New things

Just saw that it’s been exactly four months since my last post on 4.27.18.

Keeping with the 27s, one month since my family and I moved from NYC to LA on 7.27.18.

I left in 2005 for my then long-distance boyfriend, now husband and babies’ daddy.  I remember sitting around sharing desserts after a birthday dinner in Los Feliz, and my girlfriends expressing concern that I was moving out to NYC without a ring on my finger.

I was touched by their love for me but I explained that getting long distance engaged wouldn’t actually be any kind of guarantee.  What if I moved out there and he turned out to be a jerk?

I do remember saying, “I can always move back if things are awful.”

Sometimes, things were awful.  Not because of who Kevin was but because NYC is a tough place to live with small kids, harsh winters and no family.  Plus marriage is always tough even without the East Coast West Coast Biggie and Tupac tension.

Then I started to resign myself to thinking that maybe we’d have to keep staying because jobs weren’t as easy to come by as strangers and acquaintances seemed to suggest.

About the third child in, I just accepted that while sun, nature, childhood friends, family, oceans of parking spaces and quiet were life-giving to me, it just wasn’t part of God’s plan to open that door for me.  I’d just have to brave the subway and recalibrate my expectations to the suburbs of NYC, a common transition for many Queens families.

As we got ready to put an offer on a house on Long Island, all the while feeling like, “Something doesn’t feel right.  Shouldn’t we be more excited about buying a house?,” Kevin’s job offer started taking shape.  As you know, I am a very gut feeling / signs / intuition gal and when one realtor said, “Welcome to Long Island,” all my cells clenched to say, “Nope nope nope nope.”

Right before Kevin went to fly in for his interview, we visited a huge playground on LI.  Suped up.  Inviting.  (But still SO cold in the spring).  If anything, all that play space should have lured us into seeing what LI has to offer.  I asked him, “So?  Whaddya think?  You think we’re gonna live here?  Or can we dare say we might end up in L.A. after all these years?”

Kevin hates to jinx anything and has all these rituals during sports playoffs.  He didn’t want to spit it out but he was willing to say, “I don’t think we’re gonna end up here.  I know we might make an offer on that house and I can totally picture us living there but I just feel like we won’t be here.”

There was a 37 day period of limbo even *after* Kevin received and accepted the job offer.  We didn’t know if we should be online looking for housing in L.A., Queens or Long Island.  We gave quasi-notices at our jobs.  We prayed a lot.

And here we are.  Exploring our new neighborhood.  Reconnecting with old friends.  Trying to remember to take in our own bags at the market.  Getting used to “May I help you find anything?”  Referring to NYC  as “back home.”  Feeling myself calmer as I don’t soak in all the beep-beeps and honk-honks.

And I keep coming back to how this verse shouted out at me this year:

Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

I perceive it.  I receive it.  And I am rejoicing in it wildly.  Thank You, Lord.

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New things:  Olive and I start off on our own as Kevin starts new job and boys resume week three at their new school.

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unpacked our handmade ornaments from Family Camp exactly two years before we moved out to LA; the date gave me chills, as did the fact that Olive was not even a sure thing back then and here we all are

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Palm Sunday Pew Fight and Good Friday Grievance

On Palm Sunday, I got into an argument with a stranger sitting next to me at church.  This was a first for me (I think) and it bummed me out big time because I don’t enjoy fighting, ESPECIALLY at church.

Church is supposed to be my sanctuary, my haven, my exhale.  Scuffling with some entitled heffa on the subway when she yells at me for accidentally grazing her with my purse?  Yes.  And different from conflict with people within the church as that is natural once everyone gets to know each other more but I thought surely DURING service, we all on our best behavior.

Picture it.  March 25, 2018.  Queens, NY.

I am sitting in the balcony minutes before the sermon is about to start.  Kevin whispers to me that his back is killing him so he has to stand out in the vestibule.  Minutes later, I gather my stuff to join him because I don’t get to spend much childless time with him these days and we like to worship together when we can.  I also want to be free to cough if I need to.

