Olive is 8 (months) and “When Breath Becomes Air”

On 1.28.18, our Olive Tree turned eight months old.  I’m finally getting used to saying “my daughter.”  It seems like fake news that she ever lived inside of me even though I have pictures and witnesses.  She looks like both her brothers though lately, favoring Micah more.  I wondered aloud if she resembled Oliver Platt when she pouts but Kevin got offended.

She still looks a bit like Governor Christie, just like Micah resembled Paul Giamatti as an infant.

She joined our family when The Middle was 4.5 and Firstborn was 6.5 but to think of those years without her, with just the boys, seems odd and made up.

Everyone comments on her how serious she is.  Her stare game is strong.  Her gentleness is evident too as she coos and babbles and tries to suck on her own toes.

We never had to cry her out for sleep because she only cries when it’s an emergency.  I teased Kevin for jumping up to spring her, Mr. Let’s Cry Them Out When Newborn, Oops, Is That Too Early.  He claims he is not being easy on her because she is his little girl but that once he tried to ignore her cries and she had vomited a bit so she trained him early that she means business when she cries.

She loves to pull on glasses and grab noses.  She also loves to grab her brothers’ cheeks and wants to be included in play.  She is an old soul.  Her smiles and sighs still make me want to pass out from delight.

I recently read an unforgettable memoir called “When Breath Becomes Air.”  Dr. Paul Kalanithi blessed the world with this book before he passed away from Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 37.  His book took my breath away as he was clearly brilliant and unbelievably in touch with his mortality.

Kevin, on the other hand, read a few chapters and put it down.  “How could you put it down!?  I wanted to read it in one sitting.”  I suspected he didn’t want to read it because it is just too sad.  Kevin explained that he didn’t want to read it because the dude is on another level of brilliant and he could not connect to those heights.

True, his intelligence was almost comical.  Laughably smart.  And as a neurosurgeon, his contributions to the world were quantifiable yet immeasurable.  Death does not discriminate.

I also happened to read this book when Olive was the EXACT SAME AGE as Dr. K’s own infant daughter.  Here is a message he wrote for his daughter before he passed away, before he had a chance to complete his memoir:

“When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied.  In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

If I may bite offa this brilliant man for a moment…

Olive, I hope we always remain as close as we are right now, as you peer into my eyes and beat my bosom as you nurse.  I know mothers and daughters are notorious for butting heads and not seeing eye to eye later, but please know that you were just a daydream of mine until God deposited you in my 39.999 year old womb.  Unlike Dr. K, I *had* known a joy like this in prior years, through your brothers, but I didn’t know that I would get to experience this again, for what must be the last time.  Please know that when your not-young mom swings you at the freezing playground, she still resists the urge to lift her mittened-hands to the heavens in gratitude and in awe of you.  (I also don’t lift my hands because I got to spot you on the baby swing.)

Olive you.  I hope I get to be around for a LONG time.  To see my Olive tree grow.

Thank you, Dr. PK, for sharing your story with us and reminding me again that every gummy, babbling, suddenly-not-sleeping-through-the-night, pudgy-cheeked, breast-pumping-at-work-during-appointed-time-slots, moment is a gift.

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Flipping the Script on Envy

As I’ve shared before, I am euphoric when pregnant.  I imagine soundtracks playing as I subway to work or walk in the frozen tundra to pick up the chil’ren:

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed Be Your name
Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

I feel like I won the lotto to be able to experience this all over again even with a growing, peach-fuzzy stomach,

linea negra faint black line down my belly,

gagging while brushing teeth,

burping on the drive to church and being shocked by more than a burp,

and popping Tums for dessert night after night.

However, I am still a three-dimensional human being and find myself struggling with envy even during this abundant season of verdant pastures.

Pastor Rankin Wilbourne once shared that he would never be envious of Kobe Bryant’s basketball skills.  He is more susceptible to becoming envious of another pastor whose church is flourishing in a way his church is not.  I get that.

I’m not envious of most things because I couldn’t care less.  You thinner than me?  Congrats!  So are many.  I don’t care.  I want to eat more empanadas.

You have a great science mind while I was happy to earn my “B” in AP Bio?  Cool – maybe you can drop science on my kids one day while I watch Wendy Williams.

