“I Don’t Know How You Do It!”

Many of the moms I’ve met since moving to my area in LA have just one child.  When I mention my three, they look straight into my eyes, sometimes shake their head slowly and say, “I don’t know how you do it.”

It mostly makes me feel validated for all that I do, since I often feel invisible and my “work” only gets noticed if I were to drop the ball.  Other times, it makes me feel like confessing, “If you only knew…I’m cracking these days.”  Wait, I did say that aloud, just this week, to my kids’ basketball coaches (dads of young ones) as they laughed about cracking too except I wasn’t laughing.

Summer parenting has been A LOT in a way I don’t have the patience to get into, and this is with the sons in various activities, not lounging around under my roof.  For one, I didn’t know how chauffeuring them around town, on a schedule, which sounds passive enough, would increase my anxiety.  Girl is two years old and ackin’ very two-ish from her middle carseat, demanding all the songs and snacks and no, different song!, and even hugs as I drive because Mom sitting in the driver seat is too far away.

I’d been feeling a nudge to CREATE SPACE for a while now as our lives are packed and when the nudge became a shove after a couple Facebook posts affected me, I removed Facebook from my phone.  The bad outweighed the good for me, for now, and there was no need for my already crammed mind to be filled with acquaintances’ summer travel or my heart affected again by seeing updates from those I was once close to, now like strangers from atrophy.

I’m not sure the point of this post but it has been TOO long since I’ve written more than To Do lists and I need to get back to doing the things that I love.

I wholly appreciate how the Lord knows what I need in big and small ways.  He sent me an unexpected encouragement through a stranger (a dad) who said he saw me at my boys’ sports camp, marching in, wearing the Girl, motioning quietly to the staff that I’m pulling out the boys to take them to swim.  He told me that he was so impressed that he even texted his wife about me, saying man, you should have seen this mom!  He added that he knows how moms don’t get affirmed enough for all that they do while dads get lionized for just being with their kids in public.  Seems like a small thing but it nearly made me tear up.

God also brought me a new friend I was able to walk and talk with, with a total of zero kids between the two of us, and it was such a gift.  After moving here about a year ago, I joined so many groups, thirsting for connection.  I think I found some support and community but not the deeper, individual connections that might take a while to build (it’s only been a year).  I missed the intimacy and natural chemistry of talking with a few someones who just get me and vice versa.  I miss the handful of close friends I did life with in NYC though yes, I know I pined away for CA while there.

I told the new friend about something enraging that happened to me yesterday and instead of the usual advice to just shake it off, reminders about how blessed I am otherwise, or other directives to please just make it all better by not spending one more second expressing truthfully how it made me feel, she gifted me with, “OF COURSE THIS SHOULD MAKE YOU MAD.  OF COURSE!  YOU’VE BEEN INJURED.”

And again, when I shared with an acquaintance, and he responded by inspecting my hand and remarking, “How bad were your knuckles bleedin’ when you hit her?” (I didn’t hit anyone but his deadpan question just made my morning after a terrible day yesterday).

Here’s to the rest of the summer:  creating space, creating, nature, quiet, nudges and shoves, deep breaths, letting go, and breaking bad cycles.  P.S. Facebook keeps sending me emails to jump back in, even asking me if I’m having trouble logging in.  That’s wrong!

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Ebenezer Stone Valentine’s

I’ve always had a thing for nature.  Going on nature walks alone or with the family always puts me in a calmer, happier mood.  I like picking up special rocks or shells though it’s been a minute.

So, no surprise that I got excited to discover this passage recently:

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  – 1 Samuel 7:12 NASB (emphasis added)

And I became even more excited when we drove by this gorgeous scene this past rainy Sunday afternoon in LA (Tujunga) on the way to a church event.  The boys were gracious enough to allow Kevin to make an inconvenient U-turn in the rain, so that photo-loving Mom could memorialize something once again (Olive had no say or clue as her car seat is still rear-facing):

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Whenever the Israelites would pass by the stone named Ebenezer, they would remember how the Lord had helped them and acted on their behalf.

When I saw these striking stones set in these eye-catching formations, right by a street named Elmhurst, same name as the NYC area our old church was located, I, too, remembered.

