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.

Watch the Sky

The other day, I took a quick solo drive to the out-of-town public library to grab Micah some more difficult chapter books per his request.  Our local library is closed for repairs and due to parking issues, I prefer driving out of town anyhow, especially if I get to do it alone.

No work, no doctor appointments, no urgent tasks to complete other than purging before another (mini) family member joins.  Not having to rush from point A to point B or respond to urgent emails, running no other errand than the library run was rejuvenating.

I admired the spring flowers on our block as I walked to fetch our car.

Minutes later, I was driving on the highway with zero traffic, sun shining bright, when this ditty came on the radio:

If you wanna go and take a ride wit me
We three-wheelin in the fo’ with the gold D’s
Oh why do I live this way? (Hey, must be the money!)

HEY!  Must be the money!  I could imagine my girlfriends from two decades ago riding with me, turning up the volume and laughing.  Even in present day mini-van with our garish McDonald’s Happy Meal emoji hanging from our rearview mirror, I felt 20-something and extra grateful for the day.

Grateful for breath, my life and the life pop-lockin’ inside of me.  Grateful for the sudden surge of energy this week, after last week’s sluggishness where I would just have the kids gather ’round me in my bed.  Then another great song came on:

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?

Life truly is about the simple things.  A solo drive.  No traffic.  Two great songs on the radio.

The night before, I needed to konk out after staying up too late to review some boring, time-sensitive documents (adult life).  I could have drifted into dreamland right then but I felt jipped of my sacred, quiet time after kids had gone to bed.  So I left my lamp on so that I could read just one exquisite short story from my new library book.  I reread certain passages and it was time well spent.  It felt like a square of fine dark chocolate or hot red tea after a meal.  Recalibrated my brain.

This reminds me to add a simple joy to my day in the raw postpartum days to come, when hormones are off from nursing while adjusting to the new normal of a helpless little babe completely dependent on me.

My parents did not appear to value self-care.  They believed that they could not afford to, that it was a wasteful luxury just for the unencumbered upper crust folks with margins in their lives.  Or maybe that’s what they told themselves as it was too painful to admit even to themselves that they could use some sweet time just to exhale and enjoy life.

I don’t fault them for this way of thinking as they had to work as much as possible to pay for life’s necessities.  They didn’t get to collect a paycheck from some air-conditioned office.

I used to follow my parents’ standards as an excuse for why I, too, thought self-care was fluffy and for folks who weren’t diligent and hard-working enough.  I went so far as to judge those who prioritized self-care in a way that was foreign to me, coming from my background.

“Another massage?  Another date night?  Didn’t you just come back from vacation?  How ’bout you take a break from taking a break?”  But now I see that my parents would have fared better had they not just worked all the time, had they somehow carved out small pockets of leisure.

When my mom owned a small gift shop in Panorama City, CA, working at least six days a week, ten hours a day, she would comment that the moment she heated up her lunch, customers would barge in.  And nine out of ten times, these would be annoying customers, those who would ask the price of her whole inventory with their eagle eyes and too many extended family members in tow, and then leave without a single purchase.  This is why to this day, I don’t like going into someone’s small business or vendor booth just to look, chitchat, or merely compliment an item without buying.

My mom would sometimes feel chained to her store. Once, when I was in high school and visiting the store, she sighed and said, “Sometimes, I wish I could just run across the street and lie down on that patch of grass, just roll around and look at the sky.”

I now wish I had insisted that she do just that.  Go right on across Roscoe Blvd., Umma, and lie down on that patch of grass in front of the old drive-in movie theater.  Exhale.  Watch the sky.  Watch the clouds drift.  Grab a cold beverage.  Think about something that makes you laugh.  I got you.

I remembered this when I was in Bryant Park last summer, and I purposely lie down on the grass in the middle of my day.  A homeless man was to my left, damp green grass under me, and the blue sky above me.