You have a fat salary but have to work crazy hours?  That’s great that you have that drive but for me, for now, no thanks.

However, there are wounds I carry and if you are blessed in those areas, I feel the wounds getting picked at again, or at least my armpits getting sweaty.  Currently, we are blessed enough to have four living grandparents for our children.  But all four of them are not geographically available and three of them are not available in the way I yearn for.  I also don’t have a dad who can pour into my life.  THESE ARE SOME RAW WOUNDS.

As abundantly blessed as I am, when I see doting grandparents, I tear up.  When I see my friends get affirmed by their dads even at our mature ages, I cry.  (Hell, I’m crying now, typing this).

I want my kids to know and FEEL that other than their loving but imperfect Dad and affectionate but limited Mom who still hates to cook, there are a couple others who love them to pieces and would sacrifice for them, not just connect on the phone once in a blue moon.

But I don’t stay sad because my default emotion is anger.  I spew out and release my “Fuck Yous.”  I don’t actually hate on my friends with blessings in this area because they handle their blessings with gratitude and grace, but when an innocent stranger posted on a FB Mom group about how both sets of grandparents watch her kids, NEVER LEAVING HER ALONE WITH THEM, and how one of them dared to ask for carseats for their own car so that they can go on adventures with their grandchildren, I had to bite my tongue because I want to say, “FUCK YOU VERY MUCH YOU FUCKING PRINCESS!”

Everything is relative.  I KNOW THIS IN MY HEAD but my heart ain’t feelin’ it at times.

Someone could very well be thinking the same of me as Kevin does the heavy lifting in our household.  In that way, I am pampered and ever grateful.  But he also does this heavy lifting partially because he knows I have NO ONE ELSE and that it grieves his emotional wife.  People have advised that I look for friends or “spiritual family” to lean on but I don’t dare lean on non-relatives when I know their plates are full, too.  And frankly, friends have their own extended REAL families.

I also think about my friends and what they must struggle with.  Friends who have suffered baby losses while they see pregnants all around.  Friends whose kids have received diagnoses while they see neurotypical kids going about their regular school schedules.  Friends who pray for a spouse.  Friends who pray for healing of their illnesses.  Friends who beg God for a baby.

HOW DO I/THEY FIND PEACE in our respective areas of need!?  I know one solution is to stay in our own lanes and be grateful for everything we do have.  But I need something more because in this real world, we don’t live in a bubble and we can’t help but notice each others’ lanes.

I want to grapple with envy in a different way.  I don’t wanna become Bitter Miss Fuck You or only want to play with people who have my exact same struggles.  I will protect and distance myself from folks who subconsciously enjoy being the object of my envy because they feel elevated from my raw confessions that I wish I had what they have.

Lord, give me tools to flip the script on envy.  I know that it is not a single battle but a life-long journey but mature me in this area and teach me to deal with this in a healthy manner, and not resort to anger.  Please guide me when the going gets tough and I hear Satan whisper in my ear, “Bet you wouldn’t be struggling if you had grandparents around like so many of your friends!”

I will hold you to this verse I love for 2017 – please spring forth a new thing within me:

Isaiah 43: 19 (NIV):  See I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

(photos of my blessings below)

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Me being held by my beautiful Mama Love, who may be geographically unavailable but emotionally available and still wrestles with her grandchildren because it makes them squeal

Act Like You Been Here Before (Nope!)

Today, Kevin and I had the privilege of getting a peek at our Belly Baby at the 20 week anatomy scan.  After dropping off the boys at school, we made it to our appointment in Manhattan.

Last time, at the early anatomy scan, our sonographer was cold and quiet, and a bit intimidating, our first experience with such a personality at this hospital.  So last night I prayed not only for a healthy scan, but for a bubbly sonographer who would talk us through everything and allow us to feel the excitement of the moment.  The Lord provided a Chinese sonographer who beamed as soon as she saw our Asian mugs walk towards her, and sprinkled our appointment with, “…in our culture…”  (I was thinking, “Yessss.  In OUR culture, you know sonographers hook up they patients with a GANG of photos from the anatomy scan, right!?”)

