“Are you…the Mom?”


Moments after “Are you…the Mom?”  I look like I could have offspring in middle school and high school while my Olive looks like Governor Christie once again.  We embrace all of it but I just had to share these stories.

Many of our friends in our NYC neighborhood have mixed families.  The mama friends I made when MLK was about four months old have been mistaken for The Nanny because their child doesn’t look the same race as them.  This made for fun play dates as my friends shared story after story, about a doctor, teacher, or stranger in the elevator, assuming that they were not the mom.

Since our family is of Korean descent, this has not happened to me.  Boring!

Well, once, when M got hurt at the playground and was bleeding, I ran over to take care of the cut and another caretaker (mom, aunt, sitter?), in her shock at the sight of blood asked me, “Where is the MOM?  Oh my God!?  WHERE IS THE MOM!?”  I answered that I was The Mom and that I needed her to scootch on over so I can reach the bathroom sink.

I was actually tickled because I wanted to tell my mixed family friends that hey, I, too, got asked if I were the Mom!

This past summer, while I had to explain to a cute little toddler girl that it was the boys’ Gramma Lee’s birthday and that is why I wanted them to get on the phone with me, she asked me, “Are YOU a Gramma?”

I worked through the bitterness in my heart and have since forgiven that juicy cherub.

Last week, on the way to pick up my boys from school, I found myself walking side-by-side with another stroller.  The baby appeared to be a newer model than my nearly five month old Rolly Olive Royl.  I asked, “Aww, how old is he?”

The mom answered, “Two months.”

“Awww, enjoy!  Congrats!  Is he your first?”

(No answer.  Just a smile and hesitation.)

“Oh, I was just curious.  This one is my third but my first girl.  You?”

“I have a few.”

“Oh, okay.  You don’t want to say?  Big families are beautiful.”

“I have a few.”  And we both walked off to our destinations.

I wanted to sprint after her shouting, “Five?  Six?  Nine?  12?  HOLLA AT ME!  I MUST KNOW NOW!” but I played the role of a mature adult and picked up my kids.

While I was still wondering what type of comments and with what regularity drove that mom to now answer, “…just a few,” I put Olive in the swing for the first time ever.

As I was swinging her, another Asian caretaker was next to me, swinging her toddler and noticing us.  I didn’t pay her any mind as I was so excited for Olive’s first swing ride.

The Asian lady proceeded to stare and stare at me as many first generation Asian ladies are prone to do.  She asked, “Are you…The Mom?  I’m this one’s gramma.”  She looked proud as if she enjoyed folks telling her, “WOW, you are the gramma!?  You look young!”

When I happily and proudly answered, “Yes, I’m her mom!” she stared longer, studying my hair and face.  “She…your second?”

“No, my third.”

Since I have no hesitation talking to strangers, I wanted to ask, “Oh my Gawd.  D-d-d-did you think I was…her Gramma?!”  But I knew better than to go searching for an answer I might not be able to handle.

This was comical to me.  And I knew it would give Kevin a good laugh later as our favorite pastime is to laugh at my expense.

When we found out on my 40th birthday that we were expecting, we started calling each other “Andrew” and “Laurel,” our church friends’ parents who had a third, beloved child much later in life.

We joked about how we’d be mistaken for Baby’s grandparents down the road but yo, I meant DOWN DOWN the long and windy road like maybe when she was in middle school.  And perhaps I didn’t really mean it because Asians preserve well, like our pickled banchan!

Throughout this last pregnancy, I got all sorts of fun comments.  They didn’t bother me; it made for a more colorful experience, anecdotes galore.  Most of the comments were along the lines of, “What you got at home?  Boys?  Oh Thank GOD, there’s a girl in there.”  (Once screamed across the street from a stranger, pointing at my belly).

One time, as I walked to the subway from my o.b. appointment, the crossing guard started chuckling at/with me when I smiled and waved hello.  We had never met but she started teasing me, “Again!?  Again!?  hahahahah C’mon now!  How many at home?”  For some reason, I started laughing right along with her, and I answered, “This is my third.”

Asian Gramma exchange reminded me to care about my appearance a bit more as I navigate my 40s.  For Olive’s sake!

I dyed my shocking white roots the next day.


This is Us (A Christmas Post)

Today, Christmas Eve Eve, was the kids’ last day of school before six days off for their winter break.  It was also Kevin’s first day of vacation from work.  I will also be home the whole time.  We’ll all be taking next week off together to do or not do whatever we want.

I attended Micah’s class party in the morning.  Kevin and I then had about three hours together without the kids.  I hadn’t heard of any movies that I was dying to watch but I saw that a “Manchester By the Sea” was getting rave reviews.  Kevin warned me that he had heard that it was overly depressing but when I looked up the synopsis, I said, “Excuse me?  Do you not know me?  This movie is my soulmate.  It has everything I’m drawn to.”

No spoilers.  It was a story about a family.  And that’s my jam.  I love getting a glimpse of family dynamics beneath the surface.  Speaking of beneath the surface, I’ve been able to bask in the holidays this year.  When the boys were younger, I would feel such holiday angst and an overload of emotions I didn’t know how to channel:  Memories of how my parents had to work so much they could not prioritize celebration and how I wanted to rewrite that story but not feeling equipped to do so.

I don’t know exactly how but this year, I am able to fully embrace this Christmas season and it feels downright magical, with gratitude oozing out of my 40 year-old pores.  Nothing feels like pressure.  Everything feels like a privilege.  Unlike my immigrant parents whose peak season as storeowners was the holidays, we are blessed with more than a week of luxuriating in free time together, neither of us having to run ragged at any store, with our only “job” being relaxing and enjoying (and maybe some cleaning).

