The Hunchback of Polar Vortex: BYODY (Bring Your Own “Dahm-Yo”)

Hi, Micah and Ellis, my beloved favorite children,

I am daring myself to write AND publish this now that you’ve both stopped cracking up in your room and succumbed to a late afternoon nap. I would love for your dad to give this a glance before publishing for my seven readers to see, but by the time that happens, I will be itching to write a different post, your fingernails will need to be clipped again, dinner dished out then put away, and a backlog of pictures and videos of you guys finally uploaded onto our laptop.

There’s always something that needs to be done so the time is NOW.

Ellis recently moved into Hyung’s little room. It’s been heartwarming to see you guys enjoy each other in your shared room, talking in your secret language (Micah imitating Ellis’ babbles).

There is no sweeter sound in this world than your hysterical laughter and brotherly conversation.

Thank you so much for infusing cuteness into our humble abode this extra cold January week.

What a week.

In some ways, the usual. Ellis and Mommy bonding while Brother is off to school most mornings. Skyping with Grandma Lee so that she can openly adore Ellis without noonchee-bahing Micah. Ellis catching a cold this past slushy Sunday, when all four of us carefully teeter-tottered to church like penguins and to a dear friend’s belated third birthday bash in the (literally) freezing rain.

Ellis, you became uncharacteristically clingy, hanging onto me for comfort, making me wonder again, just how affectionate Micah was at this same age. I don’t quite recall Micah hugging INTO me, like a koala bear, though you also wanted this Mommy lots. Ellis has remained clingy even though you seem to be 100% recovered.

It saddens me when I’m not able to recall moments and characteristics. But life is moving so fast and even with my stalker-like, wicked awesome memory, I can’t recall all your little mannerisms from the recent past. All I see is the 15 month old and 3 year old before me.

Other than when I absolutely must fetch something from the kitchen or use the bathroom, I am relishing Ellis the Cling-On’s new habit because I know you will soon be Mr. “*I* do it, *I* do it, By Myself, By Myself.” I adore your loud nose-breathing in your sleep, the way you wrinkle your nose to smile, the way you MUST booty-shake to any beat, even far off in the cluttered living room, while I am talking to your bro.

Tuesday of this very ordinary week was the height of the Polar Vortex. High of 10 degrees but with a Feels Like of 10 below zero. The Feels Like always cracks me up as that is the only piece of info we care about. Lead with that please.

It was a rude cold. Wasabi spicy cold. Sinus-clearing cold. Dangerously cold for any skin to be exposed. Dangerously cold especially for babies and senior citizens. Granted, I’m reporting this without actually having been out that day. Only from having opened the window for a few seconds at a time so we can “ooh and ahh” from our toasty apartment. I normally have to experience whatever is hyped up but this was not worth it, especially with Ellis fighting his cold. No matter how bundled up, we were going to be exposed.

We did visit the freeze by standing in our building’s foyer and opening the door so that we can receive the Polar Bear’s Text. Alls it said was, “Brrrr…! Your mama left California for this!”

I don’t think folks could wrap their minds around a whole ‘nutha level of cold that was being hyped up over the weekend but once it arrived, it was a cold many of us had never experienced. I kept you home, Micah, when I realized just how bad it was upon waking that morning.

The next day, January 8th, Wednesday, was still cold but the day prior had made us appreciate anything even a tad less cold. So we were actually relieved that the temps had creeped UP into the low 20s, while CA friends clowned us with status updates like, “High of 81 but be careful out there, wind chill of 79.”

The weather channel seemed to be doing PR, talking about, “ABUNDANT SUNSHINE. (High of 22).” Reminded me of someone trying to set up a blind date for her girlfriend: “AWESOME PERSONALITY. (He weighs far less than you).”

Picking up Micah Hyung the other day was comical. Forced you to sit down in our cheap Toys R Us umbrella stroller so that the walk home from our parking space wouldn’t turn into our usual stop n go adventure. Not in that cold.

Micah asking me about snacks I had forgotten at home while grabbing you guys’ winter gear. Just so much stuff, including my long sleeping bag of a puffy mom coat. I didn’t have the luxury of throwing it all onto the extremely lightweight stroller but I wasn’t about to lift the heavier stroller in and out of our car in those temps.