“Guys, we have to always look back and remember how God helped us.  Remember when we were in limbo for 37 days last July, when we didn’t know if we could actually move to LA or if we should look for back-up housing in NYC?  And now we live here, driving everywhere with oceans of parking and drivers who hardly honk.”

As I wonder about the future once again, our hopes for 2019, and I become confused or anxious, I have to breathe and remember.  God will help.  Maybe not exactly the way I pictured, but He will.

(Only after my three minute iPhone photo shoot, I noticed a “No Trespassing” sign).

Happy Valentine’s 2019!

 

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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Like Sands Through the Hourglass…

FullSizeRender (5)FullSizeRender (6)FullSizeRender (7)FullSizeRender (8)IMG_2438FullSizeRender (9)FullSizeRender (10)FullSizeRender (11)When deliberating where to go for our last hurrah vacation as a family of four, we were able to narrow it down to L.A. vs. Orlando.  Thankfully, we didn’t have too many options to cull through as our passports have not been renewed and other Florida spots were known for Zika outbreaks.  As much as we would have loved to go back to my hometown, we opted for Orlando as Escaping the Cold and Relaxation were our #1 priorities.

You know how we all say, “Where has the time gone!?”?  I can recall a few moments from this delightful break where I actually could pinpoint my kids growing up before my very eyes.

As much as our Wild Florida Airboat ride, Gator and Wildlife Park, Legoland, Crayola Experience, and other excursions made the trip fun and memorable, I replayed the precious growth moments over and over in my head during our week together.  They may sound mundane but I still recall them vividly:

When we arrived at Crayola Experience on the one rainy day of the week, I immediately looked for a bench to hobble towards as I had been having acute back pain.  It was so bad that we looked into renting an Electric Convenience Vehicle at Legoland.  Anyways, the boys were dancing in front of some moving crayon images while I watched.  Suddenly, a massive group of students on fieldtrip entered the space between the boys and me, while Kevin was in the admissions line.  I still had my eye on them but they could not see me.  I craned my neck to keep my eye on them and watched as Micah’s face morphed from slight panic to great resolve.

“Ellis, come!” Micah looked ever firstborn in that split second as he grabbed his compliant little bro’s hand and starting walking away from the crowd.

“Micah!  Mommy still sees you!  Where you going?  I never lost sight of you.”

Micah, looking relieved: “I was taking us to the workers to report that we had lost our mom.”  (Of course I thought about the movie, “Lion,” all over again.  Gulp.)

For some reason, this moment has left a mark on my heart.  My boy is growing up.  I don’t see the drooly toddler who soaked through 15 bibs a day, no exaggerating, as we watched the big kindergardeners go off to school.  This is a bonafide big brother who snatched his cheeky little brother when he thought that this was finally the moment his mom had warned him about, “If you ever get lost, go up to someone who works there OR go up to another mom!”

He is ready to become Big Bro of two.

Second moment:  When we hit the pool, Ellis usually asks one of us to hold him as he gets adjusted to the water.  I didn’t realize how much I savored that babyish habit until this time, in our Orlando pool, he said, “I don’t need you any more, Mom-oo!”

I paused to take the moment in.  “My Pillow Cheeks has grown up so much.  You don’t even need Mommy any more!”  I sheepishly swam away backwards while facing him to watch him grow before my very eyes.  He must have felt this moment too as he added, “I don’t need you.  But I still want you.”

And the final moment was at the airport.  We were strapped for time as I had kept us another 15 minutes at Disney Springs.  Instead of trying to manage with my jacked back, one sleeping Ellis, and too many bags for Kevin and Micah to carry on their own, we flagged down a porter.  When I told the porter our flight time, he said, “We have to hurry.”

But I could not hurry.  I could hardly walk as I felt stabbing pain on my lower back, even with a belly / back brace on.  The rest of my family ran with the porter.  I tried my best but I could only walk.  My eyes started watering from the pain and I looked up to see my Micah’s concerned face.  “My mom…she can’t run.  She’s coming.  Mommy, you can do it, you can do it!”

Now, my eyes were watering from the love my growing boy had for me as I hobbled to keep up.  I always imagine him from a few years back, where I did everything for him.  I guess it didn’t dawn on me that as he grows up, he will be the one cheering ME on.  I had underestimated the six year old boy before me.

