Conversation Crushers

I have been having a hard time this past year, maybe acutely so the past few months, not just because I am so very tired but because I have forgotten how to allow myself the right to feel feelings. AND NOT JUDGE MYSELF FOR THEM.

I imagined the reactions of Others, to the point that I would actually have two-sided conversations in my head. It wasn’t purely my active imagination. I had been receiving messages from strangers and acquaintances alike that my feelings were not valid. More on conversation-crushers later.

October 1, 2012. The night before, on Chu-seok (Korean Thanksgiving), the husband and I had finished watching the season premiere of our favorite show, “Homeland.” After being thoroughly riveted by Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin, I went to pee and noticed some brown spotting on my undies, like a very light period.

So this is how it was gonna go down. My body was going to give my second baby a nearly identical birth story as big bro, even down to the Thanksgiving arrival (first one was on American Thanksgiving). Down to the day – ten days before their respective due dates. Big bro had arrived within 24 hours after the spotting. So I knew that once there was blood, baby was a ‘comin’ despite doctors shaking their heads, schooling me about spotting not necessarily meaning imminent birth.

Please. I knew my body.

After hours of fitful sleep with lots of cramping, knowing that baby was going to show up that day, the contractions intensified and became more frequent at dawn. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as my mama was supposed to touch down at JFK from LAX to take care of my firstborn that very morning, while I go birth her second grandchild. We ended up sending her a Korean cab in our stead because it was Go Time. We threw a few essentials into the hospital bag, wrote a quick note to Belly Baby about how we felt as we were hours away from meeting him/her, and were about to drive on over to the hospital.

Until we didn’t.

My mama was dropped off at our place and immediately, my contractions slowed down. I even told Kevin to go to work that day so that we wouldn’t waste one of his precious vacation days. Just like when I went into labor for big bro on the eve of Thanksgiving 2010.

Apparently, I had been watching too much “Parenthood” (another one of my fave shows) because I pictured my mama coming through the door to the rescue, with some great background music to beautify an already beautiful moment. Offering me my final moments of tranquility and soothing affirmations as she swooped in to take care of my 22 month-old so I can labor with dignity in our dark bedroom. I even pictured our bed enveloped by a gossamer canopy while I breathed through the pain. How poetic. Cue cool, alternative music. Circle of life. My mama arriving to taking care of her child while I got ready to birth my own.

But of course, my life is the opposite of critically-acclaimed dramas on NBC. My mama touched down, sho’ ‘nuff but it got more chaotic than ever. She was so excited to arrive and wanted to tend to All Things Micah that I got sucked into her Tasmanian Devil flurry. I was wincing from my contractions as I showed her where everything was. Micah’s diapers and wipes and other necessities. Explaining how to care for him.

I was doubled over in pain at times, completely hunched over and she would ask, “Where is the sesame oil, Jihee-yah? I have to make Micah some lunch.” Not because she is heartless but perhaps because I wasn’t making a big deal about my contractions and she was really diving into her role as Micah’s caretaker.

I didn’t feel like I could rest. Or pause to tell her that what I needed at that time was a “Parenthood” moment with the imaginary gossamer-canopied bed symbolizing much needed rest and mental space and a perfectly scripted Mother-Daughter chat as new background music started for my visit to the hospital.

It was already near the end of Kevin’s workday when I nonchalantly called him to say, “Hey, it’s Game Time. I haven’t eaten all day. My mama got distracted and so did I, so can you please bring me enough food from near your office? You know I am NOT trying to give birth on an empty stomach.”

Kevin brought home a buffalo chicken wrap. My mama was so whupped on her first (and only) grandchild that she started tearing off pieces of MY final meal to harvest for her beloved Micah.

I tell you this story to say that since then, ALMOST EXACTLY A YEAR AGO, I have been SO. VERY. TIRED. Shouldn’t come as a surprise because looking back, even as I labored to bring my second child into this world, I couldn’t get NO REST!

This state of constant unrest, day and night, sleep deprived and recovering from tantrums and spills and failed disciplining and mealtime battles and other soul-wearying scenes, with breaks that only the husband gives me since we have no REGULAR village, has wreaked havoc onto my mental and emotional health.

And marriage.

me and the husband in 2009, well-rested as a mofo, ringing in my birthday in mykonos, greece, when our children weren't even glimmers in our eyes

me and the husband in 2009, well-rested punks, ringing in my birthday in mykonos, greece, when our children weren’t even glimmers in our eyes, photo-edit credit to Jason Kim

I realize that I mention lacking a Village all too often yet I cannot stop. “Village” as in at least one set of grandparents, other relatives or family-like friends who will say, “I GOT YOU.” Not just watching as I take care of them, alerting me to their soiled diaper but to really GOT ME so I can leave. Not even for something as luxurious as mama hitting the spa but just so we can run an errand that is not conducive to the entire family rollin’ or to declutter the home without tripping over a toddler or infant, only to get completely distracted by their noises and needs. I get pissed all over again when I hear others call in their Village People to give them REGULAR, healthy breaks from child-rearing, offering mental health breaks as often as weekly. So heads up: I will keep mentioning this until I get to a healthier space.