I am going to create more “Watch the Sky” moments.  Priceless.

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We are not to walk on the courtyard grass but I just had to get close to these beauties.  They looked like they were made of pink Kleenex.

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I mean, they were bigger than my kids’ faces.  Nature is astounding.

Diverted by Marshawn Lynch

It’s May 1st!  A brand new month.  Exciting month ahead for our family.  Hopefully, baby won’t arrive this month as this is the month prior to the expected due date.  I take “due date” with a grain of salt as both boys arrived early.  May will be filled with lots of anticipation, checklists, doc appointments and hopefully rest, too.  During Sunday service, I couldn’t keep the tears from flowing from my jaw down to my clothes as I *still* can’t believe that I get to do this all over again.

On a TOTALLY different note:  I relate to Larry David’s character on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” way too much.  I recognize that so much of what I sweat is “small stuff” but I had a lightbulb moment last week.  I sometimes want to pause on the trifling happenings of life to allow my mind to drift from the actual meaty stuff:  adult decisions and responsibilities.

Flashback to last Wednesday at my o.b. appointment.  I take the elevator to the 11th floor with just one other person.  The man seems restless and preoccupied as he tries to exit the elevator unchivalrously before me, practically clipping me, so in true Larry David fashion, I maneuver my girth so that I can exit before him.

I sit down in the waiting room and look all around at the Upper East side patients and think, “So boojie, mmm.  So much privilege up in here.  Blech!”  (And yes, I know that I am at least partly one of them as much as I try to claim “Other.”)  That is when I notice that the man from the elevator is talking to the receptionist and soon, addressing the large waiting room:

“Excuse me.  Someone here got a ride from me and did not pay me.  Who was it?  Who took a ride from me and did not pay me?”

Everyone peered down at their precious phones as if they were Cinderella’s Magic Mirror revealing the future, and ignored him completely.  He repeated the announcement:

“Someone here did not pay me after they got a ride from me.  Who was it?”

People continued to ignore him.  While his announcement made folks uncomfortable, it was not delivered in a scary manner.  He was just a brown man trying to get paid for his services, hunting down his boojie customer who stole from him.

I started feeling my emotional buttons getting pushed from this man being completely ignored, even though I knew nothing about the customer and whether she was privileged and wealthy, taking advantage of the cab driver.

I responded loud enough for him and the room to hear:  “Sorry, man.  I took the subway here so it wasn’t me.  Good luck!”

He walked out of our waiting room to the adjoining doctor’s office, presumably to make the same announcement.  The man just needed to get paid and I felt for him.  I also flashbacked to when customers stole from my parents.

The second he left, one of the phone-staring ignorers, an older White lady, promptly got up out of her seat to tattle to the receptionist, “He didn’t go downstairs.  He just went to the next office.”  So the receptionist had to act as security to tell him that he must raise up and wait in the lobby, not here in the doctors’ offices.

Just then, a White husband who had his pregnant wife’s feet on his lap the whole time, exclaimed, while still staring at his phone:  “What!?  Marshawn Lynch…!”

He and his wife were called to be seen by the doctor and I noticed he had on a blazer with elbow patches.  I judged some more.

As a post-doctor appointment treat, Kevin and I met for lunch.  I told him about how incensed I felt when everyone ignored the cab driver in our boojie waiting room.  Kevin said that he, too, would have ignored the guy because he didn’t take no ride from him.  Kevin laughed and said, “Maybe you responded because you felt like you had to defend yourself since you always have to explain yourself?”

I explained, “No, I responded because he deserved to be heard by SOMEONE, even though I wasn’t the fare-jacker.  And guess what?  When I saw the older White lady report him after ignoring him the whole time and then that Elbow Patch exclaiming about Marshawn Lynch?!  I got all crazy inside.  I wanted to go fight him and say, ‘If Marshawn Lynch drove a cab and asked you boojies if someone made off without paying him, you would totally ignore his ass too if he were a nameless man of color.  But because he Marshawn Lynch, you dare to exclaim his name while seated here amongst the pregnants.  Man, shut up!  Don’t ever utter Marshawn name again, Elbow Patches!”