I walk out to see that there are absolutely no seats left because of the explosive Palm Sunday attendance.  Kevin advises that I return to the sanctuary and try to grab my seat back.

I whispered, “Excuse me,” as I had to pass the one lady who was sitting to my right.  I had to pass her on my way out and I’m sure I was annoying to come right back but hopefully, she could understand that I had my reasons.

I pass her as carefully as possible and she loudly remarks, “OOOOKAAAYYYY!!!”

My Joy Luck Club reflex kicks in and I respond with a “Me so sorry” wince and an, “I’m sorry!” which is the exact opposite of how I felt.  SURE SHE CAN BE ANNOYED LIKE I AM WHEN PEOPLE WALK IN LATE AND HAVE ME SCOOT IN but I am gracious about it because…WE AT CHURCH.

The congregation is told to say a brief silent prayer and when we emerge, I feel my body heat up.

“Why did you say ‘OOOOK’ like that?  I had to pop out to check on my husband and also have a cough attack.  I know it’s so annoying to pop back in but that was rude.”

“Look, WELCOME BACK, OK?  WELCOME!”  (or something like that, maximum snark)

“That was rude and passive-aggressive.  I didn’t say anything when you walked in late, ok?”

We go back and forth and the sermon begins.  I wanna fight her.  My blood is boiling.  Whenever she responds to the sermon with her, “Mmm” and “hahaha,” I want to turn around and say, “WHAT YOU MMMING AND HAHAING FOR, YOUR RUDENESS?”

Pastor talkin’ about “Get behind thee, Satan” and homegirl has the audacity to “mmmhmmm.”  I am so annoyed that I text my friend.  She texts back the perfect response about how she, too, is in the middle of a conflict at home and that we have the power to make the right choice.

I calm down a bit and church starts singing.  I’m hyper-aware of this lady to the right of me.  I swear if she starts harmonizing to the song, I’mma have to quit church altogether.

Afterwards, she awkwardly extends a peace offering of, “Hope you feel better,” which is better than nothing and I say, “I need to talk to you in private, please.”  She says, “Look, I don’t want to get into it with you,” and I say, “It’s going to be the opposite of what you think.”

We go outside the sanctuary and I explain, “Look, I was just hurt because I usually overexplain my every move, like why I popped out in the first place and why I annoyingly popped back in and look, I know it is SUPER annoying to pop back in and interrupt your focus.  I decide not to overexplain for once and when you said, ‘OOOOKKK’ it hurt me.  But I couldn’t let you go without talking to you because this is church, we just listened to a sermon together, and it was just gross.  I couldn’t even focus on the sermon, could you?”

“Yeah, I mean, I just let it go.  And it’s just my personality.  I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Yeah, but sometimes we say things that could unintentionally hurt someone and I was hurt when you said OOOOOKKKKK like that.  I’m sorry to have fought with you though and like I said, TO FIGHT IN CHURCH IS BEYOND GROSS!”

“Can we hug it out?  What’s your name?”

We hugged it out and no, this is not a story of how we Kumbaya’d and became best friends.  It just felt so much better to reconcile though we may never go further than that, or be each others’ cup of tea EVER.  It just reminded me that no place on Earth is a conflict-free zone, unless you NEVER speak to anyone and silently slip in and out.

And then came Good Friday.  A woman expressed her grievance against Kevin because she held the door open for him and he was so distracted wrangling the kids that he slipped on through with nary a “thank you.”  I actually co-signed with her and offered her MY thank you and she said, “Thank you for that but I’m actually speaking to you, sir.  YOU’RE WELCOME.  I was holding the door open for YOU.”

Kevin didn’t even notice that there was a conflict surrounding him.  He is THAT opposite of me.

I then noticed that I held the door open for families that evening after the grievance against Kevin, on Saturday with friends, and even for a pastor on Easter Sunday with zero acknowledgement and I finally learned that while this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine, I have to understand that people, including my own husband, SURE get distracted.  I will try not to hate.

Also, being a person of faith does not mean that I will just respond with “Shalom” when someone is rude.  I don’t think I even aspire to be like that.

