“I Don’t Know How You Do It!”

Many of the moms I’ve met since moving to my area in LA have just one child.  When I mention my three, they look straight into my eyes, sometimes shake their head slowly and say, “I don’t know how you do it.”

It mostly makes me feel validated for all that I do, since I often feel invisible and my “work” only gets noticed if I were to drop the ball.  Other times, it makes me feel like confessing, “If you only knew…I’m cracking these days.”  Wait, I did say that aloud, just this week, to my kids’ basketball coaches (dads of young ones) as they laughed about cracking too except I wasn’t laughing.

Summer parenting has been A LOT in a way I don’t have the patience to get into, and this is with the sons in various activities, not lounging around under my roof.  For one, I didn’t know how chauffeuring them around town, on a schedule, which sounds passive enough, would increase my anxiety.  Girl is two years old and ackin’ very two-ish from her middle carseat, demanding all the songs and snacks and no, different song!, and even hugs as I drive because Mom sitting in the driver seat is too far away.

I’d been feeling a nudge to CREATE SPACE for a while now as our lives are packed and when the nudge became a shove after a couple Facebook posts affected me, I removed Facebook from my phone.  The bad outweighed the good for me, for now, and there was no need for my already crammed mind to be filled with acquaintances’ summer travel or my heart affected again by seeing updates from those I was once close to, now like strangers from atrophy.

I’m not sure the point of this post but it has been TOO long since I’ve written more than To Do lists and I need to get back to doing the things that I love.

I wholly appreciate how the Lord knows what I need in big and small ways.  He sent me an unexpected encouragement through a stranger (a dad) who said he saw me at my boys’ sports camp, marching in, wearing the Girl, motioning quietly to the staff that I’m pulling out the boys to take them to swim.  He told me that he was so impressed that he even texted his wife about me, saying man, you should have seen this mom!  He added that he knows how moms don’t get affirmed enough for all that they do while dads get lionized for just being with their kids in public.  Seems like a small thing but it nearly made me tear up.

God also brought me a new friend I was able to walk and talk with, with a total of zero kids between the two of us, and it was such a gift.  After moving here about a year ago, I joined so many groups, thirsting for connection.  I think I found some support and community but not the deeper, individual connections that might take a while to build (it’s only been a year).  I missed the intimacy and natural chemistry of talking with a few someones who just get me and vice versa.  I miss the handful of close friends I did life with in NYC though yes, I know I pined away for CA while there.

I told the new friend about something enraging that happened to me yesterday and instead of the usual advice to just shake it off, reminders about how blessed I am otherwise, or other directives to please just make it all better by not spending one more second expressing truthfully how it made me feel, she gifted me with, “OF COURSE THIS SHOULD MAKE YOU MAD.  OF COURSE!  YOU’VE BEEN INJURED.”

And again, when I shared with an acquaintance, and he responded by inspecting my hand and remarking, “How bad were your knuckles bleedin’ when you hit her?” (I didn’t hit anyone but his deadpan question just made my morning after a terrible day yesterday).

Here’s to the rest of the summer:  creating space, creating, nature, quiet, nudges and shoves, deep breaths, letting go, and breaking bad cycles.  P.S. Facebook keeps sending me emails to jump back in, even asking me if I’m having trouble logging in.  That’s wrong!

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Del Taco Talk-os

Another week (nearly) under our belts.  Thank You, Lord.

By Friday afternoon, boy, are we marinated and cooked.  I can hear baby girl mewing for me from her crib with a weird early wake-up but she needs to nap longer so I will leave her be while I try to crank out a post.

This past week, I watched a video of a mom stating that the five foundations for a strong family are:

  1. Love
  2. Acceptance
  3. Communication
  4. Play
  5. Presence

Which one are you strongest in?  Which one do you need to work on?

I thought “love” as a catch-all topic was odd as it seemed more like the big umbrella under which 2-5 should fall.  We all love our kids fiercely.

Without overthinking it, I am strongest in communication while we are outside of the home.  I may loathe all things domestic but I will constantly talk to my kids about their feelings – in the car, taking a walk, taking a walk to Del Taco.  In the car is a big one.

Though Kevin teases me for being so Oprah, he does appreciate that I talk to my kids about their roses and thorns, their highs and lows, and set the mood for our family to talk more.

Life is only going to get busier as the kids grow older.  So many deadlines to calendar that one night, when I unexpectedly fell asleep at the same time as the boys, I only woke up to yell down to Kevin, “Can I afford to go back to sleep?  What does our calendar say?  Anything time sensitive for tomorrow?”

And yes, part of our busy, is because we chose it.  Chose to join groups and activities that we just don’t want to cut out during this life stage.  Maybe we will have to reassess soon but for now, everything we’ve joined is life-giving.