My car keys falling onto a lonely patch of snow and Micah repeatedly alerting me to them.

“Mommy, your keys, your keys.”

My hands freezing while trying to keep Micah’s gloves on a few times. “I know Micah. Mommy leaving those keys there because I need to get you bundled up first!”

Throwing on ski pants on top of Baby’s NorthFace fleece pants for added warmth to brave the walk home. Baby’s bundled up self arching your back while I wear you. Didn’t have the patience for your useless gloves that keep coming off. I stretch out your jacket sleeves more and tuck your velvety little hands under my armpits for true mammalian warmth.

But impossible to keep them there.

I straight brought a baby dahm-yo (Korean furry blanket) to throw onto whichever son ended up strolling home, since this light stroller doesn’t have a Bundle Me option.

So I was a sight to behold as I tried on a hunchbacked posture to balance the stroller with a bundled up Micah and a big furry blanket about to fall off each step we took, and baby arching his back to do an upside-down peekaboo while I tried to contain his hands under my pits.

“Micah, you are being so patient and quiet. Sorry, Mommy, forgot to bring your snacks. You must be so hungry.”

Of course, you are never that quiet when you’re with us. The dahm-yo was so furry that you had konked out during the walk, without eating a thing. Mommy transferred you onto my big bed, the bed Daddy gets to sleep in only when you don’t scream awake in the middle of the night, “DADDY! DADDYYY! Where’s my Daddy!”

Despite the cold, I was sweating by the time we got home.

I can already feel 2014 zipping along, though we just rang in the new year. Birthday parties, doctor visits, new babies arriving, learning about the NYC public school system, trying to get healthier and more active despite the cold, keeping in touch with close friends and acquaintances mostly through Facebook, being part of our Forest Hills and church community, reading more books and writing.

Speaking of trying to get healthier. Micah, you were fascinated by Daddy and Mommy measuring our waists with a tape measurer in the bathroom last night, while you were in the bath. You heard Mommy ask for a do-over a handful of times. “WHAT!? Oh, uh-uh! Are you sure the tape isn’t loose somewhere? Keep it taut, man! Subtract a half-inch for human error!”

Today you said, “Micah like Mommy/Daddy! Micah waist size is 29. No, 49,” as you insisted on napping with our tape measurer. I tried to take it away from you but you ran out of your room like I had stripped you of your Winnie Pooh and Small Bear.

Oh, before I forget. I’ve been meaning to tell you (guys)…

I may not be the same newbie mama who would take you on two excursions a day, when it was just you and me Micah, and I may have counted down the minutes ’til your dad walked in this week, like the night I thought I could enjoy some Greek yogurt while you two played with each other, until you both came at me like two little puppies begging. I was balancing the yogurt and three spoons (since Ellis was sick), while I bounced newly-clingy Ellis on my lap, when Micah tried to join the party, too. The cold yogurt fell onto Ellis’ head and Mommy’s Uniqlo Heattech long-sleeve shirt which is working overtime at keeping her warm, but also at accentuating the top of her muffin .

When Mommy retreats into her room more than when you were a baby, sighing, or saying, “I just need to be alone…” as soon as your dad walks in, please understand that it’s a mental health thang, nothing personal against you guys. Sometimes I just need to recover from the comedy of errors hour or hours before your dad joins us, a chance to exhale and center myself amid the whirlwind.

Micah, you keep asking me if I love you always, if I’m always proud of you no matter what. I truly hope you are just asking for the sake of asking, just to hear the reassuring, loving affirmation over and over again, and that you are never actually doubting your belovedness.

You two are the most precious gifts I’ve ever received. You couldn’t possibly be more beloved, other than by our Lord Himself.

