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

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Family Fun at the Farm (after attitude adjustments)

This weekend was perfect.

Not because we spontaneously skipped the boys’ Saturday activities to catch the last weekend of our favorite pumpkin patch, or because of Sunday’s storm accompanied by Kevin’s homemade pho, or the video game-like World Series Game 5 between the Dodgers and the Astros providing much excitement and bonding for everyone across the country late Sunday night.

The forecast showed that Saturday would be in the 60s before Sunday’s storm and though I craved rest, AND I didn’t want the boys to miss their Saturday sports, I couldn’t pass up this last chance to take Olive to our favorite pumpkin patch for her first visit.  We hadn’t missed a year yet for maybe the past four years?

But this would require effort.  Effort beyond scrounging up something to wear these days for my still postpartum body.

Grabbing all the costumes, refilling the diaper bag, packing extra blankets for Olive, charging the camera, finding and charging the selfie stick (which we never used once we got there), and other mundane but necessary To Do’s.  I even insisted on M and E getting haircuts before we headed out because I can’t stand looking at shaggy hair in my holiday photos.

Kevin took them to the car first because I can’t hear myself think when we’re trying to head out.  I packed a final tote bag of more stuff, to add to the corned beef and PB&J samiches I had packed during their haircuts and Olive’s morning nap.

I was already sweating from getting ready and I had grown irritated that getting out the apartment was harder in part because we had to repeat ourselves.  The boys were hurting my supersonic ears and Kevin reported back that the boys had fought the entire way down and had gotten in his way AGAIN at the garage steps, where he has to hoist the Snap n Go to level ground.

By the time I got into the passenger seat, I warned them that I was NOT having it:

“It’s already hard for our bigger family to get out the door but when you guys don’t listen, and get in our way, it makes it harder and it is NOT okay.  You guys know better and can do better.  You have to choose the right thing.  Mommy doesn’t even feel like going any more when you fight and make it harder to leave.  When it’s already hard, you should say, ‘How can we help?’ rather than make it harder.  And if you can’t help, at least don’t make it worse.

Now, I won’t force it but can someone other than Mommy or Daddy pray for me and for the rest of the day?  If we want to go, we can’t go like this.”

I was sure that they would sulk so I was surprised when M volunteered.  “Please Lord, help us to listen better and to break the cycle.  Thank You for letting us go together and please keep us safe.”

I am all too familiar with going to fun destinations and having a horrible time because we weren’t able to break the cycle of conflict and emotional turmoil before or during a special event so *THIS* was the highlight of my weekend, as awesome as the rest of it was.

This gift of UNDERSTANDING at a young age that just because you messed up, it doesn’t mean you have to stay in it and sabotage the rest of the day in order to subconsciously or consciously match it up to the initial jacked up-ness.  The kids are grasping this idea that at any moment of any given day, THEY have to power to redirect themselves.  There is always more grace and His mercies are not just new every morning but every moment.

I didn’t live this out myself until recently, after about five years of struggling in our marriage and now that I’m doing much better, this day at the pumpkin patch started off on the right vibe and the picture perfect moments were truly that.  Also, as third-time parents, knowing how crazy I get about preserving ALL the moments, we intentionally practiced the art of taking a deep breath and saying, “That’s enough picture-taking.  Let’s just take stop and enjoy.”

So, Olive turned five months old at the pumpkin patch and as the third child, she is inheriting an emotionally healthier family.

Here are some photos:

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Precious Moments

As I grow older, I am realizing time is as much of a commodity as money.  In some cases, more.

Right now, I have to use the bathroom but I want to write so badly before Olive wakes up from her mini-nap.  I would choose writing over eating, depending on my mood that day.

Once Olive is up, we have to be on our way to fetch the boys who will stick their sweaty heads into her Snap N Go to give her kisses all over her chubby face as I repeat myself, “Give her space!  She is a person!  Here’s some Purell!”

Hours later, I will get to hand the three off to Daddy as soon as he gets off the subway to release me to Parent Engagement Night, aka Back to School night.

As packed as our days (and nights) are, I can tell these are the very days Empty Nesters will remind us to enjoy every moment of.

I’m not sure what I want my blog to be.  I often wish I could be the blogger who writes about tips on taking trips with kids, or recipes, or other how to’s but I’m not wired that way.  I am prone to confessing, sharing too much, and talking about my inner life, aka being a Non-Monetizing Blog.

My kids take my breath away.  I won’t be able to share much as they get older but for now, I can still share these mundane but meaningful moments:

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Photo #1: Alone but Together

My big one wanted to assert his independence by riding alone on the kiddie ride this past weekend at Six Flags.  This was a precious moment as Ellis and I beamed when our ride would line up with Micah’s and Micah would beam back with his one missing tooth.  I will carry that moment in my heart and hopefully conjure it up when they are pre-teens.

He wanted to be on his own but did not find it uncool yet to be thrilled to see us next to him.

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Photo #2:  I Spy with My Blue-Lashed Eye

“Micah, can you make sure Olive…”

“Yeah, I’m already holding her hand and foot so she knows she isn’t alone.  I checked to make sure the sun is not in her eyes.  She has some tears on her cheeks so I wiped them.  She has some on her lashes, too.  And I’m gonna sing to her now.”

