Saying Goodbye

22 Apr

My mom went in for a bone marrow biopsy on January 14th. She passed away at 1:05AM on April 15th at 59 years old. During those three short months, she stayed so strong even though I know how hard it was on her to fight her lymphoma. My dad, my brother, Chris, me, countless family and friends and even strangers offered up prayers hoping that she would be spared. We sought the best medical help she could get, the best drugs, the best clinical trials. In the end though, the cancer was just too strong and too quick. We could never get ahead of it.

During those three months, a lot of things in my life have been neglected, including this blog. Although it was difficult to go down to Dallas to help my mom, dad, and brother, I also feel like it was such a blessing to get those dedicated days with my mom, where without any distractions of my day-to-day life, I could just focus on her. Those days, although unbearably painful at times, will remain precious to me. During my absences, we’ve had an army of friends and family help at every turn. I will never forget all the friends who offered up an ear to listen, shoulders to cry on, carpools, child care, meals, simple notes of encouragement, and prayers.

It’s only been a week since she passed but it feels like a million years. Her funeral was last Friday and I had the honor of giving her eulogy. This is what I wrote:

My mom started golfing about 12 years ago. She would go out by herself to a little 9 hole course and without lessons, just figure it out by herself and play. Out in nature, she not only found a new hobby but a new love that she cultivated for the rest of her life. Sometimes she’d play with my dad but more often then not, she’d join into a group of strangers and play along. She didn’t need a fancy course, just somewhere pretty and comfortable. Eventually, she joined a golf group with her friends and I knew I couldn’t call her on her Tuesday golf days lest I catch her mid-swing. As her skill increased, friends and strangers alike were amazed that this little Korean lady could hit the ball, not far, but straight and true. While others watched their shots shoot this way and that and get lost in the rough, my mom would patiently, calmly, and methodically make it onto the green and with precision, sink the ball with her putting.

When I was thinking about what to say about my mom today, it occurred to me that her golf game was almost a metaphor for her life. She was born in a small town in Korea on a farm, the oldest daughter of 7 children. At heart, she was a country girl and took joy in the simple things in life whether it was drinking a beer with my dad while watching the sun set or seeing the flowers bloom in her garden. Even her last text to me was a picture of some camellias in our yard she had been waiting to open. She didn’t need fancy things- just whatever was simple and comfortable.

She was patient and calm as mother. Now that I have kids of my own, I can fully appreciate how extraordinary she was. She never yelled at us- a gift I have NOT inherited to the dismay of my children. Instead, she always had a gentle smile and easy going way with us.

As a wife, she and my dad shared so many common interests beyond golf. Not only a love of nature which translated into many camping trips and cross country road trips to national parks, but an adventurous spirit. The same spirit that led her to hit the links by herself to try something new led her here to build a life in America with my dad. She was always up for new experiences and trips, eager to add to her memories.

As a grandmother, she had such a fun loving spirit with her two granddaughters, Sarah and Katie, and was up for anything they were – be it swinging at the park, playing play-doh for hours on end, or jumping into the pool on a hot summers day. She was so devoted to them- even coming to visit us in Minnesota in the dead of winter- truly a sign of love. They adored her in return and as they said of her- we love Halmoni because she never says no.

The only thing that rivaled her skills on the golf course were her skills in the kitchen. She was such a good cook- making everything from scratch and from memory. I think my dad, brother and I will spend the rest of our lives trying to replicate her kimchi.

Like her shots that were straight and true, so was she. She knew what her priorities were and didn’t get distracted by life’s dramas. Even when things in her life got rough, she kept her head down and worked hard and steadily to get to where she wanted to be. She focused on being a good person, a good mother, a good grandmother, and a good wife. Nothing was more important than her family and she showed that everyday through her actions and words. I will miss her so much. She was not only my mother but my role model and friend. Her life was too short but straight and true till the very end.

