Vision of Hope

We recently heard a sermon that asked us to ask ourselves what good came out of a dark time, that if it weren’t for that struggle or storm, we would not have been able to receive the good or learned that lesson.

A few years ago, Kevin and I were fighting one night.  Nothing new during that era.  Lotta fighting after the kids would go to bed.  Our church tries to equip us with marriage tools so that we don’t fight dirty but when I would get upset, the last thing I would think about were them tools.

Not that I forgot about them but I would scream, “F*CK those tools!  How am I gonna talk like a robot and speak in the MF ‘I’ when I can tell that I am NOT being heard!?!  And just so you know, we ain’t getting away with sh*t just cuz the kids are ‘sleep.  They can absorb this toxicity even in their dreams.  We hurting them but we keep doing this.  I hate us.”

Kevin would try to fix things by resorting to logic, coming up with solutions and that would, of course, enrage me even more.  Looking back, I think I just wanted him to say, “I hear you.  You are hurt.  I really hear you.”  (He may have even said that but oof, my fury burns hot.)

One particular night, we escalated ’til our throats were hoarse and he had to take a walk.  While walking, he prayed, “I just can’t do this.  It’s too hard.  It’s not getting better, Lord.”

He came home and seemed different.

He told me, “It makes absolutely no sense and you’re gonna laugh at me or get furious when I tell you this.  While I was praying outside, God gave me a vision of you sitting in a hospital room with a newborn baby _________ in your arms, smiling.  I saw the number 39 and the letters ___ and ___ and I sensed that God was telling me something, that it will get better and this vision of a new baby, even though there is just no way.”

“Lemme ask you something.  Did I have a husband in that vision and if so, who was he?!  Cuz right now, it SHO don’t seem like it’s gonna be you.  We oil and water.  That vision be MEAN and maybe something your mind spat out because you Christian and you don’t want to divorce?  And how do people divorce anyways, especially in NYC?  Pay for TWO homes!?”

Months later and years later:  “Dang it, why you gotta tell me about that vision!?  I am praying for peace about no more baby but that vision of yours keeps nagging at me!  What if it’s supposed to play out and we blocking it?”

Kevin logically explained, “So maybe it wasn’t a vision-VISION but something God just gave me to encourage me in that moment because I just wanted to give up.  Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

Fast forward to my 40th birthday, when I got official word from peeing on my pregnancy test at my gym (more privacy than in our apartment), I did the calculation and realized that just like in Kevin’s vision with the prominent #39 that caught his eye, I had conceived our child during my last few weeks of being 39.

The dark years of fighting dirty and repeatedly hurting each other gifted us with not only Kevin’s vivid vision of hope but ways to fight better.  No counselor, church, book, or friend could have gotten through to me about how I must stop fighting dirty;  I had to experience the cost of fighting dirty and how it truly got me nowhere.

Without those dark years, I would have prematurely tried to fanagle one more baby because time was ticking, without learning how to communicate better.  Had I been blessed with child a couple years ago, all three kids would have been so young, my hormones barely regulated and our marriage may have fallen apart.

I’m extra grateful with my hands to the heavens and hopeful as the June due date draws near, but I’m also being realistic about tiredness, lack of margins, and being much more worn out nearly five years after our last newborn.  Prayers for us, please – to break the old cycle and create new cycles of hope and clear communication even with a new human to care for.

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my first two babies in 2013 – sorry for fighting loudly when you went to bed

 

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older and hopefully wiser mama in 2017, though I wrote “1st tri” instead of “3rd tri” and didn’t notice that the “c” in “coconut” had gotten wiped out and baby labeled as an “oconut”

 

Pi Day/(Almost)Blizzard Stella/Snow Day

3.14.17 – So the predicted 12-20 inches of snow resulting in a rare early announcement of the following day’s Snow Day ended up being a Cancelled Blizzard as of 8:15 am this morning-doh!  Governor Cuomo had even called a state of emergency for New York but the forecast was off and it turned out to be only 4-8 inches of snow, an icy slushy snowstorm with strong winds.

It cost me a day of pay so I was hoping for an epic, record-breaking blizzard with snow mountains we could touch from our third story window.  Even though it was anti-climactic, I made sure we at least took some photos. It would have been too dangerous for me to slip and slide, walking to and from the subway to get to work so no regrets.

The boys and I spent some quality time watching a show we can all enjoy (I dislike kid shows and the boys begged me not to watch Wendy Williams).  So we watched three episodes of CBS’s “Kevin Can Wait.”  I have always had nothing but love for that adorable comedic talent, Kevin James.

Here is the photo dump of our half hour outside.  It was too windy and icy to play longer though the boys stayed out to shovel around our minivan.  Back to our regular schedules tomorrow!

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Like Sands Through the Hourglass…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is ready to become Big Bro of two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

That Raccoon Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy empanadas for speedy lunch on the run.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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post swim foraging

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post swim ride home – feeling relaxed and happy and hungry

 

 

 

 

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…