“Immeasurably More…” – Mother’s Day 2017

Mother’s Day 2017 started out with the boys scurrying around with their homemade cards and origami flowers while I enjoyed a prolonged snuggle with my Snoogle, our old pregnancy pillow that we miraculously didn’t throw out over the years because Kevin liked it for himself.

The boys presented me with their bounty and also did their Mother’s Day choreography to Boyz II Men’s “Mama you Know I Love You,” directed by Daddy since 2015.  Kevin made me a veggie omelette, which Ellis also nibbled on.

Micah’s one gift was a handmade heart that said, “I love you so much it’s as easy as drawing a heart.”  He also added, “And you’re also easy to draw, Mommy, because I’m good at drawing fat people now.”

We went to church and all the adult females were gifted with a single pink carnation.  Ellis asked, “But Mommy, why you take the flower when you said we can’t buy you any kind of plant because then you have to take care of it?”

Pastor Rich Villodas spoke from Ephesians 3:20:

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Now he pointed out that though many focus on “immeasurably more” as in blessings in our personal lives, the passage is actually referring to how God can bring opposing groups together, immeasurably more than we ever imagined.

But I was marinating in the “immeasurably more” as in more blessed than I’d ever imagined.  There were two times in my life where I struggled with a debilitating depression.

While in the pit, I informed my parents that fine, I will stay alive because I have to but that I won’t ever thrive in this here life.  Sorry for being so broken and such a burden but you guys will have to take care of me for the rest of my life because of the darkness I just can’t emerge from.  As a parent now, I think about how devastating that would be to hear from your child who “should” be having a blast in those much anticipated college years.

Talk about immeasurably more than I ever imagined.  Despite those earlier dark times and even tough times in more recent years as we struggled in our marriage, here I was, sitting in the balcony at my colorful church in Queens, NYC, with a bonus baby in my belly, my two sons who crack me up daily, and a husband who just may be the Most Reviled husband for making others look bad.

But I have to put myself on blast as the day took a different turn.  I swear I was thinking about my Immeasurably More Blessed status even as we drove to Brooklyn for the Mother’s Day Brunch that Kevin had reserved.

On the way there, Ellis warned us he was getting carsick so we parked very far from the restaurant to get him some fresh air.  Whew, vomit averted.  We walked many blocks to the restaurant.  One block before the restaurant, Ellis gagged and bent over, vomiting onto the sidewalk, like a little man hungover.  Passersby commented, “Aww poor kid.”

As far as vomit goes, this was ideal.  Sidewalk vomit, only a mild spittle on my shoes.

I don’t know if my bad attitude started brewing then but once I saw the set menu, I went from basking in my Immeasurably More Blessed status to griping for Immeasurably More than the limited fancy egg or samich on the menu.  I still don’t know how I went from beyond grateful to pissed off so fast.

I started getting crabby as the boys fought over the phone, which I had hoped would not have made its appearance but Kevin was worried about Ellis’ stomach so he thought it’d be a good distraction.  Then I noticed all this glassware on the table that no one else seemed to be mindful of while I could picture spills in slow motion.

No kids’ menu so they were gonna have to order same overpriced egg or samich from the adult set menu.  The waiter said he would bring the kids some pistachio ice cream for their dessert later and because we were harried, we both said, “Yum.”  Then I called him back to say, “Oops, he’s allergic.”

My attitude spiraled down from there, as I thought, “Man, I wanted to just tag along today.  Clearly, I can’t just be passive for one day.  Mama still has to be hyper-vigilant.”  Again, unfair since Kevin totally holds it down so that I can mostly be passive.

Ellis remarked, “Mommy, you MEAN on Mother’s Day.”

I just wanted to confess this Mother’s Day attitude that I later apologized for.  I dunno if it was the hyped up holiday or my hormones, but even at my most grateful, I jacked up AGAIN.  I might have stayed up too late the night before, finally trying to catch “Catastrophe” with Kevin, or I just had too high expectations, unbeknownst to me.

After I apologized, I asked Kevin to not surprise me next year as his veggie omelette was way better than the $40 egg I had at Glassware Galore Restaurant.  He reminded me that last year I had requested brunch ambience aka White Papple ambience, so that is why he chose this place but that next year, I can chime in since my cravings are ever-changing.

