Palm Sunday Pew Fight and Good Friday Grievance

On Palm Sunday, I got into an argument with a stranger sitting next to me at church.  This was a first for me (I think) and it bummed me out big time because I don’t enjoy fighting, ESPECIALLY at church.

Church is supposed to be my sanctuary, my haven, my exhale.  Scuffling with some entitled heffa on the subway when she yells at me for accidentally grazing her with my purse?  Yes.  And different from conflict with people within the church as that is natural once everyone gets to know each other more but I thought surely DURING service, we all on our best behavior.

Picture it.  March 25, 2018.  Queens, NY.

I am sitting in the balcony minutes before the sermon is about to start.  Kevin whispers to me that his back is killing him so he has to stand out in the vestibule.  Minutes later, I gather my stuff to join him because I don’t get to spend much childless time with him these days and we like to worship together when we can.  I also want to be free to cough if I need to.

I walk out to see that there are absolutely no seats left because of the explosive Palm Sunday attendance.  Kevin advises that I return to the sanctuary and try to grab my seat back.

I whispered, “Excuse me,” as I had to pass the one lady who was sitting to my right.  I had to pass her on my way out and I’m sure I was annoying to come right back but hopefully, she could understand that I had my reasons.

I pass her as carefully as possible and she loudly remarks, “OOOOKAAAYYYY!!!”

My Joy Luck Club reflex kicks in and I respond with a “Me so sorry” wince and an, “I’m sorry!” which is the exact opposite of how I felt.  SURE SHE CAN BE ANNOYED LIKE I AM WHEN PEOPLE WALK IN LATE AND HAVE ME SCOOT IN but I am gracious about it because…WE AT CHURCH.

The congregation is told to say a brief silent prayer and when we emerge, I feel my body heat up.

“Why did you say ‘OOOOK’ like that?  I had to pop out to check on my husband and also have a cough attack.  I know it’s so annoying to pop back in but that was rude.”

“Look, WELCOME BACK, OK?  WELCOME!”  (or something like that, maximum snark)

“That was rude and passive-aggressive.  I didn’t say anything when you walked in late, ok?”

We go back and forth and the sermon begins.  I wanna fight her.  My blood is boiling.  Whenever she responds to the sermon with her, “Mmm” and “hahaha,” I want to turn around and say, “WHAT YOU MMMING AND HAHAING FOR, YOUR RUDENESS?”

Pastor talkin’ about “Get behind thee, Satan” and homegirl has the audacity to “mmmhmmm.”  I am so annoyed that I text my friend.  She texts back the perfect response about how she, too, is in the middle of a conflict at home and that we have the power to make the right choice.

I calm down a bit and church starts singing.  I’m hyper-aware of this lady to the right of me.  I swear if she starts harmonizing to the song, I’mma have to quit church altogether.

Afterwards, she awkwardly extends a peace offering of, “Hope you feel better,” which is better than nothing and I say, “I need to talk to you in private, please.”  She says, “Look, I don’t want to get into it with you,” and I say, “It’s going to be the opposite of what you think.”

We go outside the sanctuary and I explain, “Look, I was just hurt because I usually overexplain my every move, like why I popped out in the first place and why I annoyingly popped back in and look, I know it is SUPER annoying to pop back in and interrupt your focus.  I decide not to overexplain for once and when you said, ‘OOOOKKK’ it hurt me.  But I couldn’t let you go without talking to you because this is church, we just listened to a sermon together, and it was just gross.  I couldn’t even focus on the sermon, could you?”

“Yeah, I mean, I just let it go.  And it’s just my personality.  I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Yeah, but sometimes we say things that could unintentionally hurt someone and I was hurt when you said OOOOOKKKKK like that.  I’m sorry to have fought with you though and like I said, TO FIGHT IN CHURCH IS BEYOND GROSS!”

“Can we hug it out?  What’s your name?”

We hugged it out and no, this is not a story of how we Kumbaya’d and became best friends.  It just felt so much better to reconcile though we may never go further than that, or be each others’ cup of tea EVER.  It just reminded me that no place on Earth is a conflict-free zone, unless you NEVER speak to anyone and silently slip in and out.

And then came Good Friday.  A woman expressed her grievance against Kevin because she held the door open for him and he was so distracted wrangling the kids that he slipped on through with nary a “thank you.”  I actually co-signed with her and offered her MY thank you and she said, “Thank you for that but I’m actually speaking to you, sir.  YOU’RE WELCOME.  I was holding the door open for YOU.”

Kevin didn’t even notice that there was a conflict surrounding him.  He is THAT opposite of me.

I then noticed that I held the door open for families that evening after the grievance against Kevin, on Saturday with friends, and even for a pastor on Easter Sunday with zero acknowledgement and I finally learned that while this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine, I have to understand that people, including my own husband, SURE get distracted.  I will try not to hate.

