Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The End

I am 15.

The boy I "babysit" is 14 and a freshman in my high school. As he hops in the car on our drive home he tells me about a girl he has a massive crush on.

She's one of the few Korean girls at our school and though she is not in my year, I somehow know of her, just like you would know about a celebrity. She has long gleaming hair, flawless skin, and the one thing I latch on to, she is extremely thin.

In that nanosecond of recognition, the Belief locks into place.

From that moment on, I can trace the rest of my youth, a map of anorexia and deprivation. Hours on the treadmill. Exacting calorie counting. The relief of binging that turns into horror as you become simultaneously stuffed and more empty than ever.

I am 21.

I have just graduated from college with no plans for my life.

I am howling with despair and numb with detachment.

I think I am an adult and I am finally free. But the price of freedom is depression and a loneliness so deep I don't even have a name for it. It's just a nimbostratus cloud that never lifts.

I consider taking antidepressant medication. I have no money for health insurance. I consider taking it anyway. I talk to a lay counselor about it. She is in her early 60's and invites me into her home. We sit in her living room and she tells me how her life changed when she took the medicine. How she used to spend countless days in this very living room, curtains drawn, a perpetual dusk. I consider what it would be like to live in a world of warm tones.

I decide that I am a sad person. I have never not been a sad person. And I don't want to not be me.

I am 25.

I am married.

I am going to start law school.

I have a direction, a plan, finally, for how I will become a real adult.

But I am running out of time. Because as all 20-somethings know, life ends at 30.

There is a cliff after which nothing you do matters; you are obsolete and irrelevant. You are un-youthful and un-attractive. You are un-desirable and un-cool. You are over. You are done.

You are old.

And that cliff is called 30.

I am 29.

Two months before I fall off the Cliff, I decide, my life is over anyway. I might as well have a baby.

Despite being married for 7 years, the idea of having a baby never appealed to me.

But the spouse wanted one. And I knew it would sanctify and edify me, round out my understanding of God as a cosmic parent. If there is any Good in life, it must be found near the heart of God.

I knew having children would be the beginning of the end. And I was at the end anyway.

I am 30.

I have a baby.

I am shattered. My routines are gone. My ability to control and plan my life are gone. My old comforts are gone. My self-determination and self-reliance are gone.

I have no energy to put up with any bullshit except the baby's bullshit. As a result, lifelong relationships fall to the wayside, as I'm not holding up my end of the bargain anymore.

I do my best to keep the baby healthy and above all, secure.

I realize I don't know the first thing about how to raise a secure human being.

I realize I am the epitome of an insecure human being.

I am so out of my depths.

I am 37.

It is today.

I have been over the 30-cliff for 7 years now. For 7 years I have been irrelevant, uncool, and as good as dead to the world.

And to my surprise, I am still alive.

To my surprise, I am not sad anymore.

To my surprise, I have let go of the Belief. I can forgive myself for not looking perfect. In fact, I can even feel gratitude.

My worst fear--that I am not independent, not wholly self-reliant, not an island, impermeable to chaos--is now completely realized. And yet, it is okay.

In truth, I am more alive than ever.

To my surprise, at the end of something, there has always been more.

Incredulously, there is more.

And there was no way to discover it without coming to the end.

And so I am no longer afraid of the end.

Because at the end,

there is a Beginning.


Thank you kind readers who have graciously walked with me through so many years of blogging. It's finally time to say goodbye! I'll be taking this site down in a few months (3? 4?) and hoping my kids never see the dark struggles I had as a mother until they're old enough to understand how much I love them despite abhorring motherhood. May you all find the joy and freedom that can only be had on the other side.

Friday, October 13, 2017

What's a Mom Blogger to Do?

I've been finding it really hard to blog lately.

Partly it's because my free-time has shrunk to nothing ever since I picked up a part-time job a few weeks ago.

And partly it's because I've lost my voice.

They say blogging is easiest when you clearly know for whom you are writing.  Who is your "audience"?

I've always assumed it was my close friends, but now I'm aware that Judah may one day stumble upon these pages.  And that thought fills me with terror.

And shuts my virtual mouth.

On the inside, Judah is exactly like me.  I know his every thought before he speaks it.  I understand his every eyebrow raise and nose wrinkle.  I have a Vulcan mind meld with my inner mini-me.  Words are entirely unnecessary.

And I know what he would think as he reads these entries. (And being already 7, he can actually read them all).