His stricken look didn’t go away until I was able to join them in the elevator to make our flight.  I realized that our family being together was just as important to the kids as it was to us.

Thank you, Orlando, the host of our precious moments!  Happy 40th Birthday to Kevin, who took care of all of us on the trip!

 

 

That Raccoon Life

A few of my years attending UC Berkeley for undergrad was spent in a house on Dwight Way.  I remember my roommates and I talking about the new nuisance on the block:  Raccoons!  While adorable in children’s storybooks, far from adorable when stumbling upon them in real life.

One of my housemates came home reporting another raccoon sighting:  “Eww, the guys across the street at Americana said that at night, they caught a FAMILY of raccoons going for a night swim!  Can you imagine?  So gross!”

As I tried to fall asleep that night, visions of the raccoon family took hold of me.  As much as I was anti-raccoon, the vivid image of the family going for a swim captured my heart.  Not gross at all.

Were the raccoon parents immigrants?  What was their story?  When did the parents get together?  The dad must have told his buddies, proudly, that he can’t go foraging with them that night because he was going to take his family swimming.  The kids were probably excited all day for their moonlit swim.

I pictured the dad looking at a map for the best swim holes Berkeley had to offer, researching how to get there and weighing the pros and cons between Clark Kerr pool and the more humble pool at Americana apartments.

I imagined the mom making some kimbahb and packing some trash for their midnight excursion.  The kids were not helpful but their excitement was contagious.  When the coast was clear and the loud humans were off to bed, the dad must have let out a high pitched whistle with his black lips and leathery black fingers,  waving one bandit hand, “It’s time.  Dive on in, guys!”

For some reason, this raccoon family I had not even encountered for myself during my college days, left an imprint in my brain.  I especially pictured the leader of the pack, the family-oriented Dad, creating some merriment for his brood.

Yesterday, despite the cold, hail, rain, and slushy Slurpee streets of NYC, Kevin and I were determined to go for a swim together.  His gym was offering two hours of Family Fun time where we could all go swimming as part of his membership.  This would entail some planning in order to make it in time.

Pack our swim stuff the night before, to take on the E train into Midtown.

Attend church.  Leave stuff in car for easier transport to subway.

Buy empanadas for speedy lunch on the run.

Drop off car in our lot.  Confirm with gym that their pool is open.  Take swim stuff and position onto Ellis’ stroller and have him sit in stroller so our massive belongings don’t tip over.

Walk to subway stop without slipping.  Especially Mommy and her Belly.

Wait for Sunday E train and remind boys to stay in the middle of the platform.

Hop on train.  Grab seats as they become available.  Kevin scarf down a few empanadas he could not eat while driving us home.

Pop out of train and maneuver umbrellas.  Walk to gym as more freezing rain pours down.

Laugh at how we really must like adventures and wonder if others would even bother to do this for a free family swim or just say, “Haiiiill nah!”

Sign waivers, change into swimsuits and meet at the pool.

Kevin told me to get my lap swim on while he frolicked with the kids in the loafer lane.  The kids were beaming.  Their wet seal heads bobbed up and down.  Daddy took them on rides on his back.

As I swam towards them, my eyes teared up behind my goggles.  They looked…not unlike…the raccoon family of my college imaginings.  I hadn’t thought about that raccoon family in years but there they were, every bit as tight as I had imagined.  Turns out that the dad had a gym membership!

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post swim foraging

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post swim ride home – feeling relaxed and happy and hungry

 

 

 

 

Storm Queen aka This is 40

I used to get embarrassed for folks who were all, “It’s my birfday!  We gotta go out for my birfday!”  I was like, “You turning 38, don’t act thirsty for a bouncy house or a tiara.  Have several seats and act grown!”

Living in the age of social media, I see more stories of lives taken too soon and those asking for prayer for health problems.  So, as I get older, fully FEELING how everyday is a gift, I want to celebrate everything. (And I repent my previous years of judging the birthday-thirsty).

Though I didn’t get a chance to reflect some more about my big 4-0 (beyond the previous blog post written when I was a tender 39) or set any goals for the new decade, I wanted to share a couple favorite moments.

