What’s in a name?

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Dear Charlie,

One day you will sit in a classroom while your teacher will do a roll call and after 3/4s of your class has been called, he or she will sound your name. Hopefully they won’t pronounce it wrong. You and your brother have pretty normal names. Pretty normal old English men names. (You don’t even have to postulate; this has everything to do with your mama having a weird name complex).

To be honest, we had no idea what we were going to name you. We had a short list of favorites with your older brother, but after a couple years, our affection for those names waned (nor did we want to give you sloppy seconds). We went on on a date to Yard House and over turkey burgers, onion rings and fries we vowed to not leave until we named you.

About an hour in, it was looking bleak. And not just because the Yard House is so dark all the time. We had each pulled out the Social Security Administration list of baby names and were rattling names off to each other between bites. Out of nowhere, your dad said, “What about Charlie?” I almost spit out my Diet Coke. “Really??” Charlie has been a long favorite of mine. Charlie’s the name I’ve always wanted to name my son since I was 16. Actually when I got my first new used car, I did not have the brain development for the satisfaction of delayed gratification and hastily named it Charlie. (That car died a year after I moved up to the Bay Area. RIP Charlie the Ford Escort.) Moreover, we had hesitated on naming your brother Charlie because there was a surge of other parents who also named their sons Charlie (It’s a great name, everyone agrees!!). But your Dad and I agreed that enough time has passed and you can be Charlie. I know your name means “man” (it does not get more meaningful than that…), I hope that you remember that we named you “Charlie” because that name has long been treasured in our hearts, so very much like you. On the eve of your first birthday, I am especially grateful for you. We were meant to be together. You brought out something different in each of us and we are a better family because you are in it. (Oh and the Ernest is a very obvious nod to your uncle who is one of the coolest people we know.)

In short, you can tell people that your mom named you after her first station wagon.

Love,

Mama

Other nicknames we have given you since your birth…

  1. Carlos Carnitas – I think carnitas you tasted and you were OBSESSED. You would shovel handful after handful into your mouth and earn yourself a post-meal bath because you smelled so porky after.
  2. Char-Char – Isn’t it some kind of rite of passage that you are subjected to the first syllable of your name is repeated as a nickname?
  3. Charizard – Your dad went through a very intense Pokemon stage when you were incubating. This moniker plays tribute to that very dark period in our family’s life.
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Perfection Paralysis

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Some people’s conscience sound like their moms. For some, it’s their fitness coach. For others, Morgan Freeman (aka God). For me, it’s been Dana White (at least for the past week). From the cover, it looks like a book about how to stay on top of your dishes – which it is. But what I didn’t expect is how it surfaced some weird ideas about my significance. This book is night and day from other home management books/blogs/articles I’ve read because she gets the inner mind of slobs. Like millions of people around the world, I too have KonMari’ed parts of my home but for me, having fewer stuff did not translate into my home staying clean and tidy. I totally admire what Marie Kondo does, but part of me isn’t that impressed because she’s been an organizer since she was a child! It’s like watching Usain Bolt compete on Biggest Loser, Thomas Keller on Chopped, or John Krasinski on the next season of The Bachelorette. (Maybe that last reference a little too Candy-centric) There’s something magical about seeing someone go against ever fiber of their being. Enter Dana White.

Early in the book she confessed how she found out that people were actually selling empty toilet paper rolls on eBay. She was so excited that free money was literally sitting in her bathroom she devised a plan to get her family on board to help her save enough toilet paper rolls to sell. She cleared some space in her vanity to put an empty box and asked her family to remember to put empty rolls in the box. Two months passed and she only had 2 rolls in the box. However the space that box took up in the vanity caused a cascade of clutter. Was it really worth the $10 on eBay she would’ve gotten for all the hassle of collecting empty rolls? She also talked about how she often tries to wash her dishes perfectly – air-drying the items that need extra TLC. However this ended up with a pile of dishes that were perpetually being air-dried because air-drying takes time and putting away dishes takes time and eventually, it becomes easier to just pull from the pile on your counter. The knife hit my heart when she said “sometimes worrying about doing something the best way keeps me from doing anything.” UGH. YES. ME.

Being a self-proclaimed ENFJ, I had to dutifully dig into my soul as to why I felt so paralyzed by perfection. Yes, I’m sure it’s partly a neurosis. But as I thought about it more, I realized I had this unhealthy obsession about things being done consistently and perfectly. Somehow I must’ve believed that if it couldn’t be done consistently and perfectly, it wasn’t worth doing. What was even more peculiar was that I 100% own the fact that I am inconsistent and imperfect… so why is it so surprising to me that things I do are inconsistent and imperfect? Insert the emoji with the chin resting between the thumb and index finger here.