While more joyful than I ever imagined when I nibble on my kids, I also find myself feeling so very angry that I have to do motherhood in this particular way. Simultaneous joy and anger ARE possible.

All made worse because I haven’t been able express myself adequately after experiencing conversation-crushers like:

“Billions of women do the motherhood thang so I figure, how hard can it really be?” (Actually, this one was an innocuous comment one of my best friends made before she had her first child. After her first few months with her newborn, she ate her words).

“Oh, but you know you have to ENJOY EVERY MOMENT! It goes by SO fast.”

“But you are so blessed! Some people can’t have kids and here you have two beautiful, healthy kids.”

“My friend’s child is special needs and she never complains. My other friend has four kids and she is always keeping it positive. I try to do the same.”

“Oh please. Not everyone has a Village.”

“At least ________________.”

And most recently, when I was sighing during dinner as another harried scene unfolded, my mother-in-law chided, “C’mon, you have to admit that it’s all better than NOT having kids, right?” At least she seems to have retired her favorite: “I had it MUCH harder than you,” after I asked her to please stop saying that to me.

With all those conversation-crushers, how can I feel safe enough to say, “While I realize I am SO BLESSED, this is SO VERY HARD, in ways that I could never have imagined, not just for one reason or because of ONE bad moment but an accumulation of so many moments and factors at play…”

TO BE CONTINUED…or at least I plan to continue in some future post…

And shout out to a new season of “Parenthood” airing tonight on NBC.

It Don’t Start with a “G”

When we opted not to find out the sex of our second baby, my best friend, K, told me I would be having another boy. I told her to shuddup and not tell me what the Chinese Gender Predictor Calendar was revealing to her as we talked on the phone. I KNEW she would be tinkering with an Internet search as soon as I told her we’d be keeping it a surprise.

“Aight, dawg. I won’t tell you what you’ll be having. I’mma just tell you this though. It don’t start with a ‘g'” she said, howling with laughter.

“Eww, why you all SURE, too? You being cocky right now! Augh!” I said, feigning anger.

“I dunno. I just picture you as the only girl of the house. Outnumbered. Queen Bee. It’s dope!”

I thought about this conversation during recent moments where I am clearly the only lady of the house:

After receiving a hand-me-down puzzle called Diggers & Dumpers, Micah has become very interested in the different types of specialty vehicles. This is out of my realm of expertise as I am not a cool gal who knows about cars and machinery. Zero interest. He asked me what the difference between an excavator and backhoe is.

“Why not same – same, Mommy?” he asked, as he loves to match up same objects these days.

I was thinking, “Um, one sounds like the better punchline to a joke?” I explained that um…er, an excavator is bigger than a backhoe(?). Yeah, that’s it.

His earnest, wide-eyed response: “Micah backhoe. Daddy excavator. Micah small, Daddy beeg.” (I just googled “difference between excavator and backhoe” as I write up this post. Apparently, I taught him wrong. The excavator was only the bigger puzzle piece in this particular puzzle.)

Every time Micah would see the GEICO gecko on display in the window of a store we stroll by regularly, he would start screaming, “Gecko! Let’s go Mets, raahhhhh! Gecko, let’s go Mets, ahhhhh!” He would make me stop in front of the store so he could cheer properly. I just thought he was a quirky kid but today as we drove by Citifield, Micah started screaming, “Let’s go Mets, Gecko!” Sure enough, we saw a billboard with the GEICO gecko across the highway from Citifield, right from his vantage point as a little passenger in our backseat.

You right, Micah. “If you see something, say something.” Reminded again to listen to our kids. They are always making connections and what sounds random isn’t quite so.

When I heard Kevin raising his voice at Micah as he wrangled him for a bath, I said, “Hey, you know if you keep yelling at him, it won’t be effective when you really need to raise your voice at him. He’ll think Daddy just yells.”

“Don’t worry. I have a different octave for that. You gotta put some bass into it.” And sure enough, who does Micah listen to more? The one who has bass to put into it.

And finally, I had been working on getting Micah to wean off his perfectionist tendencies. I had initially thought that it was a toddler’s developmental milestone to become almost obsessed with getting everything right, i.e. when working on puzzles. I talked to a few friends with toddlers and they informed me that this is actually a part of his personality, a trait, not part of a toddler’s development. I noticed he would want to make sure he’s right, before trying to put a puzzle piece into the puzzle, or matching a picture in a book.

So I said, “Guess what, Micah? Let’s just have fun and get it all wrong. Mommy wants to show you that getting it wrong can be fun and there is nothing, er…well, wrong, with getting things wrong sometimes!”

But Micah didn’t like this game and proceeded to put every piece in its rightful place. “TA-DAAAA!” he exclaimed with pride.

Just then, Kevin walks by and busts out with, “Whooo-hooo! Micah got it ALL RIGHT! My man! High-five!”

Great. We just took a few steps back(hoe).