I don’t know when my life will return to “normal,” but when it does, I will continue to write. I will write because it brings me joy, and if we need anything else in this world, it is joy. God bless…

 

Happy Birthday to Servant Mommy

5 Jan

1st-Birthday-Cake2Well, believe it or not, a full YEAR has passed since my first blog entry.  I just wanted to say a quick “thank you” to everyone who’s been reading.  I’ve enjoyed writing enormously and much of it is due to the fact that I get to connect with so many of you regarding your own experiences as a parent.  So thank you.

As much as I’d love to sit here and bask in the wonder of actually doing something for an entire year (because for an Asian, my work ethic is crap),  I actually have THREE real birthdays to plan for this month: Katie’s on the 12th, Chris’s on the 14th, and Sarah’s on the 21st.  Better get on it before I lose my job…I’m still gunning for a pay raise this year!

Good Help is Hard to Find

3 Jan

Author’s Note: I originally worked on this blog over December but between the shopping, the baking, the gift wrapping, the cooking, the shipping, the decorating, the filling of Advent calendars, the hiding of gifts, and the ever present whining from my children of “WHEN WILL IT BE CHRISTMAS MOM? IS IT TODAY?! HUH? HUH? IS IT TODAY!??!,” I never got it finished. So just amuse me, pretend you are reading this deep in the trenches of the holiday season.  Happy 2013 everyone!

With the holidays upon us, it can only mean one thing for us parents: babysitter wars.  Maybe “wars” is a bit of a hyperbole.  Battles?  Skirmishes? Scrambles?  Kerfuffles?  Whatever the exact word, what I am trying to convey to you is that it is a difficult time to find a sitter.  In our childless days, accepting an invitation to a party, a dinner, a cocktail hour, or an ugly sweater party was as simple as checking the calendar to make sure that no conflicts existed.  Today, we are at the mercy of a handful of young women who hold our social life by the balls.  Without them, we’d have to spend EVERY WAKING HOUR with our children with no breaks, no grown-up time, no fun excuses to wear an outfit without the stains of a million spaghetti dinners while holding a festive cocktail and looking like you belong in an ad for a Vegas nightclub and not a commercial for Mom jeans.

Now after seven years of this parenting gig, I have developed a network of wonderful women who look after our children with care and kindness.  This network is an ever fluid thing that requires constant nurturing, pruning, and attention.  Just when you’ve gotten a lovely girl groomed and ready to step in at a moment’s notice, they are snatched away from you by life’s other opportunities.  We’ve had babysitters leave for graduate school, international internships, new jobs, relocations, and even marriage and their own children.  We have one high school sitter whom we adore and my girls and I are already sadly counting down the days till she will leave us for college even though it is more than two years away.  Is it wrong to hope she goes the community college route instead of spreading her wings out of state?  If it is, then book us and throw away the key.

While a part of me wishes that our sitters weren’t so darned ambitious and smart and they’d just be satisfied living at home with their parents and watching my girls in perpetuity, I know that it’s all for the greater good that they move on with their lives.  But it leaves me always scouting, always recruiting, always looking for new sitters- like some creepy cult leader trolling for converts to support my lifestyle.  Right now, we have a pretty solid stable of  go-to sitters (knock on wood) but during my ever constant search for “good help,” I’ve observed a few things about the world of babysitting and sitter etiquette.

#1-  One of the most closely guarded secrets in parenting circles may be the contact information of their babysitters.  Ask most parents about advice regarding sleeping, feeding, product choices, school enrollment, and they will bare their souls.  Parents can talk about their kids and subjects related to their kids almost ad nauseum…believe me, I’m one of them.  But ask them about their babysitters: you get clamped lips, furtive looks passed between the husband and the wife, some mumblings about the lateness of the hour, and a cloud of dust where they were sitting just mere moments before. Sure you might get some names during the summer when students are back home from college but really, those are just a temporary supplement to the troops you’ve already built up.  I have only had a handful of friends volunteer their regular sitter’s names and numbers but it’s usually with the understanding that…

#2- You will never poach or actively recruit someone else’s sitter without the expressed permission from the originator of said sitter.  We all get in a pinch sometimes and need an emergency fill-in.  Finding a last minute substitute can often mean calling in all your favors and signing an oath in blood that the booking is one-time only and you will never, ever, ever call that person again.  Sometimes though….