Once I realized this, I immediately saw how unnecessarily dramatic I was being about so many things in my life. Let me just name six.

  • I am now 7 months behind blogging about Charlie. Should I just start at month 9? That doesn’t seem right! Okay, I’ll go on a blogging marathon for months 3-8. Crap I can’t even remember what happened in those months. POOR SECOND CHILD. Insert Perfection Paralysis.
  • I want to read this new book! Yikes, I still have 10 books I haven’t finished.
  • I would love to make a photo book of our 2017 summer. But I haven’t done our 2016 photobook and our wedding images are still sitting on 2 DVDs. I am tired just thinking about this.
  • I’ve been thinking a lot about Charlottesville. And the Google Memo. And diversity. And unity. I have a draft that I started after Ferguson. That was 2014. Where does one even start Equity 101?!
  • Hello laundry that needs to be folded. You know what will be perfect? Folding you after the kids go to bed while watching Black-ish. Perfection (or Optimization) Paralysis.
  • I need to get some fresh fruit. I have some time right now but you know what, I will wait for the Mountain View farmer’s market that’s only on Sundays from 9am-1pm. They have the BEST STUFF.

There is a time and place for precision and sure, we can call it perfection – like calculating the re-entry path for Freedom 7. No one would fault you there. However I think you would all agree with me that the things I listed above would not fall under that category. For 95% of the things I put off, my quality of life would be significantly improved if they were just done rather than perfectly done.

As a teacher, I would always have a major freak out every time I wanted to change a routine in my classroom after the first day of school. Whether it was as major as a grading system or pushing up/back a date I had committed to, in my mind, I imagined my students organizing a coup, overturning desks and burning papers because MS. SOHN CHANGED HER MIND AND NOW HER CLASS SYLLABUS IS VOID. Yet 10 out of 10 times I admitted to changing my mind, they would barely even look up and just rolled with it. Humans are incredibly inconsistent and yet incredibly resilient.

I want to come up with a better ending to this post, but that would mean saving and coming back to it later (which by now you should know means never). So here is me taking a baby step to ending paralysis.

Pressing the Publish button in 3…2…1….

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

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Reminding myself of this when I shop for Teacher Appreciation in the upcoming years.

Now that it’s officially been years since I have taught in a classroom, I can unreservedly celebrate this day without feeling sheepish.

Some kids knew from a very young age that they were meant to be teachers. I was never one of these kids. The first career I remember wanting to pursue was Interior Design. Yet throughout my childhood, it was always my teachers that were my real life heroes. I never thought I would be a teacher myself, but my teachers convinced me that you would be hard pressed to find another profession that is so rewarding.

Thank you to my 3rd Grade teacher – Mrs. Vicki Bakki who made my transition from Manila to San Diego so smooth.

Thank you to my 4th Grade teacher – Ms. Kathy Dunlay who opened my eyes to the joy of reading and would spend the last 20 minutes of class reading to us in the best voices. I never wanted to go home.

Thank you to my 5th Grade teacher – Ms. Julie Harris who never talked to us like we were kids and loved us fiercely and firmly. She had an incredible voice and would sing to us all the time. One of my favorite memories was that every Friday, we would sing the Friday song together. Friday, Friday! Friday is my favorite day. Friday, Friday! Friday is my favorite day. Monday’s just a bummer, Tuesday’s only fair, Wednesday getting better, and Thursday’s almost there but Friday, Friday, Friday’s my favorite day! As a kid I thought Fridays were awesome because we had no school for two days. Now having taught, I realized Ms. Harris probably loved it a million times more than all of us combined.

Thank you to my 7th Grade Life Skills teacher – Mrs. Barbara Bjorkquist. It’s a special challenge to teach 13 year olds to care about others and the world, but she did it. She had us write letters to our future selves and mailed us our package after we graduated high school. She was so kind to store the hoard of letters for years so that she could help us treasure our memories.

Thank you to my 8th Grade teacher – Ms. Karen Bungard who made history and literature come alive. I will never forget the Poe Party we had where we all dressed in black and covered the lights with black table cloth and would read The Raven. She was also obsessed with Sir Francis Drake and would tell us that she was up all night reading stories about him and we thought she was crazy but now I see she just loved learning and couldn’t wait to share it with us.

Thank you to Mr. Tuttle, my 9th Grade Honors English teacher. We were told in 8th grade that he was the hardest toughest teacher and you better pray that the registration gods placed you with the other 9th Grade Honors teacher. I am so glad I ended up in his class. He gave me my first C on a paper, but the lessons I learned from his merciless marks I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Thank you Ms. Rankin & Ms. Matson – Thank you for showing me that women can be cool, smart and kick ass in science. I admired them so much, I decided I had to become one of these crazy science teachers 🙂

Three Years

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Usually when I tell you to smile, you give me a “smile”baring only your bottom teeth in this bizarre underbite display. This was a nice change of pace. 