He would ignore all the references to love and joy, and dwell only in the dark places.  He would feel betrayed that I shared his thoughts (however slight and trivial) with others without his permission.  He may never forgive me.

So what's a mom blogger to do?

Damn myself further with another privacy-violating entry?

Take down this blog and make sure it never again sees the light of day?

Share only things that would be unobjectionable?

But then I couldn't share my favorite things - like how 2 days ago I caught Judah standing in front of the bathroom mirror, with only his undies on, flexing and posing.  How I reminded him, "brush your teeth! It's time for bed."  And how, without a moment's hesitation or thought, in all seriousness, he replied "but I'm practicing my ninja poses and counting my abs."

He can't wait to achieve the "six pack."

My big kid - the end of a blog era!
***p.s. With great resignation and reluctance, I took down the perfect picture of the kids posing in their undies and replaced it with the totally non-embarrassing and inoffensive picture above.  Because Judah.  (And child porn web crawlers.)

Friday, September 08, 2017

Rock Star Baby

Noah is a fount of delight.

Words bubble out of him that make me chuckle for days on end.

For example, one morning I came down wearing bright coral pants (and a black blazer) and he exclaimed "Mommy! I like your pants! You look like a rock star!"

We are not a household of rock-related influences so his word choice was hilariously special.

Noah imitates his idea of a rock star, one of his professed future career options

But that's Noah. He often comments on my wardrobe in a way you'd expect of a 20 year old girlfriend, not a 4 year old preschooler. Often if I wear a new shirt he'll say - I like your shirt mommy!

Groupie Fact #1: being kissed by a rockstar makes YOU feel like a rockstar.

If I wear a dress on an odd occasion he'll say - you look beautiful mommy!

And because he is my no-filter, non-consequence-thinking, impulsive kid, I take everything he says at face value - and it truly makes me feel like a beautiful princess rock star.


Noah is also in a phase where he likes to tell me he farted. But he does it in the most charming of ways.

The other week he farted just as he snapped in the last piece of a puzzle and said, "Mommy, I finished the puzzle and my butt said 'good job!'"

Noah (and his butt) gives thumbs up!

Judah and I had a good laugh over that. Now whenever we fart we say our butt is applauding us.


Another endearing trait of Noah's is his random questions. He will sit quietly in the car for 7-8 minutes, pondering life, and then his little voice pipes up, Mommy, what do BART police do?

Noah, puzzler of life, and ball mazes.

Or, Mommy, what's more expensive, a house or a car, or a house-car?

Or, Mommy, what's your favorite kind of door?

Door?! Did you say door? As in, open the door to get inside the house?

Yeah, like do you like wood doors, or glass doors, or red doors?, I guess, I like glass...

And you, Noah, I like you. I really, really, really like you.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

In the Land of Triage

Every day I'm faced with this time dilemma:

I have one hour ONLY and I need to decide what task to do in that precious time. Do I...

1. Workout?

2. Clean (crumbs, dishes, little pieces of paper blanketing the floor because Noah is really into making snowflakes right now)?

3. Cook?

4. Email?

5. Read?

Ideally I would be able to do all these things every day, but I can only choose one to do well and thoroughly. So my solution?

Half-assing everything...and never working out!

Workout - meh, my pants still fit, it can wait - thank you Lycra and Elastene.

Clean - I'll just clear the obvious clutter away (by frantically stuffing them in closets and other dark recesses of my home and garage in no meaningful order) - no wonder I can't find anything that I "put away"!

Cook - Prepackaged, pre-cooked food is my best friend. Rice? done in 3 minutes. Veggies? defrosted in 2-3 minutes. Protein? thank goodness for canned beans.

Email - Many get written only in my head and no matter how hard I try, I still have 1,310 emails in my inbox. I'm making progress - it was 1500+ last year!

Read - There are SO MANY books I need/want to read. Sigh. My to read list is at least 5 books long and sadly it keeps growing. Currently on the burner:
1. Parenting, by Paul David Tripp
2. The Explosive Child (because Noah is killing me with his chronic inflexibility and inability to handle frustration)
3. Word Centered Women's Ministry
4. Adorned (Titus 2 Women's Mentorship)
5. Raising a Secure Child, How Circle of Security Parenting can Help You Nurture Your Child's Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore
6. Cutting For Stone (a rare fictional novel because my friend says it's her FAVORITE book of all time and I just HAVE to read it)
7. The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs (because it's an achingly soul-baring memoir written by a women of my SAME age with two young sons LIKE ME who died of cancer at the SAME age as I am now. How could I pass up something so eerily relatable?)

