E’s Notable Quotables

I’ve been taking a break from blogging for various reasons but I’m back for this drive-by post just so I can preserve precious moments.

I mean to write them all down in my journal but it seems like I am more willing to type it out if in blog form.

Both my boys crack me up daily.

Here are a couple notable quotables from the mouth of my nearly three-and-a-half year old Ellis:

Before hitting up the playground after school, the boys scootered as I chased after them to the Japanese market in our ‘hood so that we can pick up a few onigiri (rice balls in the shape of triangles, covered with dried seaweed).

When I noticed that only the spicy ones were still available that late afternoon, I announced to the boys that the non-spicy onigiri were all gone.

E’s round eyes got even bigger as his tulip mouth pursed seriously, and he exclaimed, “Call the police!”

Another:

Ellis started a bad habit only this week, of trying to stay up past their bedtime.  We did not want to give in so we started resorting to dirty tactics when we saw him trying to sneak out of their shared room right before our eyes.

“Hey, Daddy!  Let’s get ready to watch monsters on the TV.  In the DARK like a movie theater!” (me trying to prey on his current fears)

Ellis:  I know you guys are trying to trick me.  That is NOT nice.

One more:

On the way home from church, I was explaining to Micah:

“Being smart is so relative.  Some people are blessed to be smart in one way, while other people are smart in another way.  You should never feel bad because someone else, like a classmate, seems smarter than you, because you probably smarter than them in another way.

Also, you should never show off about your smarts, either, because in life, you will always meet people who are smarter than you.”

Ellis, from the carseat next to Big Brother’s:  “Like me.”

And that’s all for today.  I hope to stay awake for Grey’s Anatomy and ease on into weekend mode early on this Thursday night.

 

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It Is What It Is

Not writing, among other things, has put me in a foul mood.

It’s definitely easier and less loaded to blame most of my stuff on this harsh winter, which has legitimately been a prime mojo-sucking factor but obviously, it can’t be all of it.

The dilemma regarding how much to share is a recurring one for me. I’m very open by nature. I’m sure I’ve said that a countless number of times here on this blog.

But as I grow older, I want to reign that in a bit because when I do share lately, I fear…

not being truly HEARD,

or getting terribly misunderstood,

or feeling judged,

or only being seen through the lens of the listener’s own emotional landscape regarding their own marriage, life choices, struggles, and coping mechanisms.

Lately, I find myself thinking, “WHY did I even BOTHER?” as well as, “OHHH! NOW I get it! THIS is why people choose to only share with the safest and closest of friends, if at all…just with people who know that you aren’t ONLY your current struggles.”

Recently, I shared with a group of fellow Christian women about how I’m struggling emotionally and how being cooped up for months due to freezing temps in a small living space with two toddler boys is a big part of it. One of the gals tried to comfort me by offering me this:

“People are so concerned about status! Like if you don’t own a house by a certain age, you’re a loser. I grew up in 300 square feet in _______ and I was so happy. Your boys are happy too. You don’t have to be in a bigger space.”

While she seems to be a sweet and caring gal with the intention of helping a sister out with those words, I felt so invalidated about what I had just shared.

It touched an already exposed nerve about why I can’t be as positive or content as so-and-so and why I gotta share messy feelings with folks when folks have a compulsion to edit your struggles as they see fit or to try to “solve” it for you with solutions you’ve already been running through your own mind 77 different ways.

And to be clear, I compare myself against truly positive folks, NOT those living in unhealthy denial, living like ostriches with their heads buried deep in the sand, not facing their stuff.

My response (and I may have shed some tears):

“Status? I couldn’t care less about status. Just look at me: I happily wear hand-me-downs and I don’t care what kind of car we drive, as long as it has room for two carseats in the back. Lack of physical space also adds to lack of mental space to just exhale and calm down from the hectic, LOUD day with the kids. And maybe some people are just fine in similar or worse conditions but that is not my constitution. Lotta things affect me. I’m highly sensitive to noise. I need to be able to escape and think. I don’t want a bigger place for STATUS. I can’t just sit here and nod at that, I’m sorry.”

She apologized and of course, I accepted because I knew she got it and we all say unhelpful things sometimes. I don’t mention this here to put her on blast because she really thought she could try to encourage me to be more content. I mention it because it was a good example of why I am beginning to retreat and censor myself more as I grow older.

My friends have pointed out that I judge myself when I have to wave the white flag and say that things are hard.