My 10/4 (4×10) birthday landed on Rosh Hashanah, on day two of two consecutive school holidays after the weekend celebration of Ellis’ 4th birthday. His casual school party, World’s Maker Faire, Ellis’ Bowlmageddon Party, then two days dedicated to me.

Kevin took two days off and drove us to one of my fave spots on the eve of my birthday.  Storm King:  one of the world’s leading sculpture parks in the lower Hudson Valley, about an hour north of NYC.  (We also stopped by the tiny Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens on my actual birthday the next day, but that was a drive-by half-hour visit, after dropping by the gorgeous waterfront Costco in LIC next door, before escaping the city again).

Being outdoors in nature is one of the most life-giving gifts for this California gal.  I would love to hike and swim all year long, nekked if I could.  The boys took me to Storm King so that I can trade in all that car-honking in Queens for some geese-honking.  (Actually, even the geese of Storm King were very quiet.)

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We took a 40-minute shuttle ride around the grounds.  While it was lovely, it was not restful or peaceful because I sat next to Ellis the Clown who would exclaim after placing various objects on my body, “Mommy, guess wha-a-at?  You have a rock on your shoulder!  Why don’t you pretend to throw it?  ahahahahahah you still have a rock on your shoulder!  Mommy, do you think I’m going to throw this bottle out or do you think I’m going to just pretend?  Litterbug or just pretend?”

So I had to monitor this charming but handful of a dude.  Later, Kevin wanted to gift me with a solitary ride in the same shuttle.  “Hey, you loved riding alone last time.  You have to do it again.  If you run, you can catch the last one and I’ll take these fools around to wrestle on the grass.”

I was torn for a second because I wanted to spend every moment with my morsels on my last day of being 39 (yes, I am SUPER sentimental).  But I caught a front row seat on the shuttle, all by myself.

As the shuttle took off, I heard, “MOMMY MOMMY!” coming from a tower.  I looked up and saw my three boys, Small, Medium and Large, sending me off on my 40 minutes of solo time.  They were beaming and waving at me from behind the trees, like I was going off to Seoul to teach English for a year rather than just 40 minutes away.

Naturally, I waved back like a maniac and teared up, thinking about how close we are as a family, perhaps due to the very thing that grieves me, the lack of an extended family village.  Also, memories came gushing forth, memories of when I was a 100% stay-at-home mom for a full 4.5 years, those years of being each others’ planets.

And now look at them, my emoji comedian who can moonlight as a food inspector as he WILL find even the smallest hair in any takeout order or couch cushion, my observant and profound MLK, who says things that make my mouth drop to the floor (“I still dream of Nepal, Mommy.  What’s going on over there now?”) and my husband, my biggest supporter and encourager, who also says things that make me go WHAT!?…(“Hey, so I’m not gonna wear shorts any more because I saw Pitbull.  THAT dude looks SO cool in his suits, like he would never ever be caught dead wearing shorts.  It’s just beneath him.”)

During my 37-minute shuttle ride, I relished in the quiet, thanked God over and over again for my gifts, and lifted up a few prayers for my new decade.  As we drove past the last few sculptures, I saw some masterpieces GALLOP past me!

It was my family, about to climb one of the viewing towers as we shuttlers watched.  The boys shyly waved at me.

It was a perfect moment I hope to replay over and over again.  This shuttle taking me around to each giant monument on the 500 acres was perfect for my 40th as I remembered the monuments in my own life, and admired the three greatest ones, now literally on display for me to gaze at.

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Micah sitting on nickels

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10.4.16 Socrates Sculpture Park

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Socrates

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Socrates

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Christopher Walken heads at Socrates

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Socrates

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Kombucha Tea and the Amalfi Coast

One huge perk of being an at-home mama is that I don’t have to take the subway five days a week no mo’.

I am reminded of this blessing each time I end up on the train.  The delays have gotten much worse.  Commuters look like they are suffering from clinical depression.  The shiny, happy ones are just visiting from Austin or Cleveland.

I had a couple appointments in deep Manhattan the other day.  Unfortunately, I had brought a novel that turned out to be unreadable so I tried to practice mindfulness during this rare occasion for weekday solitude.

