Craving Radical Acceptance

I’m obsessed with the idea of “Radical Acceptance” as the key to emotion regulation.

But I’m pretty sure that one of the hidden goals of radical acceptance is not to make you beat yourself up when you can’t achieve it. Especially in the midst of a harried moment.

For the big and small things in life. Big like marriage, when I try to change Kevin instead of accepting him for who he is. Small like parking, though it feels big sometimes, like today, when I’m already so tired from this week of rain and fitful sleep.

I keep telling myself not to get mad over and over again about the same thing because it’s so futile and a waste of emotional energy. And yet…

On our way back from the science museum today, the boys konked out as I’d expected. I wore #2 and strolled #1 in our cheapie stroller that he can hardly fit into. I also had to carry two bags because the image of cleaning out congealed milk later tonight grossed me out.

I could hardly stroll Micah because he was so heavy and the circulation in my hands were cut off from carrying the bags. Ellis was heavy and sweaty on my chest, no longer a baby at 20 months. It was too hot to close up the Ergo nap-flap to support his head so every few seconds, I would hold his head up and blow some air into his bangs.

Just then a woman driving pulls up right next to us, window all the way down, just to exclaim, “WOW!”

Two blocks later, I finally started down our courtyard when I saw a home aide, pointing at us and laughing, so excited to be able to show her bored and weary charge, a senior citizen, the comical sight of a short pack mule mama inching her way home with her two sleeping children. I smiled back at her because I know she meant no harm and I was actually glad if the sight of me could make a frail old man smile.

I’ve tried to practice radical acceptance by saying, “For now, this is our life. Parking out yonder in whatever kind of weather and schlepping these precious morsels who are very cute but still unhelpful.”

But in the heat of the moment, especially with my hormones out of wack this week, mental health tools fly out the window.

I start going down the dark path of unhelpful, harmful thoughts, almost like they are beckoning me; thoughts ranging from envy of those who have it easier than me to even ‘Shut the f*ck up’ thoughts towards those who have it easier but don’t seem to know it.

This is the way it goes down sometimes…Lashing out against one thing I can’t change in my life then the emotions evolve – snowballing – beyond the initial response to the one thing.

AND THEN I beat myself up by thinking, “B*tch, you also in that category, as the object of envy, with your husband as supportive and helpful as he is, unlike some husbands. And think about those who have it much much worse, wishing they had your problems. Remember how you used to pray for even a far away parking space!? How soon we forget, Israelite in the wilderness!”

But these thoughts don’t help either. In fact, the “others have it worse” ideology serves to only make me feel guilty.

When I think about how This Too Shall Pass, it doesn’t help in the moment because I realized, “Hold up, wait right there. When we do move on up, Lord willing, and we finally able to park right in front of our place, my kids won’t even need to be strolled or worn by then!”

Ironically, these past four years was the exact time we needed door-to-door service. I know I’ll look back fondly at these schlepping memories of the early years but it’s tough in the moment.

Why is it so hard to just say, “Sometimes, it’s hard. PERIOD.” Because I believe it’s all so relative so therefore, I need to shut it.

I’m trying to equip myself with better ways to handle daily stressors, through the Word, safe communities, books and other emotional health resources, but it’s slow going on days like these.

Battling Strollerus Prime and Mazd(a)cepticon: Rainy Day Edition

The lengths we go to to play somewhere other than our place.

I mentioned that yesterday, the day Ellis went missing for two minutes, we initially thought our trip to the local science museum was cancelled due to heavy rain.

But when it let up, our friends and I decided to meet there as planned.

First of all, if someone is waiting for me somewhere, I get crazed. I tense up and try my best to hustle while sweating rivulets, pressuring myself to get there fast, even though I knew the rain had thrown off everyone’s schedules and we hadn’t even agreed on a set time.

I packed up the boys, their lunches, umbrellas, and their doublestroller that is heavier than it’s ever been with the weight of my growing boys. We may have to give in and buy Micah one of those stroller boards he can stand on instead of sitting with his legs dangling towards the ground and head protruding above the canopy.

After squeezing the long contraption into our snug elevator and strolling out the lobby, I realize I hadn’t grabbed the rental car keys. Totally forgot that we were using a rental this week.

The thought of rushing back with about 75 pounds of toddlers+stroller was too much so I grabbed a familiar face and begged him to do me a big favor and stand there with the boys while I sprinted upstairs for my keys. I made it back in record time and thanked him profusely. Micah referred to these 88 seconds as “when that man babysat us.”

On the way to our parking space, it started to rain again. I buckled the boys into their carseats and attempted to break down the stroller. This thing was a huge Transformer. Strollerus Prime is never too heavy for the hubby to break down and load into the trunk but for me? OOOF!

You know when you are trying to break apart something and you start sweating and you wanna curse in the most creative ways? Strollerus was stuck and oh-so-heavy. I actually took several deep breaths and practiced mindfulness so yay(!) for progress.

I finally got it to fold but couldn’t maneuver it into the new small trunk.

Slipped a bit outta my sweaty and rained on hands, when the stroller handle punched me in the jaw. Then it landed in such a way that a long, sharp vertical prong violated me. What would our kid look like?

It continued to rain on me, mixing with my rivulets of sweat and I thought about scrapping the whole trip and strolling back home with my tail between my legs. I was already emotionally spent from Ellis’ vanishing act.

Strollerus cooperates and I finally drive off.

“Uh-oh, Micah, something is wrong. This car sounds very strange. Please let Mommy focus, okay? We can’t talk right now, please!”

Micah says, “Mommy, why this car sound like Bumblebee? Or is it a Decepticon?”

I even wondered if I was driving a stick shift, which would be impossible since I don’t know how!

I suppose I should have pulled over right then but that would be way too logical. I just tried harder to step on the gas. We couldn’t go past 40 on the highway! I came to my senses and pulled over on the local streets.