Most Reviled

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

ajummama

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

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

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

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

No brainstorming necessary.

One thing that threw me…

View original post 1,178 more words

Wisdom from “The Bachelor” aka “I Just Know My Wife Is In This Room”

Happy New Year! 2013. Year of the Sssnake. Hard to follow the dopest year around, Year of the Dragon, but perhaps this is the year, the snake can redeem hisself from the Garden of Eden associations.

Since I may not be able to write a more thought-out post until later, I’ll just get something down to get into the practice of posting more often. I had so many deep thoughts during the holidays but sho’ ’nuff, since I didn’t jot them down, they may be lost for good.

Whether I’m five years old or 36, I have to tattle when I witness bad or unbelievable behavior. It is a compulsion. I was a precocious kid, not a cool one.

When Micah was around five months old, our little family was roaming around Roosevelt Field Mall. A mama of twin infants started chatting with me and said, “Wow, another one on the way already,” pointing to my “bump” (upper stomach fatty fats).

I was not even a little bit pregnant. She was embarrassed so I actually made her feel better by saying, “Yeah, I guess my stomach can give off a pregnant look” but I just had to vent immediately to someone who would be just as indignant as I was at this woman’s comment. I nearly ran into one of my favorite baby stores, Janie and Jack, and vented to an employee there while Kevin strolled off with Micah to change his diaper.

Homegirl said, “Wait, I’m confused. You’re NOT pregnant?”

Double Ouch!

Kevin walked in on my asking her, “Wait, so you thought I was pregnant too!?” He said, “Jihee-yah! I knew it. I knew you were gonna go off and tattle so you can get a satisfactory response from someone out there. That’s what you get for tattling and fishing for compliments.”

I was mortified and wanted to hide myself in the clearance rack, under the basket of miscellaneous items (hats, ties, socks) but my stomach would probably protrude and a customer might congratulate me on the twins I was carrying. But I have to confess…STILL tempted to find someone else to tattle to. Someone who might say, “Clearly, you don’t look pregnant.” But even I have a little bit of shame. Not much but a seed-sized amount of shame.

Today, I wanted to tattle on a woman I’ve interacted with at least 16 times with our toddlers yet she NEVER says hullo or even looks at my boy or his mama like we human, while I’ve tried so hard to continue to be my warm and gushing, kid-loving self.

Sure, this must be my own deeper issue, something about how not greeting or even acknowledging my walking into a room makes me feel invisible or small or unworthy (oh, starting to remember some of my deep thoughts at the end of 2012 now…some fetal position profundity), but I think non-greeting is SUCH a huge pet peeve of mine, I treat it as a form of immorality.

Extremists will be out there picketing abortion clinics with me across the street with a sign painted, “SAY HULLO!”

Kevin came home to my tale of No Greeting at 17th meeting with Nongreeter:

K: “Jihee-yah, do you know what today is?”

Me: “Of course. Season Premiere of The Bachelor.”

K: “Have you not learned a thing from your faithful viewing of all previous seasons?”

Me: “Of course I have. But remind me in your own words.”

K: “The girl who tattles and causes unnecessary drama? It NEVER works out for them. That girl never gets picked!”

Who would’ve thought that this vapid show would be teeming with such rich life lessons? Life lessons that I cannot apply overnight but life lessons, nonetheless, to guide me throughout this new year.

And I will not hoard them. I will share them with you. (“The Bachelor” also scoffs at greed, those who already had a one-on-one date AND secured a rose should NOT hoard quality time.)

Hit Me Baby One More Time?

When I get a severely upset stomach, instead of abstaining from more eats, I think, “Well, I’mma blow it up anyhow so let’s get my grub on.” Kevin thinks this rationale is beyond stupid and warns me that he will not have any sympathy for me when he hears me weeping on the toilet in the middle of the night.

I thought about this today after a very full day. A fully joyful, fully accomplished, fully exhausting day. Grateful to be back to my active self again after the initial postpartum period.

Walked two miles with the boys in their double stroller to and from a home in/near the Gardens. Thankfully, hardly any rain and such a gorgeous walk. Not too cold yet.

MLK stayed in the basement with a few other toddlers and a sitter, after months of not being able to separate from me. We mamas sat around the dining table upstairs, discussing Galatians 4 through a Tim Keller study. I went up and down from the basement to the dining room a few times to either grab stuff that I needed for E.Z. or give M his milk. I changed and nursed E while listening to the discussion. For the most part, he was perfectly calm, sitting in my lap in his white velour tracksuit, one of our favorite hand-me-downs, with his cheeks ever-so-bountiful and comical for his debut among this group.

We rushed home to get M into his crib for his nap, with my telling stories extra loudly as we strolled, so that M can hear me from the front of the long stroller. If you don’t get them in bed during that magic window when a nap befalls them effortlessly, you in for some rough times. He ended up skipping his nap ALTOGETHER today, my solid, faithful napper. THIS NEVER HAPPENS. I won’t go into this any further as it is too scary for me to discuss.

