Near CA wildfires & evacuation possibility last weekend…major freak out

Hi everyone! I missed days of blogging this past week. But it’s been hard to sit down to write during the height of California’s wildfires blazing near our home. The fires sparked around the bay area from over 12,000 lightning strikes that struck 2 weekends ago. It has destroyed more than a one million acres of land, many homes and structures, wildlife, and even the loss of people’s lives.

The lightning sounds and lights jolted me awake in the middle of the night. Dry lightning with rumbling sounds are new weather phenomenon for us in CA, so I thought it was a very real-like dream. But when it didn’t stop at one or two of those lightning strikes, I realized this may be the day the world ends.

Those bolts sparked wildfires in different cities, which were exacerbated by the wind and blazing temperatures. The next day the sky turned brown and orange; smoke smell lingered stagnantly outside. It seemed like the prelude to a nature horror movie; blazing temps, smell of smoke, people wearing masks, and stagnant brownish-orange air shrouding the sun’s bright rays.

The extent of the fires didn’t register until my neighbors updated me via text about possible evacuation orders. Our area was under Red Flag Warning from early Sunday morning to Monday afternoon. It hit close to home when I realized the fires could reach us if the wind speed and direction suddenly changed. The CAL Fire map updates lit up red and orange in many areas; all you could do is zoom into your neighborhood and pray that it stays colorless.

Wednesday evening 8 p.m. from the passenger seat

The Redwoods state park was initially reported destroyed with flames torching the trees up to its crown, but thankfully not all of it was burnt down and people were not hurt. The nature center and office were burnt however. ugh. I read these trees can regrow and many of them have survived past fires; it’s still awful that trees who have withstood time for 1-2 thousands of year fell. I recently posted our outing to this park and was in awe of the uniqueness of the trees and its grandness. It’ll take many years for them to grow back to its glory.

This is the first time I’ve packed bags for evacuation. I started packing 11 p.m. and finished around midnight. I could’ve organized more effectively, but the kids kept following me around asking why I was packing and where we were going. Elliot must’ve felt my stress and released it through non-stop talking the next day. He talked nonstop and asked endless questions; no quiet moment. His verbosity was unusual, and to check if my observations were accurate, I texted Chris in Korean, who was sitting right next to me on the couch, to ask if Elliot seemed out of sorts. He agreed.

We couldn’t take the chance of texting in english in case Elliot jumped on one of us and wanted to sneak read our texts about him. I can already imagine tears and him hiding in the closet clutching his blankies. (I usually take lots of care to help them handle emotions, but this day I needed to double check with Chris that his talking was more than usual. It was a lot of talking and asking questions). I don’t think Ellis had a particular reaction; she just kept to herself digesting all the commotion.

Lovely surprise at my doorstep from my Bible study girlfriends. Thank you for these blooms!

For a few days, sleep was erratic and nerves on edge. Possibility of another lightning strike from Sunday evening to Monday afternoon made me simultaneously lethargic yet mentally vigilant to make quick decisions if evacuation were to happen. This led to multiple Thankfully, no onslaught of lightning strikes and the Red Flag Warning was cancelled hours earlier than previous schedule. Best anticlimactic news ever.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  ~ Psalm 56:3

I’m thankful for God’s hedge of protection around our neighborhood and city; also, thankful for the firefighters, emergency personnel, leaders, and many more who are working countless hours to contain the fires. During a live FB update, a fire commander mentioned monitoring “fire behavior.” Seems so obvious that fire is an active force that reacts to certain conditions and materials, but it didn’t click in my mind till then.

Although I’m thankful that the fires did not cross over to our neighborhood, it’s heartbreaking that so many have suffered personal losses and of loved ones. These are fears turning up in nightmares. ugh….unimaginable how difficult it will be to cope. God help us all!!

2020 is a dramatic year: first COVID-19, which is still ongoing, and now the wildfires. Whew, this year is stretching all of to the limit. But I am choosing to trust God’s will and His supernatural peace to guide us through the experience. That’s a frightful thing because God can ask of me more than I think I can.

I hope wherever you are that you stay safe and out of harm’s way!! So many life obstacles this year that keeps all of us hyper vigilant. But God can…

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” ~ John 14:27

At the Redwoods. I’m sauntering way behind my 3 peeps; taking my sweet old time taking pictures while Chris takes care of the kids. A big perk when he accompanies us on outings.
Running forward to brighter things.

