worked almost as hard as rajon rondo today

When I started my first full-time job at a public relations/strategic communications firm in West Hollywood, CA, my (older) girlfriends would ask me how work is going. I would give them the stinkeye and say, “I can’t believe you heffas didn’t tell me to brace myself for working life. You could’ve WARNED me about how FREAKING EVERYDAY it is! How you get home and you have so few hours left in your day but you have to get your ass to bed and repeat it all over again the next day! No wonder people are so much nicer on Fridays!”

So I really appreciate necessary buzzkills. Folks bombarded me with warnings about marriage: how hard it can be and how you HAVE to work at it. My own mama drilled it into my head that marriage is NOT a fairy tale where you turn into a princess. (Although, I could never have thought that growing up, watching my parents in their marriage, as there is no fairy tale starring a princess always having to placate and serve her fiery-tempered, macho, complex prince. But I digress.)

Similarly, I had heard some tidbits about pregnancy, about the nausea and the weird cravings. My mama had two very rough pregnancies, where she threw up daily for the first six months, lost weight instead of gaining the recommended amount (until the final trimester). While carrying me, her doctor actually advised that she abort me because it was too taxing on her health as she could hardly keep liquids down. So I braced myself for the worst and in both cases, with marriage and pregnancies, my reality was a pleasant surprise compared to the buzzkilling warnings I had been equipped with.

So when people ask how hard it is to take care of a toddler while pregnant, I always say something about how it can be hard most days, but not nearly as hard as it will be once the new baby arrives. You know, just bracing myself so that I am not shocked when it is crazy hard. I think I am trying to be my own buzzkill and this somehow helps me put things into perspective when I have a particularly hard day.

LIKE TODAY:

1. Doctor.

I took M to the doctor to check out a lingering cough that has been stubbornly hanging on for a month now. I called this morning and they said to come in 15 minutes from that phone call. I wore the shirt I had slept in and speedwalked 12 blocks to make it on time, all the while calling a couple local mamas to doublecheck their toddlers’ vaccine schedules, against M’s schedule. I get lightheaded and queasy if I don’t eat so I was strolling fast, on the phone with my Bluetooth, and trying to eat a PB&J sandwich with one hand.

As soon as our doctor approached M to examine his ears and take his heartrate, he lost it and wailed loudly into my ear for almost the rest of the appointment. I could hardly hear what the doctor was saying.

I was drenched from sweating through the entire appointment. I looked like I had played a quick game of pick-up basketball in the shirt I had slept in. So of course, right at that moment, I run into someone I know, also there for his baby’s check-up. (I don’t even remember what happened to my PB&J. I hope I don’t find it.)


2. Playground.

On the way home, I decide to give M some playground time though he was very close to his nap, especially after all that energy he expended wailing through the doctor’s appointment. He ran around for a few minutes, while I talked to nannies and mamas. I placed him in the swing. Dude started sleeping right there in the swing, looking like a drowsy puppy. I speedwalked home because I needed him to take a real, fat nap in the crib, for my sake and his. Thankfully, I was able to remove him from stroller to crib successfully, then proceeded to prepare and consume my two lunches while he slept for 90 more minutes.


3. Frypan to the head.

He is starting to get antsy in his high chair. In order to get him to sit in it for lunch, he likes a wrestling match as an appetizer, meaning I have to coax him with a hearty, wrestling match in my bed. We wrestle as he giggles with delight, I hold him upside down, hanging him off of our king bed with his adorable, drooly upside down smile, and we just tumble about before he agrees to sit in his highchair. Again, I am a hot sweaty mess.

I was so pleased that he ate his bowl full of meeyukgook and rice that I rushed to the kitchen to see if I can get him to eat an orange while still seated. I dropped the orange from its bowl so I bent down to pick it up. Next thing I know, a small frypan falls down to hit me upside the head, like I am Wile E. Coyote. I lurch up to see where the hell it came from so that I can properly blame my husband for its lethal placement on the counter, when the bowl that was holding the orange, shatters onto the floor. SHATTERS. Meanwhile M is in the living room, starting to get annoyed in his chair. He starts imitating me loudly, “Uh-OHHHH, Uh-OHHHH, Uh-Ohhhhhh!”

