That Raccoon Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy empanadas for speedy lunch on the run.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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post swim foraging

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post swim ride home – feeling relaxed and happy and hungry

 

 

 

 

Flipping the Script on Envy

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

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

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

linea negra faint black line down my belly,

gagging while brushing teeth,

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

and popping Tums for dessert night after night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(photos of my blessings below)

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

Every Good and Perfect Gift

I don’t know how to talk about what is going on in our country right now so I will only talk about my own small world.  For now, I only have to visit my o.b. monthly.  While waiting to be seen by my very popular doctor this past week, I reminisced about how each pregnancy experience was different in many ways, but also same in the sheer awe and gratitude I always bask in.

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I kept forgetting to take these time capsule pics so I did two in a row this week.

For MLK, my first, I was working.  Everything was new.  No other children.  I would ask friends on FB what the first flutter felt like and what exactly I was supposed to do while waiting for baby to arrive.

For EZ, my second, I was a full-time at-home mama.  I was busy taking M to the playground and on playdates.  I treasured these moments where M and I got to be attached at the hip, when he was my “OCUO,” Only Child Until October.

I realize now how fun that second pregnancy was as so many of the mama friends in my ‘hood were blessed enough to be expecting at the same time.  It was almost hard to keep track of who was due when.  “Who got next!?”  From spring babies to blizzard babies.  Newborns meeting first friends and mamas doing drive-bys on each other to drop off a little sustenance.

With this Bonus Belly Baby, I only work part-time so I definitely have pockets of quiet when the boys are at school.  To feel the kicks and to try to imagine what it’s going to be like when we meet Baby and become a family of five.

I do miss those days when we were all knocked up together as I feel like the Lone Pregnant these days and wouldn’t mind a few Preg Buddies.

As I left my doctor’s office, I saw that there was a Goodwill store on the same block.  I wondered, “Could there be a cute hat for me in there?  Nah, I’m tired.  I’m carrying too much stuff.  I gotta hop back on the train and eat something before picking up the boys.”  Then  I got this strong feeling, “GO IN.  GET YOUR HAT.”  I came out with a hand-knit, bright turquoise hat for $2 after a nice chat with a young employee who is also pregnant.  I smile to myself about how much older I am than her and I remind her to put her feet up and drink lots of water.

The last strong feeling I got was when we were at Storm King, the day before I turned 40 and the day before I found out officially that I was expecting our third baby.

When I got to luxuriate in that solitary shuttle ride as a Storm Queen, I gazed up at the sculptures and the trees and asked God, “Lord, it’s me again and yes I am obsessively asking.  Could I actually be pregnant?  **Even though I just got my period!?**”  I felt a strong answer from within:  “You are expecting.  You will be back here with your baby.  Why you ackin’ so surprised?”  I think He even said the sex of the baby but I didn’t write down this memory fast enough so I don’t wanna make up stuff.

With small gifts (Goodwill hat) and grand gestures (Bonus Baby), He has gifted me so much lately so I can’t help but share these mundane praise reports on repeat.  Beyonce-like photo shoot up next (Psyche!).

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spotted this beauty after my doc visit

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the view I enjoyed as I went in for my check-up

Act Like You Been Here Before (Nope!)

Today, Kevin and I had the privilege of getting a peek at our Belly Baby at the 20 week anatomy scan.  After dropping off the boys at school, we made it to our appointment in Manhattan.

Last time, at the early anatomy scan, our sonographer was cold and quiet, and a bit intimidating, our first experience with such a personality at this hospital.  So last night I prayed not only for a healthy scan, but for a bubbly sonographer who would talk us through everything and allow us to feel the excitement of the moment.  The Lord provided a Chinese sonographer who beamed as soon as she saw our Asian mugs walk towards her, and sprinkled our appointment with, “…in our culture…”  (I was thinking, “Yessss.  In OUR culture, you know sonographers hook up they patients with a GANG of photos from the anatomy scan, right!?”)

Even though this is our third baby, the wonder of it all remains.  I bet it’s the same for my friends who have six kids or my paternal grandma who had nine sons (though way back when sonograms would have seemed like voodoo magic).  Seeing the baby’s flickering heart, brain, abdomen, nose and lips, big ol’ femurs kicking and stretching, and even yawning?!  Act like I been here before?!  NOPE!  I won’t act like I been here before, because I haven’t been HERE befo’!  NOT for this particular baby, this particular miracle.

