Is It Worth It?

So I've been MIA lately because our household is under the spell of disease. My daughter somehow contracted Hand Foot Mouth Disease and she has been utterly miserable and I have been miserable with her. I've seen my fair share of illnesses. I have a 3 year old boy that goes to preschool. I thought I saw it all, high fevers, viruses, bronchitis, colds, flu etc. but nothing prepared me for Coxsackie ( a form of HFM). My poor daughter's mouth has broken out into canker sores. Her gums are completely inflamed and bleeding, so she can hardly eat or drink anything. This past week she has been subsisting on ice cream. So choosing between diabetes and rotten teeth or starvation and dehydration I chose the lesser evil. My normally fun loving, light hearted daughter, that eats anything and sleeps well, has been replaced with a cantankerous, grouchy, girl who throws and screams at any food I try to give her.  She is usually pretty independent and plays well by herself but now she demands to be held 24/7. So its been a tough week.

 

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I almost feel like I'm going through postpartum where I am teetering between two realities, one where I tell myself that its all a phase, its a part of life and to take it in stride, and the other, where I let the sleeplessness, anxiety and stress get the best of me. Sometimes I wonder in these one- crying- toddler- meltdown- away- from- collapsing "is it worth it?" I get into these moments where I think fondly of my pre-children days. Those days where I felt like a woman and not like a human wet-rag.

I reminisce and I remember when all I had to do was take care of myself, where I had the time and the means to look and dress well, when there were actually times when I liked what I saw in the mirror. That's another thing, the mirror used to be my friend. It made sure I didn't have food in my teeth, told me to add some more powder to my nose,  occasionally told me how nice I looked in my new dress. Now the mirror glowers at me, showing me how dark the bags are under my eyes, how far my gut is sticks out pass my chest, how uneven my skin tone is becoming. It's as if in giving birth and breathing new life into my babies, youth and beauty left in the same breath.

I reminisce and remember going out and having fun with others, something called a "social life" which has become such a foreign concept it might as well be the moon for now. I've barely left the house the past couple weeks. I think how hard it is raising kids without family to help. It's something I don't notice until illness plagues my household. I see other people with kids, able to go out and have fun, because their parents can watch their kids for a night. I never seemed to get a break and I feel like I'm drowning to get air.

So this is how I have been feeling. I feel ashamed to even be asking myself this. How could I not love and appreciate the amazing gift of motherhood every moment of every day? If I were to go back in time would I do things differently? Would I trade it all for independence, freedom, youth, fun.... Is it worth it?

As these thoughts started filling my heart and mind, last night I took a walk outside. I've been confined indoors in fear that I am somehow carrying the virus my daughter has.  The sky was so bright and the full moon shined like an elegant light fixture in the sky.  The clouds seemed to radiate the light of the moon and as I gazed above, looking at how bright it all was, I realized you never appreciate how beautiful and bright a moon could be unless you accustomed to seeing darkness. It reminded me of the little moments as a mother that make me forget the hardship: lost beauty, lost youth, a social life forever gone, sleeplessness, etc... moments when my daughter hugs me and leans her head on my shoulders, where I know I am her only comfort but at the same time she is holding me up as much as I am holding her. Or like last night when she sensed my stress and tried giving my kisses on the cheek despite the fact it hurts to move her mouth. In every hardship as a mother like labor, post partum, the pain of nursing, the terrible twos and even more terrible threes, and sickness, when you feel the darkness about to envelope you, those moments, like the radiant shine of a full moon, get you through. Would we ever be able to survive motherhood without them? Moments that help you remember the joy of it all, moments that make it all worth it.

Motherhood: Leaving No Talent Behind

I was talking with my friend the other day and she brought up a very interesting point on motherhood. She said we can use almost any talent God has blessed us with in being a mother. The more I thought about this the more I realized the validity in what she said. Talents that would otherwise be collecting dust in our craniums, never to see the light of day, are revived when you are a mother.

I'm turning 32 this week and as a young (or not so young anymore) mother with each passing birthday I reflect more deeply upon my past. I realize the days of my youth are coming to a close and I think fondly of those "What do I want to be when I grow up?" questions that were so pertinent to our childhood...

When I was young at one point I wanted to be a singer. I love to sing.   It's always something I've loved doing but, when I reached adulthood, life got busy, and singing became confined to the many things I used to do when I was young and carefree, but have no use for anymore...