Second half of the day, we speedwalked for 20 minutes to Gymboree as the ominous rain clouds turned into actual rain. I didn’t want to bother with our new, huge double-stroller raincover so I practically ran towards the end.

The most memorable moment from today started when my e-z E finally started to fuss a bit after patiently sitting in his infant carseat so that his hyung could participate in art class. M was coloring shapes when he looked around from his table and couldn’t see me because I was sitting below everyone, nursing E on the floor, against the mirrored wall for some back support and also lest I break the small kiddie chair that everyone else was seated on. I saw his eyes get huge as he started wailing for me.

I called out from below, “Micah, Umma-yah! Umma here!”

He came running towards me on the floor and flung himself into my right armpit. I was holding both kids tightly, E suckling on my left, M wailing on my right.

His teacher said that M had actually held his breath for a minute, completely stunned, when he thought I had snuck out on him. When I held him tight, he started soothing himself by singing softly through his huge tears, “la la la, la la la.” I swear, these kids do new things daily – I don’t know what this “la la la” is about. By this time, my shirt had wet spots from my nursing pads shifting, milk leaking through.

A young Russian mama who has never spoken a word to the others in class for the last few months finally spoke today. She said to me, “It looks so hard.” We chatted a bit and she said, “I thought I would want another kid but when I see how hard it looks, I do not.” I assured her that while it can be hard, it is all very natural and it will flow. And that the joy is more than double.

I still had to pack up M’s icebox, diaper bag, lift the impossibly heavy infant carseat onto the top of the double stroller, put on M’s jacket, winter hat, shoes, and strap him in, grab his sippycup and E’s burp cloth strewn about the room, grab my jacket and shoes, all in order to just make it upstairs in the elevator for some more play at open gym time. I had to keep my eye on both M and E while M went up and down the apparatus and E was still in his infant carseat smack dab in the middle of the play area with toddlers peering at him, tempted to touch him. I resorted to keeping him there because as of now, he does not like being in the Ergo and my back can’t handle wearing him for too long anyhow.

M’s diaper was about to leak so I asked a teacher at the front desk to watch E for a few minutes while I changed M. He tried to jump off the changing area, of course, asking for more juice. My head was throbbing from having stayed up too late the night before, banking on M’s naptime to squeeze in a small nap myself.

When Kevin met us there after work, I was WIPED OUT. My back was pulsating from either carrying E or his carseat around the play area. I had to remind myself that the man was coming from work himself, not from playing beach volleyball at Hedonism. We all walked home together.

As spent as I was from such a full day, I could already imagine looking back on moments like these when I’m older and greyer, fondly recalling how needed I was and how blessed I was to be able to mother these two morsels at the height of their innocence and cuteness. How our little family was such a tight little unit, eager to reunite with daddy at the end of the day.

So why did today make me think about how I handle upset stomachs? When I get an upset stomach, I know that I’mma have a long appointment with the porcelain throne that night, whether I do the B.R.A.T. diet that doctors prescribe for such bouts or whether I put away some Singapore Mei Fun. Along those same lines, why not have another baby soon-ish, since it’s already so hard (some days more than others), to juggle raising two kids, working on being a better spouse, not burying your personal aspirations beyond being a mama, and carving out time for yourself.

Also, today, I met another mama at Gymboree whose toddlers were only 11 months apart. 11 months! She must have stories.

It is most definitely gonna be harder than juggling two but the joy and reward of sleeping next to a 12+ pound baby, with half that weight in his cheeks, is immeasureable. Kevin is a big baby-lover, too, practically bawling when I told him not to dress two-year old M in onesies anymore.

Then again, pigging out when your stomach is already upset means hella worse diarrhea.

And practically speaking, it’s insane. We really can’t afford another one as kids are SO expensive especially in 2012, in NYC, and because I’ve chosen to stay home. We are getting closer to 40 than 30, so tired, and most significantly, we would be outnumbered.

It may be my strange way of responding to the 12.14.12 massacre of 20 children in Newtown, CT, but my reaction to this draining day was how quickly it will pass. Life is so fleeting.

Don’t have to commit to anything now but the heart wants what the heart wants.

I have to crash now after eating some broken cookies from the bottom of our stroller basket. Hope this post made sense as I wrote it in a semi-conscious state.

Tantrum Tuesday = Bargain Movie Night

“Look, Jihee-yah. We’re just gonna leave and let you eat dinner in peace. Exhale. TAKE YOUR TIME. Don’t worry, we will find something to eat at home.”

Don’t have to tell me twice. I did not protest. Raise up, boys. Let me exhale after Micah’s Tantrum Tuesday. If mama could, she would even order some wine with her Polish platter.

Second time this month my boys left me at a restaurant during dinner. But honestly, I welcomed the ditching. Eating with a happy toddler still takes some patience and wrangling but an unhappy one? Oy.

This time, it was even before ordering. M had been throwing a few tantrums, wanting to look at my P-H-O-N-E so that he can watch videos of himself. He had gotten better the last couple months but regressed a bit lately maybe because I’ve been on it more. I can’t leave all emails and online business for nighttime especially these next few weeks.