I sweep the shards. I go down on my knees to wipe up every last shard. I am panting. My belly feels uncomfortable. I just wanna sit for a bit in peace. M is getting more upset but I don’t want to release him as he will inevitably come into the kitchen. I clean up everything but I am spent.

(Last week, I was trying to open up a small table to eat off of, lost my bearings and crashed belly first into the wall. Why am I turning into a cartoon character as this pregnancy progresses?)


4. TV intervention.

M starts begging me for some tv and his begging scares me because it is so pleading, like a crack addict. I try to divert his attention by tickling him and wrestling with him to get him to laugh. It works. He is laughing and smiling his Denzel smile, drooling rivers onto his seventh bib of the day. I am laughing at how happy he looks. We both throw our heads back to laugh. Then we connect, as in his forehead connects with my smiling, exposed top row of teeth. He has my toothmark in his forehead, from our laughing collision. He does one of those cries that is eerily silent for many seconds before he starts wailing.

I soothe his toothmarked bruise the only way I know how. We wrestle some more. He rewards me with laughter. All is forgiven.

5. Further diversion.

I still don’t want him to fiend for tv so I take him outside to our courtyard. I stupidly take a ball out with us because I know how balls bring him pure joy and how he always wants to play with another kid’s ball at the playground. Taking the ball out resulted in my playing fetch for one city block’s worth of courtyard, while M asks for “Mah! Mah! Mah!” (More, More More!). Both M and I are drenched in sweat.

And of course, his new thing. He wants to be carried. After our impromptu soccer match, he pleads with me, “Up? Up? Up?” with his clear, wide eyes, to carry him home instead of his usual running ahead of me. I try to get him to chase me instead, to make a fun game out of it, but he sounds like he’s about to cry and pleads again, “Up? Up? Up?” I end up carrying him and the oversized ball home. Of course I drop the ball three times on our way home which means further bending down and picking up, with M happily in my arms.

My belly baby kicks me and sticks his/her head right into my bladder. As a warning.

6. Giving in.

I give into his tv craving by letting him watch some Sesame Street Youtube clips. He especially enjoys the Will.I.Am, Bruno Mars, and Hootie Sesame clips. Note to self: Tell Kevin about the Hootie clip.

7. TWO MORE HOURS ‘TIL DADDY GETS HOME!?

Oh, Lord. There are still two more hours ’til daddy gets home. This is what happens when we don’t have playdates or activities lined up. But I am too scared and tired to take him to the playground lest he ask me to carry him.

Instead, I take us back to our beloved courtyard, my favorite default playground. This time, I take a picnic blanket though I doubt he will rest with me. M surprises me by actually lying down on the blanket with me for a few seconds, looking at the sky. I am so in love all over again, looking at the sky with him. I am so blessed. The sky is so beautiful. My hormones kick in. I want to cry. How am I so blessed to lie here with this tender morsel?

He’s had it with the sky after about seven seconds. He grabs my wallet and takes out all of its contents. I later find my library card near a tree root, my credit card by a squirrel.

“Up? Up? Up?” I am a sucker. I cannot resist though I no longer feel comfortable carrying my 23-lb boy around for more than a few seconds. But I carry him home once again. Doorman adds to my load by handing me a big package. By now, I think I heard Belly Baby mutter, “Bitch!”

8. More Youtube clips. But M is so picky like his mama, that he grabs my hand for each clip that bores him, for me to click onto the next one. He is going through a phase where he will not let me rest at all. Even when I’m on the toilet, he grabs my hand to come follow him. And he strong!

9. Daddy comes home.

Anti-climactic. I ask him to please let me just act like I’m not home for a bit. I write this blog post. I hope I can stay up to watch the Celtics game, Game 5 against the Heat. I’m not gonna edit this. Just wanna share it now. And THIS is easier than what life will be like come October. At least I’ve been warned.

