The Middle

I’ve swallowed up whole blog posts in my mind.

I have stories after stories churning in my head yet I tell myself that they should only be emailed to myself to share with my grown kids in the future or jotted down in a journal I only use twice a month at my writers’ group.

But what’s the fun in that?  So I decided to post a couple here, even though I always have this fear of being insufferable, too in love with my kids.  But hey, that is a part of who I am these days, as much as I find some aspects of motherhood beyond difficult (that’s ANOTHER post in the mental pipeline).

So, just a heads up that this post is for family and the few friends who have any interest in our kids:

My middle.  My E.Z. aka Emoji, Expressive Ellis, Ellis the Entertainer.  I once remarked to Kevin, “I can’t ever call him Mahng-Neh (“Last baby” in Korean) because I just don’t FEEL that he is.  And if anything, he would be perfectly suited to take on the difficult middle child role because he could never be a neglected wallflower, with those eyes and that personality.  Yeah, yeah, all this crazy talk about fantasy third kid, I know.”

Fast forward few years later and daggone, words have power.  He ended up becoming the middle child.  My impossible to ignore Middle.

Last month, we were in the elevator with an older woman.  Our new building is much friendlier.  This woman studied baby Olive and commented, “This one.  She is very smart.”  Then she looked up at the two boys who were shyly watching her watching their sister.  “These.  Look at their eyes.  All very smart.”

I responded, “Great to hear compliments about my kids but I have to ask.  How can you tell?”

She answered, “Believe me.  I am a retired pediatrician.  I know these things.  Enjoy your evening.”

After she left and the elevator door closed, Ellis immediately blurted out, “I’m retired.  Mostly tired.”

My body froze for a moment.  This humor!  I gotta book his comedy tour now.  I might have a fledgling comedian in my care.

When I made a big deal about his little joke, Micah explained that it was a direct quote from the Angry Birds movie.  So it wasn’t original material but this dude has a way of inserting a quote at the exact right time to yield maximum laughter.

He is loyal and vocal.  During a classroom visit, he ran up to a Class Mom to ask for a straw for the jack-o-lantern craft.  I told him that he already had a straw to cut up.  He explained that his friend at the next table didn’t.

And boy, I can relate to how he gets fixated on something.  Right now, he has an acute fear of college, this place that kids grow up to attend,  to LIVE APART from their families.  He said, “Even though I try not to, I keep thinking about it and I can’t just think about something else, like you told me to.  Even during school, I think about college and I get scared.”  As he plays Legos with his brother, I can overhear him include this in the plotline, “Son, you going to college!”

One weekend, I was taking him to an activity when he said, “I want to be a doctor.”

I told him, “Well, that’s pretty cool.  But you can always change your mind because you’re still young and other things may interest you.  Also, to become a doctor, you have to go to lots of school and study lots of science.”

“Yeah, and I know I can’t spend enough time with my wife so maybe not.”

“Excuse me?  Where did you hear this?  Did you have a doctor guest speaker tell you that?”

“No!  I just know these things!”

“Oh, and what made you want to become a doctor?  I’m so curious because Mommy and Daddy never wanted to become a doctor.”

“Well, I want to help people.  When I got a flu shot and I did uh, ya know, controlllll and holding it in, to not cry even though I was scared, that doctor was helping me not to get the flu.”

I come undone daily because of this spunky yet sensitive guy.  Sometimes, he does feel sad because he said it is obvious that Mommy loves baby the most because she needs me the most, and that he wishes he could be born again as a baby so I can hold him lots.

I have to set aside some one-on-one time for him, and reassure him that he is my babyest boy forever.

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Yesterday was 10.10

Yesterday was Most Gorgeous date of 10.10.  I love to commemorate beautiful dates but I felt fake to write up a shiny, happy 10.10 ditty when my innards were in struggle mode.

Friends’ loved ones have passed.  As young as in the womb and older folks in their sunset years.  I grieve with them.  Another person who has passed actually meant nothing to me personally, only by association.  We have only had minimal experiences on the periphery, and those were tense due to said associations.

I have yet to reconcile with Kevin after a blow-up over the weekend.  The details are unnecessary as they sound beyond trifling especially in light of my preceding paragraph.   Most marital conflicts are not about the incident at hand, but “infinity loops” of recurring, unresolved shit.

My friend sent me this in response to my heated texts about how I am still raging:

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:30-32

I explained to her that I don’t respond well to Bible verses or “I’ll pray for you” without a personal mini-testimony of how they went through something themselves.

