Thursday, September 15, 2016

To The Kids On The Corner

I saw you today, outside, with your dad.  I saw him put the little one in the stroller and adjust big brother's pant leg.  I saw you cry because you didn't want to sit down.  I've seen your dad before.  He got out his cup.  He started to beg.  I watched in disbelief.  How could he bring you into this?  You're only what?  2 and 3 years old?  How long can you sit, begging for money?  Did you eat today?  How long has it been?  I've seen your dad before.  With his buddy.  Obviously intoxicated.  Laughing and falling over.  Now, right where you're sitting.

You didn't do anything.  To be here like this.  I see you.  I walk by.  I go back to my desk.  I can't stop thinking about you.  What if you were my kids and I couldn't feed you?  What would we do?  Where is your mother?  Does she know what's happening? 

Society is failing you.  I could do something!  I leave my desk.  I look for you, determined to buy you some dinner, at least.  You're not there, boys.  Where did you go?  Did you get enough to eat or only enough to feed your dad's apparent addiction?  I could have fed you.

But, I didn't.  You weren't there.  I missed you.

This time.  Next time, I'll buy you ravioli.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Where I Am

I never thought I'd make it this far.  I never thought it would look like this.  I never imagined myself at this age.  I never imagined myself here.  Here.

So, where am I?  I've done better and gone farther than I ever imagined.  I've got more and done more than most will ever achieve.  But, who am I? 

Who am I, to have all this?  Who am I, to be here? 

I'm just a naïve girl from Wisconsin. 

Who am I?

Yes, I've been thinking too much.  Because, why not?  I have more than I need.  There are so many who don't have enough.

I have enough food to feed my kids.  Even when "there's nothing to eat".

I have a steady job, even one that I'm good at, (thank you very much,) and so does my husband.

My son rides the bus to an excellent school.  My father in law helps him every morning.  My other son goes to a child care center that probably offers more fun and enrichment than I could possibly provide.

I drink wine in the evening.

So, what does it mean?  I take a close look.  I see the disparity.  But, what can I do?  I'm only one person.  Who doesn't know much.  About anything, really.

I take a small step.  It isn't enough.  So, what do I do?  I take just one more.

I have to keep going.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Ummanim.  That's what she asked me to call her when my husband and I got married.  It means mother.  The word for mother-in-law in Korean is Shi-Ummanim, but she was adamant that the "Shi" wasn't needed.  The appropriate word was Mother.

For the first couple years, I awkwardly avoided saying "Ummanim" or "Abonim", Father, as I wasn't sure I was pronouncing them correctly and my in laws seemed to not respond whenever I tried.  "Um, blah blah blah" it is, then. 

Then we moved to their US home town.  It wasn't a big move for us, about 5 miles east, but it was a big lifestyle move.  We bought the big house, that, I think, my husband and his parents always wanted for us.  By then, I was a stay at home mom and it was my job to manage the various contractors and updates that the house needed.  My in laws came to help.  I wasn't sure what to think of this, as up to this point, my mother in law had been a somewhat scary and rather intimidating 5' 0" woman I didn't know very well.  But, she spent time with me.  We sat at the kitchen table and she talked.  She talked about all kinds of things.  Things she hadn't necessarily shared with her own kids.  She told me about "her way" of doing things.  It sometimes, often, varied from mine.  And, for the first time, I began to see Ummanim as a real person and not just as the imposing figure in the room.

Ummanim began to cook for us.  She cooked all sorts of things.  Pickled stuff.  Burdock burned 9 times in a pan.  Potions to improve my husband's health and virility.  I tried not to giggle.  She brings rice, Goguma, Korean sweet potatoes and the fishiest soup and stinkiest kimchi I've ever smelled.  I know my husband's eating it from upstairs.  Her best dishes are Moo-guk and kalbi.  Mmm.  I look forward to those surprise dishes appearing in the kitchen.

Ummanim talks about all kinds of things.  Sometimes it's about the things she wants me to know about her.  She talks about her days as a nurse and hospital administrator in Korea.  About how her sister has the job she should have had.  About the power she wielded and the controversy she incited in those early glory days of her career.  Ummanim tells me about when her kids were young and how she suffered 2 little ones (my husband included) in cloth diapers and a husband occupied with furthering his education.  She tells me about her in laws.  Life in America wasn't easy for her.  She tells me about the war in Korea.  How she witnessed executions outside her house on a daily basis while troops used her family's home as a base in Seoul.  She was 5 years old.  They went into hiding and survived on acorn jelly.  I get choked up remembering the story when they serve it as banchan.