Now I get to sing my kids to sleep at night. I sing my heart out in a vocal range just above a whisper. I see my daughter's eyes fill with sleepy joy. For the first time all day my son lays still for more than two seconds, entranced by my aria. I see him give a slight smile as he falls into a comfortable slumber. Will I ever be a singer? No, but I can sing my kids to sleep.

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I always loved to draw. When I was a kid, an artist is one of the many things I would tell people I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember when I was in 8th grade I was Artist of the Month one time! Well that love pretty much never saw the light of day after middle school. Drawing became trivial compared everything else that could be done and needed to get done.

Joey loves to draw and he loves it when I draw with him. He loves it when I draw our house to the back drop of the jagged dynamic mountains that he sees everyday outside our window. He always wants me to draw him with his family. To my dismay after I'm done drawing he insists on coloring it...

Joey (left), Joe (middle), Me (right) He decided to take over and draw the rest of my body...

Joey (left), Joe (middle), Me (right) He decided to take over and draw the rest of my body...

I so enjoy watching his expression as my pen strokes reveal caricatures of our family. He recognizes who I'm drawing and watches with such anticipation. Will I ever be an artist? Judging from the picture above, most certainly not, but I can draw with my kids...

As soon as i learned to write my first few words, I fell in love with writing. When I was in elementary school I was a prolific writer. I wrote poetry, short stories, and the occasional op ed piece. I remember telling people I wanted to be a writer and publish a book. I was assistant editor of our school newspaper my junior year in HS and in college I did the occasional Xanga thing. It was my outlet. Then I grew up and got busy. The wave of responsibilities, stress, and adulthood washed over this love of mine until it was nothing but a past-time....

Until I started this blog. Ironically I'm struggling to find the right words to express how deeply enjoyable and gratifying it has been to write on this medium. Being a mother has enabled me to awaken my former love. My thoughts about my kids and motherhood whirl around in my head all day and they come and go like a premonition, but when I choose to write them down, it is like giving the premonition a physical body. My thoughts suddenly have the ability to exist in permanence and are able to connect and relate with others. Will I ever be a writer and publish a book? No, probably not, but I can write about my children chronicling the crazy-joyful-tiring journey in being their mother.

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So many talents that wouldn't see the light of day if it weren't for the gift of motherhood. I'll never be a singer, writer, or an artist, but I can be all those things everyday and more for my kids and that is more than enough.

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Look Before You Leap

Being a parent causes you to be a lot more self reflective. We all have our flaws, vices, defense mechanisms, and idiosyncrasies about us that our friends and loved ones either love or hate and regardless endure. But when you become a parent you realize that those flaws don't just affect you and those around you, but they play a part in shaping the life of another human being. It's quite overwhelming when you think about it.

One of my many flaws is my inability to think before I act or speak. You might be thinking "What the heck kinda pastor's wife are you?" Well... when I'm counseling and listening to other people's problems, I am very careful of what I say and I take great pains in choosing my words carefully. So that's that... but when it comes to the daily grind and the endless to do lists.... I am the complete antithesis of looking before I leap or thinking before I speak.

Think (Speak+ GNC)

I remember one situation that totally illustrates this about me. My husband wanted to try this prework out mix called JACK3D (Jacked).

Was recalled so my husband never took it. Some shady things in here supposedly.

Was recalled so my husband never took it. Some shady things in here supposedly.

So went to the the GNC at the mall and there is no parking. He says he'll loop around the parking lot and drops me off. I rush in the store.

I see a guy stacking protein containers, he smiles and is about to greet me with the GNC shpeel and I cut him off cause I'm in a rush.

"Excuse me, I want to get JACK3D!" 

He gives me an awkward look and just looks at me.

"Sorry I'm in a rush I need to get JACK3D now and some vitamins."

I realize he might think it's strange that I'm buying it, so I explain. 

"Sorry, I mean my husband wants me to get JACK3D." 

He's flushed and just looks at me.

"Do I have something on my face?" I think to myself. "What is wrong with this guy? So awkward."

I say to him with a hint of annoyance "Can you tell me where I can find it?"

Then he realizes what I meant and lets out a relieved nervous laugh. "It's right over here"

At that moment I realized he thought I wanted to get JACKED as in really buff. I felt utterly embarrassed and I couldn't look the guy in the eye as he was finally giving his GNC schpeel about vitamins and JACK3D.

I told Joe what happened when we got home and he laughs but then says he was so happy he was not with me. He'd prob never be able to show his face again at the store.