It’s because I don’t think I’ve ever felt ALLOWED to say that things are hard. Everyone is so quick to point out why I should be grateful, as if I weren’t already beating myself up for not being strictly grateful or comparing myself to folks who only focus on the positive. Everyone rushes to point out the silver lining.

I’ve had my dad and my mother-in-law both tell me, in efforts to ENCOURAGE me, “What have you to complain about!? You have two precious, adorable sons! What more could you want?”

I already KNOW I am SO blessed in so many ways and so many have it worse…BUT would it maybe be okay if I can share from the heart? Will you not dismiss it? Or invalidate it by saying, ‘well, at least you…?’ or ‘why can’t you just…?’ And please please don’t try to solve it by telling me how a law degree is so versatile and opens so many doors? Could you please just see me and hear me? Just as I am?

It’s like when you have a huge whitehead on your forehead, pulsating, about to pop, and you and that whitehead enter a room. I prefer to announce, “Hi! I already know that I have a gnarly, ripe whitehead on my forehead. I’mma pop that sucker as soon as it’s ready so no need to point it out, THANKS!” I’d much rather point it out myself instead of having others tell me what I am already fully aware of.

I battled severe depression when I was 17-18 and people wanted to solve it away, dispensing advice to me via my heartbroken and confused parents. It didn’t dawn on them that the proper response was simply, “That must be hard. Sorry to hear that your daughter is in so much pain.” Instead, they said stuff like:

“What she needs is a boyfriend. Get her mind off things.” (I had one, a great one, someone I am still friends with to this day, but depression don’t pass you by because you “lucky” enough to be dating.)

“She should listen to Enya.” (Surprise: I was not cured.)

“Maybe she is having issues now from being a latchkey kid. Maybe she has a deep sadness there.” (At least this one was deep.)

“Maybe she had trauma as a fetus.”

“Maybe she should get exorcised.”

They also made me feel worse by saying that this SHOULD be the time of my life, going off to college with my whole life ahead of me. I knew this. I beat myself up over it constantly. How could I be suffering from a catatonic depression when this was SUPPOSED to be the prime of my life?

I know people just say stupid things without intending to hurt. Maybe it makes people uncomfortable to let something messy and ugly and painful just float in the air without taming and caging it.

Even as I blog, I put pressure on myself to not be too negative as I don’t want to be seen as a Debbie Downer, or make sure I remind folks that I’m also hella funny and not always so angst-ridden, or try to show a prettier, positive side. “Don’t be self-indulgent, girl. No need to go on and on.” Oops.

I was reminded this week about how I’ve always been boggled by the phrase, “It is what it is.” Boggled as in, I detest it. I see no value to that combination of words. What the freak does it mean!? It is as valueless as “…whatever…” I ran into another mama who lives in the next building over. She is always so positive and I can tell she is a hard-working mama who pours herself out for her immediate and extended family.

I found out that her living space has the same configuration as my co-op unit, but with THREE kids instead of two. I had always thought she had more space.

“Don’t you get so frustrated about the lack of space?” I asked, trying to imagine another little kiddo squeezed into our place.

“It is what it is. Plus I love this neighborhood.”

Here, she was using it to mean, “What can I really do about it? What’s the point in getting frustrated? I choose to focus on what I like about our living situation.” I understood where she was coming from, yet whenever I hear the phrase, I think, “What is what it is? And what it be? How do you really feel about it?”

So, me, right now? I is what it is and this is how I is (here I go sharing again):

Though my default emotion is anger, I know I have a deep pool of sadness directly below it. About a lot of things, past and present.

I miss how much closer I was to my dad, the only person who gets my demons because we are so similar, for better and for worse.

Life is moving faster and faster. I feel like time is running out and God, I want some guidance and I wish my parents had the capacity to be the ones to give it to me.

I wish my husband and I could communicate and really hear each other instead of only focusing on whether we were heard or understood first. I can’t even remember the Us that was so googly-eyed years ago, so rich with leisure time, rest, and extra income.

I love being a mama but it is so hard in ways that I’ve never imagined. Sure, I’ve heard the general warnings during the ten months you’re pregnant, about sleep deprivation and breastfeeding and how your life is going to change completely but until you actually raise up these morsels, the warnings are empty and vague. The living it out, the dying to self moment-by-moment? Downright brutal.