Ummanim is so proud of her kids.  She talks about their accomplishments from baseball games to college graduations.  Nothing is more important than education.  I never know what to say.  There was no such thing as a prestigious high school where I grew up.  Not so for her.  A good education determined your lot in life.  In fact, that's how a prestigious granddaughter of the Mayor wound up marrying the son of a rice farmer.  He had the best education in Japan.  She tells me of her culture shock when staying with her in laws.  I can only imagine what that was like.

In the last three years, I have developed a profound appreciation for my in laws.  Their responsiveness to our needs is astounding.  Their desire to be involved with our kids' daily lives is humbling.  The thing is, they seem to enjoy it too!  Ummanim tells me it's her way of doing things, but I often feel it's too much to ask of them.  I can only say thank you, over and over.

The next stage for us is an unwanted one.  A health challenge so ugly that it makes us all sick.  Ummanim will be fighting.  She tells me it's times like this that we need religion.  I wear the prayer bead bracelet she gave me and pray she is healed.

I don't know what the future brings.  It's early and there are new treatments.  I only know that we'll be there.  To help.  To support.  To host other helpers.  To be there like she was there for her own mother in law.  To become, simply, "Daughter".

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Favorite Moments of the Day

It's approaching, but not yet, a month that I've been back to work.  We're all handling it variably well depending on the day, but we're on a positive trajectory of figuring this thing out.

I'm taking my life in moments now.  This segment followed by a quick transition.  Vignettes of lives past and present and yet to come.

Some of my favorites have included:

- Eating breakfast with my boys before we go our separate ways.  This, I think, is my favorite part of the day and something I'll work to preserve going forward.
- Denny's comment to me that I "looked pretty in" my makeup.  His sincere surprise just made me laugh and shake my head too.
- Running into former coworkers all over the place.  It's been fun to catch up with so many good people.  And to see who's aged and who seems to have aged in reverse.  I know which unfortunate category I'm in.
- Hearing about my former role and its current state.  I had no idea how much I enjoyed talking about the ridiculously technical stuff I did and the vernacular that surrounds the space.
- Seeing my husband's demeanor change.  Holy crap, he's folding laundry.  I kinda like that.
- Weekends.  They truly are so much sweeter.

So, there you have it.  A month of moments.  A lifetime to go.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Just a Regular Day

Today was just a regular day. Except, it wasn't. It was my last day as a Stay at Home Mom and so I wanted to savor it. When you hear about people looking back on times they miss, you hear them wishing for just one more day. One more hug. One more time together. So, that's what I focused on. It was a typical day.

Our day started at 6:55 am with the alarm. After Rob and I snoozed a couple times, we got up. Henry was awake in his crib and ready to greet the raccoon on his wall, as he always does. A snuggle with Mama too.

Greet Denny and get him going for the day. He gets dressed and grabs his tablet.

I nurse Henry and Denny plays games quietly. We talk about the day.

Breakfast, then getting ready to leave the house.

I drop D off at school at 8:45 and Henry and I head home in the April sleet.

Henry and I play in the living room and he has a snack of pureed pears, since he had a small breakfast today.

About 10:00 I nurse him and see if H will take a morning nap today. Nope, we read books instead. Back to playing until it's time to pick up brother.

At 11:30 I pick up Dennis and the 3 of us go to IHOP for lunch. I decide to risk a no-nap meltdown. Everybody eats great.

Home to let the boys rest. I hold and nurse Henry while he sleeps. D is doing his own thing downstairs. I hate this arrangement but I try to enjoy it. I know it's the last Friday afternoon nap for a while. Or, perhaps, ever.

The 3 of us play the rest of the afternoon amid copious amounts of snacks and I prepare dinner. We ate a later than usual dinner at 6:00.

Rob got home around 6 and was able to join us for dinner tonight.

Then, I shower and get Henry ready for bed.  He falls asleep for me tonight and Rob gave Denny a bath.

D sits next to me now, almost bedtime, at 8:20. I'll put him to bed and hopefully Rob and I will have a few minutes together.