Dear Wesley,

I owe you a letter but mama is too full of all the feelings right now to put into words this past year. It is coming! And well before your 4th birthday, I promise.

For your birthday, you started the day crying about something scary at 3:02 am. This is noteworthy because you were born at 3:02 am  so when I looked at my watch and saw the time it was a little creepy and serendipitous at the same time. Since it was your birthday, I lingered a little bit longer in your room after singing you a song and tucking you back in.

After you woke up for reals, we had breakfast, opened presents, watched excavators move dirt around our demolished house and checked out a free gymnastics class. We got lunch with Grandpa and the 3 generations of Sohn boys (minus number two boy) rode the Cal Train from Menlo Park to Mountain View. From what I heard it was a little scary for you at first and you kept complaining it was moving too fast! (Which is so inline with your cautious spirit). We all took naps when we got home and you were treated with surprises from friends and grandma and we topped the day off with your dinner of choice – Ling Ling Dumplings and cheesecake.

Last night before I tucked you in, I interviewed you to capture you at this time in our lives. Here’s what you said!


 

How old are you? Two

What’s your favorite color? Umm… Blue

What’s your favorite TV show? CONSTRUCTION!!

Who is your best friend? Daniel Tiger!

What’s your favorite toy? Trolley

What’s your favorite food? ummm… ummm… GARBAGE TRUCK *cackle cackle*

What’s your favorite animal? Cow

Where do you live now? Number Two house! (Our apartment’s number is #2)

What happened to Wesley’s house? It broke.

Why did it break? Because the machines and the excavator broke it.

Why did they break it? Because Mr. Tyler (our contractor) is going to make a new one.

What do you want to do tomorrow? Go to George and Charlie’s house!!!!

What’s baby brother/daddy/mommy’s name? Char-wee, Tim and Candy

What does baby brother like to eat? milk

What does Wesley like to drink? real milk

How do you spell your name? W E S L E Y

When is your birthday? March second

Where does yeeyee (auntie phoebe) live? At the train station!

How do you make spaghetti? You put it in the pot and stir it. And then you get it out and put it on the plate. Ta da!

 


 

 

Month Two

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I love this one of you. I can just hear the music in the back blaring, “Hip Hop HooRAYYYY HO HEY HO!”

Dear Charlie,

This was a big month for your mama. This month, in the game of Mommy and Daddy v. The Sohn Bros, we went from a exhausting but manageable man on man defense to a 10-hour double-team. (Read: Tim went back to work) Thanks to the generosity of family and friends who visited us and fed us, we managed to survive, and squeak by with some sleepy smiles on our faces.

Life with two littles is full, crazy, exhausting and wonderful. Sometimes it’s just one of those adjectives. Sometimes those adjectives are all present at once. I remember when I was 8th grade and staying up late for the first time (~11pm) one night working on my US Constitution project and thinking I was SO BUSY. And UGH. I AM SO STRESSED. Looking back on that as a high schooler, then as college student and  then as an adult, it’s totally laughable and ridiculous. That’s kinda how it’s like having two kids. Life before this now seems like a joke  so manageable!

There’s a running joke around parents about being the second (or third/fourth/etc) child. Basically it goes like this. With (insert name of your firstborn), I used to (insert good parenting behavior), now with (name of second child) I (insert mediocre/questionable parenting behavior ie. gave him his first iPad at 3 months/ fed her popcorn for lunch/ didn’t change their diaper for 6 hours). I am sorry Charlie. That joke is very true, but in honor of your second month of life, I came up with a list of reasons why being #2 is amazing.

  1. Accelerated Learning. I am pretty sure when I was a first time parent, I didn’t really know what to say to Wesley all day. I *think* I sang songs, rhymes and talked about my day. But since we have a very talkative almost 3 yo in the house, you are exposed to so much more words. For example, since you are always around during your brother’s story time, you are exposed to much more advanced books at a much younger age! Though I have to admit a big reason for that is that our baby books with black and white contrasting stripes and mirrors are packed away somewhere. We are reading books about trains and a lot of construction vehicles these days. Maybe your first words will be skid steer loader?
  2. More Hugs. In order to keep up with a toddler, I have become an expert at buckling you into the Ergo and carrying you everywhere. This means that we are pretty much hugging each other for hours every day. And this is how I accidentally subscribed to Attachment Parenting. Womp womp.
  3. Non-Noob Parents. As you may know by now, we accidentally gave your big bro a flat head (and then corrected it). This time around, we are better about ignoring your protests about tummy time which has resulted in better neck and core strength! Whenever you were being fussy for no apparent reason, I would retaliate with tummy time. That sounds really mean now that I type that out, but hey, your head looks pretty good. You are welcome.
  4. More Adventures. You’ve already been to the zoo, attended a birthday party, two baby sprinkles, gone on a hike, and eaten out at True Foods Kitchen, Chipotle, Cooking Papa, Koi Palace x 2 and Beijing House just to name a few.
  5. More Loves. Any given day, you have 3 people who cannot wait to give you hugs and cuddles. Whenever you cry, Wes comes over and rests his head on your chest and says, “It’s okay baby brother. You’re okay.” It’s just about the sweetest thing in the world.