Flashbacks to previous appointments at my doctor’s office when the o.b. appointments had turned into gyno appointments.  I remember walking towards the subway on my usual route home, passing by Alice’s Tea Cup, popping in for a couple scones to bring back home to the boys (or not).  Stopping by the Korean-owned bodega for an egg and cheese breakfast samich.

I remember thinking as I left the crowded waiting room, “It just makes no practical kind of sense but Lord, this feels weird to come in and get my lady parts checked out without having a baby in my baby house.  I don’t think I can be done yet.  Too final.  I need one more resident in there.  Lord, please make sense of this.  Either stomp out this desire that has been consuming me for the past couple years or just make it clear that You want to bless us with another.”

As I love to mention, He officially gifted me with this baby on the morning of my 40th birthday.  I hope to keep reminding myself of our story as even more of my hair turns grey as if someone spilled chalk as they walked past my head.  To recall this amazing journey during those sleepless nights and nonstop feedings that I conveniently cannot recall right now.  And while I walk over to Biggest Brother with the baby on my engorged teat, making sure he is completing his homework instead of teasing Middle Brother.

I loved this quote during the couple years I surveyed everybody about how they just knew they were done having kids:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

E from Writers’ Group just shared the poem below with our group this past Sunday and it was perfect for today, as I walked from the hospital to the subway, feeling my baby kick, and the cold wind slapping me in the face.  Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to do this all over again.

The Place Where You Are Now

by Hafiz

This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you.

Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and the sky,
The Beloved has bowed there –

Our Beloved has bowed there knowing
You were coming…

 

 

 

 

 

1.13.17 Friday the 13th Fragments

Here’s some more alliteration for you:  Currently fighting phlegm, a recurring symptom for all three of my pregnancies.  I don’t want to take Mucinex though I believe the doctor told me it was safe to take back in 2012.  I am constantly clearing my throat and no amount of hot red tea is helping.  I’m sick of hearing myself clear my throat.

This is not a Pollyanna addendum: Like I’ve mentioned before, no amount of phlegm choking me out, new skin tags on my neck this time ’round, slowly morphing into the shape of modest starter home, nausea even in this golden second trimester, and itchy sphincter can diminish my awe of this miracle of life.  I never ever forget that the REASON I feel so gross is because a sweet potato-sized human being is being created within me.

(And I know I said I want to avoid talking about Our Baby #3 Story in light of friends’ recent losses and pain but I realized that I can’t avoid talking about our current stage altogether especially when I have a free moment and a hankering to write.  My apologies.)

I’ve had a few funny reactions as I’ve started to share my news with co-workers:

  1.  “Yeah, I was noticing you were gaining weight but didn’t want to say anything.”  (I wish you had stuck to that brilliant “didn’t want to say anything” initial thought).
  2. “Yeah, I could tell.  If you didn’t speak up soon, I would have asked you, ‘Is everything ok, Jihee?  You having too many bagels there?'”
  3. As he was telling me about employee discounts:  “Oh, Jihee, there’s also a Weight Watchers discount!” (Thankfully, two female co-workers gave him the side-eye immediately and told him to hush).
  4. After I shared that we are very excited but also scared sometimes:  “How old are you?”  “Uh, yes, I will be an older mom.”  “Yes, that’s why I ask.  That’s the only part I could see as something to be scared about.”

People!  I know your intentions are not malicious but just think these things, don’t actually SAY them with that opening in your face!  I may be inviting some of these reactions as I feel too sheepish to only share the happy news.  I have this Joy Luck Club compulsion to add, “Oh, but it’s gonna be so hard!” so that it doesn’t seem like I’m bragging or naive.

Once, I remarked when Micah was an infant that he was getting so heavy it was hard for me to lift him with ease.  My mom told me (in Korean), “Don’t be saying that out loud.  It can be taken as bragging.  Back in the old days, people believed that your baby can get sick once you boasted about how good and fat he was getting.”  My parents also told me not to share happy things with people because it can make them want to yank you off your Cloud Nine.

I noticed that it’s very easy for me to share my struggles as that makes it easier to connect with people.  Once you share happy things, I fear that people might think, “Well, congrats, bitch!  La dee dah!”

So sharing happy thangs does not come naturally to me.  I want to reclaim this.  I am a Christian.  I don’t need to fear the evil eye.  I don’t want to fear sharing happy things so here it goes:

It’s going to be hard, and just as my co-worker commented, age will be a factor as we are objectively older and more worn out.  But as of now, on this Friday the 13th, we feel like we won the lottery for the third time.  And I can share this.