And, that's our day. A regular day. Lived like it was the very last one.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Saying Goodbye to the SAHM Life

The time has come to say goodbye to the SAHM life I have known and loved for the last 3 years.  I have just 2 more days to hug and cuddle my boys, during the day.  2 more days to do preschool drop off and figure out what everyone will eat for lunch. 2 days to run errands and play all afternoon. There's one more playdate and today I was school helper for the last time. This chapter is coming to an end.

When my SAHM life began, I had 3 goals. Buy a new house, have a second kid, and get Dennis ready for kindergarten. I'm proud to say, we've accomplished all 3. It's been a slow and fast 3 years, all at the same time. One of my former coworkers said to me, before I left that "The days are long but the years are short."  I'd say she was exactly right. It seems like Denny has grown so much (not just because he looks like a first grader) but it also feels like I've been away from work for just a short time. I guess the gap on my resume says otherwise.

No matter the gap, it's closing soon. Very soon! This last month since accepting the offer has been a whirlwind of preparations and determining logistics. I'm going back to my work home. Not to where I left, but rewinding further still. To a place I was before kids. To a place where I can solution my heart out and hopefully make a big positive impact for a team of people I've shared a laugh with before. It's so close, just days away and I'm ready.

But, I'll never forget. I'll never forget the days when it was just me and my boy. All the projects and adventures with all the time in the world. I got to know my kid. And, my god, is he ever like me. I can't say enough about what a privilege it is to be his mom. He's tough, he's demanding, he's not like all the other kids. And, that's what makes him so freaking awesome. He thinks outside the box and puts ideas together. He is amazing and scary and I can only pray that we can give him what he needs as he grows. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

Then in year 2, we settled in the new house and started thinking of expanding the family. Neither piece was simple.

Year three brought a new baby and a village. After Henry was born, I realized how much we needed help. There were many things for Denny that I just couldn't do with a new baby in tow, in the dead of winter. I came to realize the value of family, who stepped in to do whatever they could. Year three also brought a tribe (a "squad", whatever they call it these days), an expanded group of women who saved my sanity more than once. Those regular playdates are not just valuable, they really are critical for the success of a SAHM.

The 3 year plan. It's what I've been on pretty much my whole adult life. It's funny that it's worked out to be 3 years exactly, within days, the last couple transitions. I guess that's the ideal timeline for me.

I'm not sure what our new normal will look like as we dive into Working Mom 2.0, I am sure there will be an adjustment period for all of us, but I am confident that we'll find a way to make it work. It's just 4 months until Denny heads to kindergarten, so things will settle in a bit better then. Henry, I'm sure he will be fine at daycare and maybe he'll learn to be a social star like his big brother. I can only hope.

So, to my boys: Thank you! This has been the adventure of a lifetime. I will treasure every memory of our time together. Denny's dancing, and sports classes, his picky eating and generous hugs. The spirited days at the farm and his honesty in game competitions. You've become quite the independent young man and I'm so proud of you. Henry, when I look back at this time, I'll know that I spent the first 14 months of your life holding you. There were many times I wanted to put you down but I'm so glad I didn't. I got to see all your firsts! Rolling, sitting, walking, talking, I saw it all. I'm amazed by you! Your happy demeanor is noticed by every one you meet. I hope that remains when things change so dramatically. I hope you keep your smile. And, once again, to Rob. None of this would be possible without you. And, now it's time for me to help you too.

So, there it is! I'm going back to work. My work with this family continues, just in a new and different form.

To all who've helped along the way, to make this rotation as a stay at home mom so rich and vibrant, I say, thank you and goodnight!

I report for duty on Monday. To my work friends, old and new, I'll see you there soon!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Grandma's Bacon

Growing up, I always ate perfectly elongated bacon.  Long and straight and living up to its full bacony potential, because that's how my mom made it, surely at my dad's request.  These dinners were usually accompanied by my dad's tales of his mother's curled up bacon.  "She just throws it all in the pan and stirs it around." We'd all be shocked at the thought as my dad contorted his face and arms in curly bacon disgrace.  (The story of my aunt's tough pancakes then usually followed. )

Well, I have learned the reason for the short and stubby bacon nubs.  For, when you have hungry and impatient people to feed (perhaps some of my notoriously hangry relatives), you do what you can to get the job done, and quickly!

So, every time I stir around my imperfect pork bellies, I smile and think of Grandma.  Because, I too make her bacon.