See, being number two is kind of a sweet gig. We are big fans of you Number Two!

Love, Mama

 

Stats

Height- 1 ft. 11.75 in. (86%) Weight – 12 lbs 7.5 oz (59%) Head Circumference – 15.51 inches (63%)

Diapers – Size 2

Clothing – You outgrew your newborn clothes really quickly. Your 0-3 month clothes are snug.

Sleep – We discovered that your flat bassinet was not a suitable bed for you. On a sleepover at a friend’s house, we put you in a rock and play and you LOVED it. We immediately borrowed one from a friend so you could sleep in that instead of being a couch surfer. A couple times you even went 6-7 hours between feedings! No need to be overly proud of yourself though, this hasn’t happened since.

Noteworthy Charlie

  • *In addition to calling you Baby Brother, Wesley calls you “Number Two Boy!” Daddy is “Number Three Boy!” and sometimes I am “Number Four Boy!” Hurray.
  • You rocked your 2 month check up and were so brave when you got your shots! Thankfully no post-vax fevers this time around.
  • You have major FOMO. Sometimes we leave you in your rocker and walk away and you get SO sad… but once we are in your line of sight, you usually will stop crying.
  • You like being clean. You appreciate a good diaper change even if it means getting a cold wet wipe to your bum.
  • You love a good bath. There is a peace and calm on your face when you are in the water in your birthday suit. Maybe you will be the son that doesn’t get kicked out of swim class for screaming?

Month One

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Dear Charlie,

In our family, we like to write emails. Your dad and I wrote letters to each other when we were dating. We exchanged letters on the day we exchanged vows. And though we have moved on to texting these days as our preferred means of talking throughout the day, once a year we sit down and write letters to each other on our anniversary. When your brother came into our lives, I started writing letters to him because this one blogger I love wrote these incredible monthly letters for her kids that were heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Not because everything was perfect, but because it was real. My 23 year old self vowed to do this for my future offspring. This time I want to write to remember. The good, the bad, the whole of it, in hopes that one day you will see that God made our crazy imperfect stories into something beautiful.

I will never forget the day you came into our lives. It happened to also be the day that we moved out of our home into a rental for the year so we could embark on our remodel. Your dad and I hoped and crossed our fingers (and legs – hah!) that you would wait until after we moved, but #MurphysLaw you came right after packing day and about the same time as when the movers pulled up to our house that morning.

The night before your birth day, we went out for dinner after a full day of packing. We went out to Beijing House for some black bean noodles and sweet and sour pork (jajangmian and tang su or aka, your Father’s guilty pleasure). During dinner I started to have a crampy feeling in my back but I just chalked that up to moving around too much during the day. I went home, put Wes down for bed and decided to go lay down for a bit. Usually when I would have contractions, lying in down in bed would stop them. This time they hung around for a bit. I was in denial so I scrolled around on Facebook, probably watched some makeup and home organizing tutorials on Youtube and then my friend Sally happened to text me and ask me how I was doing. I told her my contractions were about 10 minutes apart and then she slapped some sense into me.

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I waddle out to the living room and see Tim on his laptop doing some work and I say “I think we need to go to the hospital?” Tim is usually the freaker outter between the both of us, but in that moment, he flashed a smile and said, “Really?” Yes really. He closed his laptop and said “Let’s do this.” (har har how cute that he used the plural pronoun aka the royal we when we all know who is going to have to push a baby out.) In an hour his parents were over ready to camp out in our empty house void of furniture and food (bless them) and we were on our way to the hospital.

We parked in the lot and walked over to the delivery floor beneath the light of the Super Moon. I recall a conversation with someone telling me weeks ago that she would bet I would go into labor during a full moon. I gave her a courtesy giggle. “That’s cute, woman. Yes, the moon’s orbit around the Earth has the power to cause my uterus contract.” I stand corrected. Being veterans, we tried use the door that was closest to the elevator we needed but it was already locked for the night. Cue waddling mama back to the ER entrance. We walk down the very long hallway and shared an elevator with some nurses who were coming back from their break.

“Ooooh, 3rd floor! How far apart are your contractions?”

“5 minutes!”

“Yay! It’s happening! First kid?”

“No, it’s our second.”