Lord, I don’t know how to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger.  Sure, I need to read me some more Word but HOW is my persisting question?  Especially when I don’t WANT to put away those things.

Anger is my shield and protection.  When I struggle with forgiveness of some people in my life, my struggle is not because I can’t forgive them.

My issue with forgiveness is quite the opposite.  It’s about not ackin’ a fool when I see them again because my true nature is huggy and warm and “How you zooin’?” so I don’t know how to FORGIVE but still remain reserved and cold, guarding my heart, thus NOT being myself.

Lord, teach me how to forgive but still have sturdy fencing around my heart ‘cuz You have to know that even though You love urrbody, some of Your creation remain unsafe to me.

So yesterday, on this perfect date of 10/10, my second son with his big cartoon eyes had beef with me:  “You still haven’t apologized to Daddy about the _______.”

I couldn’t believe he knew that we had not reconciled yet even though we still been doing so much family stuff.  I asked him, “What if I had apologized while you were sleeping?”

He said he just knew.  Why must kids be so dang smart and hold you accountable to be a better human?!  Augh!  What if I don’t want to grow, huh?

So 10.10.17, you were far from perfect but I’m glad that I have these next less-gorgeous dates to try again.

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I saved this from someone’s FB post because I don’t speak like this when raging.

A Husband’s Wisdom

I have supersonic hearing.

I can’t tune out noise.

I’ve cried before from a particularly gnarly subway and bus braking screech or loud-ass ambulance sirens that felt like someone was yanking out my intestines.

I empathize with children who have sensory issues as I probably do, too.

I feel so strongly that if I am at a gathering and someone is pissed the F off, I cannot just enjoy myself and laugh in the corner.

I absorb others’ energy.  I used to cry when I witnessed public proposals, once even hugging the couple I didn’t know.  When I see someone crying on the subway, I feel their sadness and depending on the situation, I offer them their space, a tissue, or some words.

I say all this because as a mom, it would help to be able to tune out noise.

When I asked Kevin how he doesn’t get as flustered as me sometimes, say, when he takes the kids grocery-shopping by himself, something I haven’t done in ages,  he explained, “Oh, I tune them out sometimes.  It’s great.  You should try it.”

“Really?”  Because I have this supersonic hearing and other sensitivities, I can NOT tune out my kids OR tune out other kids’ noises.

Also, when I’m spending time with my kids and they are not otherwise engaged or fighting, I try to teach them a li’l something by engaging them in conversation or when they were younger, even setting up a simulated kidnapping/Stranger Danger situation on our walks, which they enjoyed way too much, asking me to do it again and again.

This means that I am constantly engaging or repeating myself and it has got me fried at the end of the day.  “Don’t touch your sister.  Back up.  Don’t climb that.  Walk to the side of the street.  Watch out.  Don’t jump.  Mind your manners.  Focus.”

This is my job as a Mom.  I want them to hear my voice when I am gone.

So yesterday, we had a marathon afternoon after school let out.

Kids’ noises galore at the library, homework time for each son with my reminding them to stay seated even with sensory delights everywhere, my stroller can’t get past other kids’ backpacks strewn all over the floor, my kids are happy but fooling around with their friends and the energy is amping up, and other details too boring to type out.

We part ways from our friends.  We stop for snacks I had packed as we stroller over for our dentist appointment.  Another kid walks by with his mom and he kicks a rock as kids are prone to do and it hits me smack dab on my bony, ashy foot.  It hurts.

I growl as the mom apologizes.  I’ve been her before yet I still growl while sweating from the heat and then judge myself for becoming real crabby like a baby during his witching hour.  If I can cut out this judging of self, or at least reduce it lots, I’d be better off.  Micah tells me that the rock-kicker was his classmate.  I feel bad for growling at him.

I pass by familiar faced moms who seem to be way more patient with their kids for doing kid stuff like squeal and run off.

As I was going to bed after Kevin and I got to watch “This is Us,” and laughing to myself about how these days, “binge-watching” is equivalent to watching one show to completion, I said,

“Kevin, I feel like the angel and devil on my shoulders are always fighting and it is f*cking exhausting.  Kids are blessings, kids are blessings, kids are TRULY blessings but I can also hear myself repeating silently, kids are so annoying, kids are so annoying.  You know a counselor once told me that I should practice holding opposites in tension…something about both being true and being okay with that.

My brain already went to bed, I don’t know if you even know what I’m referring to.  I just feel bad that I go to kid gatherings and think, Damn, kids are so annoying…when they are such blessings!”