So, where am I going to find an extra few hours a day? Nowhere. Never. Not going to happen. Ever. Goodbye hopes and dreams and desires.

You are done.

By the way, nowhere in my life is there room for "fun." There isn't even room for the necessities.

Motherhood is triage.

And constantly coming to terms with living without the things you really really really want to do. And a fierce urgency to CHOOSE gratitude, CHOOSE contentment, and THANKSGIVING because bitterness is an ocean that I could drown in any second of my frantic, too-short, no-fun-for-me, only-chores-and-errands day. Day after day after day after day, after forsaken day.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Oh, Hi Yo!

We just came back from a visit to Ohio to see family...

and Abraham Lincoln. NBD.

The Spouse's mom lives in a suburb right outside Cleveland and after being there for several days, I kind of want to move there.

Behind us: acres of forest and lots of deer.

Giant trees and green lawns abound. Sprawling metroparks criss-cross large areas devoted to biking and hiking. Community recreation centers boast everything a healthy family would need at a mere annual membership costing just $145 - full service gyms, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, preschool programs, adult community programs, AND FREE CHILD CARE.

Did I mention free child care?

Our entire trip can be pretty much summed up in this way:
Libraries, swimming, playgrounds, rinse and repeat.

Here's proof:

We went to 3 different local branches, each with fantastic play areas for the preschool set.

Another day, another library.

And we went swimming way too often. I had to get over my lifelong disgust of soaking in other people's fluids. Let's just say, it got really hard when I was around a giant group of kids and the water felt suddenly very warm.

Noah gives this places two thumbs up!

Noah didn't like this place as much, despite the giant pirate ship.

And to complete the trifecta - playgrounds! Lots and lots of very nice playgrounds!

Sprinkled in there was a few tourist traps, including the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Noah was super excited to see the rhino (since we've never seen one at California zoos), but when we got there, it was on its lunch hour! The nerve of some animals.

Sorry Noah, this cutout was the closest you got to seeing a rhino.

I assumed the zoo would be meh - seen one, you've seen them all - but I was pleasantly surprised by the Rainforest exhibit that boasted animals I never knew existed - like the capybara, the largest rodent on earth - crazy!

This guy is roughly the size of a grown pig - the inspiration for Okja, methinks.

Our one and only family pic that wasn't a selfie.

Of course we had to visit at least one museum so we chose the one that was the most fun from last year - the Space and Science Museum. The only new exhibit was on Legos so it felt like we just paid $100 to go to a giant Lego store. Ugh.

We built an arch! Sort of.

Still my favorite exhibit, the harmonograph.

And last, but not least, we attended a Civil War Reenactment, because, well, why not. I regret not getting a selfie with President Lincoln, but at least the kids got a picture with him. He handed out shiny pennies but no aphorisms or witticisms, unfortunately.

The day's climax was a battle that included cavalry, cannons, and a twice as many Union soldiers as Southern rebels, and yet the rebels won. The kids got bored quickly and smelled like gun powder for the rest of the day.

So realistic against the backdrop of the Ohio woods.

Two brothers on their way. One wore blue and one wore gray.

Obligatory photo with a gatling gun. Because gatling gun.

If you ask Judah what his favorite part of the trip was, he would unhesitatingly chirp - My birthday party with Grandma and Grandpa Neil!

Judah turned 7 in the middle of our trip and we feted with a homemade chocolate cake with chocolate icing made by our resident baker, Grandpa Neil. It was so good, all you could hear when we cut the cake was a chorus of "mmmmmm, mmmmmmm, mmmmmmm" for a good 5 minutes.

Other home baked goods we enjoyed during the trip include: corn bread, chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips and coconut, and chocolate chip pancakes. I couldn't wear the same pair of jeans upon my return home. And it was well worth it.

Add to that all the hearty soups my mother-in-law made, and there you have it - the most delicious trip we've ever taken.

But it was also exhausting. Although the kids traveled a lot easier and better than they ever have before in their short lives, it was still a constant struggle to keep them from bouncing around destructively indoors and melting down in boredom or exhaustion. And being with them 24-7 is never going to be a walk in the park.

But they do reward you with the most random things. I swear, the Spouse just asked Noah to smile so he could take a picture of us coloring together...and Noah did this.