Lord, help me live with others – in my apartment, on the crowded subway, at the office, ALL KINDS OF CUSTOMER SERVICE SCENARIOS, and also, CHURCH.  And please consider moving us to a land with far less people though because You taking character-building a bit far, no?  I’mma go feed my kids some Costco lasagna now on this snowy April day.  Thank You for food and funny snow and family time.

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Church is still my haven.  A slice of heaven, though not conflict-free like heaven.

 

 

 

 

Winter Storm Toby: March comes in like a lion, goes out like a more ferocious lion

E’s kindergarden loves the phrase, “March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.”  M must have learned that, too, but it seems so pronounced this time around.  I can’t recall learning that during my Southern Californian childhood, though I do remember learning idioms in third grade.  We even made a book of idioms.

Since English was not my first language, I was fascinated by these strange sayings like, “I’m all ears,” and, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  Even to this day, when folks speak in back-to-back advanced idioms, I feel like a fish out of water (ooh, that’s one right there).

Today, on this first official day of spring, we of NYC, ironically received an announcement from the mayor that all public schools were going to be closed tomorrow as Winter Storm Toby looked like it was going to be more major than weather trackers previously thought.  March is definitely not going out like no lamb.  RAWR!

Ellis asked to celebrate the first day of spring by going to the ice cream truck – sorry, that’s summer, but I like how he asked with so much hope and excitement in his soft brown eyes.

As tough as this East Coast weather continues to be for this California gal, even after 12+ years here, I have to admit that it is never dull as we await snow day declarations every other week.  I also love learning storm names though I know there will never be a Jihee.  Surely a Kevin and one of my kids’ names but never mine.

New season = new hopes and opportunities.

I hope that this new season brings about the official end to Olive’s first fever.  I hope that I can find more balance as I seem to be in a juggling and waiting to exhale mode with what feels like is only working or parenting or family-ing, as blessed as those things are.

I miss laughing with my face contorted and tears rolling down my face.  I miss the sun.  I miss being outdoors.  I miss just being able to step outside without all the winter gear, including a hat I dropped on the way back from school, which was kindly placed on a bush so that I could reunite with it.  I miss being able to get lost in a book without having To Do lists take over my mind, and then it’s time to go protect my sleep and rest like a responsible adult and parent.  I’m sure Kevin misses my being able to watch a TV show before I think of other To Do lists aloud.

I want more uninterrupted sleep which I’ve lacked the past couple months as Olive started to wake up at least a couple times through the night.  I want to meet up with girlfriends more than once in a blue moon so we can get our talk and laugh on.  Crucial for a more balanced and healthy me though everyone seems booked solid, including myself.  (That is what’s challenging about having three kids – even less time and energy after pouring out to three.)

I want to carve out time for more life-giving things like writing, reading, and just plain quiet so I can hear myself think without my beloved family in tow.  Some time where I am not crossing off the darn to do lists.  Untasked time.

It’s now past midnight so I better go to sleep.  Why stay up after complaining about such interrupted sleep?  Not writing has also made me feel imbalanced so I chose to crank this out before heading to the bedroom we share with our little Olive Tree.  Actually I’mma sleep on the couch so I can sneeze and cough freely.

Goodnight!

 

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First day of spring 2018

 

 

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friends’ baby shower – season of new babies

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the inevitable first fever and cold

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season of brainwashing baby Met fans

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season of endings:  Goodbye Toys R Us!  Olive will never know thee.

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Koreans wearing green (well, we could only find a minty aqua for one)

 

MistleTOE Marvel

Happy New Year!  I don’t have a profound declaration or meaningful mantra for this new year as I didn’t get to collect my thoughts during the last week of 2017.  So for now, I will settle for a measly rhyme:  “Year One Eight, You Will Be Great!”  And I’m still looking for a theme verse with vivid imagery for 2018.

The last week of 2017 was filled with quality family and friend time, a whole lot of togetherness in both NYC and CT.  I will spare you our December calendar.  Instead, I just wanted to capture one magical-in-the-mundane moment that took my breath away.  Magic in the mundane is a theme I keep getting drawn to, my favorite kind of treasure hunt because it’s so easy.