1.31.12 weddings and culture shock

When I attend weddings as a married woman, I notice EVERYTHING. Some things are about the wedding itself: “Wow, this food is phenomenal! Our Korean food was good, too.” “I love all the attention to detail.” But those things aren’t what stay with me and spur me to write when I really should be sleeping. The bride and grooms’ family dynamics and cultural nuances fascinate me, specifically in contrast to my experience on my own wedding day. It’s like National Geographic for me – just studying the way different families and cultures do things on this monumental occasion.

It’s interesting to see myself verging on “tattling” on my culture in a blog, as anyone who knows me knows my Korean pride. One of my college roommates brought home a houseguest who stayed with us for a couple weeks. After getting to know me for that short stay, including how I just could not FATHOM why a blonde and blue-eyed classmate was trying to court me, she jokingly answered his phone call with, “Jihee’s not home right now. Her Korean supremacist meeting is tonight.”

My family immigrated to these here States when I was four-going-onto-five, on August 15th, the summer before kindergarden. I was raised in Los Angeles, CA until college. Though I try to act like my Korean is solid, I have to confess that my English is far better. First generation Koreans in Flushing, NY, ask me to please, just speak English to them.

My point is that although I wasn’t born here, I was raised here. So why do I feel like I am from another planet, or a recent immigrant, when I am at non-Korean, or non-Asian, weddings? Many times I have to keep my jaw from falling to the floor when I witness a scene so sharply contrasted from my bridal experience. Though I am American, Korean roots have firmly been planted and nowhere have they surfaced more prominently than in my marriage to a fellow Korean-American.

These are my realizations as to why I feel such culture shock at American weddings. (Disclaimer: I will be speaking in generalizations so please know that I am fully aware that not ALL Americans and Koreans have these experiences.)

1. Mother-in-Laws. My biggest shock. At American weddings, mother-in-laws will gush poetically about their daughter-in-laws, the brides.

“I could not have dreamed and prayed for a better woman for my son!”

“My daughter-in-law planned this whole wedding all the way from the other side of the country and she could not have done a more marvelous job. She is truly amazing.”

“I love you like a daughter and you could not look more beautiful today. Thank you for joining our family.”

(My jaw has to be picked up from off the floor or else I can’t finish my prime rib.)

I have even witnessed mother-in-laws kissing up to their daughter-in-laws to win their favor and friendship, desperately trying to be close to them. My own experience was not quite the same. If you look through my wedding photos, you will notice a lovely woman in her 50s who looks like she had clearly walked into the wrong church. She looked like she was sitting through a funeral, not a wedding. Her face grew more morose as the wedding progressed. During the mother-son dance, she looked like she was going to fall into a big heap in her hanbok so that she can do a proper Korean funeral wail that had been building up in her soul. Now, I can tease her about it while she tries to play it off, but I still have the image of her lugubrious face especially when I’m attending American weddings where the mother of the groom is happily rump-shaking on the dance floor.

2. Emotions. American brides can truly bask in the glory of their superstar day without feeling embarrassed or self-conscious about thoroughly enjoying the spotlight. As they should. Koreans have a mentality that I seem to have subconsciously signed up for. It is very Joy Luck Club, putting yourself down or minimizing your achievements and even your degree of happiness because it all feels too brazen or even too American to self-congratulate.

For instance, I am THE MOST EXCITED (and comfortable) when I hear about OTHERS’ great news, like engagements and babies. I can express my joy more easily whereas for my own milestones, I feel the Koreanness seeping in. “Girl, you are NOT the world’s first bride. You are NOT the first or only woman on Earth to be giving birth! Stop making such a big deal about it, princess!” Needless to say, I may not have been able to soak in everything on my own wedding day, though it was still one of my favorite days. Maybe I wish I could have? Some of my Korean-American friends were able to but some of us can still bond about the behind-the-scenes dynamics. But I could not fully let go.