Anyone else’s Mother’s Day take a topsy turvy turn?

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At least the $40 egg included homemade cinnamon donuts with caramel sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

Reaccommodatin’

Substitute my brother’s white Mitsubishi Eclipse from decades ago for our silver Honda Odyssey minivan.  And my 20-something self with my bigger 40 year-old self with pregnant belly protruding onto the steering wheel and basically, we have the same scenario.

When I was younger, I would blow off steam by driving in the familiar San Fernando Valley streets with music blasting.  I hadn’t realized that driving alone to de-stress was still an option for me until this past weekend.  Lemme back up.

Spring Break was upon us and this year, it went on for seven full weekdays.  So counting the weekends, it was for 12 days straight.  Kevin took one day off for our trip to local Bear Mountain.  I noticed during the break that my boys have grown much bigger in stature and presence.  I could not physically control them like I could when they were morsels I could lift in and out of their double stroller.

The most stressful moments of Spring Break were when we had to get somewhere by a certain time.

Like on Good Friday, the tail end of that first week of break.  The boys entertain each other so well these days that I am practically a third wheel to their inside jokes, songs, and secrets.  Until they fight.  Right when we had to go get the car to get to our parking-challenged church for Good Friday service, Fight Club was at it again.

Perhaps because this was the end of a fun but long week, I started seeing red.  I wanted to swat them.  We somehow made it to church and I noticed that en route to church, they had fallen asleep.  They must have woken up earlier that morning and that was why they were more rambunctious than usual.  But I didn’t care.

I needed to tap out.  I counted the minutes ’til Kevin could meet me in the church parking lot when he could tend to the sleeping angels and I could take just Me Myself and I (and obedient, compliant, quiet Belly Baby) into the sanctuary.  I hoped Kevin knew from my terrible mood to not try to find me once we were in the sanctuary.  BECAUSE I NEEDED ME SOME SANCTUAAAAARY!

I sat in the balcony, my favorite section.  I couldn’t even sing or pray.  I just kept fanning myself, just feeling beyond drained from the week of quality time with my boys.  I was at a -10 in self-care.  I didn’t know how to get them to listen to me, these growing, galloping horse boys in our apartment.  In some ways, this stage was much more taxing than a baby with no visible neck, just sitting there, with all of its delicious rolls and sausage arms to objectify and nibble on.

As I was fanning myself, Kevin texted me, “We are downstairs,” right after I saw them walking in.  Because I was so tapped out, my first instinct was to hide!  (Family – if you ever read this, I LOVE YOU.  But I am also human and I need to tap out and recharge).  My beautiful Denzel-smiling Micah located me right away and looked up at me in the balcony.  He beamed like he and his Fight Club partner hadn’t just put me through the wringer.  I smiled back but didn’t budge when he gestured for me to come down to their level.

I gazed down below at a family of six, sitting together, the youngest nuzzling into Dad’s neck.  Father, Lord, help me, I just can’t right now.

I was able to savor my solitude throughout the beautifully planned special Good Friday service.  I wanted to clap back with an exclamation of, “Glory Hallelu!” when Pastor Rich Villodas pointed out in his sermon that Jesus did not say, “You are a good good Father!” when He was being crucified on the cross.  Instead, even Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  And we can take comfort in that because it gives us permission to be human and voice our anguish to God.

And man, I felt VERY human on Good Friday.  I couldn’t get over how hard of a time I was having just taking care of myself, Belly Baby, and Wrestlemania Kims.  As I was headed to different, interactive centers set up throughout our church for focused meditation and reflection, a couple people kindly informed me, “I saw your kids in the Elephant Room!” as a way of greeting me.  Usually, I would beam at any mention of my kids but this time I thought to myself, “Good, they there with they Daddy and Mama here in the Upper Stage Room, still ketchin’ her breath.”  I did peek in without being seen and was relieved to see that they were enjoying a jellybean Jesus activity instead of absorbing my Tapped Out Toxins.

I was still emotional even after we were able to enjoy an Easter Egg Hunt at twilight with our friends.  I told Kevin, “Hey, I know I am repeating myself but I am so tapped out.  I cannot repeat another day of Fight Club.  It sounds extreme but I cannot take care of anyone tomorrow.  Please.”