Just like you guys change everyday, Mommy goes through her phases too. You have to know that whether I’m the bright-eyed bushy-tailed new Mama of November 2010, not yet able to fathom how parents (GASP!) sometimes snap at their toddlers, or the more worn out Polar Bear Texted Mama of January 2014, my love for you both only grows, like the new dreadlocks I’ve somehow acquired this New Year and the weather updates on my Newsfeed.

frozen water left in our car

frozen water left in our car

snuggles before bundling up the layers

snuggles before bundling up the layers

waiting in doc office for Ellis' 15 month visit, Ellis throwin' up gang signs everywhere we go

waiting in doc office for Ellis’ 15 month visit, Ellis throwin’ up gang signs everywhere we go, Micah thinking this is his chance to hit up the lollipop buffet

precious Koala memories

precious Koala memories

Subway Snooze Spectacular

So, I survive the afternoon with the Christmas Spectacular Superfan.

We get on the train to return home…sweet home. It’s past Micah’s naptime and he’s had an extra active day: school in the morning, followed by the subway ride, running through Rock Center and all that energy crying through Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular.

I’m relishing my cuddle time with him on the train especially after his getting so upset at the show that I hardly worry about what may happen if he falls asleep on the train. He’s so happy, back to his usual self. We admire a cool dude’s bright gold Nikes. Micah puts his little red Nikes next to his, remarking, “WOW!”

Soon, Micah becomes more subdued, putting his head down on my lap. The motion of the train lulls him into the heavy-lidded phase before slumber hits. “Micah, we’re almost there. Just wait a little longer and then you can sleep at home, sweetheart! C’mon, my Micah, don’t fall asleep please!”

It was useless. He fell into a sound sleep at 4:10 pm, when we had just three more subway stops to go.

I hate to wake him from a nap. For so many reasons. Primarily, I want him to get his rest on and be himself when he wakes up, the Micah who is not going to whine and scream and carry on about being carried. When he wakes up prematurely while we are out, he cannot be consoled.

And like I stated in the last post, I HAD DECIDED TO LEAVE MY STROLLER IN THE CAR. I wanted to take a risk and not bother, remember? Frontin’ like I was free as the howling wind outside, not like the mama of a young boy who should be prepared for any combination of scenarios.

Sound familiar? Just like when I hadn’t wanted to “bother” with peeing before my drive from Long Island with the boys.

We exit the train and I try to wake him up gently. “Micah, Micah? We have to walk home now. We’re almost there. We can go see Daddy and Baby. Mommy can’t carry you. Mommy has big AHH-yah from carrying you in and out of the show. I can’t walk home carrying you because Micah’s my big boy.”

Dude slumps down on the cold subway platform to continue sleeping! Even with the loud subway sounds and low temps (30s outside). I scan the premises and realize that there are no benches on this end of the platform. There is only a blue metal contraption, maybe housing some electrical units that the MTA uses?

I hoist myself onto it, with Micah sound asleep in my arms, sharing the space with a young couple gazing into each others’ eyes. It’s about 4:15 pm. I decide that this world rushes too much these days. I’mma sit on this blue steel thingamajiggie and let Micah complete his nap, at least a catnap for the next 30 minutes. He hadn’t asked to come to no show so I will not rob him of his nap.

Plus, if he got woken up right then and started screaming for me to carry him all the way home, I wouldn’t know what to do. I just could not do that again after that last time that hero named Bruce tried to rescue me.

I mean, it was 30 degrees outside, maybe even colder now that it was dark, and the subway was so very loud like multiple car accidents to my supersonic ears, screeching and clanking in and out of the platform every few minutes on both sides since it was peak hours (commuting hour). But hey, I wanted to let my boy sleep.

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So I sat there. I asked the couple to take a picture of us before they can start making out. I was using our jackets as blankets for Micah.

I realized I was really cold. My lady bits and butt were actually numb from the cold. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

People watched me. Some were obvious about staring. Some may have wondered if I was hard up. Where was my sign? That thing I was sitting on was NOT for made for sitting so I stood out to onlookers. Cold and uncomfy to sit on so I must be desperate. It became obvious that I was staying for a while. One man watched me, perplexed, trying to figure out why I was just sitting there in a weird spot with my sleeping child.

“You not taking the E OR F trains?” he asked, shaking his head while I let train after train loudly pass by without us on them. (Writing this, I’m wondering what HE was doing there, missing train after train, watching me!)