Things like this remind me - my kids are just plain weird.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Everything, EVERYTHING and not everything

This Summer has flown by! And no blog entries reflect all the STUFF that's happened.

So, in an effort to download my memory banks (because in 10 years I'm going to wonder...what did we do the Summer of 2017?), here goes...

For about 6 weeks this Summer I was plagued by a virus from hell. It manifested in the weirdest ways - ways in which I didn't know my body was capable of dysfunctioning.

No sore throat, no runny nose (well, very minimal snotting) - those are the usual suspects. Instead I had pink-eye. I've never had pink-eye in my ENTIRE life. It was very weird.

And I coughed a lot. Especially at night. For almost 2 weeks I spent EACH and EVERY night coughing my lungs out for about 3-4 hours. Sweating from the effort, sucking hard on Ricola, and pleading to God for mercy. I know things are really bad when I literally pray - God help me. Please God help me. Please, please, please. Have mercy on me, a sinner.

The weird thing was, I was fine all day, but then at night - the horrible coughing marathon.

So after a lot of Googling and consulting doctor friends, my best guess was I had a viral infection that caused a lot of post-nasal drip which is accentuated and greatly exacerbated when you lie down. And so for weeks I slept propped up on two pillows, as if one were to fall asleep sitting on the couch.

So six weeks is a long time to feel crappy. And during that time a lot of other stuff happened.

For one, I crashed our family car. Again.

I was stopped at a red light; there were 2 cars in front of me. The light turned green and we all started to roll forward slowly. Two seconds in, I thought it was a good time to look down for a box of tissues and then BOOM!

The first car slammed on his breaks completely, which caused the 2nd car to slam on his breaks completely, which caused me, the downward-gazing driver to slam into the 2nd car.

I was going maybe 5 mph? If that.

The car I hit had a small dent in his back bumper.

My car, however, feigned like an NBA pro, crumpling completely.

Sigh, another one bites the dust.

Things I felt in the immediate aftermath - horror, shame, disgust (at myself), sad, sad, very, very sad.

And also during my 6 week viral illness, Judah had one of the toughest days of his short life.

We noticed one of his bottom teeth was growing in but his baby teeth were not wiggling enough. It slowly dawned on the Spouse and I that Judah would need to get his baby teeth extracted. ASAP.

The day of the scheduled extraction I went to pick up Judah from Summer Camp and saw a giant circle bruise right in between his eyes. Apparently he had been hit by a baseball (which he called the "moneyball" because it's the pitch that's supposed to be the hardest and fastest) which a strong 9 year old batted in the direction of his face.

Moneyball indeed.

Judah was in a lot of pain and moaned about having a headache, which means he's really hurt because this guy doesn't complain about physical pain, ever.

And now he was getting his teeth pulled, but he didn't know it because the Spouse and I decided it was best to not tell him! Why worry him needlessly with anticipation? We merely told Judah the dentist was going to "look at" his teeth.

The moment he received the bad news while reclining on the padded dentist chair was one I'll recall for a long time. Judah, I'm so sorry but the dentist said he has to take out BOTH your bottom two teeth. (An x-ray revealed that the other adult teeth was just days away from making it's debut as well).

His eyes opened wide with fear, filled with tears, shock, betrayal, worry.

I wondered how this would end.

But my brave, accommodating, good boy was true to his brave, accommodating, good nature, and despite his intense fear, laid still and let the dentist give him two numbing shots with a giant needle and yank out both his teeth.

Two hours and 8 extremely bloody gauzes (and a good dose of ibuprofen) later, he was smiling again.

Judah - Minus two teeth; Plus one swollen bruise

There's nothing quite like your baby losing his baby teeth that makes you feel like he's not a baby anymore.

Another milestone. Another passage. Another clear marker that...that...there's life and growth and change...and very real loss.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

One more time, with FEELING

"I'm so excited!" I read out loud from the book, The Mouse and The Motorcycle, our current bedtime story.

We had just reached the high point where Ralph is finally reunited with his beloved motorcycle.

I thought I had read it with proper gusto, but out of the dark, Judah's voice arose - Mom, you didn't sound very excited. Can you read it again? This time with more feeling?

What?! I balked for 2 seconds in silence. In his whole life I have read him over 15,693 stories and he has never critiqued my delivery of a single line, not once.

Please Mom, for my sake?

Who is this kid and why does he say things I've never heard him say before that sound too mature to be coming out of his mouth?