We met Daddy at a nearby restaurant after Gymboree (where a public tantrum went down). Packed on a Tuesday night for Yom Kippur. We may have been the only Gentiles. Upset customers due to slow service. M is also upset because he wants more diluted apple juice which we ran out of. I could tell it’s only going to get worse so I say, “Let’s just go. I don’t have it in me to sit through this after today.” When Kevin told me to stay and unwind, he tried to place M in the stroller but M was so upset, he used it as a slide and came right out.

A handful of senior citizens watched shamelessly as if we were the dinner show. Almost beaming that they got a free show to add some fun to their uneventful meal, having nothing to talk about other than the slow service. One lady even said, “This is SO funny!” while Kevin huffed and puffed to calm him down and get them on their way. Glad we could amuse her. The boys left and a party of six sat by me. They had a toddler who (happily) threw his toys throughout their entire dinner.

Last time this happened, it was after our food had arrived at an Italian place in our neighborhood. The boys went home to leave me at peace, and also to look like such the stereotype for Very Pregnant Lady with a seafood linguine, fried calamari, and pizza for One. Sure, we hadn’t come with ANY toys or distractions for M as we wanted to be carefree and just walk across the street for a family dinner for once. How smart of us.

After our separate dinners and M’s bath, our friends came over to sit at our place while M snoozed away. They wanted us to treat ourselves to a final(?) date night before we become a Family of Four. What a weeknight treat thanks to Uncle AO and Auntie NK. I was so frenzied from Tantrum Tuesday that I didn’t even get to look up the movie choices the way I usually do. I actually let Kevin narrow it down on his own. Something I never do because I am so damn picky and difficult about what I’d watch. It was between a Cop Movie (action, suspense, mystery, humor?) or a Clint Eastwood-Amy Adams father-daughter flick which would also interest me because I love family dynamics (but not as critically acclaimed).

We went for the Cop movie.

Kevin is usually overprotective about what I am “allowed” to watch during my pregnancy. Koreans say that women should only watch lovely things during their pregnancy. Nothing scary or emotionally jarring. So he had banned me from many movies, including the Final Destination series that always seems to pop up on our HBO channel when I’m in my final few weeks before due date.

So why did he take me to the movie that included oh, let’s see (SPOILER ALERT for “End of Watch”):

babies wrapped up with duct tape, human trafficking, blood and gore, gang violence, babies nearly catching on fire, rotting dead bodies, knife in the eye, beat-up-to-a-pulp unrecognizable face…

I actually LOVED the movie because it took place in South Central LA (where my folks used to run a Chinese takeout joint when I was a little girl, which gave me the street cred I still carry proudly to this day, yay, yay.) Also about brotherhood/friendship and racial tensions, again riveting fave topics of mine. But oooh, not now, not after Tantrum Tuesday and while THIS pregnant. I had to cover my eyes especially in the couple scenes with the babies.

Kevin was sheepish. He looked to me and said, “Feel free to cover your eyes whenever,” as I was already covering my eyes and ears. Because it was Bargain Tuesday, some parents had brought the whole family! I heard little kids’ voices behind me saying, “Cover your eyes, Lupe!” when a striptease came on the screen. Though their ears and eyes were exposed to everything else. Again, it was a GREAT, memorable movie but just the wacky timing. The Koreans would’ve steered me towards the Eastwood-Adams flick though this was my usual style.

As we drove home to relieve our friends, K was carsick because the camerawork in the movie had triggered his motion sickness. We were laughing at our comical choice for final movie night. Drove by a car accident that again reminded us of the movie as we prayed for those involved.

Found out after the movie that while I surprisingly didn’t go into labor from the medley of jarring scenes, a Due Date friend of mine had given birth to his second baby exactly at 38 weeks along yesterday. It really struck me that I got next.

Okay, no editing for this post but starving and M may wake up soon.

Our First Time

I didn’t think that our first time hiring professional cleaning services (thanks to LivingSocial) would include a moment in our tiny kitchen with my consoling and nearly hugging M, the cleaning lady sent to us at 9 a.m., as she broke out in tears. I knew this day would come. The state of our kitchen made someone cry. I’ve been close myself.

When she arrived promptly at 9 a.m., I thanked her for her punctuality and offered her a bottle of water. I told her which three-to-four rooms we needed cleaned during the three-hour time slot. I showed her the supplies her boss had asked us to provide. She said she wouldn’t even need the mop we had bought for the occasion since she gets down on her hands and knees for a good old fashioned scrubbing. I was feeling so blessed and grateful to have this timely service before Baby arrives.

She started in the kitchen at 9:05 a.m. Micah and I were reading books and playing in the living room. I had to corral him a few times as he became curious about what was going on in the kitchen. After all, we hadn’t ever had a guest come over solely for the purpose of cleaning for us (unless you count CA Grandma). I noticed that it was 10:40 a.m. and she hadn’t moved onto any other room. I popped my head into the kitchen to say, “Hi, M. Are you going to have enough time to move onto the bathroom and living room soon? I just noticed the time since we only paid for three hours.” She said something about how I should’ve paid for more time because she couldn’t leave it the way it was. I said well, this is just our first time to check out the services and I will call the company owner to ask about paying for additional hour(s).