Their comfort is more important than mine. I feel clean and refreshed when the baby’s dirty diaper is changed. I feel satiated when they are fed well. Waking up to a whining, crying duo, while sick and battling your own demons is not some noble sacrifice – it’s just called Wednesday. Getting on a plane back to your reality and your duties is called being a Mommy – that’s just what you do.

It is what it is. And that is how I is.

3.12.14 a parent at rest

3.12.14 a parent at rest

P.S. After I hit “Publish” on this blog post, I stumbled upon a Psychology Today article that is somewhat on point. Saying that the present is hard is not Less Than focusing on the positive.

Here is the article: Being “In” the Moment When We Don’t “Like” the Moment

Lonestar, Lone Yellow Face, Getting Schooled

Every little thing that you do
I’m so in love with you
It just keeps getting better
I wanna spend the rest of my life
With you by my side
Forever and ever
Every little thing that you do
Oh, every little thing that you do
Baby I’m amazed by you

How was this cheesy old song by Lonestar making me catch feelings?

It came on as Ellis and I drove out to another potential preschool for his big bro, while Big Bro was busy at his current school ’til we swooped him up before noon. Maybe I was just relieved and happy that I knew some song lyrics for once or maybe the

“Every little thing that you do
Oh, every little thing that you do
Baby I’m amazed by you”

took a hold of me as I kept looking back at my cutie, tickled by his constant companionship in his ubiquitous polar bear hat and puffy navy jacket on this “warmer” day of the week (high of 30). Growing up so fast. Would definitely be needing a new carseat next month. Mo’ money, mo’ money.

I had just left the open house of the prior school, stuffing the application packet in its nice maroon embossed folder into the back of Ellis’ stroller. Our car, streaked with winter wear, was parked on the street that still showed vestiges of the most recent snowstorm. This song from 1999 came on while my second son cooed and babbled at his mama stealing glances at him from her rearview as we drove away.

All of that coupled with my realization, AGAIN, that my boy was going to start PRESCHOOL this fall. NOT pre-preschool or nursery but PRESCHOOL where, depending on the school, he would be grown enough to wear a UNIFORM to school, like a bonafide little scholar.

I’d been learning about this whole NYC preschool selection process and at first, it was too daunting. Too many choices for preschool and too many factors to consider. I know it’s “only preschool” but that doesn’t mean I can skip the due diligence required to ensure that my son attends a safe, stimulating, fun, nurturing school.

As I drove, I started wondering if my parents could have afforded to take time off from running their store to go on preschool tours for me. Then I realized, WE WEREN’T EVEN IN AMERICA when I was Micah’s age. This blew my mind for some reason as that Lonestar chorus continued to replay in my head: “Baby I’m amazed by you-u-u…”

I attended a couple months of preschool in Seoul before we immigrated to Los Angeles. I vaguely recall standing around in a big circle with a bunch of other kids. I also remember my mama telling me that I wasn’t quite feeling it one day so I walked home during the school day, telling her an elaborate story about how Soojin (imaginary friend) and I were not enjoying school so we decided to come back home.

My East Coast boys were already growing up so differently from their mama. I was born WAY east…Seoul east. They have professional, English speaking parents who take preschool TOURS, not hesitant to ask any questions due to their limited English. Being the most vocal parent during the tour, asking about the school’s general philosophy, daily schedules, and whether our new mayor’s push for more universal pre-kindergarden could affect the upcoming academic year, and teacher-student ratios. Stark contrast from my own parents gathered in a huddle with other Korean immigrant parents after our kindergarden class let out, to group-translate the memos pinned to the back of their children’s shirts.

The second school Ellis and I checked out was comprised of 100% African-American students, from age two through third grade. One wide-eyed little girl said to her classmate, “It’s a Chinese baby!” as she gazed at my boy.

When I saw the classrooms filled with all Black students, I time-traveled back to my childhood, where my brother and I were the only non-Black kids in the neighborhood my parents ran a Chinese take-out store.

I was already a bit emotional after the unexpected Lonestar infection (“Every little thing that you doo-oo-oo…”) but it got cranked up a notch, maybe to Snow Patrol proportions (“If I lay here, if I just lay here…”). I am the first to admit that these songs are clearly the wrong soundtracks for this school tour day but I had no control over the DJ in my head.

The time travel was fast and furious. It had to be since I was a grown woman now, a mama, checking out a school for her firstborn. SWOOSH. Back to the present now.