“And then, I started Googling ‘Marshawn Lynch’ instead of looking up the checklist for what this particular o.b. appointment should entail.  I think I just like diversions, the more trifling the better!”

All this to say that everyone has their coping mechanisms.  When seated in front of my husband to discuss Adult Decisions, I suddenly had to talk about Marshawn Lynch outburst.  When we have to make important decisions, Kevin becomes more logical and focused and can’t be bothered with the trifling.  I subconsciously seek out tangents and treasure troves of trifling to take a breather from the adult ish.  What is your funky way of coping with adult life?

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So, Jihee, where do you want to raise our kids?  And you must decide by the end of lunch…

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I need to tell you what happened in the waiting room today.

 

 

Musings in the March Snow

While we were in Orlando, my 96 year-old down-the-hall neighbor, Charlie, passed away.  We missed the funeral because we didn’t see the memo until we belatedly checked our tiny mailbox.

Charlie was the neighbor who came up to me a few years ago while I was running out to take out the trash.  His wife had just passed away and his grief was raw.  He hadn’t planned to come up to this Mama down the hall but the grief was so overwhelming that he shared with someone he had never spoken to before – “I just lost my wife.  We were married for ____ years.  I don’t know what to do.”

I dropped my trash and gave him a huge hug as tears escaped from both our eyes.  I told him later that sometimes I take my baby to Forest Hills Park and that he can walk with us but he was too frail.  I kept seeing him around with his full-time caregiver and dutiful son.

I ran into his son on Queens Blvd. while walking to the boys’ school this week and I grabbed his forearm to tell him how sorry we were for his loss.  His 60 something(?) year-old son had shared with me once, “I don’t know how family live so far away from each other.  I am so close to both my parents and always lived a building away from them.”

He told me that he was present at both his parents’ deaths and that they parted while holding his hand.

Growing up, I knew that my dad equated success with being a world traveler and adventurer.  He immigrated to the U.S. after falling in love with it on a business trip.  He always said that children should go far away for college instead of being sheltered and fearful, only confident at home.

He was disappointed when I didn’t get into Harvard.  I applied, for his sake, Early Admissions and got Early Rejected.  He never hid the fact that he thought my going away “just” to UC Berkeley, a one hour flight away from home / six hour drive, was not grand enough.

And because I always chase (chased?) after my dad’s approval, I believed the same.

But when I spent a few minutes talking to my recently deceased neighbor’s son on the street this week, I realized that my beliefs have changed.

After the boys go to sleep and Kevin and I get to unwind, one of us can’t resist going back into their tiny room to gaze at or squeeze them, especially after an episode of “This is Us.”  It’s like having a cartoon rotisserie chicken asleep on the bottom bunk, and a scrumptious pork belly slider tucked in in the top bunk.  Irresistible.

I no longer define success as globe-trotting  and being as far away from family though I drool at my globe-trotting friends’ adventures in lands I have to Google.  I would love for my rotisserie chicken and crispy pork children to traipse the entire globe…then return to home base to share as much of their lives with me as they will allow.

I will be waiting.

RIP neighbor Charlie.  I am so glad that Art had the privilege of holding your hand as he ushered you into eternity.

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Flipping the Script on Envy

As I’ve shared before, I am euphoric when pregnant.  I imagine soundtracks playing as I subway to work or walk in the frozen tundra to pick up the chil’ren:

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed Be Your name
Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

I feel like I won the lotto to be able to experience this all over again even with a growing, peach-fuzzy stomach,

linea negra faint black line down my belly,

gagging while brushing teeth,

burping on the drive to church and being shocked by more than a burp,

and popping Tums for dessert night after night.

