Pick Me Up

When I was a little girl, I used to do this weird thing when my little brother and I would get into a particularly bad fight. He would start bawling so I would feel bad and want to rewind the clock to a more peaceful time. So, I would leave the scene abruptly, walk back into the room with a new, kind face and say, “OhmyGod! Why are you crying, Sang!? WHO…WHO DID THIS TO YOU!?” Sang would be bewildered because the answer was, “YOU did this to me! I’m crying because of you!” (Sorry, bro. Your Nunah has always been a tad crazy).

I was reminded of this as I realized this week that My Most Effective Comforters on my hard parenting days are the very ones who got me in a tizzy in the first place. When Ellis Mr. Still Chubby Cheeked Circle Eyes pats me softly and says, “Mama!? MAMA!? Soh-wee!” and when Micah the Earnest says, “Mommy, you smoove like baby – I want to squeeze you! You look like a baby when Daddy hugs you,” I feel like I was completely crazy for ever getting exasperated with them.

The precious moments carry you through the tough moments. I read somewhere that it is Mother Nature’s design for babies to be so damn cute to fuel parents to want to take care of them. Or something like that.

A couple weeks ago, we were at a park when some older boys, ranging from five years old to ten years old, made a beeline for our picnic blanket and asked Micah and his homey, E, if they’d like to join in on their pick-up soccer game. Our boys looked at each other, sheepish, surprised, and excited. E first declined their invite immediately and Micah agreed.

Just as immediately, they changed their minds and got up for their first pick-up game.

I looked over at my friend and said, “Well, this is just gonna be too cute!” as I felt some Feelings again about how my firstborn is growing up so fast.

The Captain, the ten year old, started reciting the rules in rapid succession. Going over fouls and goals and other jargon that Mama’s mind shuts out automatically, just like when Daddy tries to tutor her on football. Micah and E also had similar quizzical expressions on their faces like, “Whaddid we just get ourselves into?”

“You, you’re on my team. You, you’re on his team.” Being the youngest, our boys were assigned to opposing teams.

As a few of the boys began constructing the goals with rocks, Micah and E ran around hugging each other. Being on opposing teams wasn’t sinking in, apparently.

When they were told, “Alright, let’s start the game!” E quickly responded, looking worried, “I don’t want to play any more!” Micah chimed in, “Yeah!”

This mental picture is one of the gazillions I need to recall when Micah just won’t listen and I forget that he is still only three.

I will remember just how innocent and little they looked among the bigger boys, not understanding or caring about the rules, instead just wanting to hug their friend all over the field on that beautiful summer day.

Thanks for comforting me in those hard moments by just being yourselves, my sons.

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Flight of the Butterflies

My Beloved Boys,
I’m writing this while my head is still a-buzz as a non-coffee drinker drinking iced coffee for the second time this year, so please excuse the clumsiness.

Also, I slept like a ninja with one eye open, after fetching Ellis when he cried in his crib in the middle of the night. I had to be ready to pounce if he ever got too close to the edge, which he loves to do. Your daddy had already been summoned to fetch Micah Hyung, whose initial cry got you going. They ended up entwined on the couch, Hyung cutting off Daddy’s circulation.

Mama feelin’ some feelin’s again this month but what’s new? My heart lights up when I see plush new babies hanging out in our beautiful courtyard or on my Facebook, with their parents looking exactly like how your daddy and I looked when studying every millimeter of your brand new face(s), feet and hands.

Fascinated. Captivated. In awe of the miracle of having created a delectable little human.

When I see these new kids on the block, then look over at you big boys scootering and running about, they look like fetuses. You’ve become rough and tumble BOYS right before my very eyes, though at the same time, it’s snuck up on me.

Last week, Micah, your class released butterflies after weeks of watching them transform from caterpillars. You told me that each one was named after you and your classmates as you recited all 13 names of your classmates/butterflies.

The symbolism was not lost on me. As we approach nursery school graduation, your teachers were freeing you guys to flutter about in the world, or at least out into preschool. How precious to name each one after you and your adorable classmates!

On your first day of school, the sparrows did me in, and now, the dang butterflies got me verklempt.

You told me, “Micah the Butterfly flew out first, Mommy!” You quietly sang me the song you learned, with bright eyes and accompanying hand motions:

“I’m a little caterpillar, cute and green.
Hiding in my chrysalis, can’t be seen.
Wait a little while and you’ll see why.
Pop! Now I’m a butterfly!”

Oh, my ex-caterpillar son, Mama hears you, Mama sees you! You’ve grown so much, about to graduate as a butterfly!

This week, I brought it up to your teachers because I just couldn’t get over the cuteness and wanted to hear more about it. “That was so precious that y’all named each caterpillar after the students so that when they were released, it was symbolic of next week’s graduation! That really touched me, Ms. B.”

Ms. B and Ms. C looked downright confused. I repeated myself and added, “Oh, and how did you keep track of which caterpillar was which since they all look the same?”

Ms. B explained, “Oh! Um, that’s a really cute idea but we didn’t name them after the students. Seems like maybe Micah imagined that or named them with his classmates.”

Of course, that touched me even more that it was your idea, or something you and your buddies had conjured up together. Mama loves a good story.

When I strolled you to school on the first day, you still looked babyish, a few months shy of three. You were frozen as you settled into your new surroundings, sitting back-to-back with a fellow frozen classmate. Now, all of you are so playful with one another, like a little family. Actually, you now look a bit silly sitting in a stroller, with your feet dangling and your head protruding above the canopied tops.

Next week is game time, son. I promise not to do the ugly cry at graduation. Well, I promise to try my best. I am so proud of you, my White Tiger, ex-caterpillar, butterfly firstborn.

