How Did You Get Here?

I just got off the subway after a topsy turvy day on Roosevelt Island with the boys and our small group of buddies.

It also happened to be the hottest day of “summer” on this second day of September, the day after Labor Day.

I learned that I should follow my gut about certain excursions with the kids, like the Rockettes Christmas show that Micah wasn’t ready for, a Central Park picnic I didn’t take a stroller to, the 12 hour day in Manhattan, and several others in the Kim Outings Hall of Fame.

Despite a nagging feeling to pass on this group excursion, I went because I wanted to catch our buddies before our respective first days of school. I couldn’t shake this feeling that it was going to be a tough, raisin-in-the-sun type of long day with unexpected stressors.

Oh, and it was going to be a humid 92 degrees out, but I wanted to seem down!

The subway elevator that went eastbound from Roosevelt Island was unexpectedly broken on our way back home, after tram rides, playground, my failed attempts to feed them, sprinkler fun, rest stops, sunscreen applications, and bathroom breaks. And stroller protests. And my eye abrasion/infection that showed up out of nowhere.

Did I mention 92 degrees?

Our other little buddies went home earlier and didn’t need the elevator because they either didn’t have a stroller or had a Daddy to carry down their Strollerus Prime.

My friend and I were forced to take the only working elevator down to catch a train in the OPPOSITE direction, westbound into Manhattan, farther from home, to get to another elevator subway stop in Manhattan that would eventually take us in the right direction.

Of course, by then, it turned out to be rush hour so we were lucky to even be able to fit our huge doublestrollers onto the subway at all.

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As I was shoving my butt into a seated passenger’s face in order to fix Micah’s stroller seat, the young man asked, “Would you like to sit down so you can fix his seat?” I thanked him profusely and we got to chatting, while my friend was crammed in on the other side of the subway car.

He ended up telling me his story. I love stories.

He is a 21 year-old Puerto Rican from East New York and he just got released from his second prison term. We chatted about our respective days, first about how we were experiencing different types of exhaustion, then onto racial dynamics and implications (one of my favorite topics), his time in prison, NYC, God, and more.

I noticed that my stop was coming up so I said, “I’m totally gonna have to interrupt you to ask you a question as a mama. When you look back at your life, what do you think could have helped you stay up? What could have helped you from going down this particular path? I have to ask because I’m the mama of these two young men konked out in the stroller and I gotta do right by them.”

I confess I was fishing for an affirmation in the form of, “If only my mama had been a stay-at-home mom until I was at least five years old, taking me to museums and playgrounds all over NYC, including the Roosevelt Island tram on a hot day like today.”

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His answer?

Idle time. He had gotten into trouble because he lived in a bad neighborhood and was bored after school let out. He didn’t have an afterschool center where he could have discovered creative outlets for his restless energy.

This conversation with a perfect stranger on the subway is still percolating. I had already been thinking a lot about the different trajectories our lives take.

Our head pastor is also Puerto Rican and from East New York. Rich has mad Brooklyn pride, always trying to hoot and holler, “I’m from BROOKLYN, y’all” any chance he gets when he preaches. In fact, HE GREW UP ON THE SAME BLOCK as the young man I met on the subway!

Somehow, Rich was able to stay out of trouble and today, he is a pastor of a deeply impactful church in Elmhurst, Queens.

Though Rich is a bright dude, it wasn’t that he was simply “better” or smarter than the Subway Guy.

Sure, one can argue that we all have to take personal responsibility for our choices but it isn’t so black and white. The factors that lead to the different paths our lives take include different influences, decisions or series of decisions, missteps, a case of wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time, serendipitous good fortune, and most of all, timing.

Any one of these things can change the entire arc of our lives.

Ultimately, he was the only one who could take responsibility for certain choices that he made. However, different factors were at play to shape the mind of a young boy in the projects, leading up to his being incarcerated at the age of 16, then again at age 19.

I have always been fascinated by how so many different “ingredients” make up our lives and trajectory they take.

The family we are born into. The class we’re born into. The country we’re born into. The person we end up marrying. Having children. If those children have special needs or become ill. Just to name a few.

Sometimes, I wonder, what if I hadn’t met and fallen for this boy from CT/NY? What if Kevin hadn’t met this crazy girl from Cali? What if neither one of us had ever gone to law school? (Then we wouldn’t have such student loans! But I digress…)

And also about the future, “What is our family’s vision? Is our next step only to move into a bigger, nicer space and live the picket fence dream or should we do something radical and countercultural?”