Even though this is our third baby, the wonder of it all remains.  I bet it’s the same for my friends who have six kids or my paternal grandma who had nine sons (though way back when sonograms would have seemed like voodoo magic).  Seeing the baby’s flickering heart, brain, abdomen, nose and lips, big ol’ femurs kicking and stretching, and even yawning?!  Act like I been here before?!  NOPE!  I won’t act like I been here before, because I haven’t been HERE befo’!  NOT for this particular baby, this particular miracle.

Flashbacks to previous appointments at my doctor’s office when the o.b. appointments had turned into gyno appointments.  I remember walking towards the subway on my usual route home, passing by Alice’s Tea Cup, popping in for a couple scones to bring back home to the boys (or not).  Stopping by the Korean-owned bodega for an egg and cheese breakfast samich.

I remember thinking as I left the crowded waiting room, “It just makes no practical kind of sense but Lord, this feels weird to come in and get my lady parts checked out without having a baby in my baby house.  I don’t think I can be done yet.  Too final.  I need one more resident in there.  Lord, please make sense of this.  Either stomp out this desire that has been consuming me for the past couple years or just make it clear that You want to bless us with another.”

As I love to mention, He officially gifted me with this baby on the morning of my 40th birthday.  I hope to keep reminding myself of our story as even more of my hair turns grey as if someone spilled chalk as they walked past my head.  To recall this amazing journey during those sleepless nights and nonstop feedings that I conveniently cannot recall right now.  And while I walk over to Biggest Brother with the baby on my engorged teat, making sure he is completing his homework instead of teasing Middle Brother.

I loved this quote during the couple years I surveyed everybody about how they just knew they were done having kids:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

E from Writers’ Group just shared the poem below with our group this past Sunday and it was perfect for today, as I walked from the hospital to the subway, feeling my baby kick, and the cold wind slapping me in the face.  Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to do this all over again.

The Place Where You Are Now

by Hafiz

This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you.

Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and the sky,
The Beloved has bowed there –

Our Beloved has bowed there knowing
You were coming…

 

 

 

 

 

8.8.gr8.

8.8.14: You delivered.

You don’t just LOOK fwine with your double 8s lookin’ like curvy infinity loops but you are a BEAUTIFUL Friday after an abundant week of museums, library, zoo, “safari”, pool, playgrounds, and of course, our courtyard.

Baby Bro is ready for WWF.  Wrestling Name:  ThirdWheel

Baby Bro is ready for WWF. Wrestling Name: ThirdWheel

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I kept thinking Kevin was a  safari employee thanks to his shirt.

I kept thinking Kevin was a safari employee thanks to his shirt.

On this 8.8 we ended the week by enjoying a picnic in the park with our good friends, some who we’ve known since Micah was not even four months old and Ellis was only a glimmer in his parents’ eyes, and some other good folks we’ve picked up along the way.

In honor of 8.8, here are eight simple thangs I am so gr8ful for (gross, but I couldn’t resist!) in addition to this weather I have long been awaiting:

1) a handful of buddies we can be ourselves around, to lay down our picnic blankets together to cobble together a nice quilt on our patch of grass and dirt

2) being able to witness these buddies grow up. When they were infants, we’d place them down on any blanket and just take pics of them in their Mets gear or their “Who Wore it Best?” Carter’s ensembles. This was the extent of their “playdates” as they couldn’t walk or talk so they had no choice but to humor their camera-crazy moms. Now they are playing, learning about conflict and how to apologize, how to love their friends while giving them space, and so much more.

3) summer watermelon on our picnic blanket “quilt.” even sweeter and more mouth-watering when shared.

4) fellow mama friends you can leave your kid with for a few minutes when you washing sand out of your other kid’s eye.

5) the handsome older gentleman who works at or owns the local Japanese market. I couldn’t fit our doublestroller (Strollerus Prime) into the small store so I parked the kids right in front of the door while I was in line to pay for a few rice balls (I was famished after feeding the kids).

They looked right at me, smiling, then smirking, as Micah got out to release his baby brother(!) Baby Bro smirked right back, looking right into my eyes, as he started to climb out. The gentleman told me to finish paying while he watched the kids for the next few minutes.

