A Brooding Mom with a Brood of Two

I am a stay at home with 2 toddlers who are 15 months apart in age. While blogging is very new to me, I found that this could be a healthy and productive way (I get to practice my storytelling skills) to get things off my chest without seeking a willing yet time-constrained pair of ears from my friends.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Obligatory Birthday Intercourse

Dear Harriet,

I shall preface this post by first acknowledging that we should have used the lock on our bedroom door. But I am not used to locking that door since I am very much a firm believer of the open door policy. Ever since you and your brother entered our lives, I vowed to keep the doors always open to make sure the two of you never feel unwelcomed or shut out in any way shape or form from my attention. Of course, there is the occasional, "Go away, mommy's on the potty and I don't need you to be in the bathroom with me while you are playing with your DS," but for the most part, you have had free range over every aspect of my life.

Now, you realize, it was daddy's birthday yesterday. And when you entered our bedroom at 6:54am that morning to look for a toy you misplaced mommy was just about to wish daddy a happy birthday. In our still sleepy stupor, we asked you, "What are you looking for?" To which you replied, "My DS." The whole situation was seemingly normal and yet, I am left feeling so unsettled. I am wondering what you saw, whether you are bothered by what you saw, whether this will be another potentially life impacting scar emblazened in your mind, etc. etc.

OK, so nothing was really going on....yet....but once again, this is another milestone I may need to reassess in my own evolution of being a mother. You are 8 years old and Theo is 6. Can I begin to draw some boundaries about our lives that you are not allowed to witness? Can I begin to expect a knock before entering our bedroom even though it is not locked and open? I am torn...I hate putting up walls, drawing borders and delineating rules in our home. I'd like to believe my own two children have their moral compasses so naturally programmed that you would just simply take things in stride, be mindful and respectful of others without my hounding and harassments.

In any case, this is a learning moment for me. I am in an existential quandary about the next step to take in my mothering philosophy. I guess the first step to take is a dialogue with you. Where to begin...what to say...how to explain the whys. I used to be first a mother then a wife but as you and Theo are growing up so nicely and becoming more independent, I think I need to shift that gear into woman, wife then mother. Would that leave you a little sad? Would that seem selfish? Of course, there is always my willingness to shift yet again if the time calls for it. But never fear while I am not working and at home with you, you ARE my first priority. Navigating when you will not be and daddy takes precedence will be an ongoing issue I will need to wrestle with as I grow into this ever changing role as a woman, married with children.

I love you. It is not your problem. It is mine and solely mine to take on. Just continue being the wonderful little girl you are. I miss you already as I imagine you yourself growing into a young lady pretty soon. Stay youthful and carefree for as long as possible.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Dear Theo,

You came home from school one day and proceeded to tell me about a Korean boy who approached you in your class. He is the only other Asian boy in your class who happens to be Korean but this boy asked you, "Are you from South Korea or North?" to which you responded, "I don't know....maybe South Korea?" He then responded to you, "I am North Korean."

Son, you can't possibly understand this at 6 years young, but the topic of being from the North or South Korea is a big deal since we are a family of both sides. You see, your dad is North Korean through and through. His parents, your paternal grandparents were both born in the North. Your grandma from Hamkyung Province and your grandpa from Pyongyang Province. They left everything they own when war broke out in June of 1950 on the Korean peninsula to make their way to the south by ship. They began new lives in Pusan, South Korea and got married there. Your father is their son so he is 100% North Korean blood. Harriet is half North and half South because my parents are both originally from South Korea. Your maternal grandfather from Susaek and your maternal grandmother from Majang-dong, both cities in Seoul.

But you, my dear son, are 100% South Korean like me. You were born in Anyang, which is a small city south of Seoul. It can only be understood if you explain that you are adopted but that is your story to share if you choose to do so. I simply thought it was so interesting that this boy, John Kim, from your class wanted to delineate which Korean even though we should all just assume we are Americans now. But that has oiled the wheels of my mind to turn and imagine all kinds of scenarios about his family and my curiosity has gotten the better of me.

Interestingly enough, I got a chance to speak with his mother at the roller rink last Friday. It turns out he is not North Korean. He got mixed up somehow and stated the wrong side to you. His mother assured me they are both South Koreans. How we laughed at the thought that this boy's mistaken identity issue brought us together and resulted in a play date to happen this week. I am looking forward to getting to know his parents. I think it is so interesting that you seem bring new friends and friendships into our lives.