When I called her boss lady, another M, she said this has never happened in all her years of running this service. That this M was new and a perfectionist but should’ve called her early on to say she was going to need more time. She was a savvy businesswoman as she explained very charmingly in her French(?) accent that this happened because M wanted to do such an excellent job for me. And thank you for being SO understanding, unlike some other clients.

I said that everything was fine and that I understand she probably ended up doing a deep cleaning of the kitchen, rather than the basic cleaning that we paid for. I said I am fine with paying for additional time as long as she can get to the bathroom and living room while she was here. We worked out the fees and all was well…

Until M broke out in tears saying, “I do my best. I cannot leave it undone and now my boss is mad at me. But if I had left it the way it was, you would have complained.” I had even heard her tell her boss that she had moved onto the bathroom when she hadn’t yet. I knew she was scared to be reprimanded or even fired. The sweat on her face was mixing with her fresh, new tears. Then I got verklempt because I could imagine so many other immigrant women having to work such a labor-intensive job just to live, while also fearing the loss of these dirty jobs, their only livelihood.

“Nooo, M, no one’s in any kind of trouble! I just had to pay for additional time. Your boss knows you’ve been working hard, not resting. I told her twice that you’ve just been doing a VERY thorough job in our kitchen. She is not upset. No one is upset. She just wanted you to call her as soon as you noticed that it was going to take longer than what I paid for.” I put my arm around her and patted her on the back. Micah peeks in and starts to play with the debris and cleaning supplies. I tell him, “NO TOUCH!” and he thinks HE’s in trouble so HE starts crying. I am consoling the both of them. Oh, Lawd.

I told her not to worry about the rest of the kitchen. I can do the dishes. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT A THING! No need to put the stepstool away. I can do it later.

After the original three hours, she moves onto the bathroom. When her boss calls me to check in, I make sure to say AGAIN she is doing so well so that M does not fret. I had to pop in to use the bathroom again after checking that she was done. “Sorry I have to pee so much!” She tells me she knows all about that. I ask her how many times she’s gone thru it. Three kids, though one passed away at age four. Okay, now I’m about to cry. I just say, “That must’ve changed you forever.” “Yes, deep shock.” Why I gotta ask about her kids? But that is how I am wired!

After paying double the amount we originally paid, not including the handsome tip I have to give her, after seeing her sweat all morning and through lunch, all with a sprained right ankle. Maybe because it was my first time, but I don’t think I feel comfy with this role of lady of “leisure” (blogging while she cleans and my boy naps) v. The Help. It feels so blatantly classist even though it was a much-needed service at a steal of a price.

I keep offering her more water but she said she is fine. She must be hungry. I sure am. But our kitchen is so spotless that I am afraid to step in. We have half an hour more to go. What a surprising half-day it has been.

King Kim

A storm is on its way here in NYC. Outside my window as of now, only gusty winds and gloominess, the perfect backdrop for someone to write a page-turning murder mystery. I should be nursing my mild headache by lying down during Micah’s nap, but I was itching to jot down some thoughts, with a little Mozart on for dear Belly Baby who isn’t getting his/her share of music while in the womb.

Sorry, #2. It ain’t that kinda pregnancy this time ’round. My o.b. told me that second and subsequent children suffer from benign neglect while in utero. She herself had kept thinking, “OK, Belly Baby, I will pause and think about you now,” as she approached the delivery of her second and third children but bam!, it came time for their delivery. She assured me that it is normal and natural. Completely benign.

Last night, after 1 am, we heard Micah wailing through our baby monitor. Very unusual as he sleeps soundly through the night and even if he does wake up once, it’s usually to regroup for a moment and kiss and cuddle with his animal friends. But last night, he wailed so sorrowfully and persistently, like he had had a nightmare he just couldn’t shake.

Kevin and I lie there wondering what we should do. On the one hand, we really should leave him be as he ain’t gon’ be able to creep once newborn becomes our roommate indefinitely. Two’s company, three’s a crowd – is that the saying? Then four will be a zoo. But on the other hand, let’s give the man some love since his world as he knows it is about to be turned upside down.

When daddy went to spring him, he refused to be held and ran into our room squealing, shouting, “Daddy, Ahppah/Ummah!” like it was a Saturday afternoon, not past 1 am on a worknight. He still likes to call me “Ahppah” (“daddy”) as a term of endearment though now he is switching off with both “Ahppah” and “Ummah.” I tried to lie very still and whispered to K, “Do not engage. Just close your eyes or else he’s gonna think it’s party time,” to which K responded, “Shutta the mind, and shutta the mouth,” (his simple advice for my recent bouts of insomnia).