I stared at the, er, car parts that say “Park” “Rear” and “Drive.” Your name escapes me at the moment (gearshift!?). I call Kevin at work and sarcastically lash out, “Is your family’s safety not too important to you? Why didn’t you give me a heads up about this Decepticon? Like how to drive it?”

And as I was talking, I realized that I had to shift the thingamajiggie into the FAR RIGHT to truly be in Drive mode. I had been driving in something called “M” mode.

Kevin answered, “I didn’t think to tell you because I thought it was too obvious.”

ok, NOW, it's obvious but not while I was driving with precious cargo

ok, NOW, how to drive this Tetris looking mofo is obvious but not while I was driving with precious cargo

Reminded me of the time I was brand new to NYC. After the first day of taking the NY Bar Exam, I couldn’t get to Kevin’s place because I was looking for the “Fulton St” stop on the subway. I went back and forth about four times in the humid July heat until someone on the platform finally saved me by informing me that “Fulton St” is also known as “Broadway-Nassau.”

Obviously.

I apologized to Kevin later for lashing out about the Decepticon but asked him to always put himself in my shoes and err on the side of OVERexplaining if necessary.

“Practice explaining things as if you’re talking to an alien from several planets away. Don’t ever assume that something is obvious.”

The boys and I ended up having a blast at the museum with our friends. It was well worth the trouble.

We went home to curl up with our Transformer books.

50 Degrees of Separation

I’m not doing well. Burrowing in a deep dark pit, like a small rodent taking a dustbath. Squirming.

On the morning of February 13th, we fled to LA in the midst of Snowstorm Pax. I used to be really into storm names but I can hardly keep up with them now that we’ve had storm-after-storm-after-storm, sometimes within the span of a week. Have to admit that for all the anxiety that Pax caused us prior to flying out, I did like the name.

When I called the Korean cab company the night before for 5 am pick-up to JFK, they said they would not be able to reserve a car for us due to the impending storm. We’d all just have to wait and see as this storm was predicted to be a doozy. I called them back at 4 am and they said they’d send someone.

My heart was beating wildly as we loaded up the freshly awoken, footed-pajammied little ones into the cab. The snow was falling down steadily and our surroundings were already white.

We still did not know if our flight would be cancelled but it seemed highly likely according to the forecasts predicting about a foot of snow, starting 4 am through 9 am. Our flight was scheduled for 6:55 am, smack dab in the middle of Pax, but Kevin had not received a text from the airline regarding any cancellations or delays.

Kevin was somber and reminded me to manage my expectations: The flight could get cancelled after we arrived at the airport. It could get postponed by a few days since many of us would have to book a new flight. To please not get my hopes up until we actually made it off the runway.

Even after a minor delay of about an hour to de-ice the plane, we touched down at LAX on time! I still can’t believe how lucky we were. I arrived to emails from friends assuming we hadn’t made it out.

"Mommy, you dunno if we can fly out?  But the plane is right there!"

“Mommy, you dunno if we can fly out? But the plane is right there!”

We were on the only flight that made it out of the storm that morning.  If it had been cancelled, we would have lost about three days of our trip before the next available flight.

We were on the only flight that made it out of the storm that morning. If it had been cancelled, we would have lost about three days of our trip before the next available flight.

During the whole flight, I wanted to raise my hands in Halleluyer!   We had made it!  These morsels didn't know how much I worried about being able to flee.  They just knew that there was a small tv in front of them.

During the whole flight, I wanted to raise my hands in Halleluyer! We had made it! These morsels didn’t know how much I worried about being able to flee. They just knew that there was a small tv in front of them.

And now, after shaving my legs upon touching down at LAX, to rock glorious short shorts and flip flops in a land that was at least 50 degrees warmer, we are back.

The thing is…while here in NYC, I thought I was holdin’ it down relatively fine. After all, I’m going on nine years this October. What choice do I have but to live life yul-shee-mee (“diligently”)?

The only place I’ve ever experienced being someone’s wife, someone’s attorney, and someone’s mama is here in NYC.

But this winter has definitely been siphoning my mojo from me. I didn’t even know about the robbing of the mojo until faced with the possibility of being stuck here for days longer if our flight were cancelled, then actually experiencing healing and calm just by spending time in my hometown, with the sun literally warming my body and soul. Sun + Family + Friends + Being able to walk out the door without winter gear = Life-giving visit.

Reminds me of that movie, “The Bridges of Madison County,” where Meryl Streep was married to a nice but dull man. She remained devoted to him and was a dutiful wife and mother, holdin’ it down at home as best as she could in the only life she knew, until Clint Eastwood comes into town and shows her what she’s been missing.

LA was my Clint Eastwood.

Nibbling on Cara Cara oranges in the sun,

slurping down oysters at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market,

swinging by the local playground in shorts and flip-flops at 6 pm IN FEBRUARY,

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getting photographed in Malibu with the sand between our toes,

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subsisting on authentic Mexican food including homemade tortillas, spicy chilaquiles, and too many nacho platters in the name of “vacation,”

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talking unabashedly with girlfriends who’ve known me for at least a decade,

watching my sons, especially the playground deprived newbie frolic about on beautifully plump, bare toddler feet, feeding ducks, hiking mountain trails, and riding ponies – ALL THINGS YOU CAN DO IN THE OUTDOORS when it is not a frozen tundra framed with weeks-old snow.

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This winter has been the most brutal yet. The lowest temps (first time I heard of “Polar Vortex”) and the most snow. According to our doorman, it has been the worst winter since 1983 or 1984.

I remember the winter of 2010-2011 producing at least seven snowstorms before we fled to LA with our 11 week-old firstborn.

When Cali friends would often comment, “How do you handle living out there with the two little ones?”

The answer was simple.

“Because I have to. Because this is all I know.” You mean, there is an alternate universe where I wouldn’t have to carry my child over a snowbank, while the other smaller child waits patiently in his stroller for his turn to be carried over the same snowbank?