Uh, okay, Judah, I'll try again - I'M SO EXCITED!!!!

And then Noah's voice pipes up - I can say it better Mommy - I'M SO EXCITED!!!!!

Thanks for the post-shout ringing sound in my ears, Noah.

Little brothers aside, six year olds who are turning seven soon are so much fun. Judah is turning that magical age - the first that I remember of my own life in full living color - in just a few weeks.

I'm so excited!!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Sweet and Surly

Last week we went to a book fair and the kids instantly picked out what they wanted with zero hesitation.

Judah asked for a book that came with a pink bunny charm bracelet. (And cited the bunny charm as the main reason he wanted this book).

And Noah enthusiastically grabbed a book about villains that looks down right satanic. Seriously, every picture in this book looks like pure evil.

And that is now how I explain to people, in under 30 seconds, how different my kids are from each other.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

My Punny Sonny

What do you call a bullfrog with no legs?

I don't know, sad?

No, "unhoppy"!

What is an alligator's favorite drink?

I don't know, swamp juice?

No, "gator-ade"!

Judah told me these two jokes this week and I'm LOVING it. He knows I love puns and he saves them up for me, a few every week for the last 3 months or so.

He's so punny.

But what cracks me up the most is when he chooses a perfect phrase that seems way too mature for him. I'll never forget the time last year, when I sat at the kitchen table, pausing in weariness after taking a long sip of water.

Judah looked at me with anxious eyes and said, "There followed a dreadful silence..."

It was a direct quote from a Roald Dahl book we had been reading at bedtime, and it was perfect.

The dreadful silence was quickly swallowed up by mirthful chuckles, story of my life with kids.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Logical Larry

I'm starting to realize what a tight little logical mind Noah possesses. It's fascinating to me to watch my kid's inner mind unfold - one of the best things about parenting: figuring out who the heck they are and how they think.

Noah, much more than Judah, loves categories and distinctions. I caught a glimpse of this last year when he pronounced in a musing tone - Mommy, mommy...your penis is a vagina...but...our butts are the same!

It was a revelation to him.

Logical Larry in an outfit that defies logic

A delightful categorization of unmentionable parts - the stuff we hide behind undies and the distinction between genders. What is different? What is the same? I considered blowing his mind right then and there by telling him that males and females actually have the same kind of genital tissue, but at the fetus stage, various hormones cause the tissue to develop into a vagina or penis...but women technically have "under-developed" penises and some people are hermaphrodites.

But then I remembered he was I'll save it.

Last week, Noah revealed more of his love of logic in the car, this time on the topic of ciphers. He randomly asked me - Mommy, what is A + B?

This is a guy who has been doing simple arithmetic with numbers for over a year now so I know he was trying to extend that logic to a new category.

I answered..."AB"? "A, B"? Not wanting to guess the obvious punchline - C, so as not to steal his thunder.

He answered reliably - No, it's 'C', Mommy!

Oh! I said, pretending to be amused and surprised.

Yeah, he said, because A = 1 and B = 2 and C = 3.

Okay, I thought, he has a mind for ciphers. Which is amusing because never in his life did we ever talk about or play any games relating to ciphers.

And then, much to my further amusement, he went on - Mommy, what is C + D?

I thought, hmmm...I wonder if he's going to say the cop out answer - E? Would he just be lazily sequential instead of doing the hard work of logical consistency?

I don't know, Noah, I said, waiting for him to answer.

He paused for a good long minute and mumbled and finger counted and finally shouted out - G!

Why yes, my boy! My logical, cipher-loving, math-pondering boy!

And just to show me how he did it, he explained - Because C = 3 and D = 4 and 3+4 = 7 and G = 7!

And I thought, yes, my son. MY son. I have always loved logic and found the application of it to be wonderfully cleansing, something akin to that clean squeaky feeling you get when the dentist blasts each tooth with a water pick and scrapes all the plaque off your gums.

And then today, driving in the car, Noah's logical mind made me want to stick a screwdriver in my eye. He kept asking me, again and again, to explain the strange phenomenon he witnessed over the weekend.

We had attended a kid's musical of Willy Wonka and Noah was perplexed by the girl in the violet fat suit who was blown up with an air pump. She was not the same girl who played the "normal" Violet Beauregard, as the costume change was too quick.

Again and again, Noah pondered how she got so big, so round, and slightly taller in one second...on and on his questioning went for what seemed like an eternity to me.

Logic, a double-edged sword.