Kevin heard me but still said, “OK, but remember, tomorrow I have to check out open houses and all you would have to do is take the boys to soccer.”

Tread lightly, brother.  “All you would have to do?”

I got salty because that sounded tame for any other day but I was tapped out.  And taking the boys to soccer meant walking them over, taking them back home, feeding them, keeping them from fighting, and little details you don’t quite think about.  Suddenly, I had a lightbulb moment.

“Hey, *I’MMA* go to open houses and you will take them to soccer.  And I will return laaaaaaaate.”

That is how I found myself on the highway, blasting my radio and driving like a free bird.  I always thought I hated driving but I had to check myself and qualify that:  I hate driving in our congested neighborhood with my precious treasures in the backseat, demanding The Weekend and Ariana Grande at the same time, but driving ALONE AND UNENCUMBERED with full control of the radio on a highway to a land of parking spots galore!?

I NEEDED TO DRIVE ALONE BY MYSELF ON THAT SATURDAY!  Sure, I came back and reported to Kevin that one house was very close to a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut and that was cool so now he needs to go re-visit houses for me, but that Saturday of Solitary Driving saved me.

Added bonus:  Kevin reported back to me that his staying home with the boys was just what he needed to rest!

We reaccommodated our roles and were much better for it.  I drove home, loaded with gyros and Greek chicken soup that night and was able to miss my boys again.  Recharged for Resurrection Sunday.

Now we lookin’ for more ways to reaccommodate our roles after I experienced some cramping and contractions that we first chalked up to a rare Taco Bell consumption.

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When you feelin’ like this, REACCOMMODATE (but not like United)!

Pi Day/(Almost)Blizzard Stella/Snow Day

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

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

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

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

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Musings in the March Snow

While we were in Orlando, my 96 year-old down-the-hall neighbor, Charlie, passed away.  We missed the funeral because we didn’t see the memo until we belatedly checked our tiny mailbox.

Charlie was the neighbor who came up to me a few years ago while I was running out to take out the trash.  His wife had just passed away and his grief was raw.  He hadn’t planned to come up to this Mama down the hall but the grief was so overwhelming that he shared with someone he had never spoken to before – “I just lost my wife.  We were married for ____ years.  I don’t know what to do.”

I dropped my trash and gave him a huge hug as tears escaped from both our eyes.  I told him later that sometimes I take my baby to Forest Hills Park and that he can walk with us but he was too frail.  I kept seeing him around with his full-time caregiver and dutiful son.

I ran into his son on Queens Blvd. while walking to the boys’ school this week and I grabbed his forearm to tell him how sorry we were for his loss.  His 60 something(?) year-old son had shared with me once, “I don’t know how family live so far away from each other.  I am so close to both my parents and always lived a building away from them.”

He told me that he was present at both his parents’ deaths and that they parted while holding his hand.

Growing up, I knew that my dad equated success with being a world traveler and adventurer.  He immigrated to the U.S. after falling in love with it on a business trip.  He always said that children should go far away for college instead of being sheltered and fearful, only confident at home.

He was disappointed when I didn’t get into Harvard.  I applied, for his sake, Early Admissions and got Early Rejected.  He never hid the fact that he thought my going away “just” to UC Berkeley, a one hour flight away from home / six hour drive, was not grand enough.

And because I always chase (chased?) after my dad’s approval, I believed the same.

But when I spent a few minutes talking to my recently deceased neighbor’s son on the street this week, I realized that my beliefs have changed.

After the boys go to sleep and Kevin and I get to unwind, one of us can’t resist going back into their tiny room to gaze at or squeeze them, especially after an episode of “This is Us.”  It’s like having a cartoon rotisserie chicken asleep on the bottom bunk, and a scrumptious pork belly slider tucked in in the top bunk.  Irresistible.

I no longer define success as globe-trotting  and being as far away from family though I drool at my globe-trotting friends’ adventures in lands I have to Google.  I would love for my rotisserie chicken and crispy pork children to traipse the entire globe…then return to home base to share as much of their lives with me as they will allow.

I will be waiting.

RIP neighbor Charlie.  I am so glad that Art had the privilege of holding your hand as he ushered you into eternity.