Or where I won’t be slippin’ and slidin’ when the bigger child refuses to cross the street in the middle of a traffic jam?

(Yes. See Clint Eastwood above).

This trip to LA was especially painful due to how tough things have been emotionally and on the homefront. Reminds me of the movie “Sliding Doors” with a drab-lookin’ Gwyneth Paltrow back in the day. This trip was like watching what my life would have been like had I walked through a different door, raising my boys with my tribe, in the sun, dealing with traffic and smog instead.

(I know there is no benefit in regretting or thinking “what if” but that is where I’m at now, a bit of wallowing before I climb out of my pit.)

I realized, through this trip, that our values and must-haves are ever-evolving.

For instance, I now know that I NEEEEEED sun the way I NEEEEEEED exercise. It is healing. It provides energy that I didn’t know I was missing until I noticed how alive folks were in SoCal while many people here seem to just DEALING with life during these harsh winter months.

When we hiked Coldwater Canyon, I wanted to jump into so many of the conversations that women were having with one another as hiking in and of itself lends itself to quality gabbing. And again, the sun energy was so potent. People would shower Micah and Ellis with so much affection and open adoration in a way that was markedly different from NYC. They didn’t hesitate to step to us just because we were strangers.

Everyone’s energy was on and poppin’ because they weren’t spending it clearing snow off the roof of their cars, shoveling their cars out to go food-shopping and considering that a victorious afternoon, or stuck running with active toddlers in the basement hallways to burn off their energy since outdoors is almost never an option these days.

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I tried not to overschedule during this visit. I usually try to meet at least one friend per day while I’m there and while that sounds so doable, it’s stressful to arrange. The few girlfriends I did reconnect with made me have another Sliding Doors moment.

Imagine the revolutionary concept of being friends since junior high, high school, or college, then becoming mamas and raising our kids together instead of the way I did it. “You’re a mom, I’m a mom, we live in walking distance, so let’s at least try to be friends.” Don’t get me wrong. The local mama friends that I’ve been blessed to do life with are gifts. They kept me from going at this all alone and will always hold a special place in my heart when I look back on my boys’ early years, especially the raw first year.

Also blessed to have my spiritual communities through church and small groups.

I’m just talking about the organic way of being friends for years first and then naturally navigating through motherhood together.

So we’re back and I’m taking it pretty hard. Prior to the day we flew back home to NYC, I called the airline a few times to brainstorm about how I can stay back for at least another week. But I was jerked back to reality when Micah took a big fall smack onto his nose on parking lot asphalt.

We all boarded the plane as planned. Suddenly, I was on the plane again, being transported to my colder life in NYC and already in Mom-on-Plane mode, like grabbing a sippy cup in the nick of time when Micah just HAD to pee as the plane took off the runway. And humiliating myself by asking Amy Poehler for a picture at THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME.

So while I can do it and I have done it, I no longer want to do life in this way, where good weather days are treated like holidays. I do agree that there is no place like NYC even though I’m tempted to fight with (annoying) NYC enthusiasts who will cut you if you won’t bow down to it being the Be All End All and dare compliment another city. It just ain’t for me at this mature age and life stage.

Being a sensitive soul prone to intense emotions, I neeeeeeeed my sun. I need my tribe. I need my mojo back.

And when I miss the novelty of frigid temps or humid summers, I can always visit.

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2.27.14  back to running laps in the basement hallway.  even if mama bothered to bundle them back up after naps to go outside for fresh air, too cold to stay out for long.

2.27.14 back to running laps in the basement hallway. even if mama bothered to bundle them back up after naps to go outside for fresh air, too cold to stay out for long.

EZ Pass Whilst Swervin’ in the Slush…

“Think there’s something wrong with our car. There’s a dark yellow cartoon that keeps popping up on the dashboard. Lookin’ like a car with squigglies around it. Am I okay to keep driving today?”

“That just means the car is swerving,” explained Kevin.

“Oh, aight then. Not sure what it’s telling me to do because I’mma keep swervin’ in this slurpee snow globe.”

A couple days ago, we had another snowstorm. I should have kept an accurate count as to what number storm this is in the past two months or even in 2014 thus far. Could these frequent snowstorms be attributed to the polar vortex?

We got more than 8 inches here in NYC and it brought us a gorgeous winter wonderland. Soft, fluffy snow and trees with powder-white branches, encased in an icy shell, looking nearly edible. A party planner would drool over this backdrop.

2.3.14 my gentleman callers outside our window

2.3.14 my gentleman callers outside our window

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Snowbanks are so high by the curb that I have to lift my boys over them while I am forced to step knee-deep right into them. A groundskeeper in our co-op asked me, “Aren’t you cold?” and I realized I hadn’t even zipped up my jacket as there was too much carrying of gear and bundling up of the little ones, plus random Micah artwork I was holding.

The aftermath of the winter wonderland is hitting us hard today. We had more snow AND freezing rain overnight AGAIN so the streets are even slushier and that cartoon on my dashboard is showing up more frequently.

“YOU SWERVIN’, LADY.”

“Yes. Thank you.”

People are annoyed by this mess yet I’m starting to wonder if I’ve Turned.

This October will mark my 9th year living in NYC. Though I was raised in LA and schooled in both LA and the Bay Area, I have never had the experience of being a married woman or a mama in Cali. I’m curious what ajummamahood in my home state would be like.

Would I strangely miss all this weather drama if we were to relocate to sunny SoCal? Could I have Turned so much that everyday temps in the 70s could possibly…bore me? The many months of brutal cold and humid summers are vexing, no doubt, but I wonder if this has become my New Normal so much so that I would twitch in a land where I don’t have to check the weather updates constantly? I’m sure a part of me would actually miss Mother Nature’s mood swings.