However, I am still a three-dimensional human being and find myself struggling with envy even during this abundant season of verdant pastures.

Pastor Rankin Wilbourne once shared that he would never be envious of Kobe Bryant’s basketball skills.  He is more susceptible to becoming envious of another pastor whose church is flourishing in a way his church is not.  I get that.

I’m not envious of most things because I couldn’t care less.  You thinner than me?  Congrats!  So are many.  I don’t care.  I want to eat more empanadas.

You have a great science mind while I was happy to earn my “B” in AP Bio?  Cool – maybe you can drop science on my kids one day while I watch Wendy Williams.

You have a fat salary but have to work crazy hours?  That’s great that you have that drive but for me, for now, no thanks.

However, there are wounds I carry and if you are blessed in those areas, I feel the wounds getting picked at again, or at least my armpits getting sweaty.  Currently, we are blessed enough to have four living grandparents for our children.  But all four of them are not geographically available and three of them are not available in the way I yearn for.  I also don’t have a dad who can pour into my life.  THESE ARE SOME RAW WOUNDS.

As abundantly blessed as I am, when I see doting grandparents, I tear up.  When I see my friends get affirmed by their dads even at our mature ages, I cry.  (Hell, I’m crying now, typing this).

I want my kids to know and FEEL that other than their loving but imperfect Dad and affectionate but limited Mom who still hates to cook, there are a couple others who love them to pieces and would sacrifice for them, not just connect on the phone once in a blue moon.

But I don’t stay sad because my default emotion is anger.  I spew out and release my “Fuck Yous.”  I don’t actually hate on my friends with blessings in this area because they handle their blessings with gratitude and grace, but when an innocent stranger posted on a FB Mom group about how both sets of grandparents watch her kids, NEVER LEAVING HER ALONE WITH THEM, and how one of them dared to ask for carseats for their own car so that they can go on adventures with their grandchildren, I had to bite my tongue because I want to say, “FUCK YOU VERY MUCH YOU FUCKING PRINCESS!”

Everything is relative.  I KNOW THIS IN MY HEAD but my heart ain’t feelin’ it at times.

Someone could very well be thinking the same of me as Kevin does the heavy lifting in our household.  In that way, I am pampered and ever grateful.  But he also does this heavy lifting partially because he knows I have NO ONE ELSE and that it grieves his emotional wife.  People have advised that I look for friends or “spiritual family” to lean on but I don’t dare lean on non-relatives when I know their plates are full, too.  And frankly, friends have their own extended REAL families.

I also think about my friends and what they must struggle with.  Friends who have suffered baby losses while they see pregnants all around.  Friends whose kids have received diagnoses while they see neurotypical kids going about their regular school schedules.  Friends who pray for a spouse.  Friends who pray for healing of their illnesses.  Friends who beg God for a baby.

HOW DO I/THEY FIND PEACE in our respective areas of need!?  I know one solution is to stay in our own lanes and be grateful for everything we do have.  But I need something more because in this real world, we don’t live in a bubble and we can’t help but notice each others’ lanes.

I want to grapple with envy in a different way.  I don’t wanna become Bitter Miss Fuck You or only want to play with people who have my exact same struggles.  I will protect and distance myself from folks who subconsciously enjoy being the object of my envy because they feel elevated from my raw confessions that I wish I had what they have.

Lord, give me tools to flip the script on envy.  I know that it is not a single battle but a life-long journey but mature me in this area and teach me to deal with this in a healthy manner, and not resort to anger.  Please guide me when the going gets tough and I hear Satan whisper in my ear, “Bet you wouldn’t be struggling if you had grandparents around like so many of your friends!”

I will hold you to this verse I love for 2017 – please spring forth a new thing within me:

Isaiah 43: 19 (NIV):  See I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

(photos of my blessings below)

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Me being held by my beautiful Mama Love, who may be geographically unavailable but emotionally available and still wrestles with her grandchildren because it makes them squeal