I couldn’t call Kevin because there was no reception underground, and my phone had died shortly thereafter. I didn’t seriously think about enlisting his help. Maybe because it was really cold out and I didn’t want him and Ellis to get involved when we’d soon be on our merry way. I was the one choosing to let Micah continue to nap.

Also, I felt like I was caving in to too much damsel in distress syndrome lately. So many scenarios where Kevin comes to my assistance because it’s just too hard or overwhelming while he is so capable, able to handle so much more than me. If I can’t fix something around the house, Micah immediately says, “Maybe Daddy will fix for us, Mommy? Ask Daddy!”

Maybe God was trying to teach me to work on cultivating gratitude once again. My rebellious spirit had been having a hard time being TRULY thankful for our NYC co-op this year. While once so thankful for it, I now only see its flaws, lacking the space and amenities I desperately crave, even encroaching upon my emotional health this postpartum year. And yeah yeah, I knew that others have it exponentially worse all around the world but I didn’t care.

But sitting there with my frozen butt and labia, I sure was missing home. Though small, it was toasty and it kept us safe from the elements. Together. Fine, Lord, I repent. Can Micah wake up now?

Forget 30 minutes later. Micah was sleeping a delicious sound sleep, even making sounds like he was enjoying food, it was so yummy. So deep he was grinding his teeth. I was staring at him and giving him butterfly kisses all over his face. A handsome Latino Yankee fan tried to help me. He may have been the only one to ask if I need help.

“So uh, where’s your person? Do you have uh, your person you should be able to call up for help? How can I help? You want me to carry him for you?”

(I couldn’t take him up on his offer because he was going to miss his train and Micah would wake up if I transported him into someone else’s arms. What would I do then after this man left?)

“Do you need to borrow my phone to call anyone? How far do you live?”

And later, after I told him that Micah should be waking up any minute now and thanks: “Are you from the Philippines? It’s crazy what happened out there.”

Approximately 75 minutes later, I flag down a woman exiting the train and ask her if she can send my husband a message. She let me type it out on her iPhone and assured me she would send it once she got above ground. It was just to let him know that we had arrived at 4:15 but had been on the platform so that Micah would continue sleeping.

So after a grand total of 90 minutes, I start to stir Micah awake. At this rate, he may have been able to do a record three-hour nap and I was really too cold without wearing my jacket I was using as his blanket. I hoped he was well-rested enough to not get upset…which was THE WHOLE POINT OF MY LETTING HIM NAP!

But of course, he got upset because he was still sleepy. “Waaaahhhhhh! Mommmyyyy, Mommmyyyy, carry up, carry up!” Inconsolable. My waiting out his nap was all for naught.

I ended up carrying him up the stairs while a kind older woman insisted on carrying my bags up the stairs for me. I went into the pizzeria right next to the subway stop and asked to borrow their phone. Called Kevin to come out and help me.

Soon, Kevin and Ellis came with the doublestroller to help us. I felt a little better that even with Kevin and the cozy doublestroller awaiting him like a horse and carriage, Micah demanded to be carried all the way home. I strolled Ellis while Kevin carried Micah.

Later, Kevin pointed out that I should have called him er, 90 minutes earlier from the pizza place to avoid that crazy cold waiting period.

Apparently, my brain had frozen too. I could have spared myself this 90 minutes on the ice tundra. If I had accepted that man’s offer to help, I could have made it up the stairs then called from the pizzeria! I had lamely thought that I had to get him ALL the way home – the pizzeria idea only hatched when I realized there was no way I’d make it home. D’oh! I really wasn’t thinking straight that night.

My recent battle against envy, namely house/space/amenities envy, is ongoing and sometimes very acute, but I was extra thankful that particular night for my cozy couch, warm food, and heat in our apartment.

…Even with Kevin shaking his head at me over and over again, laughing, muttering, “I can’t believe you sometimes! The things you put yourself through!”

P.S. The lady’s text message came through about an hour after we were all snug at home. “Hello, this is the lady from the subway. My phone had a malfunction and I was not able to get this message to you until now. Your wife and son are down at the subway platform. Sorry for the delay.”