This week has been an unexpected move towards deliberate gratitude. It had become too easy to audibly groan with the slush and lack of sun all around – being forced to stay home and surrounded by drudgery – but strangely, I’ve also experienced unexpected pick-me-ups in the midst of these bad weather days.

For instance, I’ve been getting so blessed with good parking, better than in good weather. I rolled up to Bible Study at a friend’s place and was able to park in a spot that someone had JUST dug his car out of, leaving a perfectly cleared spot for my car, like a small coffin in the snow. It was too good to be true. I asked around, “Is this a legit parking spot!? Or is there a fire hydrant hidden away in the snowbank?” The other dude digging his car out of the snow said, “Nope, you’re good! You can park there.”

This has been happening a lot this week. Parking blessings. A BIG DEAL in these parts. Truly unexpected.

Last night, Micah and I were returning from Long Island when I got distracted for one second. (I’m driving more than usual during this slushy mess for some reason). I rely 100% on GPS so I actually have no clue where I am without the GPS lady’s voice directing me. Either she didn’t direct me early enough, I just didn’t hear her over Micah’s Music for Aardvarks CD, or I ended up looking at the map that goes along with the GPS voice and I missed the highway I was supposed to continue on.

I found myself driving on an unfamiliar part of the highway and noticed a tollbooth and a beautifully lit bridge coming up.

I called Kevin on speakerphone. “Yeahhh, so I’m on this beautiful bridge. It has a gross name: Throgs Neck Bridge. No possible U-turn before a tollbooth right?”

“What?! Jihee-yah, how did you end up over there? No possible U-turn.”

“Well, we not gonna be home for a good long while then. Wish me luck.”

Micah chimes in, “Mommy, we lost? You don’t know where we going?”

Siighhhhh….”I’m so sorry, Micah. Mommy made a mistake and yes, we are lost but we will get home soon. We are going to turn off your music so Mommy can CONCENTRATE and listen to the GPS better, OK?”

“OK, Mommy. Watch the road!”

There on that bridge, I wanted to practice mindfulness and a deliberate gratitude. “Mindfulness” and “gratitude” have been such buzzwords in recent years that I may have rebelled against them at times, but they are so necessary in my life right now, especially to combat the word that I keep meditating on unhealthily instead: DRUDGERY.

The drudgery of picking up the toys and shoes and winter hats and wiping down chairs and picking up dropped sippy cups leaking milk onto the rug and playmats. Begging the kids to eat, now Ellis, too, since he doesn’t feast the way he used to. Repeating myself constantly.

Gratitude hasn’t been coming to me all that naturally, the way it used to my very first year of mamahood where even the drudgery was connected to the awe and wonder of having my first baby. Lately, I’d been feeling like so much was a dang bother, like simply leaving the house with kids, making sure they aren’t overheating or exposed to the elements. And our brief trips out, mostly for school dropoff or pickup, consisted mostly of rushing back in with our winter gear to avoid the chill of the polar vortex or the slush and slip n slide of snowstorm #7.

My NATURAL inclination was to beat myself into a bloody pulp for getting lost driving a route I’ve done a few times now (though never in the dark).

“What the hell is wrong with you? How you gonna get lost, even with the GPS and now you have to spend money going thru a tollbooth you have no business being anywhere near! Oh wait, you need to make a U-turn right past that tollbooth at the next exit so that means you gotta pay again? Way to go, blowing $15 on toll after saying we must save more money this year!”

But a small miracle occurred in my inner dialogue. I didn’t follow the same mental route I usually take. (Perhaps to match the usual route I didn’t take going home?).

I opened the window a smidge to get some fresh air up into my nostrils, thanked Micah for being so helpful and patient (and even encouraging), tried to enjoy the spontaneous excursion via bridge and got us home after about a 40 minute delay.

As we drove to our parking spot, Micah cheered, “Mommy! This is our home! We not lost any more.”

When I walked in the door, Kevin looked apprehensively at me. He knows how badly I beat myself up when I make mistakes. Something I definitely need to work on as it has wreaked havoc on me for years now.

He was surprised when I smiled and said, “Yeah, so I’m not gonna throw a fit. Totally was gonna go that route but I am so tired and thankfully, we only got lost. No accident. And hey, you know I love a beautiful bridge. Maybe not worth $15 for a drive-by but oh well, memories.”

“I still dunno how you ended up on that highway but hey, stuff happens.” I could tell he wants to crack up about my clumsy navigating even with the Godsend of an iPhone GPS but he wouldn’t dare just in case I decided to beat myself up after all.

“And if it makes you feel ANY better, we do have an EZ Pass so we’re going to be charged less than that. Wow, I have to say I’m proud of you for being able to let it go. We all make mistakes.”

Huh, EZ Pass. I like the sound of that for beyond saving money at tollbooths. Next time I sweat the small stuff, I’m going to give myself an “EZ Pass” out of it, as long as I learn my lesson and do better the next time I’m in a similar situation. Such a small step but it was progress for someone who self-flagellates like it’s her job. It was amazing to not go down the same treacherous path and salvage what remained of the evening. Thankful for the bad weather to make me check myself.

Progress, Not Perfection.

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“Grown Ups” Meets “Joy Luck Club” Meets Horse and Buggy: Our trip to Lancaster, PA

On Sunday, we returned from our first mini-vacation with three other families in Lancaster, PA. Having similarly-aged kiddies, a total of six boys and one girl, made for too many precious moments to list, but here are some of our freshly pressed memories from our extended Labor Day weekend:

1. The precious kiddos.

As if we didn’t exclaim “awww” every other moment with our own kids? You should have seen us practically combust when we saw our kids holding hands with each other, as they excitedly ran from ride to ride at Dutch Wonderland.

Watching this next generation of little guys (and gal) form their earliest friendships, squealing with delight because everything was more fun with their friends? Priceless. (…though it stung when my not-yet-three-year-old would reject Mommy’s hand in front of his friends!)