“I knew it! You can always tell by how little you pack the 2nd time around. First time parents always look like they are moving in!”

(I recall when I had Wesley how I brought TWO LAPTOPS with me. I am relieved to know I am a cliche.)

We were admitted at 11pm on November 14 and within an hour, I was in my delivery room getting hooked up to an IV and 5cm dilated. I spent a couple minutes thinking how long I should wait until I asked for the epidural and then I looked at the clock and it suddenly dawned on me that I could either be in pain, or get some sleep. This doesn’t seem like a big deal but as a parent, you learn that the phrase “get some sleep” comes with a big ass asterisk at the end of it because any given night, you just have no idea what kind of sleep you are going to get. Will it be a nightmare? A faulty diaper that soaks the pjs? A scary light? A tooth cutting?  Just being alive? Any of these things are fair game for a kid to cry in the middle of the night. For the first time in many nights, I wasn’t going to be under the same roof as a toddler. In addition to that, I was just about to add a newborn to the fold. This was quickly becoming a non-issue. Nurse Gladys, call up the anesthesiologist! Nurse Gladys was great. I felt like I made a new bff in the few hours she took care of me. She was from San Diego, was a mom of 2 boys (same age gap as mine were going to be) and had a love for English names like I did (her boys were Edward and William). Together we could’ve formed the roster of a prep school in Oxford, England. The epidural was in at 1:30am and Tim and conked out for the next couple hours. He definitely got better sleep than I did thanks to the arm pressure cuff that would death grip my bicep every 15 minutes, but all in all I was still getting some good rest.

At 6 am a doctor and a nurse come in and tell me that there’s a lot of activity going on. (This is the best part about an epidural. People tell you when you are having contractions!) I am now 8cm and the doctor breaks my water to help things along. I thought it was going to be much more involved, but he literally took what I thought was a crochet hook and in a second, it was all done. And then there was Amie. Amie came in to take care of me and exclaimed “Ugh. You are all wet!!” Woman. How is this my fault. The doctor broke my water. And even if he didn’t… this is Labor and Delivery! Not potty training camp! Everything here is wet!! I was so afraid that she would be my push nurse since Gladys just left. Thankfully she came by 30 minutes later to say bye and I bid her a very enthusiastic goodbye.

Tim woke up and we decided to kill some time and watch Shark Tank. The new nurse Debi told me that when I feel constant pressure, to let her know and it’ll be time to push. Sounds good. I didn’t really know what this should feel like because with Wes, I was woke up at 10cm and told to push. I asked her what it should feel like. “It’s like you have to poo.” Oh. Awesome. Tim goes to get coffee around 7:30 and I start to feel more pressure but I didn’t want to cry wolf. Actually it was because I wanted to keep watching Shark Tank. So after 20 minutes of Mr. Wonderful and 3 unsuccessful pitches, I call up my Nurse Debi at 8:30am and tell her I think it’s time. They take one look and say, “Oh yes it is!”

I do a push or two and she says, we are going to have this baby before 9am. Sweet!! She was right. I guess being a L&D nurse for 15 years, you get pretty good at predicting how things will go. You came into the world at 8:55 am, screaming your way into the world.

Before you came, I was really nervous about having the emotional capacity to love. I would ask my friends of 2+ kids in a whisper… “Can you really love another kid like your first kid?!” They would always reassure me, yes. Don’t worry! I am so glad they were right. I can’t explain how it happens other than it just does. The minute you were placed on my chest, it just felt right. Even though your name still seemed too new to “suit” you and in that moment, I probably couldn’t pick you out of a room of Asian babies… I loved you for no good reason. That may sound totally awful. But son, it’s one of the best feelings to be loved for no reason. You were loved before you even had a personality, achievements and good looks. Your very existence prompted us to love. Our family of three that I was so content with minutes ago expanded by one little six pounder, and it was just perfect.

We love you little guy. Welcome to our family.

Love,
Mama

Stats

9 lbs 6 oz (you were 7 lbs 2 oz at your two week check up so Grandma Lam was OVER THE MOON to know that her efforts of fattening the dairy cow (that’s me by the way) had paid off)

Noteworthy Charlie

  • While the doctor was getting ready to snip the umbilical cord, your little hand grabbed the shears! The sharp part! Oh boy. “I’ve never seen a baby do that!” exclaimed the resident. Greeeeeat. I am imagining having to baby proof everything or crating you as a toddler.
  • You grunt a lot. You don’t really cry, you just grunt. We tried sleeping next to you in our bedroom but your gratuitous grunting made it hard for us to sleep so you got kicked out to our living room. You’ve been sleeping swaddled up on the Baby Bopper Lounger on our sectional – simultaneously breaking about 35 rules about infant care.
  • Getting your nails trimmed is THE WORST. It may or may not be because you have PTSD from the time one of your parents nicked your index finger.
  • Current sleep/eating thing: Every 3 hours on the dot.