I took it all in: the blue mesh cots stacked on top of each other for the kids’ naptimes after lunch. Different patterned blankets that each student had brought from home. It was clear how much they loved this place, even gathering around the staff member who was showing me around, repeatedly saying, “Hi, Mr. ______.” A teacher was giving a two year-old little boy some water to drink, the boy draped on her, looking so comfy.

I asked the staff how they thought my son would feel as the only non-Black face among his classmates. They explained that it was a very personal decision for our family but that they welcomed everyone.

The two school visits made me think about how much power we have in impacting our kids’ lives. By submitting a few sheets of paper, we could have him enrolled in school with all Black classmates, mostly Jewish classmates, or about 50% Japanese classmates (what his current class demographics ended up being, though still diverse). That would definitely shape his worldview, just like it did mine.

Ultimately, Kevin and I decided that the schools Ellis and I visited today were not for us. The first school simply did not fit our schedule and we would definitely mind that Micah would be the only non-Black child in the second school. Likewise, we would not want to send him to a school where the student body was 100% or nearly 100% of any race, be it White or Black or Asian.

Looking back, I loved having always attended such diverse schools though I did feel inferior when some of my classmates in the gifted magnet school I was bussed to from fourth to sixth grade were well off, with parents who were so involved in school activities.

I was in shock when I attended Kevin’s high school reunion where we were the only people of color. Well, us, and one Japanese-American dude that Kevin’s classmate had married, and of course, one other classmate actually went up to the dude and yelled, “Kevin!” while draping his arm around him, having to apologize to both repeatedly through the night. Kevin tried to show that he was just as down as me by peppering conversations with “all you white kids….” when a drunk classmate complimented him with what she probably deemed as the ultimate compliment: “Oh come on, KK, you’re as white as the rest of us.” Coming from schools where people of color outnumbered the White folk, it just felt gross. I wanted to open up my tattered copy of Malcolm X and read it near the bar.

And as much as we can help it, we do not want our sons to be the lone Asian-American representative at any school.

Aside from the racial composition of his school, we could end up choosing a school that he just did not like, or a school he absolutely loved. A school with loving staff, or a school with bad seeds. Or a school that just didn’t care enough. Or just a bad fit for whatever reason. Then we would just have to go back to the drawing board.

Education is such a personal choice for families. I just didn’t think too much about it since I didn’t have to when my kiddos were younger.

Of course, education is highly valued in most cultures, including mine, but I’m talking about the different paths parents choose for their kids. Homeschooling, charter schools, private schools, even UNschooling, just for starters. One common point of discussion while shopping for preschools is whether it’s “academic” enough and whether that’s even what you’re looking for. Some folks are certain that there is no place for “academic” among four year-olds, since they will be SCHOOLED for many years. No rush to pressure them into formal instruction. Preschool time should be child-led, letting the child choose areas of interest.

On an instinctual level, that sits well with me. Our dude will only be turning FOUR come November, no need for worksheets or memorizing anything…until I talk to some other mama while double-parked next to each other during pick-up time at Micah’s school, talking about how one school is “only nurturing, not actually teaching enough” or when a parent who moved away from our area tells me that her child is learning SO much more at her new school. Then the hibernating Tiger Mama in me wants to jump out my chest like in “Aliens” and start preparing Micah for his SATs.

“Micah, finish your cereal. You have to feed yourself! Stop dropping your sippy cup! And tell me again, what does ‘tergiversation’ mean? Use it in a sentence before I take you to the potty.”

Or when I’m good about our decision to send Micah to only a few hours of preschool since kindergarden and beyond will be full-time unlike the limited quality time to spend with Mama and Brother…until I hear a preschool director tell me that kids really need to prepare for kindergarden by getting used to the hours in preschool, and acquire “more skills.”

I am not cut from the same cloth as parents who’ve already formed their firm convictions about how to do thangs. I always enjoy chatting it up with others to see if I have a blind spot or if I should reconsider. Even with our choice for me to stay-at-home with them indefinitely, there are many days I waver in the conviction or confidence behind that choice. On the one hand, I’m glad I’m open-minded enough to talk to others and sift through different opinions, taking most with a grain of salt.

I also know that I need to remember WHO I’m talking to, as all opinions do not hold equal weight. Are they the type of parents or educators or people I respect and wish to emulate?