When we got back to our hotel that first night, we caught Micah “calling” his buddy on the huge fossilized landline at least three times, his drooly mouth pressed against the mouthpiece, asking his friend if he wants to sleep over, and saying, “Hold on. You coming NOW? Oh, okay. I’m heaah,” to the No One on the other end of the phone call. And imitating his friend’s robot dance moves.

Our Ellis: the youngest of the bunch right after his big bro, but the only infant among the kiddies, turned 11 months old during the trip, cruising on his little padded feet toward toddlerhood. Waiting in the doublestroller or on Mommy’s torso for most of the rides.

Plus, the combination of Asian + social media generation + parents of little ones = most camera crazed bunch ever.

2. It was just SO EASY.

Like breathing. We didn’t have to explain anything since we are basically leading parallel lives thanks to the life stage we’re in. We didn’t have to do the usual, “Oh, sorry, he just gets excited sometimes. It’s also past his bedtime.” In fact, ALL the kiddies were chasing each other around the table by the end of our first Amish dinner. We were all in the same boat.

We understood when our Girls’ Night Out or Girls By the Pool didn’t happen because during dinner, we were pretty much calculating the bathtime and bedtime routines that had to happen before we could MAYBE catch some sleep that first night, before a FULL day at the amusement park the next day. It was refreshing, not having to ‘splain or apologize for the mundane but necessary parental duties that make us crave rest more than a night out.

No need to explain what you meant for fear that you are making your usually gentle child sound like a terror when you send a group message that reads, “Hey, we were tortured from about 5:20 am to 7 am so we are trying to get in a nap before breakfast. See you when the park opens.”

Or when a few of the kids were taking turns being cranky from being woken up prematurely before dinner, it didn’t faze us. Just another meal with toddlers. Of course someone is gon’ be upset. Such a breath of fresh air for parents of little ones, not having to feel guilty for ruining the meal for fellow dinner companions.

We were just happy to be out eating something other than the kids’ rejected leftovers. Over the din of the upset kid of the hour, we just continued with the convo, while soothing a kid or three: “Dude, you really are NOT ashamed to watch ‘Glee,’ huh? You PROUD!”

3. A change of pace from the usual suspects.

As much as we love spending quality family time with just our Li’l Kims, “the more, the merrier” rang true as we laughed and chatted in line at the park, while wrangling the kids, under sprinklers at the waterpark, and at meals.

It also showed the kids how important friendships and community are. Just as no man is an island, no family should be one either.

We even ran into some more familiar faces at the park, including folks who live in our building, as well as a large family from our church.

The laid-back, youthful, fun dad of five kids(!) came up to our entirely Asian-American crew and pretended to call us out, “Hey, guys! Wassup? Thought we were supposed to be a multi-ethnic church, huh?”

“Yup, that’s why we mixed it up. We the Koreans among the Chinese!” I responded.

“Naah, hahahaa, we came here with only other Koreans ourselves.”

The girls and I ended up playing a bit of “Chinese or Korean?” without having to explain. (The name “Lilian?” Definitely Chinese. The name “Roseanne or Rose Anything?” We couldn’t come to a consensus).

4. Lessons learned.

I am hoping that Kevin will add to this with a post of his own, as he sacrificed himself, suffering the brunt of the early morning interrogation, but one lesson learned: Don’t reveal even a broad itinerary to a 33 month-old boy with a relentless memory. After our full day at Dutch Wonderland, we stupidly mentioned that the next day, we were going to see our friends again and play at the Farm together. Micah was so excited about that piece of info, he woke up around 5:20 am and proceeded to ask us, “We going to Farm NOW? Please let’s go to Farm NOW?” in 58 different inflections. The torture ended around 7 am when he succumbed to a “nap.”

You bess belee I ain’t telling dude about our roadtrip to a wedding next week.

5. Memories of our little family.

…having the hotel pool all to ourselves before we checked out. I will never forget the faces of our little morsels looking so elated as we swam them towards each other over and over again.

6. Journeying together.

Watching all of us just tryna do right by our kids, even as these kids were clearly the bosses, leading us from ride to ride, it felt… “dundunheh” (Korean for “solid”) to know that we are not doing this on a deserted island by the sheer talents and will of just the two of us. We all strugglin’, rejoicin’, learnin’, jackin’ up, learnin’ some more, pullin’ out our rapidly greying herr, repeatin’ mistakes and not learnin’, and lovin’ HARD.

7. Body hair.

When the hubs eagerly volunteers to run down to the front desk late at night to ask for a razor on your behalf, after you had just proclaimed that you “cool” about heading to the waterpark the next day without shaving, you can’t help but wonder if he comin’ from a place of thoughtfulness or a place of shame.

[How was y’all’s long weekends? Happy birthday to you Labor Day babies out there, young and old! Happy Start of School Season, too!]

Most Reviled

Fondly remembering last year’s Mother’s Day. Ellis was living in my womb and we didn’t know he’d be a boy (though I was not able to imagine a girl poppin’ out). Continue reading for more…

ajummama

A few months ago, my husband asked me to save the dates, the weekend before Mother’s Day.

“Schedule nothing – no playdates, no kiddie birthday parties.”

He knows how much I savor (good) surprises, the build-up of anticipation even MORE than the actual event sometimes.  So when I learned that he was going to take 1.5 precious vacation days off for this surprise, I knew what was gonna go down.

Obviously, only one possibility.  To visit his groomsman and his family in his new home in Portland, Maine. Totally made sense – quick plane ride, close enough to spend only three days there, a place to stay, and we had been talking about visiting ever since they moved there last year. I didn’t bother to guess any more until the actual day of our trip, as I was completely sure of myself.

No brainstorming necessary.

One thing that threw me…

View original post 1,178 more words

superbowl (of ramen) saturday

Today was a Saturday not unlike other Saturdays since we’ve become a family of four.

But for some reason, today, I kept thinking, “This is my life.

Not when it gets easier or when I get thinner or when it gets warmer or when our home gets bigger.