In Singapore, Shoto Ishizuka was a 4 year old in your Pre-K class. I observed him and his mother Mayuko at Megan's birthday party. They both spoke limited English and were shy to freely socialize and have fun. I approached Mayuko and Shoto to let them know I can help if they need any. From that point on, it was history in the making of our families becoming such good friends, enough so that we had them stay with us for 3 weeks two summers ago. We also met Rio, Shoto's dad, in the city to have dinner with him as he had business in NYC. And this summer, Shoto, Mayuko and Saki will join us again for 3 weeks as you and Harriet will attend the PDS Summer Camp with them.

Thank you, Theo, for being the conduit to new and good friends for our family. You have what Koreans like to call "people karma:. You meet good people and bring them into our lives. I love you, son. You bless us with good things all the time.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's been eons...

since I last posted. November 2007? Really? We were in Singapore for 15 months. Mike was laid off by his company on December 2008 as the world economy spiraled downward. We returned to the U.S. with our tails tucked between our legs. From the logistics of packing up yet again to finding Noreen another employer who needed to be an expat family rather than a local one, to extending our home rental another month and a half so that Mike can explore other possible options so that we can remain in Asia in some capacity, our family weathered each situation like pros riding the waves on the beach. Each wave of circumstances kept coming and coming until one night I bolted up in the middle of night (jet lag in system) to realize I was in the guest room of my in laws. They also weathered our chaos with supportive encouragements and good grace. They even allowed Rex and Fiona to stay at their condo knowing full well they would not be able to face the children who will silently blame grandma and grandpa for sending the dogs away to a kennel.

I began looking into applying for a position to my old school. On my way home from the interview, as I crossed the GW Bridge, I called my parents. They were in shock about our situation but willing to offer any support they can. It had been a full year since I had spoken to my mom. We had a falling out during our home visit the prior year. But she embraced me fully and expressed joy we were back. Nonetheless, my parents proved that the bonds of family cannot be severed. All grudges were forgiven and we began the process of rebuilding an even better relationship.

Fast forward another 2 years...we are living in a beautiful home in Princeton. The children attend the local elementary school via bus each day. We have five dogs, an acre of land and a pool to keep us busy during the hot summers of the east coast. Mike is working at a company nearby, his commute is 25 minutes door to door and we are loving life.

I have decided to change the format of my blogging. From this point on, I will be writing letters to my children about all the things that happen in my mind when daily discussions and decisions are being made on their behalf. I reasoned that during the heated moments at times, they may not understand the whys and hows due to their ages but if I put down these thoughts into words, they may be able to visit my blog in the future one day and revisit the incidents that may have impacted them in some way but will at least have a better understanding of their mom and why she may have been at times, so dismissive, brusque and diminishing.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day There...Black Friday Here!

The container truck arrived with all our worldly possessions from the port of Singapore this morning at 10am sharp. I never thought I'd be happy to see dog and cat fur stuck to furniture in my life. Noreen dug out all the framed pictures that lined our stairwell platform and sideboards. As I looked through them after not seeing them for 2 months, I couldn't help thinking how grateful I am for the beautiful family I have. There were pics of the dogs as puppies, children as babies and portraits of me and Mike pre-kids as a newly married couple. We've built a wonderful life together full of memories to last anyone 3 lifetimes over.

I'm sitting on a chair in the dining room while the movers are taking their lunch break. Five of the most conscientious laborers I've met, who are polite about using the restroom, taking their shoes off, and most of all being ever so careful not to scuff a wall or floor while setting down all the furniture and boxes. Apparently, these movers are the ones who moved the Prime Minister locally so they come with high standards.

T has been mindful to stay out of their way while happily recognizing all the items from our home in Portland. Man, do we have a lot of crap. Noreen seems overwhelmed by the amount of kitchen items she is forever unpacking and putting away. While I was happy to see my Kitchen Aid mixer, I realized I couldn't use it here since the electrical outlets here are a 3 prong 220 volt anomalie. There were food items that had been packed that stayed in these boxes for over 2 months. Are they still edible? You bet, knowing some of the items are obsolete here.

I am eternally grateful for the help I have, the children and husband in my life, the exciting adventures ahead of us and most of all, for all the good fortune that has befallen on me the last 39 years of my life. Turning 40 should be a snap.

Monday, November 19, 2007

He's Off to Bangkok...without me

Yup, Mike just left for the airport. He'll be in Bangkok, Thailand for the remainder of the week. This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the US. And our furniture is due to arrive in a vessel from the port of Portland tomorrow. It will take a few days to clear customs before they can deliver it to our home. I'm not in despair. I'm just bummed because I was hoping to meet him in Thailand this weekend, but instead, I will be home to receive our household move and unpack as much as we can with the gracious help of Noreen our live in help from the Phillippines.