Also, being a person of faith does not mean that I will just respond with “Shalom” when someone is rude.  I don’t think I even aspire to be like that.

Lord, help me live with others – in my apartment, on the crowded subway, at the office, ALL KINDS OF CUSTOMER SERVICE SCENARIOS, and also, CHURCH.  And please consider moving us to a land with far less people though because You taking character-building a bit far, no?  I’mma go feed my kids some Costco lasagna now on this snowy April day.  Thank You for food and funny snow and family time.

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Church is still my haven.  A slice of heaven, though not conflict-free like heaven.

 

 

 

 

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Reflecting on Roots during March Nor’easter

And just like that, we are back in NYC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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These Thoughts Got to Go Somewhere

I am overdue for many things I wanted to write about so I am going to spill them out at once.

  1.  The Despicable Larry Nassar:

    “The disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, a judge announced Wednesday, after more than 150 women and girls said in court that he sexually abused them over the past two decades.” (CNN)

    This man violated girls *while their parents were in the room* seeking his help for their daughters’ gymnastics-related injuries.  Gasp!

    This vile man made me realize that even though I try my best to be my kids’ protector, advocate, and cheerleader, there is a tremendous amount of faith involved in letting them go daily.  Faith not only to release them into their large NYC public school, but on fieldtrips and extracurricular activities where I can’t fully know the character of the parent chaperones or coaches or strangers they are bound to come in contact with.  As of now, their activities are not full drop-offs, but I will need to entrust them in this world’s care more and more.

    Please, Lord, protect them.  You are Lord and I am not.  It is not possible for me to be their protector at all times.

2.  Your Privilege is Hanging Out:  A lawyer mom who married wealthy and will likely never work again, by “choice,” posted the most self-indulgent, privileged, tone-deaf and insensitive drivel I have ever seen.  She is a SAHM with a staff that does what most SAHMs have to do for themselves, including a full-time nanny, house cleaner, a gardener, and a gardener who only does the weeding(!).  She is the 1%.

What irked me was that she couldn’t foresee the sh*tstorm she would start by directly and specifically laying out her riches before the weary eyes of most other moms as they got ready for work, whether it was work they must do or choose to do, or SAHMs who do what her staff does for her.  She even added a line about how she is the lady that we all love to hate.  Oof!  You can be that privileged but have the sense to not blast it out on a huge social media group of moms who don’t lead such a charmed life.

For my own health, I need to move on from eyerolling since last night BUT the good that came out of this is that it reminded me that I will definitely invest more in doing stuff that gives me life, OUTSIDE of my beloved kids.  Though Tone Deaf’s creature comforts do sound cushy, it reminded me that my dream is not to become a lady of leisure.  I want to have purpose beyond excessive self-care that sounds more like she doesn’t want to do any chores.

I now work again part-time out of necessity but even without that financial necessity, I would do some form of work because I have longings and skills separate and apart from being a mama.  I find it crucial for my mental health though I know this is a loaded topic and some extremely conservative circles don’t support this notion.  I firmly believe that having my own identity will help when the Empty Nest years hit, even though I stay home more than work.

3.  Rule of Life (as explained by Pastor Rich Villodas  – copied and pasted from one of his posts):

Here are the steps…Step 1
Write down everything you currently do (or hope to do) that nurtures your spirit and fills you with delight  (e.g. people, places, activities).   Normally, when we think of spiritual activities, we limit ourselves to things such as prayer, going to church, worship, and Bible reading. Don’t censor yourself.  Your list may include gardening, walking the dog, being in nature, talking with close friends, cooking, painting, jumping out of airplanes, or any number of other possibilities. List them all!
Step 2
Write down the activities you need to avoid, limit or eliminate that pull you away from remaining anchored in Christ.  This refers to avoiding certain things that impact your spirit negatively – such as violent movies, excessive social media involvement, being harried, and going beyond your limits. The list that you create, whether you know it or not, is your unconscious way of life.
Step 3
What are the challenging “have to’s” in this season of your life that are impact your rhythms? (e.g. caring for aging parents, a special needs child, a demanding season at work, parenting small children, an illness, etc.)
Step 4
Fill in the Rule of Life worksheet.  (See photo below – Pastor Rich’s example)
Step 5 – Share your Rule with someone as a means of helping you utilize it to order your life in the way of Jesus.
My Step 1 – WHAT NURTURES MY SPIRIT definitely includes reading and writing.  And nature.  And beauty.  And even boring adult stuff like making sure we have enough income so that finances don’t suck out my life force.  And nurturing real-life friendships despite busyness.
My Step 2 would be to pull away from excessive Facebooking as evidenced by my wasted energy, viscerally reacting to that lady’s post.
My Step 3 is that we are parenting three small children including our bonus infant while juggling 1.5 work schedules.  I need to respect this limit instead of trying to Amazing Race all around town and feeling guilty for not setting up playdates during this stage.
Thanks for reading.
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Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Though it seems like an odd testament to the existence of God, I can always testify to His existence and realness when I experience a palpable darkness trying to creep in.  I can feel Light and Darkness.  So, just what am I talking about?