#3- A sitter will offer their services to you, unbidden.  I’ve had a couple of sitters approach me with their  phone numbers when they are actively looking for extra work.  But even then, I feel a little dirty and slightly paranoid…like I’m embarking on an affair with a married man.  What if their original employers find out? Will they think that I was the one who asked first?  What if I’m labeled as a “babysitter stealer” and get black listed from mommy happy hours and playdates?  But honestly, who can blame these industrious young women?  Gone are the days when I was a babysitter myself and counted myself lucky to get  two dollars an hour.  During the 2012 elections, when politicians asked if voters felt they were better off today than they were four years ago, I think all of our sitters could answer…

#4- “Yes we are!”  They name their own price, make their own pay adjustments as needed, call their own hours, turn me down if they have a better offer, and I just come back for more.  Because unless they do something absolutely egregious like actually lose my child or host a kegger at our house, I will take whatever measures necessary to keep them under our employment.  Luckily, our sitters are wonderful and I don’t feel a moment’s remorse compensating them but let me be clear, they definitely have the upper hand in this scenario despite the fact that I’m the one writing the checks.  At least it’s a familiar situation I find myself in since most days, my 6-year old and 2-year old wield more power than I do in this household.

Hopefully, you too have someone dependable, fun, and loving to watch your kids while you escape what can be a daily zoo.  Because we all need a break – whether it’s by ourselves or with friends or with our spouse (remember him?).  And all I can say this holiday season is, “God bless our babysitters, every one!”

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

24 Dec

Happy Christmas Eve!  Which, to parents around the world, is also known as The-Last-Day-You-Can-Invoke-The-Name-of-Santa-To-Get-Your-Kids-To-Do-Whatever-The-Heck-You-Want.  So far today, I’ve averted three near fights, gotten the girls to clean the basement, and had time to put on my make-up in peace.  Now if they could just whip me up a cocktail and give me a foot massage while reading me excerpts from People Magazine, they just might be the daughters of my dreams.   Merry Christmas everyone!!

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Stocking Stuffers

21 Dec

As I was strolling through the house earlier this week with a smug smile on my face, congratulating myself on finishing all of my Christmas duties, I noticed something was different at our mantle (besides the fact that Sarah had once again re-organized the stockings based on her personal Naughty/Nice List for that day….usually Chris and I are in reversed positions so I’m curious to know what triggered this change in my status and what offense Chris committed to be demoted below the dog):

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The five large stockings are for Chris, me, Sarah, Katie, and our dog Ellie. But what do I spy? Another smaller sock! Closer investigation revealed this:

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Who is Star, you ask? Well, let me introduce you to this member of the family whom I have yet to mention in any of my blogs. Everyone, meet Star.

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Yes, Star is Sarah’s Betta fish. Sarah has taken it upon herself, bless her little heart, to make sure that every family member is equally represented for Santa’s consideration this year. What I wanted to do was take Sarah aside and explain to her that Santa is a very busy person with limited child care and does not do well with last minute additions, exceptions, and alterations and that such changes might drive him to secretly binge on huge quantities of Christmas cookies in the dark hours of the night and maybe take out his frustration on his unsuspecting spouse who has no inkling how stressful the holidays can be and who only has to buy for one person on an ever growing list of family members, friends, babysitters, teachers, cleaning ladies, bus drivers, and other “support” staff. Instead, I found myself at the local PetCo one afternoon, navigating treacherous roads and icy parking lots to buy Star some new sparkly turquoise gravel and a neon orange plant to spruce up the joint. After all, every one deserves a little holiday cheer…no matter how small.

Good Grief!

19 Dec

Isn’t this the kind of crass commercialism that the Charlie Brown Christmas Special railed against?  Charles Schulz must be turning in his grave.

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Presents Under the Tree

12 Dec

Apparently, Sarah and I are now on a first name basis.  Sigh.  This better be one good present.

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