Looking back at this past week, everything blurs together, all the photos on my phone – sports, church, school, library – but for some reason, our first impromptu walk to Del Taco for post-homework mini-shakes stands out as a memorable moment in the mundane.

One thing I miss about NYC is how we walked lots.  So I told the kids that the boys can scooter and Olive can ride in her toy car to Del Taco, if they finish their homework fast.  We went for a walk, including my still-healing left pinky toe.  Olive clearly delighted in this break from routine, an unusual walk to a “restaurant” with her brothers zigzagging past her, and back.

While there, I told the boys to take turns, practice asking for things politely while I watched from afar:  “Excuse me, may we have some more napkins, please?  Thank you,” to split fries three-ways without fighting, to throw away all of our trash without dropping the tray in the trash, to be mindful of others’ space when we park our scooters and car.

Ellis held the door open for all of us plus a lady who never even glanced at him or offered a “thank you” even as he used his entire body to keep the door open.  “That lady never said ‘thank you,’ Mom.”

So I shared with him about how non-thankers are also my pet peeve and how I once ran after a man in Manhattan to return all the cash that blew out of his back pocket on a particularly windy morning, and he might have said, “Oh,” at most, even after I went out of my way to return it to him.  I told him about how this world is full of all kinds of people, including rude people who may hurt us, and how we will also hurt others, both unintentionally and intentionally.

Then on the walk back, a senior citizen dropped all the contents of his wallet on the sidewalk so while the scene barely began to register with me as I barked at the kids, “Don’t scooter into each other!  Watch the street.  Don’t scooter into sister!  Watch Mom’s foot – I can’t afford another injury!” Micah had already ran to the gentleman and started picking up his credit cards for him.

I told him that was very kind and proactive of him.

Okay, Olive is crying lots so I gots to go.  Marvel in the mundane.  Watch for wonder.  I’d like to think those are my strengths as an imperfect, mistake-making mama.

Happy International Women’s Day!

 

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Ebenezer Stone Valentine’s

I’ve always had a thing for nature.  Going on nature walks alone or with the family always puts me in a calmer, happier mood.  I like picking up special rocks or shells though it’s been a minute.

So, no surprise that I got excited to discover this passage recently:

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  – 1 Samuel 7:12 NASB (emphasis added)

And I became even more excited when we drove by this gorgeous scene this past rainy Sunday afternoon in LA (Tujunga) on the way to a church event.  The boys were gracious enough to allow Kevin to make an inconvenient U-turn in the rain, so that photo-loving Mom could memorialize something once again (Olive had no say or clue as her car seat is still rear-facing):

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Whenever the Israelites would pass by the stone named Ebenezer, they would remember how the Lord had helped them and acted on their behalf.

When I saw these striking stones set in these eye-catching formations, right by a street named Elmhurst, same name as the NYC area our old church was located, I, too, remembered.

“Guys, we have to always look back and remember how God helped us.  Remember when we were in limbo for 37 days last July, when we didn’t know if we could actually move to LA or if we should look for back-up housing in NYC?  And now we live here, driving everywhere with oceans of parking and drivers who hardly honk.”

As I wonder about the future once again, our hopes for 2019, and I become confused or anxious, I have to breathe and remember.  God will help.  Maybe not exactly the way I pictured, but He will.

(Only after my three minute iPhone photo shoot, I noticed a “No Trespassing” sign).

Happy Valentine’s 2019!

 

1.9.19: Cute Date Alert and Reminder to Be Present

Happy New Year once again!  I like to use this greeting until February.

Yesterday was cute date 1.9.19.

I am struggling with finding the time to do everything I need to do and want to do.  My brain is never in rest mode as it is always thinking in list form, for the things I need or want to do for the three kids, for the family or home as a whole, or for myself.

Even during a morning walk with my baby girl, exploring the still-new ‘hood, my mind was elsewhere, wondering what my next steps are and how I can accomplish them this year.  I have to catch myself and come back in to the sunny moment, as we pick up branched berries and rocks to study.

The era of the smartphone is not good for my inability to shut my mind off.  I even borrowed “How to Break Up with Your Phone” from the library but only skimmed it as I got distracted, probably by my phone, or the kids, or other more pressing or enjoyable matters, and had to return it on its due date as another patron had requested it.

Olive was my cute date to her new Mommy and Me class this year, on cute date 1.9.19, and as I set her down, I happened to check my phone “real quick” and then became preoccupied thinking about more To Do’s that the phone check had sparked.