M was babbling with bright, alert eyes and trying to get me to respond. He had brought his animal friends along for the sleepover. It was quiet for a few moments so I peeked with one eye and gasped. He had brought his little face nearly nose-to-nose, forehead-to-forehead with mine in the dark, grinning so cheesily, proud that he had surprised me with the face-off. He looked like a mischievous kindergardener, not my baby. I woke up in the morning, completely forgetting we had a visitor in our bed, when I maneuvered my massive body to the other side, and saw this little dude with a grown-out buzzcut, cuddling with my Snoogle, completely konked out. He slept in a bit longer than usual, nestled in between his two favorite warm bodies. And a hidden third in mama’s belly.

As I got my bearings, I heard the boys in the kitchen. Daddy was washing some dishes and M was crying. “What’s going on you guys? Where’s Micah and why he crying?” Micah walked out from the kitchen in his footed pajamas and wiped his tears when he saw me approaching. Daddy explained, “He’s crying because I wasn’t paying him attention while I washed the dishes.”

It hit me all over again. Li’l Kim, his Majesty, had never been ignored until now. As typical first-time parents of today, we have been so very doting, responding to every sound he’s ever made. If he says, “hi, hi, hiiiii” 23 times from his carseat, I match each “hi” with my own. With enthusiasm. If he babbles nonsensically to me about his animal friends, I always let him know that I understood each sound coming out from his little mouth, though I had no idea what he said and why he continues to call a penguin “babo.” So today, when Daddy was so exhausted that he didn’t engage his boy while doing a few dishes, M got so hurt.

He is in for a rude awakening.

I am so curious as to how he will react to his little sibling. I know whatever jealousy he will experience is so natural and even good for him, to realize early on that he cannot be the center of everyone’s universe. But it is so fascinating to think about the changes he will face, the emotions he will go through while not being able to articulate them.

His world right now consists of stopping in the middle of Costco to ask us to bring it in, bring it in, to surround him in his shopping cart seat, and shower him with multiple double hugs and kisses on each cheek. He loves to hold both of our hands while walking in the middle, pausing to peer up at both Daddy and Ahppah. Those hands will soon be full with another bundle and we can’t respond to every laugh or whimper. I know. Parents with three or more children are laughing at me right now for my scrub status in parenting.

Waiting for the Click

“Whitaker! Declan! Deschel!” These are some of the oh-so-2012 names I heard a mama calling out at the playground last month. The search for our baby’s name is once again one of my favorite to do’s in this journey from conception to birth. The Nameberry website is full of name aficionados who weigh in very thoroughly on different names and even have complete names picked out for future offspring.

After Micah was born, we were handed the paperwork for his birth certificate. Though we had a first and middle name in mind for a while, it was too final. We possessed too much power as his parents. Once we wrote down “Micah Logan Kim” in black ink, we would be presenting him to the government and to the world as none other than Micah Logan Kim, though yes, I know he can go off to college and have folks call him “Jeremy” or just a symbol.

One general “rule” for coming across the perfect name is that it must click for us as a family. Who WE are. Our general essence. This has largely been a process of elimination and sometimes knocks out solid names:

We are not hippies. (Poppy.)

We are not first-generation Chinese. (Harrison).

We are not Southern. (Rhett. Wyatt. Graham.)

Nor do we have an inheritance. (Preston. Greyson.)

We are not strippers.

We are not WASPs.

We are not actually Black though one of us claims so much flava to save yo neighba’. (Denzel. Oprah. Le’Jihee.)

We are not hipsters or even hip. (Chance. Jazz.)

We are not truly Jewish no matter how much we love Hebrew names (Nevaeh. Noam.)

We are not as Korean as I think. (rejecting almost all Korean names just based on sound and strict Kim family naming rules).

No, Kevin, we cannot name baby after a Met, a Celtic, one William Joel, one Kemba Walker, or someone else with the middle name Walker!

It must not clash with the family surname. (Faye. Shea. Cam.)

Watch out for bad initials.

Some names we do not even consider as fine as they are because they have just become way too popular in recent years.

We love Biblical names but meaning matters so much. Example: I love “Abel” but I believe he was the first murder victim in the Bible. At the hands of his brother. I cannot overlook that.

Meaning of the name in general is key. “Griffin” is a cute name but it means “hooked nose.” Another name we still like means “raider” or “fighter.” “Russell” is “little red.” “Drake” can mean dragon (cool!) but also duck. Occupational names like Mason or Jagger are also cute but can influence their fate. (I had a librarian named Mrs. Read. My friend’s doctor is named Dr. Wells.)

We would love the name(s) to consist of five letters to match the three of us. We think we’ve committed to a first name for either boy or girl but are still brainstorming for the middle names. Looking for that elusive click.

There is still some time. We would love to hear some suggestions. Goodnight!

35

When I was around 35 weeks along with Micah, I stopped working. I ended up having less than four weeks before he arrived and that in-between time was such a blessing. I had been able to commute on the subway and work full-time because I thought, “That’s what you do. Work! There ain’t no baby just yet.” But once I let go of this rule I had imposed on myself, I realized I was able to do it only because I was on auto-pilot – it was something I just did because of course I should keep working as long as I was physically able. But there was no intentionality behind it, just a (natural) drive to receive a few more paychecks to cover increasing baby-related expenses. I ended up trading in money for time.