When I am 62, I will look back at these moments with heartfelt longing. When I touch my grown sons’ stubbled cheeks, my mind will replay these mental pictures.”

Moments like:

Leaving the house at 9 am for Micah’s small soccer class. Packing double diapers, double stroller, double emergency outfits. Watching him grin bashfully as he learns his “squish-squash” toe-stop toddler soccer drills. His European coaches cheering “GOAL!” in encouragement.

Rushing to get both kids in the car as temperatures continue to drop (now ending with snow on the ground as I write this). “I got Micah, you get baby.” “Did you pack his juice?” “You sure you didn’t leave your wallet/phone/purse at soccer?”

Watching Micah play with his little church friends as we adults gather in our friends’ basement to discuss what Shalom in the City means. Amazed that he can now separate and stay with a babysitter. He started attending this Family Small Group when he was only a few months old and now here he is, in his huge soccer jersey, playing with puzzles and strumming a toy guitar, with a little brother in tow.

Driving from Long Island to Astoria to make it to a one year old’s birthday party. Just as we had planned, Micah konks out as soon as we belt him into his carseat. Nap, check. Relieved he won’t be dazed and looney at the party. We crack up as we see a European man in his black Escalade driving next to us with his stubble and sportcoat, eating an instant bowl of Shin Ramen! I do a double-take to make sure he really is eating ramen out of the styrofoam ramen bowl, not recycling and reusing it to fill with chips or peanuts. He has chopsticks in them so he is actually eating this as he drives! Amazing. Ballsy. Quirky.

Escalade Ramen Man inspires our lunch. We happen to drive by a Japanese ramen house once we get to Astoria so I run in to get our ramens to go, though Taco Bell or Subway would’ve been easier to eat. To Go means eating it in our car as Micah continues to sleep and passersby peer into our car, windows steaming from the marriage of hot broth and cold outside air. We have to assemble the contents of the hot ramen very delicately and cautiously in the front console, setting different bowls of food on the dashboard. We tagteam eat as Ellis has woken up and is seated in Daddy’s lap, just taking in his surroundings and grooving to Eminem’s new song (or what we think is his new song). While it took some juggling and it wasn’t as convenient as dining in at the restaurant, we are content, our bellies warm and nourished.

We get to the birthday party exactly on time, but Micah is still snoozing away so we leave him be. We find out there are two flights of stairs at the party so Daddy helps escort Ellis (in his heavy infant carseat) and me as our friend who we ran into while parking, stays with sleeping Micah.

Micah joins the party and explores the venue with his neighborhood friends. Friends he met when he was Ellis’ age. They are now climbing, jumping, calling each other by name, getting their pictures taken by at least three iPhones at once. All of us have second kids now.

The night gets colder. Snow is falling. Micah does his pre-bath routine of running around nekked then sprinting into my arms for a final bearhug before heading to the bathtub with Daddy. Ellis has developed a strange quirk in the past month, of nursing only while lying down, and only in the bedroom. Can’t bear to make him get hungry enough to break the habit. Today he takes lots of breaks even while lying down, blowing bubbles and making fart noises with his little lips, which he seems to have discovered anew. We put Micah to bed together, noting that his posse of stuffed animals needs to get capped off at six.

What a full, blessed day. No big milestones and not unlike others but sometimes the best days are when I can clearly see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

“Jesus Christ”

Had so many things to write down from our trip back home to LA but if they don’t get typed out right quick, hard to capture the essence of the memories. So many pictures still on our camera. Hope to write about them eventually but not holding my breath especially with my recent bout of drowsiness and lethargy. We in Third Trimester Territory now!

A big entry like “LA Trip” is too daunting to write up during a half-hour break but thankfully, venting/tattling flows freely from me like water.

Micah has been to LA three times now. First trip at 11 weeks old after the seven snowstorms in NYC made mama pack up the family and flee. Second trip at around 13.5 months old. Third trip was a few weeks ago at full-fledged toddler age of about 19 months old. Worst flight yet.

Early a.m. flight means he needs to nap while on the plane especially after we woke him up around 5 a.m. Hard to succumb to the much-needed nap due to sensory overload and no place to stretch out since he is still in our laps. We start paying for a seat once he turns two. We brought a bag full of distractions: snacks, toys, books, my phone, our tablet. We are all strapped in but we do not take off. For 90 minutes. Having to restrain him is brutal. He wants to walk up and down the aisles or at least have daddy take him around in his arms but he has to stay seated. We try to distract him with our bag of goodies but they aren’t too helpful. Kevin is exasperated trying to restrain him but I am so worried about getting lightheaded that I still manage to eat a boiled egg during this stressful time. (I am willing to share my bounty but Kevin is having too hard of a time to even think about eating. I eat his egg, too).

Even after we take off, it’s not pleasant. Micah is whining because…who knows why? He’s a toddler. I apologize to the passenger sitting next to me. “I’m sorry about this. It’s gonna be a long flight for all of us [nervous laughter]. It’s hard for us to hear, too.” She was from Brooklyn, young and hip. “Don’t even worry about it. I’m a nanny. I’m gonna sleep the whole way with my earplugs on.” Thank you Jesus. That brings a little relief during this whiny period. Speaking of Jesus…

There is a lovey dovey couple sitting in front of us. The dude is clearly whupped on the gal. They are kissing and smushed up against each other, nuzzling. Direct contrast from the harried, sweaty couple behind them – us. The “Fasten Your Seatbelts” sign keeps lighting up so we have to restrain Micah many times and he is protesting. I have a blanket around my neck, dry cereal all over my body, a few packets of snacks on and under my thighs, fake food toys under my butt. Kevin has crazy eyes under his glasses and whispers, “Ji-yah. It sounded like I was abusing him in the restroom. I’m so embarrassed. Micah screamed and peed all over me as I tried to change his diaper. I’m not gonna lie. If there was an eject button in there to jump out the plane with a parachute, I would not be here right now. I’m sorry to have to tell you.”