1.9.17 Rejoicing and Weeping

You know that important phone call from the doc’s office that you’ve been awaiting?  It’ll only come through once you’ve cracked an egg onto the sizzling fry pan or sat on the toilet.

Pregnancy is a lesson in waiting.  When I was newly pregnant with Micah, I bled a little.  I had read that blood can be a sign of miscarriage so I frantically called my doctor.  He was not a touchy feely dude, though apparently very good at what he did.  While Kevin and I were holding hands in his office, hanging on to his every word, he explained, “Hey, if the baby isn’t healthy, it’s nature’s way of eliminating a bad embryo.”  Our eyes widened so he added, “Or it might just be some spotting.  Some old blood.”  We prayed and awaited tests to come in the next day.

I remember praying, “Lord, this phone call is not my Savior, not my lifeline.  I only have one Savior.  But oh please oh please may this embryo turn into a fetus and then into a healthy baby boy.  Please gift us with a healthy baby boy though I am not entitled to one.”

A wise friend met me during my lunch break to pass along some pregnancy books and I told him how scared I was and how I don’t think I can handle all the uncertainty for the duration of my first pregnancy.  He shared that his wife and others also had some spotting and that it doesn’t always mean miscarriage.  He also reminded me that pregnancy is all about ceding control.  Giving it up to Him, every step of the way.

Pregnancy is a series of tests, literally.  The phone call that came in today as soon as I cracked my egg onto my fry pan was that Belly Baby tested low-risk for spina bifida (great result).  There will be more tests to come – for me and for Baby.  All part of the journey.  Especially for those of us at an Advanced Maternal Age.

The sermon from our pastor yesterday reminded us to ask ourselves what is God trying to teach us in our particular stage of life.  For at least the past couple years, we were consumed by whether we are done having kids.  Actually, scratch that:  *I* was consumed, and Kevin was at peace with being done, if only his wife wouldn’t keep talking about The Yearning.

We are now blessed with this baby, no longer a What If but a real human baby moving around on that sonogram, due to arrive June 2017, yet there are moments where I am scared.  Especially those moments when folks comment, “Wow, was this planned!?  You guys are BRAVE!”

Gulp!

Factors that were obstacles still remain:  no family around to help, we are still in NYC for better or for worse, we are older and more tired while the boys only get louder and more energetic, we need to grow our income, not diminish it indefinitely.  As Kevin was falling asleep one night to the tune of my mentioning The Yearning once again, he broke it down clearly:

“If we have another kid, Jihee-yah, it will shave off five years of my life span.”

And yet, here we are.  Back to this stage in our lives, where we have no choice but to cede all control over to Him.  Regarding the health of Mama and Baby, financial provision as we absolutely must move to bigger space (no more delaying), and more.  Do we really trust Him or do we only trust Him for a result?

In 2016 as well as this New Year, we’ve heard the sad news of loss among a handful of friends.  As friends and fellow parents with similarly-aged children, we feel the weight of their loss.  We truly do grieve with them.  Howling, sometimes, when we hear new news of another loss.  And we do confess that our faith falters and I can’t trust that His ways are higher.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  Romans 12:15 ESV

In the previous post announcing our baby #3 news, I ended by saying that I don’t believe in TMI but I think I do for now.  How can I share details of our conception and pregnancy journey when friends are hurting?  So for now, I take pause on our story.  It just doesn’t feel right.

Once I surprised Kevin with our baby news when I officially confirmed the existence of baby on the morning of my 40th birthday, I teased him, “Hey, you sure you happy?  You did say you gonna die five years earlier if we have another baby!  What say you now!?”

Kevin sheepishly spoke right into my belly:  “Daddy didn’t need those five years anyway.”

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This is Us (A Christmas Post)

Today, Christmas Eve Eve, was the kids’ last day of school before six days off for their winter break.  It was also Kevin’s first day of vacation from work.  I will also be home the whole time.  We’ll all be taking next week off together to do or not do whatever we want.

I attended Micah’s class party in the morning.  Kevin and I then had about three hours together without the kids.  I hadn’t heard of any movies that I was dying to watch but I saw that a “Manchester By the Sea” was getting rave reviews.  Kevin warned me that he had heard that it was overly depressing but when I looked up the synopsis, I said, “Excuse me?  Do you not know me?  This movie is my soulmate.  It has everything I’m drawn to.”