Sitting across from me was an older Black lady with her chin slumped down on her chest. She wore dark sunglasses, a hat, about 20 beaded bracelets on each forearm, multiple layers of clothes, including a thick beige wool coat on this fair, sunny day.  On her feet were thick white socks and flip-flops.  She looked like she was either in deep slumber or closing her eyes to shut out reality.  Her big turquoise purse was taking up coveted sitting space on the crowded morning E train.

I noticed her but I didn’t pay her any mind as I let my thoughts wander off.

Suddenly, I heard her screaming.

“Don’t you dare lay a hand on me, you beater!  I will hit you right back, you beater!  I bet if I were a man, you wouldn’t have dared touched me!  I am so sick of men always poking and touching me!  I will fight back you hear me!?”

A man had tapped her to move her purse so he can sit.

She came undone and her rage came spewing forth like hot molten lava.  Commuters either looked away, looked past her, or stared while smirking as she continued to shout at the man.

The man took the seat calmly and let her continue with her loud diatribe:

“Drink some kombucha, you bottom belly!”

“Try some fine arts to exercise your left brain, right brain, you pig!”

When the man got off at the next stop, another commuter offered him his condolences and pat him on his back as he wished him a great day.  He was smiling and unfazed.  He hadn’t let her get to him because she clearly was dealing with a whole lot of pain that had nothing to do with him.

His tap on her shoulder had simply released all that palpable rage hovering at the surface.

When these type of subway incidents occur, I only get surprised that more don’t occur with all of us jammed together, getting sloshed around as if in a snow globe.

I’ve had my share of them, from a visibly deranged White woman calling my genitalia racial slurs to a gay White man growling at me for being “so annoying.”  (I was simply sitting and existing, not eating or pushing or singing or playing any music or even breathing stank breath when I noticed him glaring at me like he wanted to hit me.  I had to ask him whassup before his eyes popped out of his head and he explained that I was “so annoying.”  Let’s just say…we had words.)

This angry lady’s diatribe reminded me once again of how we all have different triggers from different hurts that we carry with us.  And God help the stranger on the train or the colleague at work or acquaintance at your child’s school or close friend or spouse who picks the scabs offa those wounds.

Shortly after this angry lady got off the train, another lady got on.  This one was White, trying to be blonde, maybe in her early to mid-50s, carrying a bright white Prada bag.  She was not pretty but impeccably groomed, her face freshly treated to a facial and who knows what else.  Very well-dressed.  Her essence exuded a pampered, enviable existence.

She kept checking her reflection against the dark subway windows as she conversed with her subway companion, a young man, young enough to be her son (but just an acquaintance).  I couldn’t help but overhear their entire conversation as they stood right in front of me.

I started feeling annoyed by this privileged aging princess who was saying some really conceited sh*t while standing in front of me.

She kept adjusting her expensive clothes and checking out her unlined face.  I got the feeling she wanted others to hear her talking.

“…so I’ll be headed to the Amalfi Coast early June.  My friends are already there so all I have to do is show up, you know.  How easy is that?” she said as she looked around.

My annoyance began to bubble.

“Fuck you and the Amalfi Coast.  Why don’t your privileged ass just stay there and DRINK SOME KOMBUCHA, YOU BOTTOM BELLY!”

That’s when I realized that the only thing separating me from the raging lady earlier was that she said her stuff out loud while I shouted on the inside.

What we shared in common was that we took out our “stuff” onto perfect strangers who happened to push our exposed triggers.

I didn’t know this lady at all but suddenly, my wounds regarding the Haves and Have Nots, my family’s struggles and er, their lack of Amalfi Coast vacations even in the sunset of their lives, were easy to lash out against her bright white Prada purse and unnaturally unlined, pampered face.

Suddenly, I wasn’t myself, not the self that I know.  I was eyeing my Tory Birch tote bag and Gucci watch, both purchased during our Double Income No Kids days, as if those trifling labels proved my worth before this wealthy lady.  I couldn’t believe myself.  GROSS!

My lightweight Costco Calvin Klein coat that every other woman in Queens was sporting this winter and my black jeans, also from Costco, suddenly deemed me Less Than!?

I may have to give this kombucha tea a try though.  Amalfi Coast, perhaps another time. Who said the subway wasn’t educational?