We both started laughing because Kevin sounded like me for once. He never complains but this time, he admitted that he would’ve abandoned us by choosing to fall from the sky instead of being where he was now. He started laughing some more when he saw just how much crap was strewn all over me.

“Que bin, I really can’t wait to do this next year with a newborn, too! Just imagine that for a moment.”

Oh, back to Jesus.

Micah started another round of whining as he wanted to nap but couldn’t get his bearings on this packed plane. The gal in front of us stops making out with her boyfriend to exhale dramatically and exclaim, “JESUS CHRIST!” when Micah got going again.

Oh no she didn’t. Did I hear right?

“JESUS CHRIST” again as she adjusted herself on her dude’s shoulders.

“Que bin, you KNOW I’mma have to fight her now!” My body grows hot.

“Ji-yah, don’t! She has every right to be annoyed. His whining is annoying, even to us.” He always play devil’s advocate. To offset my playing the devil.

“OH MY GOD. Of COURSE she has every right to be annoyed but she needs to be a decent, empathetic human and talk trash about us to her friends once we deplane, not passive-aggressively exclaim ‘Jesus Christ’ after each whine. That would be the courteous thing to do! We are doing everything we can and her ‘Jesus Christ’ is so wrong! As if we aren’t stressed enough!” (I start to passive-aggressively talk trash about her loudly, daring her to turn around and respond. Choice words about entitlement, not having enough balls to complain to our faces, and related matters.)

And speaking of my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. I never appreciated it when people used his name in substitution for a choice curse word. I would never do that to y’alls gods.

I thought about what would happen if I did tell her off especially in my agitated state. How the air marshall would have to get involved and how I may be banned from future flights. And I did want to return and present my newborn to my loved ones. So I held my tongue.

But when she went to the restroom, I was so tempted to tap her dude and say, “Psssst. Hey. You may think I’m just a crazy lady with a whiny toddler but one day you will recall my words. You may think you in love now with that skinny li’l gal but ohhhh trust me, someone who keeps loudly muttering ‘Jesus Christ’ about a whiny toddler lacks heart. NOT wifey material. You’re gonna want you a woman who maturely and patiently waits to vent until after the flight. I wish her many bad flights with triplet babies about ten years from now. But you. You can change your fate by letting her go.”

I smiled as I fantasized about being able to tell him that. Micah was in better spirits after a short cat nap on our laps. I took him back to the flight attendant area to explore and chat with them. I tattled on the “Jesus Christ” gal because tattling usually makes me feel better. They made him a balloon with their latex gloves. A beautiful mama of four kiddies, flying alone, joined us and presented Micah with a makeshift puppet she had made out of the vomit bag. Now that’s true wifey material.

Our flight back to NYC was just about perfect as it was in the afternoon. He was able to nap at the gate for about 90 minutes before we got on the plane. Many empty seats, too. No whining. No “Jesus Christ.”

Most Reviled

A few months ago, my husband asked me to save the dates, the weekend before Mother’s Day.

“Schedule nothing – no playdates, no kiddie birthday parties.”

He knows how much I savor (good) surprises, the build-up of anticipation even MORE than the actual event sometimes.  So when I learned that he was going to take 1.5 precious vacation days off for this surprise, I knew what was gonna go down.

Obviously, only one possibility.  To visit his groomsman and his family in his new home in Portland, Maine. Totally made sense – quick plane ride, close enough to spend only three days there, a place to stay, and we had been talking about visiting ever since they moved there last year. I didn’t bother to guess any more until the actual day of our trip, as I was completely sure of myself.

No brainstorming necessary.

One thing that threw me off was that said groomsman was posting pictures of his family in Disney World. Either this was an elaborate ploy to throw me off (which I squashed right away as his family is on his Facebook and he wouldn’t want to confuse them) or aha! I got it. We were going to meet them in Florida and stay at E’s father’s condo. I even teased Kevin, “Hey, can I write ‘see you soon’ on E’s Wall before our flight so that he knows that I already know. Why am I your fave wrestler right now? Just call me Triple H because I am that damn good!”

Kevin just smiled. Oh, I knew that smile. I’d embarrassed the poor guy by guessing the whole weekend correctly in one fell swoop, after all his efforts to surprise me!

Kevin came home from a half-day, with a kale/apple/lemon juice on the rocks from a juice stand by his office to healthily kick off my early Mother’s Day adventure. He impressed me by showing me all of Micah’s clothes he had packed for the trip. He asked me not to look through his own suitcase as some clues might get revealed. He packed a lot of my stuff, including my hideous bathing suit and a couple dresses. I added some staples like maternity pants and cardigans. I asked him if he had told our doorman that we will be away for the weekend and he said he had taken care of it a while back (I confess that Nervous Nelly me snuck away to remind him even after Kevin had assured me).

It was game time – we had to raise up out of our apartment and get to JFK.

But M was not dressed in his “public clothes” as he was wearing some worn hand-me-downs that should not be handed down to one more generation of babies. I asked K to please change M’s outfit but K said, “Just let him wear this. It’s comfortable.” I said, “We really need to stop choosing comfort over everything. He can still be presentable while comfy!” So K relented and changed M.

We got to JFK two hours before our flight. We wheeled all of our belongings while K carried M who was excitedly looking around in the parking lot. I ended up strolling K’s suitcase as I told him to just watch out for M, I can totally handle strolling their stuff at the very least. K also assured me that leaving our car in the parking lot over the weekend was not going to be too pricey. He also assured me that someone would be arriving at our destination with a carseat for M. I said, “Of course. E or E’s dad will be picking us up then? How sweet of them!”

Once we got inside JFK, K looked around for seats. I said I don’t need to sit but he can go ahead and catch his breath before security. He said, “No, let’s all sit together as a family.” OH SH*T. I started to feel weird and less cocky about my certainty that we were going to Maine/Florida that day.