Kevin looked me square in the eyes in the dark with our two fans and AC going:

“Kids are annoying as F.”

What a perfect, pithy gift.  Husband spoke my love language and gave me a belly laugh.

That Robin Life

When we arrived at our annual retreat in NH last month, Ellis exclaimed that a mama robin was feeding her babies.  Since we were unpacking, we didn’t really hear him until we saw for ourselves, right outside our window:  these scrawny baby robins with their mouths open crazy wide, expectant for Mama Robin to drop juicy worms into them.

Perhaps this is a common sight in certain areas but for us living in Beep Beep Honk Honk NYC, it caught our breath.  We watched in amazement.  The birds’ beaks were open so comically wide it looked painful, almost 180 degrees.  They never doubted that their mom would return and drop in some sustenance.  They never said, “I ain’t no chump, opening my mouth like a fool.  I’mma front like I ain’t hungry and when she comes, THEN I’ll open up.”

I told Kevin:  I had no idea that the mom has to fly off as soon as she drops the worms into their beaks!  Why does she leave so quickly like she in witness protection?  Where is the dad?

“I don’t know.  I don’t have a PhD in Bird.  But yeah, I wonder why she has to leave so fast.”

We arrived Sunday afternoon.  We watched this family several times a day.  The scrawny birds grew up and their wet tufts started looking more like their red-chested Mom.  I teared up when the teen robins started practicing their hops and flying skills, their growing girth now overflowing out of their starter home nest.

And on Thursday, they were gone when we came back from the lake.  In the span of just four days, they had become completely independent!  Their empty nest of twigs was the only remnant left from their formative days outside our window, the nest that had been overflowing with four robin siblings, weighing down the tree branch.

It was an honor to watch their lives unfold.  It also made me think about praying expectantly, like those baby robins who cried out until their moms dropped worms into their beaks.  I want to cry out like them with bold confidence that I will be cared for.

I want to cry out like a baby robin for big things like our friend’s baby who needs God’s healing touch.  For small things, like moving with three young kids and no grandparents to ship them off to.

My Olive girl is no longer a newborn as she is more than two months old now, my baby-est robin.

I want to memorize the beaming smile that emerged at Week 8.  I want to remember yesterday’s discovery that she may hate her carseat in the car, like on the way to NH, but she’s down for taking a walk in the summer evening with a breeze softly caressing her chins, the very chins we can push to lure a smile out of.

I want to remember my 6 1/2 year old son’s new jack-o-lantern smile with his first missing tooth that he was so excited about.

I don’t want to forget my nearly five year old son’s earnestness, crying when I forgot to roll down the window in time for him to yell out a final goodbye to his summer camp teachers.

And how much they love their baby sister, asking if we can show her to their classmate playing in the courtyard or to their summer camp pastor.  Unpacking schoolwork that says, “I am thankful for pizza and my baby.”

Now that I’m 40, I feel life moving even faster.  I see why older folks nudge us to enjoy every moment.  My hair is greying even more swiftly, my teeth yellowing, my back aching, my kids talking like teenagers, and my baby outgrowing baby clothes she used to swim in.

The other day, I couldn’t drive home because another car was blocking a one-way street, trying to score a coveted parking space.  It took so long that drivers behind me were honking, one guy got out and tried to walk over to see whassup, Olive was crying in her sweaty carseat, Micah was updating me on each detail of Olive’s cry, and Ellis added, “I have to poo.”

I started laughing maniacally and actually bursted with tender gratitude for the moment.  This was my life, my Mama Robin life before my robins fly away.

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07.10.17 – Baby O is 6 weeks old

Baby Olive,

I am typing with you sprawled out on my thighs. Skin to skin.

Around five weeks old, you decided that napping in your bassinet was played out and you craved the warm body mattress of Mommy who is preoccupied with packing.

You grunt like crazy and you have one eye all Round Eye while the other eye is shut, so you look more like Popeye than Olive Oyl.  Daddy looked up “Olive Oyl” recently and we learned about her parents, (Ba)Nana Oyl and Cole Oyl.  And brother, Castor Oyl, who has an estranged wife, Cylinda Oyl!

Not only did you shed your stellar nap skills last week, you very particular about how we hold you.  You don’t want us to look at the phone.  You want us to cradle you, tuck you in an armpit or two, offer up a nipple pillow or Mommy’s still fuzzy belly, with its faint linea negra, a souvenir from pregnancy.

(Now I am nursing and trying to type with one hand because I miss writing).