Nicknames: Sir Grunts a Lot and Baby Brother

 

The Day After

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Two days ago when I posted on my wall, “I hope that I can get over my own biases and get to work tomorrow…” I 100% thought it would be from the position of someone whose candidate won the election and I would be extending an olive leaf to those who do not share my point of view. I imagined celebrating, breathing a sigh of relief, posting the picture above and high-fiving a vast majority of my friends either in person or on social media.

Needless to say there was no celebrating, no relief and no high-fiving over the new president elect. (In full disclosure, there may have been high-fiving over some urine making it into a potty.)

This morning I cried with Van Jones when he thought about how he was going to explain this to his children, read Trump’s acceptance speech, had a come to Jesus moment thanks to Cardinal Colbert, teared up watching Obama’s speech (mostly at the thought of missing him so much) and ugly cried when I watched HRC’s concession speech. I read a lot. Prayed. Thought a lot. Tried to pray some more. I also ate an almond biscotti, a bagel and a Costco polish dog all before 1pm. I must’ve looked like a mess all day because my son asked me every 24 minutes asking me if I was happy or sad. I have nothing new to add to the conversation. I do feel compelled to write to remind myself of what I’ve learned from this election cycle.

 

  1. I am in a bubble…. that I have created. Yes, I live in California. I also reside in one of the most liberal urban centers. Heck my favorite color is blue (Go Chargers/Bears/Warriors). I was sympathetic towards people who had their misgivings about Hillary, but I was sure that given the choice between the two, everyone would see that there was an obvious choice. My friends, Facebook feed and go to news sources confirmed this. I never felt like I needed to say anything because wasn’t it obvious? It wasn’t until the last couple months that I started to learn that maybe not everyone around me felt this way. In fact half of the nation doesn’t feel this way. I was completely blind-sided.
  2. The Trump Phenomenon is real. As Donald Trump won primary after primary, I stopped gawking at him and turned my attention… okay, my incredulity, to his supporters. Yes Trump has unapologetically exploited employees, admitted to misogynist discourse, spewed hateful speech against people of color, LGBTQ+ and women. There are people like that in the world. I have come to terms that I can’t help that. But what does it say about people who are willingly choosing him to become their president? It blew my mind. I started to form this picture of what a Trump supporter looked like – White, racist, gun-yielding, bigot, uneducated, unconvinced by facts, anti-immigrant and angry. And probably from a fly-over state. The more I read about people who have spent some time in rural America, the story becomes less sensational and more nuanced. Their pain and disillusion is palatable. These people who voted for Trump know that they are the butt of jokes. They see it on TV and all over media. I’d like to think that they are just as repulsed about Trump’s behavior, but perhaps they felt like he was the only one that heard them.

    Perhaps the biggest aha moment came for me in the shower today, when it dawned on me that I know what is like to be caricatured.

    Granted I’ve never been called a racist or misogynist simply because of who I voted for or my party-affiliation, I know what it’s like for people to assume things because you identify with a group. For me, it’s being a Christian. I love Jesus. I know that makes a lot of people really uncomfortable in the Bay Area. Just like I have a picture of what a Trump supporter looks like, many people have similar pictures of what a Christian is like, the things they care about, the people they elect and the platforms they hold so dear. When Evangelicals make the eleven o’clock news, I often squirm because, for better or worse, I wonder if my friends think that I support so and so’s behavior or even worse, share the same values as so and so. I find myself thinking, “Wait, wait. Please hear me out!” On the flip side, though I did vote for HRC, I am not on board with every single Democratic platform. I feel the “Wait! Wait! Hear me out!” on multiple fronts.

    I can only imagine that’s how many people felt this cycle about supporting a controversial candidate. No candidate is perfect, they’re just trying to make the best decision for themselves and one that echoes their values.

    For the record, while there is room in our democracy to disagree with one another, we should never make room for the oppression, hatred, marginalization of any person or group. We need to stand up against it every time. But the tricky thing is doing it with humility and resolve without dehumanizing one other lest we become the very thing we hate in others.

  3. I need to engage. If I want to work for the flourishing of my city, state and country, I need to be brave. I shied away from calling out racism because I was too chicken or assumed I couldn’t change anything. I avoided getting into controversial conversations because I’m freaked out by awkward. I chose silence because I was too lazy to type and think after a full day. Lord help me to engage in a way that is productive and builds bridges.
  4. Fighting for what is right is messy. I need to remind myself over and over again that I should not be surprised by messiness. Hills summed it up well ‘Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.’

Here’s to moving tomorrow a little bruised, but a little less prideful than yesterday morning. Let’s get to work America.

Hello Baby!