I love you to the moon and back,
Your Mommy/Mama/Ummah

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First Day of School is For the Birds

Dear Micah,

As September hit and the weather cooled, back-to-school season was upon us. For our family, it was not BACK-to-school but the START of your first school ever.

You will get to know this about me soon: I am needlessly rebellious. Too much of anything and I run the other way. I try to act macho during movies, for instance, while the entire theater is bawling, or worse yet, I ask my girlfriends or your daddy if they cryin’.

So, as 09.09 approached, and I heard more buzz about school, school, school and so many First Day of School pictures all over Facebook, I may have started to rebel, without fully realizing it. Of course I filled out your many school forms ahead of time and prepared a shoebox full of items that your school requested but other than that, I wanted to go against the grain and make a smaller deal about you going off to your very first school ever, after hanging with Mommy nearly everyday since you arrived on Thanksgiving Day 2010.

We went on another trip this weekend to Miss J’s wedding. You were excited because you now have a taste for hotels, hotel pools, eating at restaurants for every meal, and sleeping with your entire family within touching distance. Our family partied hard at that very special wedding, your first taste of dancing on a dark dance floor with crazy adults who like to get down. Daddy and I changed you and Ellis into your pajamas for the long drive home, the night before your first day.

Upon returning late at night, I felt cool for not making this First Day thang too big. We weren’t at home marinating in it all weekend.

I didn’t even decide what you were going to wear until minutes before we left the house. I put you in a Montel Williams-looking Nehru-collared sky blue shirt with grey jeans and used one of your markers to make a “First Day of School” sign for pictures.

And we were off. Mama started strolling you (just you today, no Ellis). With the shoebox full of a change of clothes, tissues, underwear and a snapshot of you. (I apologize if anyone thinks your name is Anne Klein. It’s not like your friends can read anyhow.)

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To get to your school, we started on the same 17-minute stroll we had done a countless number of times to get to the library, your friend K’s apartment, and your playground.

I had been talking to you about school for months now. How your friend, A, is already there and how you’re going to have so much fun and how Mommy and Ellis will pick you up just in time for lunch. Maybe this wasn’t the big deal others were making it out to be?

But during this very ordinary walk, Mama started feeling an extraordinary welling up inside. Like a volcano’s rumble. Or a bloodstain growing larger and larger on white cloth.

I tried to get real macho, real fast.

As I strolled you, I looked down at you with your skinny neck and spiky hair, sitting there with your clear, wide eyes, observing the world as you always do, acting like you ain’t never been a no-necked, rolly baby. You asked about the ongoing construction and the men doing the work. “Mommy, they working today? They fixing street again?” Our usual topics of conversation.

And then a bunch of sparrows flew around us and sat down in a row on the porch of a building we always pass by.

Oh, Micah, those birds. They just about did Mommy in. Mommy wanted to sit down in the middle of the street and do the Korean drama wail, wrapping a white cloth around my head like a proper wailing Korean mama.

Do you know why those birds are so special to us?

Mommy’s Mommy, your grandma, used to walk Mommy to school, telling me how the chahm-sehs (sparrows) were flying and chirping just for me, Nature’s perfect escorts to kindergarden.

Fast forward to now, and this gang of sparrows was also chirping just for you as you went off to school with YOUR Mommy.

They had watched us walk this very walk when you were just a few months old and we had already endured about eight major snowstorms. Mommy was nervous about taking you out on the slippery sidewalks that weren’t paved completely but when she did, she was so happy to stroll you around, getting both of us fresh air into our lungs. Feeling so accomplished. Feeling like maybe she can do this motherhood thang even with the mood-crushing weather and no family around.

Mommy had asked her friends what I should do for you, other than nap you and feed you and change your many diapers. They told her to just show you around and talk to you. So Mommy would tell you what she saw on the walk, including the snowed in sidewalks and the birds who wanted to see Micah in his stroller.

Mommy had been rebellious up until this very morning because you going to school WAS a huge deal and I didn’t trust the floodgates to come crashing down. I find myself doing that these days, Micah, not being able to cry because there might be too much in there.

Whether I made a big deal of it or not, here we were. So many moments flashing before my eyes. All the sweet “i wuv you, Mommy” moments, not the moments where Mommy has a pool of urine and chicken broth in her Crocs from an eventful afternoon.

I love you so much that if I pause to think about just how much, I feel like my heart will stop. I still cup your smooth face in my little hands, just like I did when you arrived brand new. I just can’t believe you were the little blueberry in my womb.

And I have to admit, it’s been REALLY HARD as you are not a baby any more and you want to do things your way.

You drive me crazy some days, when you don’t listen, and I have gotten so frustrated after how many spills and how many times you ask me for something after I tell you “No!” But you will always be my scrawny newborn who ballooned into a big-cheeked Gloworm, then became a sweet big brother at 22 months old. My firstborn. My baby.

Always remember that birds chirped just for you today as I took you to your first school, though sometimes, they sure did sound like they were chirping, “You ain’t hward, you ain’t hward!” in Mommy’s direction. Mommy got too verklempt to point it out during the walk, so here it is in print.

I still haven’t been able to cry but maybe your Mommy is growing up, too. Or the volcano will erupt next week when Orientation week is over.

P.S. I forgive you for asking if there was a baby in Mommy’s belly last week. I hope you can forgive me for greater offenses, like yelling at you and saying I want to be back at the office because you won’t listen. God bless you while you are at school. You’re all mine again after a few hours each morning. I love you to the moon and back.

my li'l Montel:  don't blow up my spot, ma!

my li’l Montel: don’t blow up my spot, ma!