When I stopped working, my body started exhaling, melting into the bed and basking in rest, like a turtle sunning on a rock. I was able to invest in quality rest everyday. Something not readily valued in today’s society, especially in rush rush rush NYC, but oh-so-necessary and healing. I’m pretty sure I moaned in my sleep a few times. The rest was so delicious, the kind where you sleep with a small hand towel under your face as you cuddle with your Snoogle because the drool will flow.

I would wake up whenever my body told me to. If I had had insomnia during the night, I could catch up by sleeping in. I didn’t have to run errands on my short lunch break. For the most part, I would find myself with only one item on my to-do list for the whole day like, “Try making scones,” “Meet Anna for lunch on Austin St,” and of course, “Daydream about baby.” Enjoyable, short to-do lists. I could take walks. Or not. I was wealthy with time. I also tried to learn to be kinder to myself for once. I didn’t have to DO anything if I didn’t want to, other than hydrate, eat well, and think pleasant thoughts for baby. I didn’t have to feel accomplished by checking off a long to-do list. Very unnatural for this child of immigrants who is naturally hard on herself.

This time around, I am not as wealthy with time or rest. I do crave some more of each before we are in the thick of it again, the sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Two other life-improving features I find myself craving: a parking spot preferably in the driveway of an actual house and a washer/dryer unit within that house (our co-op will not allow it). I should be content with our present home as it is a blessing that we prayed for in 2010, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

Instead, I am wealthy with cuteness via my toddler who toddles around all day with his bright eyes and smooth dolphin skin. Yesterday, we started the rainy morning off with a load of laundry in the basement. The load consisted of all of his stuffed animals and some of his drooly bibs. Such a small task requires much more energy with a toddler because he will turn it into an adventure. We have to wash his friends often because they are overkissed daily.

Once we get into the elevator, he immediately finds all the slivers of reflective surfaces so that he can give himself loud kisses. “Mmmuahh! Mmmmuahhh! Mmmmuuahhhhhhh!” I also have to cover the panel of alarm buttons that is perfectly within his reach. We walk down a long underground hallway to get to the laundry room. While walking, he feels very affectionate towards me and hugs my leg. He stops to look up at me with pleading eyes like the Puss in Boots Antonio Banderas cat in the Shrek movies. “Up? Up? Up?” He would like to be in my arms. Down the looong hallway. I hate to refuse but I do. I would love to always cuddle with my morsel, too, but I need him to get used to my not being able to pick him up for a while.

I try to distract him from the rejection by making it into a chase. He squeals. He just has to stop at the boiler room to check out what the workers are doing in there. I wrangle him away. We finally get to the washing machine. I’m worried he may be shocked to see his friends, Bear, Elephant, Mr. Mets, Lion, and many more, get dumped into a machine that will spin them silly, drowning them in suds, looking like a scene from Titanic. “Micah, it’s bathtime for them, okay?” He actually helps me by placing them in there one by one, solemnly, like we are performing a ritual.

Still carrying a bottle of detergent, I decide to let him walk outside in the courtyard for a little bit before the rain returns and we are forced back home to wait for the wash to be done. But he refuses to come back into the building as he checks out every gutter, dead leaf, bush and puddle. No matter how many times I pretend to walk back into the lobby without him, he doesn’t care. He wants to roam free. No separation anxiety since he knows I won’t really leave him. Dude is confident. I hide behind a tree so he will come looking for me and we can get home so I can sit for a spell but he is not falling for it.

He’s had it with my fakeouts. When I walk farther away, acting like I don’t have my eye on him at all, he throws himself on the ground. Lately, he wants a LOT of attention from me, almost like the baby has already arrived. And why not? He has always received 100% of my attention. We are always together. He is in for a rude awakening come October.

I am panting and sweating. I just want to sit down. I’m still holding the damn detergent. He wants to stay out. Finally, he hears one of the groundskeepers’ walkie talkie go off loudly with static so he runs over to me, about to cry. I soothe him and explain it is like a phone, that it was loud but not scary (“No ah-yah, Micah!”). We get home after more elevator kisses to his reflections and my pleading with him not to climb stairs once we got to our floor. After just a few minutes, we have to go back down to transfer his friends into the inferno, the dryer.

I catch a glimpse of myself in the elevator. Grey roots, sweat beads on the upper lip and lower eye regions, disheveled low ponytail in 80s leopard-print scrunchy, no bra, in the most comfy rainbow “dress” I should not wear in public even though it’s still within my building, wishing I could look only half as elegant and accessorized as Mrs. Roper.

That was about one hour of our morning. The rest of the time we play, read, dance to his favorite song, John Mayer’s “Heartbreak Warfare” while I’m making sure he doesn’t fall off our high bed when gets too excited during the chorus. He also climbs my stomach from time to time because it is big and inviting. Oh Lord help me when I do this with a newborn attached to my teat.