I’m not sure if Kevin or I noticed this first but EACH time I blogged about how well we were doing during my pregnancy with Olive, how jubilant I am about this bonus baby, or how our marriage has been resuscitated after years of struggle, I would face some strange tribulation the next day.

Kevin wisely suggested that we almost anticipate it and pray specifically against it.

This was not limited to when I would blog about happy thangs instead of writing about persistent struggle and angst.  It would also occur when Kevin and I were doing exceptionally well and creating new, healthy habits.  Like a couple nights ago, Kevin and I finally had our New Year’s talk, using Pastor Rich’s Rule of Life steps (which I hope to write about, too).

We were pleased with ourselves for not automatically reaching for the remote control once the kids went to bed.  Instead, we wrote down what gives us life and what impacts our spirit negatively, in order to give ourselves some direction and motivation this new year.  We prayed for these plans and desires to take flight.  And we even had time left over to watch my new favorite show, “The Chi.”

The very next day, our family’s sacred MLK Jr. Day, another meaningful day in our household – one son named after MLK Jr. and another conceived on MLK Jr. Day 2012, I had such an emotional setback that I couldn’t believe it.  As with many setbacks, the trigger shoulda coulda woulda been manageable, but it set me off so disproportionately that I am still processing.  Details are too boring and gratuitous to use up my word count here.

So yeah, when we are doing very well, or I share about doing very well, I can feel darkness trying to deposit thoughts like, “Really though?  You guys good?  Have you really progressed?  Maybe not?  How about I throw you some shit and see if you really overcame?  You think people wanna hear about how good you doing, Pollyanna?”  and other more unsavory words of doubt and darkness.

I even said, “Dang, Kevin, maybe I shouldn’t share praises then!?”  Seems like an easy solution?  But no.  I will not be silenced by fear.  I refuse to dim the light in order to accommodate darkness.  I will keep sharing how He is working in my life even through my failures that DO make me wonder if I have progressed at all.

One blessing I dare to share about today is my middle son.  The boy has a way with words and sometimes utters things that literally take my breath away.  Last night, after my emotional setback that still got me like, “Huh!?”, the whole family listened to Dr. MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Ellis prayed, “Oh Lode, please make Martin Luther King Jr. alive again today.”  Yes, Lord, may his spirit live on during these dark times.  We need it.

And on 1/1/2018, the first day of the New Year, another day that is sacred not just to our family but to all who love a fresh new start of a new calendar page, I had another emotional snafu.  (Hmmm, I had probably shared some praises again or felt especially grateful for the last week of 2017).  After we made some dumplings from scratch, a New Year’s Day tradition we want to keep up when we are at home for New Year’s, I burnt the first batch because I got distracted.

Should be no big deal but I got real down on myself like, “Dang, girl, what the hell is wrong with you?”  and spiraled a bit when I thought I was getting better with this self-flagellation problem.  I told Ellis, “Mommy’s not doing too well.  I know it’s not a big deal that I wasted those dumplings but sometimes, Mommy talks mean to herself and she gets stuck.”

He stared at me with those eyes that look right into my soul and said:

You are my heart.  (“You ah my haw-wut.”)

You are loved.  (“You ah loved.”)

When I gave him my typical big reaction, gushing and embracing him, he somberly said, “I’m not done.  I love you.  And you are beautiful.”

It really felt like God sent me a little messenger when I needed words of affirmation to drive out my thoughts of condemnation.  I asked him to repeat himself.  He said it again to a tearful Mommy and blessed me over and over again.

Please feel free to receive those words of blessing for yourself.

**The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. – John 1:5**

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Declaration During Insomnia

My family is asleep.  Even as I tried to slow down my mind with silent prayer, curled up from my side of the bed, I still could not join them in dreamland.

I got up quietly so as not to wake my sleeping baby in her crib next to me.  She sleeps through fire engine wails and the loudest of incessant NYC ambulance sirens but Mommy’s isolated burp, fart, or cracking of knuckle can scare her.

I came out to the living room to pump my engorged left breast so that maybe then, I can succumb to sleep.

This late hour in this quiet apartment, save for NYC street noises, with my loved ones warm in their crib, twin, and King, feels downright sacred.