But on the other hand, I’m reminded of what Keith Urban said on American Idol this past week. He said that sometimes, listening to everyone’s critiques and ideas about what kind of singer you should be, can actually drown out your own natural voice/style and make you sing without heart.

I’m sure I have a lot of learnin’ to do as I mature in my parenting over my kids’ lifetimes, but what I do know is that I’m all heart. And when I do get nervous about choosing wrong for them, I’ll have to keep in mind that their mama couldn’t even speak English when she started kindergarden but still rocked the SATs, got herself jobs with zero connections, passed the NY Bar Exam on her first try, and started a blog with a readership of tens of tens.

But I do want them to surpass me in every way. Have more joy and confidence and peace. THRIVE.

I want to do right by them…

Cause “Baby I’m amazed by you-u-u…”

"Mama, you up there by the window again?  Choose a great school for me, aight?  Good lookin' out!"

“Mama, you up there by the window again? Choose a great school for me, aight? Good lookin’ out!”

Just Relax!

I now have to go to physical therapy after that car struck me on Monday, November 4th. It is a whole new world for me. Physical therapists and chiropractors may have two of the most directly rewarding jobs. Healing people with focused, physical touch. Connecting with them as they help restore. Teaching them how to use their bodies. So much better than being chained to a cubicle.

One of my physical therapists told me to lie down and let my neck fall into his hands.

“Relax. Let go.”

“I’m still resisting? Am I holding my neck up on my own?”

“Yes, you’re not letting your neck fall all the way. You’re using your own strength.”

I’ve been wanting to write about the effects of remaining in a state of perpetual UNrest and boom, the perfect metaphor falls into my, er, neck. I haven’t been able to fully exhale for what feels like all of 2013, though I’m sure I’ve stolen moments, even half-days, here and there. But now, there is such a deficit that even when I score me some time thanks to my co-parent, it doesn’t feel like enough. Just a drop in the bucket.

I’m sure there is a cost to not relaxing.

When I was pregnant with my first, I was given a heads up only about the newborn stage: the sleep deprivation, the poop, and the nursing. Countless “your life will never be the same’s,” but very few details from the trenches. Perhaps it didn’t make sense to warn about stages to come because it would be too premature (and too scary) when I hadn’t popped the baby out yet. So subconsciously, I may have thought that after a steep learning curve IN THE BEGINNING, order would be restored once they were out of the new puppy stage.

In some ways, it’s true. I feel like a pro raising my second baby boy into toddlerhood. I feel an out-of-body experience when I watch and hear myself share my experiences with pregnant women who ask me what it’s all like. I’m able to drop a deuce while the nearly-three-year-old and one year old watch “Little Einsteins” in harmony.

But I’m also finding that each stage gives way to a different set of needs. You can’t be on cruise control just because you’re out of the urgent newborn stage.

Preparing pureed baby food is replaced with disciplining and learning what triggers tantrums.

Packing the diaper bag with extra diapers and emergency outfits is replaced with repeatedly reassuring toddler that there is nothing scary about pooping in the potty and begging him to let Mommy/Daddy pick out his outfits without passionate protest.

Changing diapers ’round the clock soon evolves into changing diapers every now and then but replaced with vigilantly watching to make sure little dude doesn’t climb the lamp and daredevil himself off the desk.

Baby gets old enough to sit in a highchair at a restaurant but also gets nimble enough to Houdini off the tablecloth right from under the plates and table settings.

I am so tired. That is why I am so in awe of single parents and families of five or more. Not ALL large families, mind you, but large families who do it well, maintaining a solid marriage and mental/emotional health. Mommies who are able to care for their families while still keeping their own dreams alive.

I had another first after my first experience with physical therapy.

Ellis cried awake next to me in his crib at 6 am. I brought him into our bed and allowed him to nurse while I tried to sleep a little bit more. We are in the process of weaning but due to his getting sick and my craving rest, I allow him to nurse whenever, though it is turning out to be mostly mornings and ungodly hours. No rush to wean at all.

Kevin had already been summoned onto the wooden floor of Micah’s tiny closet-room earlier when he screamed awake, calling for Daddy in the middle of the night (a habit we are too tired to break since he started doing this scream-wake in August).

Thunderous crash. A baby wailing.

Where am I? Who am I? Omigod, I had drifted. Reality check: I’m not only in my 30s but creeping towards the big 4-0 (GASP!) and that baby is MY baby crying!