The boys had finally completed their last day of school on December 22nd, so close to Christmas Eve.  It felt comically late as CA friends seem to have been on break for a while.  To kick off our one week of holiday break, I announced that we should go for a family swim after dinner, though it was dark and cold out.

“Family swim” meant the boys would go with Daddy to the local pool while I stayed home with Olive.  Once they got back,  I would get tagged for my turn in this relay-parenting we’ve grown accustomed to.  It was tempting to skip my swim as it was already their bedtimes and so much warmer in our apartment with our glowy, fake Christmas tree.

But I started getting excited to finally go for my solitary swim at the end of the year, when I couldn’t make homework or dinner an excuse for not going.  My body ached to move beyond school pick-ups and baby lifting.

And what a great way to kick off winter break.  The swim would be cleansing, like a baptism into well-being.

Olive was babbling up a storm and I kissed her all over as she was bouncing up and down on my lap after she had nursed.  I noticed she was due for a toenail clipping as her little toenails scraped my thighs.  I grabbed her little feet and almost gasped when I spotted her pinky toenail.

It was extra small, curved funkily and growing up into the ceiling instead of straight across.  JUST LIKE MINE except 40 years younger, cuter and juicier.

Kevin always teases me about why I bother to have a pinky toenail when it’s that small.  The few times I’ve had a pedicure, the person doing my nails has had to basically paint my skin since there is only a dot of upturned nail.

With the Christmas music playing and with the apartment aglow with Christmas lights, I teared up once again, not just about this little girl being gifted to our family in 2017, but struck by how I’ve already handed things down to her, like this baby toenail.

What else would I pass down?  Both good and bad.  Perhaps she will be curious and compassionate like me?  Expressive and emotional?  But will she also feel things too much like me?  Prematurely grey?  Freakishly skinny wrists and ankles with nothing else thin?  Unforgiving of entitled, spoiled people?  And so much more.

I’m going to be one of her strongest influences.  Lord help me raise her up right.

I also thought about one of Kevin’s favorite songs, “Things We Handed Down” by Marc Cohn:

“Don’t know much about you
Don’t know who you are
We’ve been doing fine without you
But, we could only go so far
Don’t know why you chose us
Were you watching from above
Is there someone there that knows us
Said we’d give you all our love
Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I’ve heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we’ve handed down …”

I wanted to text Kevin the picture of MistleToe Jr. and also ask when he might be coming home so that I wouldn’t back out of my swim.  Just as I was about to text him, I happened to look out of our big living room window to see and hear the joyful commotion of my three, bundled up guys walking home, Kevin holding on tightly to their cold, little hands.

Though they are growing up so fast, I thanked God that they were still little as I watched them cross the street.  I thanked God for them literally looking up to their dad at the crosswalk, still innocent enough for a night swim with their dad visibly delighting them.  I could feel their smiles from across the street.

And Olive, you just might inherit other funky traits from your mama, other than your funky pinky toe.  Please forgive me and know that you amaze me just by existing.  You got nothing to prove, girl.  And you can tell me anything though I know I have big reactions.  Will work on that.

Hope y’all had a merry holiday season.  Here’s to 2018!  May we have our arms stretched out to receive God’s mercy and grace that He hands down to us each moment.

 

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2018 is not a birth year for any of my children so I hope to take a break from cards.

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12.24.17  Olive’s first Christmas Eve candlelight service (photo taken by Pam Chowayou)

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Micah is SNAPPING, ok!?

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Olive the baby teenager

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Mistletoe Marvel

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday was 12.12.17

Dear Olive,

Yesterday was a memorable cute date of 12.12 for our nation, thanks to Alabama.  I wondered if we should have at least included “Selma” as one middle name for you.

I was so nervous that I’d be embarrassed once again, embarrassed to birth you into a world of our current President’s dangerous buffoonery, while your brothers only knew President Obama, and even embarrassed like during your first extended outing where someone had left a big turd on the changing station at a Costco, for the next person (us) to have to deal with.