3. In-law relationships. I am almost always shocked to see in-laws at American weddings joke around irreverently with each other and make plans to hang out again casually (voluntarily!), beyond obligatory formal occasions, and sometimes (gasp!) even spend the holidays together. I know a couple of my Korean-American friends are blessed to find themselves in this category as well but I do not. Koreans GENERALLY tend to keep the in-law relationship a bit distant and formal so that there is no overstepping of “regulations.” I was going to say boundaries but that is not the right word. It is easier in some ways if it is an interracial relationship as regulations and expectations are thrown out the window, but that is a whole other topic. There is so much propriety and duty in what the bride’s side is allowed to do and what the groom’s side is entitled to. Generally, the groom’s side is priority.

Right after my own wedding, my husband’s paternal grandmother from Korea told me and my parents in the parking lot of a Korean restaurant in Los Angeles that it was wrong for them to even join us for lunch, that they are dead to me now that I am married. And my parents just bowed and said, “Neh, neh, gurumyo,” (“Yes, yes, of course”) since they understood the culture and the era she came from. She even told them that they do not know their place by showing up after the wedding to take us to the airport to catch our flight to our Hawaiian honeymoon.

Also, when I was a new wife, my MiL sat me down to make a very traditional Korean speech about how I should shed my Lee ways for the Kim ways that are better, and asked if I can accept the position as first daughter-in-law by consulting her on everything, and that if I do not, I am relinquishing my position. She learned right then that I am VERY American and that I won’t false peacemake by saying Yes, yes. Don’t NO ONE tell me to shed my fami-Lee’s ways as THEIRS are better. (We have come a long way as I have rubbed off on her somewhat – to talk to each other as two individuals with different ideas and backgrounds instead of letting antiquated tradition dictate how she should talk AT me.)

4. General merriment: People are GENERALLY stiffer at Korean/Asian weddings, especially in the presence of the first generation. So I find it fascinating to see folks of all ages really get their boogie on at weddings without any hint of self-consciousness. I think I like that.

Again, much love to my Koreans. We may be set in our traditional ways and not inspire a Nancy Meyers movie, but our actions do also speak louder than our (lack of) words. My mom shared with me a story she read in the Korean newspaper about how a Korean bride wished her parents were more like her expressive, effusive White in-laws but when they were faced with a financial emergency, her parents somehow saved enough money to help her out, even when they poor themselves. Sacrifice. Without a word. I also realize that no matter what kind words people may say at weddings, that does not guarantee that everyone will get along as mother-in-law jokes are as American as apple pie.

But this Korean gal, even as a mama herself now, still finds herself daydreaming at American weddings, wondering what it would feel like to star in a movie more like “Father of the Bride” than “Joy Luck Club.”

mother-son dance on 07.07.07

my parents ain't stiff though

you gotta love my hubby: "yo wifey, less blogging, more backbending pleej!"

Proactiv(e): not just for pimples

I’ve been meaning to write more about a topic I barely touched on when Micah was much younger – different types of mamas I’ve met. However, I’ve had to censor myself SO MUCH because I am part of a community and my blog, even with its three loyal readers (one of them being me), is not anonymous. I should’ve gone the anonymous route because boy, have I got stories!

However, I noticed one type I can safely talk about as it is innocuous enough. I was reminded of this type when I ran into a warm and effervescent mama this past weekend, someone I had met once before at a gathering at the park. Though I was in a rush to get to an appointment with my hubs and baby Micah, I couldn’t help saying hello and chatting for just a quick minute as I cannot forget a face.

“Hi! I haven’t seen you since the park months ago! How are you?” I said.

“Hello, yes! You know what!? No one ever called me after that event. So I don’t know anything that’s going on. I gave my phone # to ______ and she never called me.”

“Well, you know how it is these days. Everything is done online, no old fashioned phone calls so you probably have to get in touch via email or Facebook for a quick response.” I also proceeded to tell her step-by-step how to get plugged into our group via Facebook so that she won’t miss out.