Ellis had crashed headfirst onto our wooden floor after doing his bed acrobatics. Before this, I had always been able “sleep” with one eye sensing my child, like a ninja, sleeping a light, nasty, unrestful sleep while catching baby by the ankle whenever he tried to be a daredevil.

Today, my baby fell off the bed because I had relaxed into a real slumber for a few minutes, even dreaming that I was meeting my friend’s boyfriend while we were in our 20s (both of us married with a kid or two in real life).

This has NEVER happened before.

Reminds me of how people talk about self-care and how the Earth won’t stop rotating just because you relax and take pause. (What is that actual phrase? Anyone?)

The Earth will continue to go about its business but your baby will come crashing down onto the floor.

Home is Where the “Hart” is

This past weekend was an especially kid-centered weekend. Lots of fun playing and celebrating at three little friends’ birthday parties, including one Dol, one Bounce U. party, and one Gymnastics party. Thoughts about kiddie parties of 2013 deserve their own post for another time.

On the way there, I did something I rarely do these days. I looked in the mirror. I was sitting in the passenger seat as my husband drove us to the first party.

Some mamas of small children are able to swing it but for me, mirror-checks don’t happen with a toddler and infant around.

The vibe is almost always loud and harried. I’m just happy to be able to wash my face without having to carry on a conversation mid-splash, so a gaze into the mirror isn’t even on my radar. “Yes, Micah, Mommy do seh-soo, right now. Please be patient. Mommy get you Acai berry juice after!”

Constant conversation and negotiations.

Packing sippy cups and a bevy of snacks.

Putting on shoes and tiny socks.

Sniffing butts.

Pleading with the boys to not cry or whine after being belted into their doublestroller and almost out the door when Mommy realizes she has to dig up her keys from another bag.

Running back to the living room from the bathroom because all is too quiet.

Rushing back to the gated play area to make sure #2 didn’t climb to new heights.

Even when their naps overlap, I have to take a deep breath, calm myself for a moment or two before eating some leftovers, making phone calls, responding to emails, and cleaning up messes. (And maybe some blogging on a good day).

The bright light from the passenger seat mirror revealed something I hadn’t seen before. A chin hair. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve sprouted a different, lesser strain before: a long, fine, almost invisible hair the color of straw. So even if it was as long as half my finger, it was magically invisible. But this new guy was short and wiry and black, with an attitude. I named him Kevin Hart. He had been planning to roll to all three parties with me that day, trying to steal the show! He sounded like the Budweiser “WASSSSSSUP” commercial circa 2000.

For some reason, this Kevin Hart made me think about the concept of Home.

Not a metaphorical Home like in the movie “Garden State” or the Home mentioned in one of the most earnest and heartfelt wedding toasts I’ve heard (“May you find a Home in each other”) but an actual physical Home that embodies such longings and sentiments.

As a Christian, I do believe that this world is not my Home in the eternal sense, but as a human, I can’t help but yearn for a worldly home.

A fortress. A sanctuary. A haven.

Perhaps because I keep catching myself waiting to exhale during my current joyful but frenzied life stage.

I don’t have one childhood home I think about when I think about Home.

We immigrated to Los Angeles (Koreatown) a couple months before I turned five, then moved around every few years within different parts of the Los Angeles area. (Realized I’m writing this on the eve of our Coming to America anniversary date).

Each place felt like a Just For Now. Until we move on again.

Even after I moved away to Berkeley for college, my parents moved a couple times so I would visit different homes during my breaks. After Berkeley came graduate school, a few years of working, then law school. All the places I lived in felt so temporary, almost like extended business trips.

I am now a mama of two and a wifey. We are trying our best but have yet to carve out a Home for our new family. I will definitely remember our current place as the home we brought both boys to from their respective hospitals, where they experienced many Firsts and where we nibbled on them probably close to a million times, but it is not where we will lay our heads down for years to come (Lord willing).

I picture a Home where I can be ensconced in a plush bedroom I don’t have to hold my breath and tiptoe into lest I wake up my Baby Beluga second son. Have some space to exhale, read a novel, write my stories. A kitchen that is open and inviting, more of a gathering place.

A home where I don’t have to resort to wearing earplugs that my husband had to buy me (in bulk) so I can sleep in from time to time.

Where the boys can run around and compete in our family talent show. Where we can all have some healthy space apart before we reconvene for mealtimes and storytimes.