No spoilers.  It was a story about a family.  And that’s my jam.  I love getting a glimpse of family dynamics beneath the surface.  Speaking of beneath the surface, I’ve been able to bask in the holidays this year.  When the boys were younger, I would feel such holiday angst and an overload of emotions I didn’t know how to channel:  Memories of how my parents had to work so much they could not prioritize celebration and how I wanted to rewrite that story but not feeling equipped to do so.

I don’t know exactly how but this year, I am able to fully embrace this Christmas season and it feels downright magical, with gratitude oozing out of my 40 year-old pores.  Nothing feels like pressure.  Everything feels like a privilege.  Unlike my immigrant parents whose peak season as storeowners was the holidays, we are blessed with more than a week of luxuriating in free time together, neither of us having to run ragged at any store, with our only “job” being relaxing and enjoying (and maybe some cleaning).

Halleluyer for this breakthrough.  Thank you, God, for new traditions and just plain enjoyment.

And…while not the only reason for my holiday inner makeover, I would like to take a moment to share our Christmas joy.

Early morning of my 40th birthday, while the rest of my family slept, I walked over to the CVS across the street, calmly made a single purchase, took that purchase to my gym bathroom, ironically, for some privacy.  I was there to confirm what I knew in my gut.

Pregnant for the third time after about two years of Should We or Shouldn’t We Go For It (Of COURSE We Cannot, It Would Be Crazy, Right?).  Actually, we are the biggest fans of NBC’s “This Is Us” and I just wanted our children to be able to do the Big Three chant.

While it was a completely natural conception, the story of this baby’s creation is supernatural.  I hope to share more in 2017.  And I don’t believe in TMI.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  Wishing you the best for 2017.  (And if the holidays are tough for you to navigate, you are not alone.  You are loved.)

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We’ve celebrated the conception of each child at the same restaurant.  We didn’t realize until after we had ordered but our entrees were perfect for the occasion:  a trio of pasta for our trio of children.

 

 

 

 

Baby, I’m (Still) Amazed by You

The most joyous,

dream-like,

wonderful, literally wonder-FILLED,

time of my life thus far was when I was pregnant with my first.  I don’t even need to say “thus far” as nothing will surpass its top billing as the most wondrous time of my life.

All cliches made sense.  Growing a tiny human (and penis) in my womb was truly miraculous.  Just thinking about it made me want to lift my hands in worship even on the crowded R train during the morning rush (but I couldn’t only because I had to hold onto the pole).

In fact, it was so full of wonder and awe that towards the end of the pregnancy, I worried that when the baby arrived, that Lion King moment would turn out to be almost anti-climactic after 38.5 weeks of the most built-up anticipation.

Yes, a luxurious worry to have during a healthy and smooth pregnancy.

Needless to say, that “worry” was beyond silly as I couldn’t take my eyes off him that first night in the hospital.  Just staring and studying him. Falling in love so fast and furious that we were in our own world.  Hardly noticed when Kevin said he was leaving for the night (I had insisted – no place to sleep and no point in not investing in rest).

Similar to that silly initial “worry,” I also started wondering more recently, if being a mom to an older child would be less of a heartwarming experience since I can’t stare into his eyes while nursing or while nibbling on him any chance I get.

I even asked mom friends who have kids in their teens, “Is it gross?  Your boy’s little girl voice all deepening and them becoming straight up men?  Can you even recall them in their morsel-y baby form?  What’s it like when they are no longer cuddly and innocent?”

One friend said, “But he’s still him.”

Then I got reminded of just how silly this worry is when my firstborn says the darndest things.  He may not be my “baby” baby, but I’m still filled with wonder as I witness him emerging into a Big Boy at 4 1/2 years old, with a new, pointy (single) chin and strong feelings about who should win American Idol.

This list is mostly for me, so I won’t forget these fleeting sound bites.

On current events:  “If Optimus Prime was in Nepal, he could have held up the sky with his arms and kept the ground from breaking with his legs and all those people would not be killed in the earthquake.”

On Mommy announcing that she is going to eat a lollipop with a grasshopper lodged in the middle:  “Mommy, you are being so silly.  Look, I care about you so I don’t want you to eat that stuff, okay?”

On his friend’s dietary habits:  “I want you to drink more milk okay so you can be healthy. You can’t just drink water.”

On Gramma telling him to choose one toy at Wal-Mart:  “One, huh?  This is like American Idol.  There can only be one winner.  One can go home with me but one has to stay.”

On transportation:  “There goes another white bus but that one’s not for the people in jail.  Anyone can ride it.”