We sat down and he handed me a pink envelope. “Jihee-yah. First, just read the card, then you can look at what’s inside.”

OH SH*T, OH SH*T, OH SH*T. Weird feeling. Not so cocky now.

I opened the envelope and read the sweet Mother’s Day card inside. Then I opened up a folded up piece of paper inside. Tears started flowing down my cheeks like the drool from my boy’s drooliest mouth.

ONE boarding pass for ONE Jihee Lee from JFK to LAX from Thurs night to Sunday redeye.

“No, no, no…I don’t need a break. Really. Don’t send me away. Dontsendmeaway! I’m good right here.”

“And wait, how!? I just talked to my parents today and they knew something but…but not this!? They couldn’t have kept THIS to themselves, their big mouths! And I’ve been emailing with J and S. J even asked me where I was going on FB today. I’ve never been apart from Micah – EVER! Go from zero to FOUR nights away!?” He assured me that he had already planned a fun-filled weekend with his boy and that I need not worry about a thing…that I should just savor my last moments with M here before I walked through security.

He had planned this since the moment our second pregnancy test said “PREGNANT” (with baby #2). SINCE FEBRUARY! My girls were in on it since then, too!

UTTER SHOCK. (AT THAT MOMENT AND FOR ABOUT A WEEK AFTER).

Once I started getting used to the idea that in about six hours, I would be back home in LA, on a flight all by myself again like back in 2010, maybe even reading trashy magazines instead of wrangling in my boy in the aisles of the plane, I told K not to prolong the inevitable. We should just say goodbye right then or else it will be too hard for me to go through with. Let’s just rip off the band-aid.

All this time, M was just running around the airport and excitedly exploring. He did reach out for me as we said goodbye but I hugged him lots, made only one U-turn before security lines to give one more hug and kiss.

Then I was off for one night with my parents and the rest of the weekend with my girls. I was in shock while I waited in the security lines. Everything was falling into place. K’s fake luggage turned out to be filled with a bag full of M’s old clothes that we needed to put away for storage. K had never talked to our doorman because there was no need. He didn’t want to change M out of his tore-up clothes because he knew he ain’t going nowhere! My girls, too, were suspect, now that I think about it. They didn’t ask their usual million follow-up questions about K’s surprise project. They too easily said, “Alright, then, have fun!” instead of gushing about K and how they liked him more than they liked my crazy ass.

The weekend was legendary. For both me and my boys. Sure I thought about my boys constantly, like a movie I couldn’t turn off in my head, but I was incredibly gifted with this last hurrah before baby #2 to recharge and exhale and remember me, myself, and I once again. My boys went to the Hall of Science, the park, a Mets game with our friends, and more.

When they visited some friends on Long Island that Saturday, the men, all fathers of toddlers, tried to deny entrance to K as they claimed that he had lost his man card for sending me away for that long and giving their wives some funny ideas. So, this is the story of how my husband, for one weekend in May, became the Most Reviled Husband in NYC (or as much as I could crank out during M’s nap!).

moments after being surprised!

5.6.12 my boys holding it down at Mets game while mama away (pic by Uncle AO)

1.10.12 behind closed doors

Please don’t misunderstand my previous post as my hating on my hometown. The dogging on my mama could’ve happened anywhere but I was just taken aback because I expected extra warmth and friendliness from my ‘hood. I’ve now been enjoying LA once again. So many more strangers doting on my Micah here, maybe because the weather is so nice so people have the leisure to just stop and coo over him. I’ve also been floored by the gushing customer service here, whether it’s at Target or at the mall. The employees actually come up to ME and ask if there is any way they can help. I really wanted to hug them. At the neighborhood Key Food that we are forced to shop at from time to time back in NYC, the cashiers will not even look up from texting when ringing me up.

Today, we visited my friend from college in Agoura Hills, CA. Afterwards, I stopped by a nearby store to shop for a dress for one of my best friend’s wedding this Saturday. I didn’t have much time as we have a packed schedule here so I rushed to try on a handful of stuff while Kevin and Micah waited for me. Micah was having a good ol’ time in the shopping cart. As I rushed back into the dressing room to try on my next dress, I briefly caught a glimpse of a white lady in her 60s and her daughter in her 40s making some friendly chitchat to Micah (and Kevin).

Then they came into the dressing room right next to me and started gabbing.

“Mom! You had a sensor on your top! That means you stole that top! You totally did -Admit it right now. HAHAHAAA”

“Oh, stop it! Listen, I had such a hard time with the top because of that sensor. The employee had left it on and I had to go all the way back to tell them to take it off. The manager asked me which employee had rang me up and listen, I was SO genteel about it. You should’ve seen me. I was SO genteel. I just said, ‘The black man.'”

“Right. You couldn’t have said, ‘Look, Buckwheat over there.'”

[Bonding KKK laughter between mother and daughter]

I wondered if I should say something. I usually do but when I do, it is just a spewing forth of explosive emotion. And what could I say? Don’t they have freedom of speech? And I should say something wise and penetrating, instead of, “Shut the hell up you nasty KKK!” So I opted not to say anything.

I wish I could say I was appalled but I wasn’t. Depending on the topic, I can swing from being a bright-eyed idealist to a hard-nosed cynic. When it comes to issues of race, I am a cynic. I expect most people to talk like this behind closed doors. Even seemingly sweet women who dote on my Oriental, china doll, model minority, submissive Bruce Lee baby, can then proceed to go into the “privacy” of their own dressing room to laugh too loudly about their disgusting Buckwheat comment.

Kevin and I discussed this while driving to dinner. Playing devil’s advocate, we imagined what the women would say in their defense. What if the dude looked exactly like Buckwheat? Granted, that could be something of a defense but the tone and tenor of their comments and laughter as white women definitely made my stomach react. And sometimes, all we have is that gut feeling.