Halleluyer for this breakthrough.  Thank you, God, for new traditions and just plain enjoyment.

And…while not the only reason for my holiday inner makeover, I would like to take a moment to share our Christmas joy.

Early morning of my 40th birthday, while the rest of my family slept, I walked over to the CVS across the street, calmly made a single purchase, took that purchase to my gym bathroom, ironically, for some privacy.  I was there to confirm what I knew in my gut.

Pregnant for the third time after about two years of Should We or Shouldn’t We Go For It (Of COURSE We Cannot, It Would Be Crazy, Right?).  Actually, we are the biggest fans of NBC’s “This Is Us” and I just wanted our children to be able to do the Big Three chant.

While it was a completely natural conception, the story of this baby’s creation is supernatural.  I hope to share more in 2017.  And I don’t believe in TMI.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  Wishing you the best for 2017.  (And if the holidays are tough for you to navigate, you are not alone.  You are loved.)


We’ve celebrated the conception of each child at the same restaurant.  We didn’t realize until after we had ordered but our entrees were perfect for the occasion:  a trio of pasta for our trio of children.





Storm Queen aka This is 40

I used to get embarrassed for folks who were all, “It’s my birfday!  We gotta go out for my birfday!”  I was like, “You turning 38, don’t act thirsty for a bouncy house or a tiara.  Have several seats and act grown!”

Living in the age of social media, I see more stories of lives taken too soon and those asking for prayer for health problems.  So, as I get older, fully FEELING how everyday is a gift, I want to celebrate everything. (And I repent my previous years of judging the birthday-thirsty).

Though I didn’t get a chance to reflect some more about my big 4-0 (beyond the previous blog post written when I was a tender 39) or set any goals for the new decade, I wanted to share a couple favorite moments.

My 10/4 (4×10) birthday landed on Rosh Hashanah, on day two of two consecutive school holidays after the weekend celebration of Ellis’ 4th birthday. His casual school party, World’s Maker Faire, Ellis’ Bowlmageddon Party, then two days dedicated to me.

Kevin took two days off and drove us to one of my fave spots on the eve of my birthday.  Storm King:  one of the world’s leading sculpture parks in the lower Hudson Valley, about an hour north of NYC.  (We also stopped by the tiny Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens on my actual birthday the next day, but that was a drive-by half-hour visit, after dropping by the gorgeous waterfront Costco in LIC next door, before escaping the city again).

Being outdoors in nature is one of the most life-giving gifts for this California gal.  I would love to hike and swim all year long, nekked if I could.  The boys took me to Storm King so that I can trade in all that car-honking in Queens for some geese-honking.  (Actually, even the geese of Storm King were very quiet.)


We took a 40-minute shuttle ride around the grounds.  While it was lovely, it was not restful or peaceful because I sat next to Ellis the Clown who would exclaim after placing various objects on my body, “Mommy, guess wha-a-at?  You have a rock on your shoulder!  Why don’t you pretend to throw it?  ahahahahahah you still have a rock on your shoulder!  Mommy, do you think I’m going to throw this bottle out or do you think I’m going to just pretend?  Litterbug or just pretend?”

So I had to monitor this charming but handful of a dude.  Later, Kevin wanted to gift me with a solitary ride in the same shuttle.  “Hey, you loved riding alone last time.  You have to do it again.  If you run, you can catch the last one and I’ll take these fools around to wrestle on the grass.”

I was torn for a second because I wanted to spend every moment with my morsels on my last day of being 39 (yes, I am SUPER sentimental).  But I caught a front row seat on the shuttle, all by myself.

As the shuttle took off, I heard, “MOMMY MOMMY!” coming from a tower.  I looked up and saw my three boys, Small, Medium and Large, sending me off on my 40 minutes of solo time.  They were beaming and waving at me from behind the trees, like I was going off to Seoul to teach English for a year rather than just 40 minutes away.

Naturally, I waved back like a maniac and teared up, thinking about how close we are as a family, perhaps due to the very thing that grieves me, the lack of an extended family village.  Also, memories came gushing forth, memories of when I was a 100% stay-at-home mom for a full 4.5 years, those years of being each others’ planets.

And now look at them, my emoji comedian who can moonlight as a food inspector as he WILL find even the smallest hair in any takeout order or couch cushion, my observant and profound MLK, who says things that make my mouth drop to the floor (“I still dream of Nepal, Mommy.  What’s going on over there now?”) and my husband, my biggest supporter and encourager, who also says things that make me go WHAT!?…(“Hey, so I’m not gonna wear shorts any more because I saw Pitbull.  THAT dude looks SO cool in his suits, like he would never ever be caught dead wearing shorts.  It’s just beneath him.”)

During my 37-minute shuttle ride, I relished in the quiet, thanked God over and over again for my gifts, and lifted up a few prayers for my new decade.  As we drove past the last few sculptures, I saw some masterpieces GALLOP past me!

It was my family, about to climb one of the viewing towers as we shuttlers watched.  The boys shyly waved at me.

It was a perfect moment I hope to replay over and over again.  This shuttle taking me around to each giant monument on the 500 acres was perfect for my 40th as I remembered the monuments in my own life, and admired the three greatest ones, now literally on display for me to gaze at.



Micah sitting on nickels



10.4.16 Socrates Sculpture Park






Christopher Walken heads at Socrates