On theology:  “So when Jesus died for people’s sins, who are these people?  Do we know their names?  Do we know who they are?”

On Mommy and Daddy’s HUGE age difference:  “Mommy, you said the younger people should walk in front and the older people should walk in the back so that we don’t wander or get taken or walk into the street.  So that means Daddy should walk ahead of you since you’re older, right?  When you were five, Daddy wasn’t five!  He was only 4 1/2, right?  Do you get more tired than Daddy because you’re older?”

On private parts:  “Ellis, stop hitting Mommy in her Giovanna.”  (He knows the word “vagina” since babyhood, but after a slip-up, now prefers to call it by the more beautiful girl name.)

"Ellis, you're growing up fast but this weed is still taller than you."

“Ellis, you’re growing up fast but this weed is still taller than you.”

I Love You, Bros

Oof. Lots of pain. In the news. In friends’ lives. Just too much these past couple weeks.

In our own home, too, when Kevin and I just cannot communicate effectively or hear each other since we are fixated on getting heard and understood first. Built-up resentment. Disconnection.

I want to thank the two dudes who help me to pause. Drink in their juiciness, their innocence. Force my heavy heart to shift during those moments I gaze at them.

My boys.

You TWO. TOGETHER.

First of all, my Ellis. I have to confess that when I found out at your birth that you were, just as I had suspected, another boy, I thought you’d be Micah 2.0 and that it would be a case of, “Oh, I already have one of those at home!” Blessed but not as exciting.

Quite the contrary. You look nothing like your brother, for one. Although…you look exactly like my mom. You’ve shown yourself to be my first Ellis, my only Ellis. The roundest, cutest circle eyes like Puss in Boots and a comical pout. You are more anime than flesh and blood boy.

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I have a tendency to record my harried moments with you guys more than the perfectly delicious moments.

Thought I’d at least capture a couple brother moments with Micah nearly 3 1/2 and Ellis 1 1/2.

Oh, how you both love John Mayer’s “Heartbreak Warfare.” You both squeal with delight and throw yourselves on our bed, entranced while the CD has a few second delay before the track begins. Ellis even beams and says, “shhhhhh!!” before the song comes on, with his little pointer finger to his pouty mouth.

A few weeks ago, you guys were so quiet, which I thought could only be a bad thing but when I walked into our bedroom and saw you both sitting on our high, King-sized bed, in deep thought. You were studying on your own, Micah his Jesus Storybook Bible that he loves so much, and Ellis staring at his Story of Easter book, at the page with the Asian family singing at church. Oh, my little Korean Flanders boys. What a sight.

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At that moment, I wanted to pull out another sibling from my womb just to see him/her perched along with you two, on the big spacious bed. Who am I kidding? There have been plenty of other moments, too.

It warms my heart to see you guys as best friends already. Even as you run around with other little cuties at the playground, no one is your Boy, like only your Bro can be. You hug each other so tightly that you end up on the floor of our lobby, with passersby having to go around the small heap of Korean boys.

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You guys hug at least four times in the morning, as if Micah is going off to war instead of 2.5 hours of school.

“Bye, Baby! I’m going to miss you, Baby! I see you later with Mommy, OK?!”

I love that your second name is Baby. Actually, we hardly ever call you “Ellis.”

When I mentioned to Micah that Ellis cried at Mommy’s Women’s Bible Study meeting for the first time, Big Bro asked if it could have been because he missed his brother too much.

When Ellis accompanies me to pick up Micah from his school, Micah is so proud and announces, “This is my baby brother Eh-wiss!” as if the teachers and classmates hadn’t known that already.

I recently corrected Micah’s pronunciation of “Eh-wiss” but I do regret it now. Preschool speech need not be corrected in its unadulterated, adorably imperfect state.

You guys want to horse around so much that I paused mid-stroll to reconfigure the stroller seats so that you guys can face each other. Of course you guys promptly began to swat each other and kick, my two stooges.

You two imitate each other and yelp whenever you are reunited. Micah likes to do fake falls from his little scooter so Ellis started doing the same. Micah eggs Ellis on to say “Ahpuhdah!” (Korean for “it hurts!”) even though I ask him to at least give him a more positive message to mimic.

I never knew that brothers would bond this deeply and this early, while one is still a roly poly baby (at least in my mind). It is a type of cuteness that makes my teef itch.

I am blessed to be able to watch your moments daily. Feeds my soul though I do get crazed by all those spills.