Dear Baby Boy (2),

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Wes: That’s baby brother! He is in a dark place.

 

I promise this will be the last time I will call you a number. Next time I write about you, hopefully you will have a name. Feel free to give us some ideas if you have a preference. We tried asking your older brother what we should name you, and he keeps saying, “Baby AND Brother.” Which makes sense. He also names his other stuffed animals very literally –  Alligator (alligator), Monkey (monkey) and Pola (polar bear).

Today you are 37 weeks and 5 days! Babycenter (aka an app that is only good for comparing babies to vegetables and fruit) says you are the size of swiss chard. Many people have asked how this pregnancy has compared to my last. Here’s a quick summary of the last 9 months.

Different:

  • I am always tired. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with living with a two year old that doesn’t quite understand the joy (and frankly, the necessity) of Netflix and Chill. Major difference: Toddlers do not care that you are pregnant. They will ask you to carry them, head butt your stomach when going in for a hug, demand that you get on your knees and pick up that figurine that rolled under the couch and chuck balls at you while playing catch because they think it’s funny.
  • I got huge fast. I remember having the luxury of waiting until I was 5 months pregnant until I told people. I think soon after week 13, I was only in maternity pants and felt like I had to tell everyone you were on the way because I looked so pregnant. We’ll see if this will translate to you actually being bigger. Last pregnancy I gained 28 lbs. Imagine the disappointment when I birthed a 5lb14oz baby. What. Someone please recalibrate that scale.
  • You are sparing your parents from heart attacks of joining the party early. Thank you for staying inside. Feel free to come anytime. I’d much rather hold you in my arms rather than have you do headstands on my bladder and hips 24/7.

Same:

  • I love fruit. This time, stone fruits, apples and grapes were MVPs.
  • I love ice. I think I may have a mild Pica because I am obsessed with the sensation of crunching on ice. I may need to grab some now.
  • 1st Trimester: I was a major sleepy head. 2nd Trimester: I got some energy back. 3rd Trimester: I hate moving. A year ago, I was obsessed with getting 10k steps a day. Now my goal is to be sub 3k every day. Because I am a pregnant American.

I have to be completely honest with you that this year has been a little crazy in our world. (Today we are electing a new president.) There have been many moments this year that I second guessed our desire to bring another life into this world. And you are here. In some ways, in having you, we are doubling down in our own commitment to be engaged, compassionate, humble and generous citizens who live for others. Your dad and I haven’t arrived, but we are working towards it. Thanks in advance for being our kiddo and putting up with our foibles. It’s our deepest hope that you’ll see that we aren’t perfect, but that we have a great Savior who is and who loves you deeply.

We love you so much already and can’t wait to hold you and tell you that. See you soon, kid!

Love,
Mama

 

 

Two Years

Dear WesWes,

Happy 2nd Birthday Wes!

Just in case you are wondering why we call you that, you actually told us you wanted to be called that. It was really cute and amazing how that went down. Your dad called you Wesley and you said “No Wessee. WesWes.” (L’s are tricky for you) And just to make sure we would understand why we should call you WesWes you said “No Daddy. Dada.” Did you really just use the Commutative Property on us?

It’s so much more fun this year celebrating you now that I actually know you. Last year we cut out dozens of ‘W’ and put them on the wall for your birthday party. Now you probably would find it confusing why we didn’t choose B because you LOVE the letter B. Last year we made you a cake and you wanted nothing to do with it. This year I know you will be over the moon with a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a candle on it that you can blow out. And relight. And blow out. And relight. And blow out. Last year all you drank was milk (and some water) out of a bottle. This year while walking through the aisles of Trader Joe’s, you spotted Orangina and asked “Mama buy Orange Coke?” (Thank you Paris for introducing you to the wonders of Orangina.) Last year you could barely sit still for a board book. Now you are a voracious “reader” and would read 10 books before bed if we let you. Last year we bought you your first pair of shoes… even though you only crawled. Now every morning you make the decision whether it is a blue Nikes kinda day… or a gray one. Last year we were desperately trying to teach you sign language and I think you were just beginning to sign more, please and thank you. Last week while you saw your dad inserting a credit card to pay for gas and out of the blue, completely unprompted you said “Thank you dada pay.”

Your dad and I can’t get enough of you.

It took being a foreign country and surrounded by a majority of people that didn’t speak English to come to this realization: You are becoming my friend. And a good one at that. You’d think that it would be extremely isolating being alone with toddler when no one else can understand you, but it was surprisingly bearable – even enjoyable at times. I could tell you what I’m doing and how I feel and you get it and for the most part, you get me and I’m so thankful for that. I cannot wait to see what the next year will hold for you and our little family. I am sure there will be ups and downs, but we’ll take it day by day. As long as we have each other’s hands to hold (and snacks in the other hand) I think we will be more than okay.