Another time I remember after our small group we were all talking about Kareoke and my friend who is also Korean American was saying how we should definitely go Kareoke one day. I respond enthusiastically to my friends, "I loooove NRB!"

Immediately you can hear a pin drop and there's this awkward silence and my Korean American friend bursts out laughing hysterically. I realize she and I are the only Koreans in the room and the rest of them do not realize NRB stands for No Rae Bang (Kareoke Room) but they thought I meant ...another thing that NRB stands for. I quickly explain the acronym and you could hear the sigh of relief in the room.

So there you have it. I often don't think before I speak. I also rush into decisions without thinking through them. I jump before knowing what I'm crashing into. In the past that primarily only affect me, and lead me to make poor choices and I would brace myself for the consequences. Now as a mother, the consequences affect another life. My son.

Look (Leap +Preschool)

At the end of the summer there was some turn around with his preschool teachers and we had moved about 25 mins away from his preschool. So, distressed by the turn around and sick of driving through traffic, I swiftly looked for other options closer to home. I visited a preschool and saw their nice clean facilities and the teachers seemed nice and accommodating, so I enrolled him there and patted myself on the back for a job well done.

One thing I didn't take in account though was the depth of love he had for his friends at his old school. I just thought "He's 3 years old, he'll adjust and make new friends." Unfortunately that wasn't the case. He wasn't clicking with the friends at his school and he didn't like the teachers either. Funny thing was, this new preschool was is a widely known chain and was very orderly and institutionalized but that doesn't translate to love and care to a 3 year old. He missed the teachers at his old school and his close group of friends that were together since they were two. Everyday he started asking me about his friends. Where did they go? How come he couldn't see them? I explain that hes going to a new school and he could make new friends. That wasn't enough and he didn't want new friends he wanted the friends he had.

After a month of going to the new school I noticed subtle changes in his demeanor. He's normally nothing but a ball of boundless energy and joy, but you could tell a slight tinge of anxiety touched his normally happy disposition.

Then one day we had to stop by his old preschool because my husband had to meet someone there. I thought it would be a good idea to appease his yearning to see his old friends, so we went with him. As soon as his old classmates saw him squeals of excitement filled the preschool. They were practically mosh pitting him and all of them wanted to get their arms around him.

"Joey!! Joey!! We missed you!!" they exclaim earnestly.

His old teachers came out of their classes to hug and kiss him. What did Joey do?

He stood there crying.

Not just a normal 3 year old boy cry, it was more like weeping. He cried so hard his body started shaking. He ran away from his friends and clung to me for dear life. I was so confused.

"Why is he acting this way? Isn't he happy to see them?"

Then his classmates lined up to go to chapel time, I took my crying boy into my arms and carried him out of the play yard. His whole class starts yelling.

"Joey where are you going?? Come back!! Let's go to chapel!!"

Hearing the sadness and disappointment in their voices and feeling Joey weeping in my arms made me realize. I made a mistake.

When we went home I asked him about why he was so upset. And he said "mommy, because I so sad to see my friends. I want to go to old school... I don't like new school.. I want old school."

I was too brash, thought too little of his feelings, gravely underestimated the depth of love a little boy can have for his friends and the strength of those bonds. I overlooked the fact that his friends became a part of him and seeing them again without knowing if he would ever see them after that, lead him to feel sorrowful.

I ate my words and called his old preschool to see if there were openings. The preschool director said that his classmates were so sad during chapel the day we visited. When the pastor asked them who they wanted to pray for his whole class said "Joey!" Her words compounded my guilt.

So we enrolled him back to his old school. He was so happy and excited to go back. The first day his friends crowded around him and gave him hugs and kisses. He stood there confident and happy to receive all of them, knowing he was back for good.

He's back to his old happy crazy self. I learned to remember that though he is little, I should never make little of his thoughts, feelings, and his friendships. He's 3 years old and has a deep capacity to love, to grieve, be joyful and internalize the situation around him. I realize that I have to be all the more weary of my short comings because they affect him. Hopefully, for my son, I'll do better the next time around to think before I speak and look before I leap.

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Its been raining a lot where we are in Hawaii. Its rainy season now but a couple days ago the sun came out for a bit after a full day of rain. I took the kids out to the field across the street from out house and got to take pictures!

Not a day goes by where I am not completely dumbfounded by the beauty of Kaneohe...

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