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Like Sands Through the Hourglass…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is ready to become Big Bro of two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Searching for our Next Home on MLK Jr. Day 2017

“Hey, Micah, tomorrow is your special day!” Ellis and I joked as MLK Jr. Monday approached.  Micah sheepishly answered, “No, Mommy, I’m only named after him.  So it’s not really MY day.”

MLK Jr. Day is a special day for our family.  We named our firstborn “MLK” as we couldn’t think of anyone else we both wanted to pay homage to.  (No, Kevin, we will NOT be naming any of our kids after your William Martin Joel.)

Though Ellis was actually named after Ellis Island, after Kevin had stumbled upon the cool-named baseball player “Ellis Valentine” while catching up on his Sports Illustrated, our Ellis was conceived on MLK Jr. Day 2012.

This year, on MLK Jr. Monday, we spent the afternoon starting the search for our next home, exploring houses in a local suburb after a couple friends bought homes in the area.  We are not sure about Musts v. Wants,  other than urgently needing more space, commutes under an hour, affordable pricing, and good (not best) schools.

We rolled into town and some of the neighbors glanced over at us, just to see who was driving down their block.  My immediate response was, “Yo, I can’t do this.  Was our radio on too loud?  I feel like I need to bump some Tupac or Guantanamera.  Where my do-rag at?”  Kevin reminded me, “You’re not REALLY Black.”

I knew that these neighborly glances from their garage or while walking their dogs were most likely innocuous but this is the part of the home-search that I am not yet at peace with:  Can I do without people of color?  Is lack of diversity a deal-breaker?  If so, our options are even more limited for our budget.  I also still yearn for that California vibe where folks would just say “hello” to strangers but I’ve accepted that that’s just asking for too much.

Say that we find a home that meets most of our criteria BUT it’s located in a town that is 95% white.  Okay, now my heart is beating more rapidly as I type.  I don’t want my kids to be THE Asians in their class or school.  I don’t want to hear compliments about the Kim boys who are “just lovely, such good boys.”  I don’t want to become Borat while hanging out with White moms, explaining, “In my count-trrrryy, we have postpartum ritual we like to call…”

I don’t want to feel as Other as MLK Jr. and Coretta, fighting the good fight, while raising up our family in a homogeneous community, whether it be all White or all Chinese.  (And I know that with our Model Minority Mugs, we are hardly fighting the same prejudices as MLK Jr. and Coretta with the Good Name).  Friends have brought up good points:  that we can start the trend, and more Asians and other people of color will migrate soon enough, especially if there are good schools around.  “If you build it, they will come.”

I’ve had the good fortune of attending only diverse schools, from the moment we immigrated to Los Angeles when I was couple months shy of turning five.  I started kindergarden and stayed silent for a year because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, sputtering out pitiful, laughable Ingrish.  It was the first time I had seen people with light hair and blue eyes and it was a lot to process.  My first teacher was an older woman whose light hair was turning blue so there were so many new colors I needed to digest, after only seeing Black hair and nearly Black eyes back in Seoul.

Even during my silent year, I did speak to Korean classmates, working out a system where I’d do their math and they’d help me out with Ingrish.  I even developed my first crush on a Filippino boy named Carlos without really speaking to him directly.  (And Kevin IS sporting Bruno Mars’ hair lately).

Later, when my little brother and I were bussed from Koreatown to the boojie Laurel Canyon area to attend a gifted magnet school,  I did develop an inferiority complex as so many of our classmates were wealthy.  Even then, we still had so many classmates who were also children of immigrants, also getting bussed in.  This continued through college and graduate schools:  so much color all around.

Now, Kevin, on the other hand, totally had a different experience.  He was THE people of color in his graduating high school class.  When I attended his high school reunion in CT as his then-girlfriend or then-fiancé, I started twitching as we were THE people of color (plus one classmate’s husband who was also Asian and mistaken for Kevin).  While the classmates were getting they drinks on, one girl “complimented” Kevin:  “Don’t you worry, KK, you were as White as the rest of us.”

I don’t know where we will end up yet but I don’t know how to reconcile my urge to start rioting when I visit an all White community, even for a single afternoon visit to a children’s museum in CT or at a Billy Joel concert.  And now we in a Trump era…

 

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Please lead us to a nice next home, Lord!

1.13.17 Friday the 13th Fragments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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