Daddy and I just celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary on fwine date 07.07.17.  We were able to celebrate in style by going back to Bermuda.  Oh wait, that would be our next door neighbors, not us.

Daddy and Mommy happily spent our anniversary with you while brothers were away at summer camp.  You were our most valuable gift, your little legs with blue Mongol spots, and your nose with two little lines near the entrance of your nostrils, like the creases of a dumpling.  Your swiftly growing rolls make it easier for Mommy to handle you, less nervous than when you were only 5.5 lbs.

One of your first longer car outings was when you were about 15 days old.  We chose the farther, waterfront Costco we frequent when we want both ambience and value.  I felt like a first time mom when you were crying so much from your middle carseat that your brothers were giving us updates on the foaming of your mouth.  I made your dad pull over and we decided to skip the carnival we were going to also just “drop by.”  We are learning to slow down and Mommy especially is working on her fear of missing out.

Your dad doesn’t want you to be in certain enclosed spaces like house parties and our big church but he somehow rationalized Costco and the mall.

Anyways, when I went to change you at the Costco food court bathroom, I saw that someone had left a big turd for us on the changing table.  My fuzzy brain somehow told myself, “That surely must be a prop turd.  Who would be so foul as to leave a real, steaming turd for the next person?”  But why would there be an emoji prop turd?  Even more absurd.

I just remember being so embarrassed to introduce you to this grimy world outside of my womb, where people will leave their shit behind for you to deal with.  I tried to make up for it by showing you the water but it also looked like Law & Order SVU setting, some drunk topless men were fighting over the free soda they had scored, a teenager was passed out next to his bicycle and the bushes, and a couple was about to have sex in the front seat of their sedan.

Ok, this typing with you on me is ridiculous.  I just want to remember everything and blogging is a little more fun than journaling.  Peace out.  Time to fetch the brothers.  Olive You!

 

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Tried to make up for the Costo turd by showing you the beauty of the sculpture garden next door but there were scary goat displays.  You were still so scrawny that it must have looked like we came straight from the hospital to Costco.  Mommy’s friend said I should have worn a hospital gown.  Realized that this Costco and sculpture garden were the first two places we headed to upon finding out I was pregnant – to load up on prenatal vitamins!

This is 39

Something about this dreary, (sideways-) rain day shoved me back in front of my dusty laptop.  Add to that dramatic rain, Ellis is turning 4 tomorrow and I turn 40 on 10.4.

Wow, I haven’t just declared it like that until now.

Fitting birthdate as I will have lived 10 decades (x 4) come 10.4, Lord willing.

When friendlier neighbors ask my young morsels how old they are and I answer for them in whole numbers, they are quick to add, “AND A HALF!” or “But ALMOST six!” or “Almost four!”

On the other hand, there’s they Mama who enters her age on the elliptical machine more covertly than she enters her ATM PIN.  (And for her weight, ‘bows be out).

When did this happen?  I am open and honest to a fault but now, I hear myself lecture, “Micah, you don’t have to announce Mommy’s age when we’re walking on the sidewalk, talking about how Mommy is the oldest in our family so I should walk closest to the street to protect everyone.  I mean, I’m not ashamed of my age or anything but some information is not for sharing with everyone.”

And I started using vague phrases like, “pretty big birthday coming up” even to acquaintances who already know that I won’t be turning a milestone 30 or 50.

The number is a lot to wrap my mind around.  I loved my 30s.  Even the word “thirty” sounds cute to me whereas “forty” with that leading “f” sounds too strong and overbearing.  I was 30 when I got married, 34 when I had #1, and three days shy of 36 when I had #2, the same ages Michelle Obama, my crush, was when she had her kids.

As my baby son turns four tomorrow and I turn 40 a few days after, I feel emotional about saying goodbye to my Three Year Old baby, and goodbye to my 30s.

[Dear 30s, you were my most fulfilling decade thus far.  I love you.  You were a blessing beyond my technicolor dreams, though not without valleys.  As I stare 40 in the face, I am overcome with gratitude for you.]

I try to be grateful, even on the days I have to force myself to be in light of certain challenges in our lives.  Not because I am naturally positive or holy (ahahahaha loaded word) but because I know gratitude engenders good health.

Lately, it felt different from head-knowledge-gratitude.  I’ve been FEELING so grateful that I’ve wanted to raise my hands to the heavens while walking down Queens Blvd.

And God used the things I usually cannot FEEL grateful for.

One – our too small apartment and too small kitchen.  Due to an emergency gas leak, our building turned off our cooking gas, oven, and laundry for nearly two months this past summer.  While I tried to remind myself that we are still among the most comfortable on this entire globe, it sucked.

