of the Los Angeles area. (Realized I’m writing this on the eve of our Coming to America anniversary date).

Each place felt like a Just For Now. Until we move on again.

Even after I moved away to Berkeley for college, my parents moved a couple times so I would visit different homes during my breaks. After Berkeley came graduate school, a few years of working, then law school. All the places I lived in felt so temporary, almost like extended business trips.

I am now a mama of two and a wifey. We are trying our best but have yet to carve out a Home for our new family. I will definitely remember our current place as the home we brought both boys to from their respective hospitals, where they experienced many Firsts and where we nibbled on them probably close to a million times, but it is not where we will lay our heads down for years to come (Lord willing).

I picture a Home where I can be ensconced in a plush bedroom I don’t have to hold my breath and tiptoe into lest I wake up my Baby Beluga second son. Have some space to exhale, read a novel, write my stories. A kitchen that is open and inviting, more of a gathering place.

A home where I don’t have to resort to wearing earplugs that my husband had to buy me (in bulk) so I can sleep in from time to time.

Where the boys can run around and compete in our family talent show. Where we can all have some healthy space apart before we reconvene for mealtimes and storytimes.

Where we can park in the driveway.

Where I can pause to notice a stubborn chin hair or two and pluck away in a leisurely fashion.

I know I am beyond blessed to have my fellow denizens ready to inhabit this future Home with. Am excited to dream and move towards that place.

For now, I’m just going to work on at least installing a full-length mirror SOMEWHERE in our current place because raising a toddler and infant is no excuse to never really see yourself.