Though Big Boy and I butt heads from being wired too similarly during our low moments, he blessed me so much when he told me yesterday, unprompted:

“I appreciate you taking us to the library program even though it was crowded and loud.  I’m proud of you, Mommy.”  HIGHLIGHT OF MY DAY.

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Photo #3:  These are the Days of Our Lives

When there is a new baby on the scene, folks immediately and naturally relate it to their own stage in life.  “Oh, we are SO done!  I can’t even imagine going through that again!”  “Now we get to travel!  No diaper bags!  We sleep so well.”

It’s been extra busy with Back-to-School events and forms that have got me cross eyed, those darn blue cards with fonts shrinking every year, this time in Spanish first, then nearly invisible English.

Kevin and I have not been able to soul-talk after a big fight because we have to talk about the more mundane but necessary items like how to keep us all clothed, fed, bathed, hydrated, schooled, homeworked, and bedtimed, and other -ed’s.  And yet, I can just feel that these are the very best, most tender days of our lives, while the kids are still so pure and while we are still not decrepit.

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Photo #4:  My Olive Royl at 3.5 months old, post Baek-Il

Cracking us up by being so calm, down for every family adventure, suddenly drooly like Biggest Bro was, sucking on her whole fist and wrist like she workin’ on a jokbal (Korean roasted, seasoned Pig Foot).  She has moved on from smiling to trying out this sound called Laughter and splashing lots in the bath.  I must capture on video.

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Photo #5:  Don’t Forget Me, Mommy!

My Middle has expressed that he would like to be born again so that Mommy can love him again as a baby.  Awwww.  Imagine being snuggled so much until a smaller, cuter thang arrives out of your mom’s swoll belly, monopolizing her time, energy, and teat.

With three kids, there isn’t as much of Mommy and Daddy to go around.  I pray that we can still make each FEEL loved.

Olive is up and we must get going.  Thank You Lord for each moment.  Please give us more energy for the second half of our day.

Behold: New Things Have Sprung Forth

I know the timing of this post sucks. Hurricane Harvey hit Houston about a week ago and now Floridians are bracing themselves for Hurricane Irma.

So I feel sheepish and rude to share that while catastrophes swirl about on our green globe, in my personal life, I am happy. Quite possibly the happiest I have ever been.

I recently realized that I respond to “How are you?” by sharing laments or struggles because that seems to be the easier way to connect to others. I know I can’t connect to someone if they only share green pastures, Happy Happy Joy Joy, perhaps because there is no risk involved in sharing only the shiny moments.

But because I am the opposite and lead with difficulties first, I want to work on sharing praises more, without worrying that others might be like, “Well, congrats to you, bitch. Can’t relate.”

I’m repeating myself but having a baby at 40 was an answer to a couple years’ worth of prayers, asking, “Please remove this impractical desire for a third baby OR somehow work it out for our family as I am consumed by this desire.” I shared before that Kevin had a vision from God and it was realized when I conceived at the age of 39.

Sure, we are tired because we have a wide-eyed baby with no official bedtime yet, in addition to two growing, active boys who need our attention, in some ways more than when they were babies. But even in that sharp tiredness, we sing and laugh each night, as our cheeky girl shimmies to our pitchy serenades.

We shake our greying heads in amazement that she has joined us when for years, she was a fantasy I tried to excise, only joking about it, wiggling my eyebrows and quipping at Costco, “I’mma just buy some prenatal vitamins, eh? My obsession won’t go away,” and Kevin saying, “Not funny.”

Also, after many of our weekends were devoted to house-searching, our prayers for a house were answered in the form of, “Nope, NOT YET!” Surprisingly, staying in our imperfect town has added to my happiness. I appreciate living closer to couple close friends, our non-family village.

Just a few weeks ago, we moved to a slightly more spacious apartment in the very town we wanted to graduate from, and we love our new amenities.

We sit on our tiny terrace to have family dinner together while the weather is still gorgeous. Kevin and I people-watch. We saw a dad screaming at his kid because the kid didn’t listen, causing some groceries to spill out. Now that we are parents, we completely judged the kid and commentated, “He should have listened. How many times the poor dad gotta repeat himself!?”

Biggest quality of life update: We have a second bathroom. Glory be! Even with such upgrades, by the grace of God alone, I remain down-to-earth puahahaha.

Because we live a quick jog away from our old co-op, we were able to drop by twice before we gave it up completely. Though we outgrew that space almost as soon as we moved in in the fall of 2010, all the memories came rushing back as we looked around the vacant space:

My parents, fresh from the airport, walking in to see their first grandchild, just days old, six pounds of fragile newborn, laying in his bassinet.

Another son joining his more laid-back parents two years later.

Hoisting my pregnant self off our high bed once again in 2017 and my water breaking for the first time, to meet our first daughter.

Just as Micah and I became teary-eyed about the memories housed in those 900+ square feet, Olive let out a rare yelp, as if to say, “Enough. Let’s roll out. I only had a couple months of memories here and I’m ready to make more with you guys.”

19″Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

Thank You, Lord, for letting us say goodbye in installments, to our old home. And thank You also for new things springing forth. I am so happy and learning to enjoy green pastures. Every good and perfect gift comes from You.

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