Two months was a long time.  I forgot what stovetop fire looked like.  When I went to a friend’s house for a playdate and she turned on her stove, all casual like it wasn’t no thang, the fire looked crazy, all that blue and orange coming out of a cube, like we were in a sci-fi movie.

And when the fire re-emerged on our very own white stove, I jumped back like a cave woman, held the kids back, in awe.  While I am still praying for wide open spaces, thank you LORD for the miracle of fire in our small kitchen.

Two – the subway.  I can devote a whole Instagram account, if I had one, to subway experiences and observations.

The other day, during the crowded morning commute while we all tried to funnel our way in, I saw a Latina mama wearing her newborn daughter, with her older son, maybe around 10 or 11, alongside her on the platform.  As crowd sardined our way in, I gestured for the son to come closer and get past me so he wouldn’t lose his mom and sister.  They got settled in and he began gazing at his baby sister.

THE LOOK ON THAT BOY’S FACE?  It made me tear up.  How much love he had for his new sister, this new human being who had just entered his life.

That moment felt divine, downright HOLY, even as the subway made its usual delay announcements and my nostrils tried to identify different body odors and my hand squirmed for a piece of the pole.

My friend who is going through a major health hurdle told me that she started an album on her phone called “Reminders of God” as friends send her different inspirational nuggets.

As I join the 40 club, I am going to search more consistently for reminders of Him.  It won’t be hard because they are everywhere.

Thank you Lord for my (nearly) 40 years.  And thank You for the Peanuts movie on HBO Demand which kept the boys quiet while I cranked out this post.

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06.16.16 Meantime Marvel

Yesterday, a local mama and LA mama friend wrote me on 06.16.16, remembering my date fetish that officially started with my 07.07.07 nuptials.  One asked where my 06.16.16 post at so here it is, J!  Thanks for the query, kekeke.

I had noted the triple 6 date but didn’t get excited because I don’t like 6s.  When I see that many 6s, I gotta look down at my nails and shift my gaze.  I did get tickled that catchy dates made my friends holla.

I had a routine dentist appointment this morning and she informed me that I had broken a tooth.  She was sure that it was from grinding or clenching my teeth (even with my nightguard in)!  As I type this sentence, I can feel the jaw pain from the clenching I must be doing in my sleep.

Can’t help but wonder if my clenching has gotten worse considering the devastating news in the world, namely in Orlando, FL this past week alone.

On June 10th, a singer by the name of Christina Grimmie was shot and killed while signing autographs for her fans.

On June 12th, early Sunday, a gunman slaughtered 49 people at a gay nightclub, injuring at least 53 others.  Deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

On June 15th, the body of a two year-old boy, Lane Graves, was found intact after being carried off by an alligator outside Disney’s Grand Floridian resort.

All in Orlando within the past seven days.

And the blessing and curse of social media is that our eyes and ears are everywhere, even beyond the big news stories like Orlando, including recent kidnappings and children getting hurt out of nowhere.

I absorb all of this.  And I clench.

I am ever more vigilant.  I lecture the boys numerous times daily about not walking behind me but walking in front of me where I can see them clearly.  I even demonstrated what could happen if they continue to walk behind me but they enjoyed the dramatic snatch-demonstration too much:  “Do it again to me, Mommy.”

Excuse the clumsy transition as I have to eat lunch now but our family is in a season of life where we are awaiting next steps.  Blessed and intact but also hoping for change.

I heard a sermon yesterday called “Meantime.”  How sometimes we just want to know what’s up next and when we can get goin’ on Next and when He will provide for our immediate future, the prayers we been lifting up.  But then we end up treating the present like an afterthought:  “Man, I can’t wait ’til ______….in the meantime (sigghhhh)…” and poor Meantime is treated like some neglected stepchild (sermon by Toure Roberts).

The tragic events of this past week have made me extra thankful for my Meantime.

Though waiting on Him to answer prayers, I am pausing to memorialize our 06.16.16 Meantime, which included a Morsel-y Mundane Marvel of a Moment where our whole family stumbled upon an ant colony during an evening walk together after dinner.  We squealed, poked sticks and wondered aloud.  I then went for a jog so I can watch the sky.

The lives lost in Orlando made me realize all over again that we Moms just want our kids to be one thing, fine, two things when they grow up:  alive and well, and the rest is all noise.

Thank You, Lord, that I get to have a Meantime.

Rest in Peace to those lives lost in Orlando this past week.  You will not be forgotten.