Though I often wonder, “How did they get here?” about others, like the young man on the subway and millionaires, the pressing question I am grappling with these days is, “What is next, Lord? What am I called to do? Who am I called to be?”

But right now, I am called to join my family for dinner.


In Pursuit of Magic

People are always looking for signs. For meaning. For something more.

At least, I know I am. I know I can be completely ridiculous and try too hard at times. Recently, a friend who prays a lot asked me during a casual conversation, whether we’d like to have more kids. I raised one eyebrow and peered intensely into her face as I thought aloud, “WHY? Do you know something? Has He mentioned something? Who sent you? ARE YOU A PROPHET?”

Even on my “Bachelor in Paradise” guilty pleasure show, there is a scene where Claire is having an emotionally intimate moment with her dude on the beach, sharing about the death of her dad. Suddenly, she squeals as she notices a turtle going out into the ocean after laying a bunch of eggs. She says it is a sign from her dad. New life=new beginnings.

I especially love stories where parents have DREAMED of their child’s name, gender, or arrival.

My heart hurts when I hear of the signs that parents receive after they’ve lost their children. When they are dealing with their unimaginable grief, their child’s favorite animal just happens to show up in their backyard, or a red cardinal ends up visiting them EVERY SINGLE DAY while on vacation.

Or in the case of Kevin and Marina Krim whose two beloved children, Lulu and Leo, were murdered by their nanny in NYC in October of 2012.

Marina posted on Facebook:

“I accepted that Lulu and Leo’s physical presences were no longer with me and I needed to learn to connect with their spiritual presence. I needed to use my 5 senses ‘outside the box’ to connect with Lulu and Leo. Once I started to do that, little everyday things began to take on new meaning. This was the beginning of my lifelong scavenger hunt — clues that my Lulu and Leo were leaving me to find.”

[The title from this blog post is from Marina Krim’s post “My Pursuit of Magic” which I could not find a link for.]

One can argue that such signs are frivolous and reaching for connections when there aren’t any. Sure, there is no proof of any connection and it can all be chalked up to coincidence but you also have a choice.

To look for magic or not.

Today, I ended up being out with our boys from 8:30 am to 5 pm, for three back-to-back-to back activities. I just wanted to eke out the remaining sliver of summer.

During our second activity of the day, around the sixth hour of being out, AFTER the lucky little guy emerged from his beauty sleep in the car+stroller, I was WIPED and started to beat myself up.

“You have no one to blame but yourself. Being out like this all day, about to fall flat on your face when you should have gone home after lunch and before naps.”

I had hoped that I could rest a bit if both of them had fallen asleep during the ride over but alas, Micah and I ended up cruising all over the park and zoo while Baby Bro snoozed.

I really didn’t know how I was going to make it, strolling about 100 pounds after an already active morning, wrangling both of my wriggly guys who had just MacGyver’d out of the public bathroom stall at the zoo to expose me in my huge Korean underwear.

Thankfully(?), I only exposed myself to a friendly nanny from our co-op who happened to be visiting the zoo to pick up her charge. I was able to exchange warm greetings while the door remained open.

The boys and I ended up in the aviary. That was when things started getting magical.

Recently, we had only speed-walked through the aviary because we were always with our little buddies. I would chat with the mamas as we chased our kids up and down the ramps. We never really stopped to admire the macaws and blue-billed ducks and other winged creatures.

I noticed for the first time today, just how mesmerized my baby was. Micah, too, but especially Ellis.

And just as I had started beating myself up for being out all day and burning myself out with two more days left in the week, a skinny white bird perched in front of us, within touching distance from us.

He showed no signs of flying away.

We were beaming, thrilled to be in his presence. To have him stay awhile.

As cheesy as this sounds, I felt all this love and gratitude gushing out in that moment. So grateful to be alive and for the very reason I was so wiped out: TO BE PLAYING WITH MY KIDS TOO MUCH!

Just minutes before, I was sighing as I zipped up my shorts, about to konk out in the bathroom while peeing but as I clenched my boys in my arms with this amazing white bird with blonde tufts of “hair” joining us, I was gifted with a precious memory I can tuck away for good.

I received the “sign” to be, “It is all worth it, Mama. Your toiling away for them is NOT for NAUGHT.” I got pumped with a jolt of energy to last me a few more hours.

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The thing about the pursuit of magic? The more you look, the more you’ll find.

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.”


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.


“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!]