On New Year’s Eve 2018, I jotted down some notes using the Rule of Life, first introduced to us through our old church in NYC.  Here are the steps:

Step 1
Write down everything you currently do (or hope to do) that nurtures your spirit and fills you with delight  (e.g. people, places, activities).   Normally, when we think of spiritual activities, we limit ourselves to things such as prayer, going to church, worship, and Bible reading. Don’t censor yourself.  Your list may include gardening, walking the dog, being in nature, talking with close friends, cooking, painting, jumping out of airplanes, or any number of other possibilities. List them all!
Step 2
Write down the activities you need to avoid, limit or eliminate that pull you away from remaining anchored in Christ.  This refers to avoiding certain things that impact your spirit negatively – such as violent movies, excessive social media involvement, being harried, and going beyond your limits. The list that you create, whether you know it or not, is your unconscious way of life.
Step 3
What are the challenging “have to’s” in this season of your life that are impact your rhythms? (e.g. caring for aging parents, a special needs child, a demanding season at work, parenting small children, an illness, etc.)

 

I was able to use this as a tool to recognize that in Step 1, rest, being out in nature, doing life with others, writing, reading, prayer and more were crucial for me to be healthy.

Step 2:  excessive social media scrolling and phone-checking and stacking up my days so that there were no margins to breathe were harmful to me and anxiety-inducing.  Kevin, a peacekeeper to a fault, shared that for him, arguing with me was in his Step 2 as something he needs to avoid.  That actually helped me understand his mindset more as I am more confrontational by nature.

And Step 3 is tricky as we are in a season of life where a toddler, as ladylike as she is, zaps our energy and our two growing boys also need us in different ways.  So in one sense, this is a reminder for us to slow it down and not pack it in, but Kevin and I both like to do a lot: participate in different activities and spend time with quality people so that we are not an island unto our family unit.  The key is always balance:  much needed rest, fun, time together as a couple, time alone on our own, but wait, how about one-on-one with each kid, de-cluttering, organizing, grocery-shopping, and more?

On the one hand, I’m excited because the reason I feel overwhelmed is not only because there is so much I need to do, but WANT to do.

Lord, help me to slow my thoughts down and be present; to breathe and know that You are God and I am not.  Even if I drop the ball on some time-sensitive registration or research, it is okay.  I need not constantly check my phone or have my phone rule my life.

Thank You for a new year to fill up.  And thank You that I need not be master of the universe though I try to control my little household.

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Quieter of My Soul

I failed again.  During a visit from my mom, I drove her away the week before Thanksgiving.  Only God can help us understand where the other is coming from despite the immense cultural, language, love language, and generational barriers.

I have to study the fight-or-flight response further because I tend to fight, as in attempt to tackle the recurring issue while my mom leaves the room and her eyes check out, which only triggers my escalation as I chase her, begging to be heard.

I don’t want to get into more of this as it is too raw and unresolved.  And not entirely my story to tell.  I just know that we need help and this unhealthy cycle has to stop.

How do I respect and navigate around her need to flee, which is just as dire as my need to be heard.  She just wants to retreat into a safe space whether it is to wash a dish or wash Olive’s socks DURING the communication I begged for, which only triggers me, as keeping occupied with physical tasks has always been her coping mechanism while I need to talk about it.  THIS IS SO PAINFUL and beyond hard.

I explained to my kids at pick-up that Halmoni and I had a painful conflict and that in light of that, can they please gift me with extra grace, as in please be on task with picking up after yourselves, not fighting, and staying focused during homework.

Needless to say, I still had to repeat myself, break up fights, apologize for lashing out due to my own emotional tank being depleted, rush, clean up Olive’s messes, pray for help, then take them to their church activity on time.

Looking back on yesterday, I realized again that for me, the toughest part of being a parent is not just the physical demands like feeding (so much feeding), driving, clothing, decluttering, and organizing but the emotional demands, like disciplining without lashing out and parenting while I’ve taken an emotional hit.

I thought about my girlfriend who has yet to process her baby’s death as she is busy meeting the demands of her first child.  Or even now, as first responders near the Woolsey Fire in Thousand Oaks, have not been able to grieve because immediately following the mass shooting of last week, came the massive fires.

Underlying the frenzy of yesterday was also gratitude for my kids needing me so I could not afford to “dwell” on my feelings of guilt and sadness, *BUT* it truly is a balancing act as I do have to find some still small space to find out how I can communicate wiser so that my mom does not resort to her coping mechanism of taking flight.

So, as Thanksgiving approaches and many of us will gather with our families, all of us imperfect and broken, I pray for quieting of our souls amidst the many voices, inner chatter, unmet expectations, and unresolved childhood wounds:

“The LORD your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) – emphasis mine

If you read this, please pray for me and my mom.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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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

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.