Love you so so much,

Mama (not Mommy)

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Taken today 3/1/2016. Wes wanted to celebrate his last day of being one by going to a farm,  pooping 4 times (one of them being a blow out), and happily refusing to nap (pictured here) even though he was in his crib for two hours. A day in the life.

 

 

 

 

 

Effectiveness of Various Airplane Toddler Activities 

A qualitative study, n=1; mean age- 23 months. Median age- 23 months. 

One of the things I could never do as a teacher was tag along with my husband on a business trip (I will get into the details of why this was nearly an impossible task another time). So when opportunity came up to be stowaways to Zurich for a week, I (cautiously) jumped all over it. We planned. We packed. We flew. 

Flying with kids is one of the most anxiety riddled things you could do if you are a people pleaser. There are so many stakeholders: Your kid, your fellow travelers, your flight crew. The challenge is that usually toddlers want to do anything but sit in a seat for hours. In fact that to them, it is a form of torture. To ease the anxiety, I planned and packed like a crazy hoarder mommy. Toys? Check. I have 12 activities plus books. Snacks? 5 with savory and sweet options so as not to burden my son with flavor fatigue (I may or may not be projecting a little here). Meds? Two Epi pens, anti-inflammatories and powdered pedialyte just in case he contracts a stomach virus in the 5 hours we are on the plane.

But (and this is a big one) the first lesson in parenting that you will learn within minutes of becoming one, is no amount of planning, praying and Pinterest have the power to guarantee your child will be eating/sleeping/happy every single time. It just doesn’t work like that. And thank goodness it doesn’t! It also doesn’t mean you don’t try. For me it means trying and then taking a cue from Elsa to Let it Go

Here’s what really happened on the flight. The plan is to read this years later and laugh and say it’s still worth it and even a great idea to travel with littles. 

 All times are in PST. 

2:30-3:20 Fell asleep in car seat while walking over to board our flight. Flight takes off around 3:10

3:15 I tell Tim in a stern voice, “He’s about to hit the end of his first cycle. If you want him to keep sleeping, do not stir. Do not make eye contact with him if he opens his eyes.”

3:20 Woke up from nap. Tim and I make like an opossum and play dead hoping he wouldn’t notice (??!?!) that he was suddenly in a roaring airplane ascending into the skies and squashed in a corner (What were we thinking.)

3:22 W looks over and sees his parents and gets angry that his mom is not within 6 inches and starts to cry. My plans of getting a breather from the harrowing couple days of trip prep are foiled. Middle seat here I come. 

3:30 I offer him W a lollipop (I bought an organic vitamin C pop to ease my guilt) to help with the ear pressure. Not that he’s ever complained… But why not. 

3:35 Over it. (And from here on out every time you read the words “over it,” imagine a toddler saying “All done! All done!” Hand over/throw to the ground any toy or activity he was so engaged in 8 seconds ago. Next. Imagine me immediately morphing into a court jester and having 20 seconds to suggest another acceptable activity before tears and frantic pulling at the car seat restraints begin. 

3:35-45 Play Doh 

3:45 Over it. 

3:45-3:55 Pretzel Snack. Thank you AA. 

3:55 Phone time. (YouTube playlist for Wesley, specially curated to include: Bob the Train, favorite Elmo celebrity collabs, a video of mommy vlogger that shares laundry hacks, music videos, and videos of people reading and flipping the pages of his favorite books by Mo Willems and Sandra Boyton)

4:15 Over it. 

4:15-4:18 Tim takes him to an empty row of seats. W enjoys some sparkling water to the view of clouds. Spills entire cups’ contents into the floor. 

4:30 Phone time. 

4:45 Over it. 

4:45 Glow sticks 

5:00 Phone time 

5:35 Snack- Dry cereal 

5:50 Sticker time with daddy.

5:53 Phone and snack time. (Apple sauce pouch)

6:30 Pringles and Poms. (Stuffed little Pom poms with his finger through a perforated Pringles lid.)

6:37 Started dropping poms on the floor and laughing. Pryed open lid with his mouth and threw lid on the floor. Mommy was over it. I crawl into the floor to pick up pom poms and said lid. 

6:38 Lacing activity 

6:48 Spongy block time. Over it. 

6:58 Airplane safety card. Over it. 

7:02 Drawing pictures with mommy. W asks for phone time.  

7:10 Phone time for the remainder of the flight. (Approx 1 hr) Hallelujah. 
If I read this two years ago, I would have deemed this flight a failure. Today I say this is solid A work from the toddler. There’s definitely room for improvement… But if one parent can do some work on the flight while the other parent get through an entire movie (You’ve Got Mail – in 2-10 minute increments) It’s pretty much to reason to put on your party clothes and high five your spouse.