I felt like man, you were safely ensconced in my womb and you emerged for such a shit show this year but Alabama gave us a little something to hold on to though dag, that was too close for comfort for such a no brainer choice.

Before your daddy and I got to watch the election results late at night, the whole family got to enjoy some Christmas activities like decorating the tree and nibbling on some Christmas cookies while your brothers danced to Christmas music.

Thanks to you, we put up FIVE stockings this year in our new apartment.

I used to write on here about how I didn’t quite know how to celebrate or do the holidays merrily because my parents had to work so much and celebrations had to take a backseat to making ends meet.

I’m now able to enjoy so much more and I don’t dwell on the lack of available extended family.

As cheesy as this is, and I know I’ve said this in some form at least 57 times on here but thank you for gifting me with joy each time I get to snuggle your fresh, fleshy face and peer into your ever-alert eyes.  You were not an obvious missing piece in family photos until you arrived, if that makes any sense.  You still new around here but when I think of life before you, I see a huge Olive-shaped missing puzzle piece.

Thank You, Lord, for knowing our hearts’ desire even before it was a glimmer in our eyes.

Heads up, girl, it’s gonna be in the 20s with howling winds when we go pick up your brothers today.

 

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December’s Double Doctor Delight

Dear Micah,

First things first:  I’m sorry for telling you to leave your homework on the table for Mommy to check after she makes dinner, actually, hold on, after she gives your sister some butternut squash, oh wait, after she fetches your brother some rice so he won’t “help” by climbing into the fridge to get it himself.

When you were already in class this morning, I saw the homework still sitting there, unchecked.

I’m also sorry for the less-than-yummy dinner I made last night.  I forgot to add a whole cup of water to the Instant Pot so the pasta came out crunchy, while I told you guys to eat up.

I’m sorry for always asking you to get something for me these days – “Micah, plug in the tree. Micah, grab me the wipes.  Micah can you make sure your sister doesn’t roll onto the floor?”  While it’s imperative for everyone, young and old, to pitch in, I do wonder if I ask of you the most.  You, your dad, and I are all firstborns so we get it.

I’m still thinking about your doctor appointment on Saturday, when you were seen for your seven year-old wellness exam at the same time as Olive’s six month exam.  I was so happy to score one appointment for two kids.  Your brother got to spend a bit of special time with Daddy.

You were such a bashful baby and toddler, offering up all your toys to any little one who came near you, even before they asked for a toy, while I was like, dag, you got to be able to handle confrontations, boy, especially as a minority!  Stand your ground.  Use your words.  Don’t let entitled moms and kids alike come and grab your thangs out of your hands.

So it’s fascinating to watch you speak directly to adults in recent years, like when the doctor asked about Olive, and you became her little papa.  You made me recall that I always daydreamed about having a big bro or two, a big bro who would play basketball with his friends and come home for some Sunny D and then one of his cute friends would notice me in the kitchen with a big island and boojie fridge, but I digress.

When the doctor was asking ME about what Olive is able to do, you answered, “Yes, she’s able to recognize faces.  She knows me.  Yeah, she is starting to say lots of stuff.  She can say vowels AND consonants.  We started giving her rice and oatmeal cereal.  She likes it.  Yes, she can hold toys with both hands.”

And when it came time for her many shots and I braced myself needlessly, as she was my least crying baby yet, you suddenly appeared between me and Olive, having squirreled your way in.  At first, I was annoyed:  “Micah, you got to give me space!  Where did you even come from, Flash?”

You mostly spoke to Olive in response as you pet her cheeks, “I have to see her!  It’s gonna be okay, girl.  Look at me.  Look at me.  Don’t be scared.”

I laughed.  “She doesn’t even know what’s about to go down right now.”

As we walked home, with Olive succumbing to sleep in the Snap N Go that is already too snug for her, and you karate-chopping the air and jumping from tree root to tree root, I was struck by how the seemingly mundane life of a mom is full of miracles.