What was touching was that he not only watched them but ADORED them. He was squeezing Ellis’ cheeks and patting Micah on the head. He has three grown kids and was so kind to my boys. Made me feel like I was living in a small town for a moment.

6) We love our museums but hands down, nothing beats good ol’ dirt and grass and trees and boulders and rocks for our kids to explore. Here’s to you, Mother Nature!

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7) the perks of living on the East Coast where a roadtrip means you can knock out a few states at once. Excited for the rest of our summer.

8) TTLIF! Thank the Lawd it’s FRIDAY! Daddy will be around to help out all weekend as we explore more fun places together.

8.8 Eve

8.8 Eve aka 8.7

superbowl (of ramen) saturday

Today was a Saturday not unlike other Saturdays since we’ve become a family of four.

But for some reason, today, I kept thinking, “This is my life.

Not when it gets easier or when I get thinner or when it gets warmer or when our home gets bigger.

When I am 62, I will look back at these moments with heartfelt longing. When I touch my grown sons’ stubbled cheeks, my mind will replay these mental pictures.”

Moments like:

Leaving the house at 9 am for Micah’s small soccer class. Packing double diapers, double stroller, double emergency outfits. Watching him grin bashfully as he learns his “squish-squash” toe-stop toddler soccer drills. His European coaches cheering “GOAL!” in encouragement.

Rushing to get both kids in the car as temperatures continue to drop (now ending with snow on the ground as I write this). “I got Micah, you get baby.” “Did you pack his juice?” “You sure you didn’t leave your wallet/phone/purse at soccer?”

Watching Micah play with his little church friends as we adults gather in our friends’ basement to discuss what Shalom in the City means. Amazed that he can now separate and stay with a babysitter. He started attending this Family Small Group when he was only a few months old and now here he is, in his huge soccer jersey, playing with puzzles and strumming a toy guitar, with a little brother in tow.

Driving from Long Island to Astoria to make it to a one year old’s birthday party. Just as we had planned, Micah konks out as soon as we belt him into his carseat. Nap, check. Relieved he won’t be dazed and looney at the party. We crack up as we see a European man in his black Escalade driving next to us with his stubble and sportcoat, eating an instant bowl of Shin Ramen! I do a double-take to make sure he really is eating ramen out of the styrofoam ramen bowl, not recycling and reusing it to fill with chips or peanuts. He has chopsticks in them so he is actually eating this as he drives! Amazing. Ballsy. Quirky.

Escalade Ramen Man inspires our lunch. We happen to drive by a Japanese ramen house once we get to Astoria so I run in to get our ramens to go, though Taco Bell or Subway would’ve been easier to eat. To Go means eating it in our car as Micah continues to sleep and passersby peer into our car, windows steaming from the marriage of hot broth and cold outside air. We have to assemble the contents of the hot ramen very delicately and cautiously in the front console, setting different bowls of food on the dashboard. We tagteam eat as Ellis has woken up and is seated in Daddy’s lap, just taking in his surroundings and grooving to Eminem’s new song (or what we think is his new song). While it took some juggling and it wasn’t as convenient as dining in at the restaurant, we are content, our bellies warm and nourished.

We get to the birthday party exactly on time, but Micah is still snoozing away so we leave him be. We find out there are two flights of stairs at the party so Daddy helps escort Ellis (in his heavy infant carseat) and me as our friend who we ran into while parking, stays with sleeping Micah.

Micah joins the party and explores the venue with his neighborhood friends. Friends he met when he was Ellis’ age. They are now climbing, jumping, calling each other by name, getting their pictures taken by at least three iPhones at once. All of us have second kids now.

The night gets colder. Snow is falling. Micah does his pre-bath routine of running around nekked then sprinting into my arms for a final bearhug before heading to the bathtub with Daddy. Ellis has developed a strange quirk in the past month, of nursing only while lying down, and only in the bedroom. Can’t bear to make him get hungry enough to break the habit. Today he takes lots of breaks even while lying down, blowing bubbles and making fart noises with his little lips, which he seems to have discovered anew. We put Micah to bed together, noting that his posse of stuffed animals needs to get capped off at six.

What a full, blessed day. No big milestones and not unlike others but sometimes the best days are when I can clearly see the extraordinary in the ordinary.