Noreen is a widow at 28 and has a 7 year old son, farmer parents and 8 siblings to help out financially back home. She is a shorter than normal girl with a great disposition and work ethic. She is on her feet from 7am to 9pm. Tonight, she cooked a fabulous meal for dinner, bathed the kids, and washed all the bed linens and laundry. I am constantly amazed at her movement around the house, cleaning, sweeping, dishwashing, etc. We are sending her home for the holidays for one month. She deserves to go home and see her family after being here for 2 years with her previous employer who apparently treated her like a slave. With her immediate transfer into our family, she missed out on an opportunity to go home for a few weeks. I purchased her plane ticket a few days ago and paid my levy to the agency today. God bless you, Noreen.

So here I am, lamenting about Mike's absence and utter preoccupation with work and business. I hope he remembers to take his vitamins, drink clean water, and eat a sensible meal. He's working so hard. I've never seen him so busy and pressed for time like this. The only thing I can do is stand by and try to help him as much as I can. He just text me that he couldn't use the ATM's at the airport to get his cash. Poor baby. I should have given him a few hundred from my wallet. I'm also finding myself playing the doting wife a lot more here than I ever was back in the U.S. I think because Noreen takes care of the kids, and they genuinely like her, my hands are more free to take care of Mike. I hope he knows how much I love him. He is a gem of a man and a wonderful husband. I don't think there is another man like him on this earth.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Made a New Friend Today

While I was in Seoul for 3.5 weeks, I was able to hook up with an old classmate from my days as a student at Yonsei's Korean Language Institute. He is originally from L.A., and was there for the same reasons as me...to learn Korean. Well it turns out that after his stint in Korea for a number of years, he finally went back to UCLA to finish up his degree only to return to Seoul with a job. He is now working and living in Seoul as a single high rolling expat with his own bachelor pad and a car to boot. Apparently, he is just so the swinging bachelor that he has a list of girls for late night bootie calls lined up. I was extremely bothered by this transformation because when I knew him 15 years ago, he was essentially a short, ugly, fast talking geek boy. And now he acts like he is what Koreans would call a "king car."

His sister happens to live in Singapore so I called her earlier this week and she invited me over for coffee. She lives in a beautiful house with a nice size pool in the backyard. Her interior decor looks like something out of a high living magazine where all the wall hangings and furniture looks collected from years of living in exotic Asia. She struck me as somewhat overbearing as she proceeded to dictate how I should treat my live in maid. Her husband rakes in the big bucks as a hedge fund manager/owner of his own firm in Suntec City. She has 2 children just like me but they are 13 and 12 year olds attending the prestigious highly coveted American School on the other side of the island.

Now, while she struck me as the typical loud mouthed materialistic LA girl, I couldn't help be put off by her overbearing demeanor and presumptuous nature. She was focused mostly on her social life, consisting of country clubs, night life and parties in her home. She seems to have a good network of Korean American friends in the area but never once offered to introduce me any of them. All she proffered was if there was anything I ever needed don't hesitate to call her. And then I was offered a ride if I waited for her to get ready or her maid can call me a cab.

I wound up near the shopping district and called Mike out for lunch instead. He seemed rushed as he ate, kept looking at his blackberry, and announced that he needed to hustle. Some relaxing lunch! And on Monday, he is off to Bankok for the week!! And it's Thanksgiving Day on Thursday. Boo hoo. Wish I was going with him.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Transportation Costs Conundrum

I'm averaging about SGD$45 a day on taxi fares. At this rate (multiply $45 x 30 = $1350) you'd think getting a car would be more economical, right? WRONG!!! Purchasing a used 4 door sedan Japanese model like a Toyota Corolla here is SGD$60,000 which is not quite triple but more than double what it's worth in the US. They give out 10 year loans where the depreciating value of the car is not only lost in nebula but you have to cap the cost of the value when you are ready to get rid of it. So basically, you can either pay a down payment at the beginning of your loan, or at the end. I never heard of such crockery!!!

According to Singaporeans, the government has a tight reign on the number of cars they allow on the roads. Meaning, registration for a car is a lottery each month, depending on the number of applications and the number of cars that were taken off the road. How do they know if it's been taken off the road? If the registration expires, it's not renewable. You must get rid of your car or buy annother COE for approximately $45,000. Oh, and the registration is called COE which stands for a Certificate of Entitlement which the natives here call Certificate of Extortion. What to do?

I'm not complaining about having to take cabs, but there are times when I am not done shopping yet but need to unload the half dozen bags already in my hand. Not to mention the kids. Oi!!!! They fight over the window seats in the cab all the time. If I had a car, they would be strapped in their carseats on each side of the window. Seriously, so far, I don't know what the hype about this place is. It has some serious issues that need to be dealt with. I don't know how long I will be able to last at this rate.

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