I hug and kiss you guys about 77 times a day. Though Micah asks me, “Mommy, do you really love me?” almost everyday, I hope you do know that I am so very in love with you both.

Thank you for being my sons. You are my only Micah and my only Ellis. And I don’t mind one bit when you guys get obsessed with me because I know that I will yearn for these days soon enough.

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Just Relax!

I now have to go to physical therapy after that car struck me on Monday, November 4th. It is a whole new world for me. Physical therapists and chiropractors may have two of the most directly rewarding jobs. Healing people with focused, physical touch. Connecting with them as they help restore. Teaching them how to use their bodies. So much better than being chained to a cubicle.

One of my physical therapists told me to lie down and let my neck fall into his hands.

“Relax. Let go.”

“I’m still resisting? Am I holding my neck up on my own?”

“Yes, you’re not letting your neck fall all the way. You’re using your own strength.”

I’ve been wanting to write about the effects of remaining in a state of perpetual UNrest and boom, the perfect metaphor falls into my, er, neck. I haven’t been able to fully exhale for what feels like all of 2013, though I’m sure I’ve stolen moments, even half-days, here and there. But now, there is such a deficit that even when I score me some time thanks to my co-parent, it doesn’t feel like enough. Just a drop in the bucket.

I’m sure there is a cost to not relaxing.

When I was pregnant with my first, I was given a heads up only about the newborn stage: the sleep deprivation, the poop, and the nursing. Countless “your life will never be the same’s,” but very few details from the trenches. Perhaps it didn’t make sense to warn about stages to come because it would be too premature (and too scary) when I hadn’t popped the baby out yet. So subconsciously, I may have thought that after a steep learning curve IN THE BEGINNING, order would be restored once they were out of the new puppy stage.

In some ways, it’s true. I feel like a pro raising my second baby boy into toddlerhood. I feel an out-of-body experience when I watch and hear myself share my experiences with pregnant women who ask me what it’s all like. I’m able to drop a deuce while the nearly-three-year-old and one year old watch “Little Einsteins” in harmony.

But I’m also finding that each stage gives way to a different set of needs. You can’t be on cruise control just because you’re out of the urgent newborn stage.

Preparing pureed baby food is replaced with disciplining and learning what triggers tantrums.

Packing the diaper bag with extra diapers and emergency outfits is replaced with repeatedly reassuring toddler that there is nothing scary about pooping in the potty and begging him to let Mommy/Daddy pick out his outfits without passionate protest.

Changing diapers ’round the clock soon evolves into changing diapers every now and then but replaced with vigilantly watching to make sure little dude doesn’t climb the lamp and daredevil himself off the desk.

Baby gets old enough to sit in a highchair at a restaurant but also gets nimble enough to Houdini off the tablecloth right from under the plates and table settings.

I am so tired. That is why I am so in awe of single parents and families of five or more. Not ALL large families, mind you, but large families who do it well, maintaining a solid marriage and mental/emotional health. Mommies who are able to care for their families while still keeping their own dreams alive.

I had another first after my first experience with physical therapy.

Ellis cried awake next to me in his crib at 6 am. I brought him into our bed and allowed him to nurse while I tried to sleep a little bit more. We are in the process of weaning but due to his getting sick and my craving rest, I allow him to nurse whenever, though it is turning out to be mostly mornings and ungodly hours. No rush to wean at all.

Kevin had already been summoned onto the wooden floor of Micah’s tiny closet-room earlier when he screamed awake, calling for Daddy in the middle of the night (a habit we are too tired to break since he started doing this scream-wake in August).

Thunderous crash. A baby wailing.

Where am I? Who am I? Omigod, I had drifted. Reality check: I’m not only in my 30s but creeping towards the big 4-0 (GASP!) and that baby is MY baby crying!

Ellis had crashed headfirst onto our wooden floor after doing his bed acrobatics. Before this, I had always been able “sleep” with one eye sensing my child, like a ninja, sleeping a light, nasty, unrestful sleep while catching baby by the ankle whenever he tried to be a daredevil.

Today, my baby fell off the bed because I had relaxed into a real slumber for a few minutes, even dreaming that I was meeting my friend’s boyfriend while we were in our 20s (both of us married with a kid or two in real life).

This has NEVER happened before.

Reminds me of how people talk about self-care and how the Earth won’t stop rotating just because you relax and take pause. (What is that actual phrase? Anyone?)

The Earth will continue to go about its business but your baby will come crashing down onto the floor.