Where we can park in the driveway.

Where I can pause to notice a stubborn chin hair or two and pluck away in a leisurely fashion.

I know I am beyond blessed to have my fellow denizens ready to inhabit this future Home with. Am excited to dream and move towards that place.

For now, I’m just going to work on at least installing a full-length mirror SOMEWHERE in our current place because raising a toddler and infant is no excuse to never really see yourself.

Roadtrip to CVS

I was crossing Queens Blvd. (Lotta my stories can start with that line).

My usually observant self hardly noticed that another (younger, whiter) female was crossing with me.

If we had both been heading to a popular deli with bomb sandwiches to go, I would definitely have noticed her as I would have broken out into a jog so that I can avoid waiting behind her in line. Especially because usually, there is a car full of men waiting for me to get back into the passenger seat.

I purchased the one item I needed from CVS (birthday card) and started writing in it at a Starbucks just a few doors down. I had to write my love messages fast as my mama’s birthday was approaching and the mailboxes in our ‘hood do 9 am or 10 am pick-ups(!). I wouldn’t be able to celebrate her 60th with her because she is clear ‘cross the country as usual, though I plan to make it up to her this year. The 1st and 60th birthdays in Korean culture are the hugest milestones.

I then noticed the Queens Blvd. gal from earlier. She had hardly registered in my peripheral view but I recognized her now as she was CLEARLY not headed to CVS like me.

UNLIKE ME, she was headed to her PARTY LIMO to meet at least seven of her friends who had already gathered with overnight bags, coolers, outerwear. They were a diverse bunch, brown and white, male and female. They looked and sounded really happy and excited. Co-workers, I guessed.

After I mailed my card, on my way back home, I sauntered over to them and asked, “Where you guys off to? It looks so fun! Jealous.”

One of the guys already seated in the limo, with the doors still open answered, “We’re going to Vegas for the weekend. We got room for one more. You wanna join us?”

“You guys DRIVING to Vegas from here in a limo!? That is cray…” I pause to shake the rust off my brain. “I mean, you guys headed to the airport in the limo, then spending the weekend there?! That’s cool. Sounds fun. Y’all look so refreshed and relaxed, by the way.”

They proceeded to flatter me some. I wasn’t surprised (I had just dyed my greys). Note: they proceeded to flatter an octogenarian who also stopped by to ask them where they were off to.

“Sounds fun. Um…are you all single? I remember those days I could just pack up and go anywhere, any time. Now I got two little kids waiting for me at home.”

“Two kids?! No, no, no, no! You know you can’t bring them along, right? You better get home now!” he teased.

I did get my butt back home, then off to my second son’s Baby Dedication. Talk about opposite plans.

This limo crew reminded me of a couple life stages ago, when I was free to hit up Vegas for my friend and her friend’s double bachelorette party. Or free to do anything really, though my goody goody self was known to be a buzzkill at clubs, asking philosophical and existential questions like, “Is this really a good time for you guys, talking about how faded you are? What about meaning though?”

The black stretch limo dared me again to try to live in the present EVEN MORE, since I will yearn for many of today’s moments years down the road.

Back in earlier life stages, I may have fretted a bit too much about “Where my husband at?” though a natural and honest concern as a single gal of “marriageable age.” And even now, I worry about what type of job/career to resume and when. Where our family should settle down. How to maximize precious time with the kids without going broke and while still cultivating my own interests apart from them.

But looking back, I really didn’t need to fret so much about the unknowns. ESPECIALLY in my tenderoni years!

My roadtrip to CVS prodded me AGAIN to savor my NOW though so tempting to OVER-wonder about the next life stages. My now is not a whirlwind Vegas trip or even a spontaneous trip to go swimming in Manhattan, but my firstborn calling out, “MOMMY, MOMMY, MOMMY watch me!” every other waking moment and my second-born bootyshaking to different beats and protesting his highchair so that he can bum a cuddle in Mommy’s sweaty lap instead.

Sometimes I get wistful for my freedom but this is my NOW. Blogging while the clock on their naps is ticking like the clock on “24.”

The limo crew also made me pause to think about my friends in other life stages, how they, too, should savor whichever stage they’re in, because somewhere out there, someone is thinking how nice it would be to have the freedom to jet to Vegas, have childless moments with spouses or single moments with closest girlfriends, or travel the world on sabbatical or during retirement.

Next roadtrip: RiteAid.

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.