Today I shared with the women of my writers’ group that for as long as I can remember, I’ve been told:

“You are SO honest.” – everyone

“Thank you for your transparency.” – church folk

“You are so weird.  You crazy.” – some, including haters

“You’re out there.” – my dentist

“I’d love to have coffee with you.  I just can’t believe how funny you are.  I love you, bunny.” – my obstetrician

Sure, I am not defined by others’ perception of me but daggone it, if the single most “thing” I’ve been called most of my life is HONEST, and I have a deep yearning to connect with people through my writing, AND I lack fear of sharing my struggles and weaknesses, then I’m going to write MORE instead of less, even though my family life is the most demanding it’s ever been.

If you could see our Saturdays alone, where Kevin and I have to text non-stop to coordinate the shuffling of one, two, or three offspring to various scenarios, passing the Lead Parent baton back and forth, TAG, you’re it for now, you might wonder why I’d bother to even waste my time and energy on writing on this little blog.

And that’s just it.  Some yearnings may not be paycheck producing or otherwise “practical” yet the embers remain.  In fact, I really wanted to name our baby girl “Ember” as she, too, was a glowy ember that remained, a yearning I could not stomp out.  And thank the Lord Almighty I never could stomp out that impractical yearning.

So, you’ll be hearing more from me, whether anyone reads this or not.  I think I can go to sleep now.  Thank you, insomnia.

 

A Husband’s Wisdom

I have supersonic hearing.

I can’t tune out noise.

I’ve cried before from a particularly gnarly subway and bus braking screech or loud-ass ambulance sirens that felt like someone was yanking out my intestines.

I empathize with children who have sensory issues as I probably do, too.

I feel so strongly that if I am at a gathering and someone is pissed the F off, I cannot just enjoy myself and laugh in the corner.

I absorb others’ energy.  I used to cry when I witnessed public proposals, once even hugging the couple I didn’t know.  When I see someone crying on the subway, I feel their sadness and depending on the situation, I offer them their space, a tissue, or some words.

I say all this because as a mom, it would help to be able to tune out noise.

When I asked Kevin how he doesn’t get as flustered as me sometimes, say, when he takes the kids grocery-shopping by himself, something I haven’t done in ages,  he explained, “Oh, I tune them out sometimes.  It’s great.  You should try it.”

“Really?”  Because I have this supersonic hearing and other sensitivities, I can NOT tune out my kids OR tune out other kids’ noises.

Also, when I’m spending time with my kids and they are not otherwise engaged or fighting, I try to teach them a li’l something by engaging them in conversation or when they were younger, even setting up a simulated kidnapping/Stranger Danger situation on our walks, which they enjoyed way too much, asking me to do it again and again.

This means that I am constantly engaging or repeating myself and it has got me fried at the end of the day.  “Don’t touch your sister.  Back up.  Don’t climb that.  Walk to the side of the street.  Watch out.  Don’t jump.  Mind your manners.  Focus.”

This is my job as a Mom.  I want them to hear my voice when I am gone.

So yesterday, we had a marathon afternoon after school let out.

Kids’ noises galore at the library, homework time for each son with my reminding them to stay seated even with sensory delights everywhere, my stroller can’t get past other kids’ backpacks strewn all over the floor, my kids are happy but fooling around with their friends and the energy is amping up, and other details too boring to type out.

We part ways from our friends.  We stop for snacks I had packed as we stroller over for our dentist appointment.  Another kid walks by with his mom and he kicks a rock as kids are prone to do and it hits me smack dab on my bony, ashy foot.  It hurts.

I growl as the mom apologizes.  I’ve been her before yet I still growl while sweating from the heat and then judge myself for becoming real crabby like a baby during his witching hour.  If I can cut out this judging of self, or at least reduce it lots, I’d be better off.  Micah tells me that the rock-kicker was his classmate.  I feel bad for growling at him.

I pass by familiar faced moms who seem to be way more patient with their kids for doing kid stuff like squeal and run off.

As I was going to bed after Kevin and I got to watch “This is Us,” and laughing to myself about how these days, “binge-watching” is equivalent to watching one show to completion, I said,

“Kevin, I feel like the angel and devil on my shoulders are always fighting and it is f*cking exhausting.  Kids are blessings, kids are blessings, kids are TRULY blessings but I can also hear myself repeating silently, kids are so annoying, kids are so annoying.  You know a counselor once told me that I should practice holding opposites in tension…something about both being true and being okay with that.

My brain already went to bed, I don’t know if you even know what I’m referring to.  I just feel bad that I go to kid gatherings and think, Damn, kids are so annoying…when they are such blessings!”

Kevin looked me square in the eyes in the dark with our two fans and AC going:

“Kids are annoying as F.”

What a perfect, pithy gift.  Husband spoke my love language and gave me a belly laugh.