This reminded me of a neighbor I ran into months ago. Her baby is at least a couple months older than Micah. We were chatting about baby stuff when I shared with her that a favorite place for us is the local public library. She frowned and said, “Yes, I’ve heard about this library but I can never figure out where exactly it is so I’ve never gone yet. I really should one of these days because I want _____ to meet other babies.” (She said this as she snapped photos of her son with her iPhone. Hmmm…Now if only there was something magical and speedy within that iPhone that would allow her to find out where this library is. FYI, her baby is now a toddler. Ain’t never been to said library. And I don’t coddle folks. She grown. She has an iPhone. She can find her way to a library that is VERY easy to find and mere blocks away.)

I’ve always talked easily to strangers but now with a baby, I talk even more with just about anyone. Babies are perfect conversation-starters, though puppies and alcohol are up there. We were at the beach a couple months ago when a couple stopped me and my husband to talk about, yup, our babies. The mama asked me what activities I do with my baby because she needs some ideas. I told her I go to Gymboree and she said, “Why doesn’t anyone tell me these things?! I’ve heard of this Gymboree but no one ever told me what it is exactly. I’ve even gotten emails!” Again, she used her iPhone as we talked.

I confess that I am on my high horse at times being here in NYC across the country from my best friends and family, trying to raise my baby to the best of my ability. It ain’t easy. I don’t expect people to just drop baby knowledge on me and serve up a community for me on a silver platter. I hustle. I talk to other mamas to find out about stuff my doctors don’t bother to tell me. I initiate playdates. I start conversations. I make sure my boy has places and people to see other than our living room and my mug. I’ve benefitted by making at least a couple good friends, mamas I would hang with even if we weren’t mamas together. We laugh and commiserate and genuinely adore each others’ children. I hope to see more friendships blossom with those I can both trust and have a good time with. So I get peeved when these mamas, all of them with more local family support than I have, with friends they grew up with, claim that no one tells them about stuff. Be PROACTIVE! You can do it!

Back to the lady who said she never showed up to another mama event because she didn’t know about any. After I told her how to easily join our group for regular postings about events, she says, “Oh, thank you so much! Here is my card. Will you please call me about the next event?”

As I rushed off to my appointment, I said, “Honestly, no. I most likely won’t call you. But maybe I will run into you at another gathering.”

10.20.11. boogers: a love story

When I was a recent college graduate in my second full-time job, I went to a casual work picnic at Griffith Park (in Los Feliz, CA). A day to kick back on the grass, enjoy some good picnic fare complete with watermelon, and hold a couple cute babies birthed by colleagues. One of my younger co-workers already had himself a very serious girlfriend, or was it fiance. I was so fascinated that two 22 year-olds were about to commit to Forever while I was just beginning to realize what I may want in a future spouse many years down the road. Or more like what I really can’t stand after a few getting-to-know-yous here and there.

The younger co-worker introduced me to his future bride. I remember thinking she was genuinely nice. We all chatted a bit when he muttered something to her and quickly made a ninja-like maneuver around her nose, then smoothed her hair away from her face. He was indeed her knight in shining armor. He had discreetly and swiftly removed a conspicuous booger from his beloved’s nose before anyone could spot it and develop an urge to pick their own noses.

That was when I knew that I didn’t know much about love but I wanted a boy who would be able to pick my booger or pimple or eye boogie or boil on the back or ingrown toenail with nothing but a heart full of love. I had never been in true love before so I couldn’t fathom such a thing.

Fast forward to today. I not only pick my baby boy’s nose for him many times a day, I suck out his snot with my own mouth, using a Swedish tubing device called the Nosefrida, which I’ve blogged about before. (Don’t hurl. There is absolutely no way anything gross can even come close to my lips). I am downright elated when I am able to suck out lots of treasures from both nostrils so that he can breathe free and not have a whistling nose. The more snot sucked out, the better. And oh yeah, his daddy would clear a booger for me, too, any day.

10.2.11 - booger-free at the Apple Festival, Queens County Farm