I get to witness my fetuses turn into puppy-like morsels, and morsels into full humans that grow, transform, and blossom, like my babbling, rolly six month old to my newly minted seven year old jack-o-lantern with a missing top tooth at this double doctor appointment in December.

I’m excited to see you after school and do some Advent activities tonight.  The Tooth Fairy must be busy this holiday season – her ETA is some time this week, I heard.  Thank you for being a super big bro to Olive, and to Ellis, too (most of the time).

Love,

Mommy

 

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11.29.12  The original double doctor appointment five years ago, when you just turned two and E was almost two months old.  Look at you, both in diapers!

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Your photo of Olive while Mommy held her head.

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Recipient of Goodness – Thanksgiving 2017

My favorite Sunday of the year is Testimony Sunday, the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

This past Sunday was that Sunday.  After three New Lifers shared their very different stories of gratitude and hope, Pastor Rich told us that being grateful, simply saying “thanks,” is different from living a life marked by gratitude.

He shared this definition of gratitude:  *Gratitude is a knowing awareness that we are the recipients of goodness.*

As Thanksgiving and my firstborn’s birthday is upon us, I wanted to shout out Olive, who is a living, cooing reminder that we have received a tangible outpouring of goodness Memorial Sunday 2017:

Dear Olive Hope Kim,

Thank you for being Thanksgiving personified for our family this year.

During tough times, choosing to be grateful all the dang time was a challenge, a challenge I wanted to rebel against.  Other times, it is too easy.

This year, you make it too easy.  When I think of you, see you, smell you, hear you, let you sleep in my armpit when you creep over from your crib, you mark me with gratitude. Even now, you are perched on your tummy on your playmat next to me as I type and when we meet eyes, you beam at me.

I just saw a picture on Facebook from a few years ago, a picture of our family of four, when you were just a fantasy I thought I needed to put to bed because…c’mon now!

Thank you for joining us.  Thank you for allowing us to experience baby joy all over again.  Thank you for filling our cluttered household with awe, even with the overstuffed diaper bag that your dad went from saying, “Never again.  It is finished,” to “Do we have enough diapers in there?”

When I see your brothers surround you, joke with you, hold you, my hands raise to the heavens as a reflex.  Thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord.

Thank you for making it seem like there was never a time before you.  Thank you for reminding us that there is still good and blessing in this world as I watch terrible current events unfold.  While I was watching news about the Vegas shooting on 10/2, the morning after your Ellis brother’s 5th birthday, you rolled over for the first time.  What a contrast:  the evil that lurks everywhere and a still-pure you, rolling over in the safety of our cozy apartment.

Watching you grow into a real human will be one of the top five periods of my life I will reminisce about in my old age.  Sure, I’m tired and now that it’s cold, I’m carrying All the Jackets and I can’t get past the tables at the library or in the aisles of T.J. Maxx.

Some days, especially from school pick-up through bedtime, I want to yell or actually yell at your excitable brothers who seem to have hearing problems when I speak.  Then I’ll catch a glimpse of you lying around in some corner of our living room, beaming like we are celebrities, or searching the room with your bright eyes, moaning for somebody to come poke you in the belly or just pay you some mind, and then I’ll be back at Thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord.

Right now, there is no separate Olive and Mommy.  You are an extension of me wherever I go.  Even at church, when Daddy asks to hold you, I miss you and I want to feel your warm body back in my arms, gazing at me and punching my chest as you nurse.

Your precious infanthood is already almost halfway done and it isn’t hard for me to cherish every moment, as the cliche goes, because I now know all too well how fast it goes before I’m chasing you at the playground and trying not to say something I’ll regret.

Under a Friendsgiving tarp this past Sunday, with the rain beating down, your dad decided to dance with you while he was holding you.  He told me that he got teary-eyed as he imagined dancing with you decades down the line, Lord willing, perhaps under a tarp with loved ones, and you still beaming at him.

I’m done typing now so I can hold you, our Thanksgiving star.  Publishing now before our laptop crashes again.

Love,

Mommy

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