Kind words from an unexpected stranger

The other day I made a phone call to one of Ellis’ healthcare supply office. We’ve been their customer for seven years and never questioned their bill. They became a part of our family through the years.

I signed the contract, a scroll-like document, for all the supplies we needed at home when Ellis got discharged from the hospital at one-month-old. I led the way holding a baby carrier and the hospital volunteer pulling a red wagon filled with medical supplies to help load into the car. Here’s my list of supplies: feeding pump, pole, tube feeding lines, bandage tape, dark glass jug of MCT oil to mix with formula, gauze, scissors, IV bags, syringes, charger, oximeter machine, weight scale, pole, and a thick binder of instructions and phone numbers. I felt like I had undergone a super accelerated and condensed nursing program to bring my kid home.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, Ellis quietly sat in her car seat looking around at the outsides for the first time.

Something about that first month and going through traumatic situations together, we have been two peas in a pod. Since the time I held her on my knees looking at me in the ICU, with wires and tubes coming out of her, I have been lost in love as a protector and mom. We stayed together always. Even when admitted to the hospital, she would freak out if I was not on the bed with her. Nurses, exasperated with her crying, would just get an adult bed and have me lie down with her. It was better than the chair, but even a small baby takes up a lot of bed space. I always had cold butt as it stuck out to make more room for her in the middle.

That’s the backdrop for my story. Needing to reorder supplies monthly, it became an unquestioned part of our lives. We ordered religiously for the first 5 years of her life, but it’s been sporadic for the past 2 years. Lots of changes in diet, routine, and stomach upset that made us reconsider supplemental night time feeding of extra caloric formula. Also, to hear the whirring of the pump throughout the night keeps me in a state of half awake/ half asleep mode. Then, if you don’t follow close instructions, you end up with formula spills, stomach upset that leads to throw up, beep sounds from the pump, extension line wrapped around the kid during sleep, changing all the bedding in the middle of the night, wiping the carpet with damp towel so floor doesn’t smell like vanilla milkshake, or washing face and hands from the throw up debris.

Current goal: get all of her nutritional needs by oral eating. This is a lot to ask for these heart kids because their heart works overtime in pumping blood, burning calories quickly. Weight gain is painfully slow. When she says “I’m hungry,” I panic. I feel that if she does not eat something right at that moment, she will pass out. I see that as a reflection of myself as a good parent. It’s irrational, I know.

Well, it just came to my attention that I was not aware of the fine print from the company. We receive lots of hospital bills, insurance company letters, packets of Explanation of benefits, and duplicates of hospital bills that are overdue, insurance pending, or payment not processed yet. The paperwork is confusing and interpreting the deductible, out of pocket, maximum, OMG, it’s baffling for lay people like me who do not fully comprehend the billing terminology.

Anyways, last week I received 10 separate bills in one day from the collection agency. It was kind of funny as I handed Elliot the empty envelopes to recycle. I didn’t realize our bills were this overdue. I assumed that we weren’t being charged for months we didn’t order supplies, which were quite a few months. Well, I forgot that we were renting the pump. Fine print: If you have the pump, you pay for the monthly supplies whether you order or not. Had no idea.

Spoke with the customer representative, billing department, blah blah blah. All the same thing. I don’t know where my anger was directed: me or this company. I couldn’t believe my oversight and complacency; I couldn’t believe their fine print and the continual repeat that this is their policy. It seemed unethical to not update parents of this billing practice from time to time. When your kid has a chronic illness, a lot of things fly straight through your head and forgetfulness runs rampant. You’re too tired and too worried.

I was exasperated and asked to speak with the supervisor. The lady asked me, “for what?” and I got majorly pd off. But there’s Ellis looking at me as I’m talking on the phone; she knows it’s about her because these phone conversations begin with confirming patient’s name and date of birth. Ugh, can’t get too mad on the phone or she may think I’m mad at her. She may think she’s to blame for my frustration.

All these things are going through my mind, and in the middle of it, Elliot calls “Mommy” like 5 times asking me if he could eat the peanut butter-jelly sandwich on the counter and Ellis announcing that says she needs to poop. Adult reality and kid reality; my mind felt like mush.

Ok, I’m taking too long here. I didn’t have the bandwidth to carry this conversation further. I called the collection agency to settle the debt. I needed to be over with this or it’ll hang over my head the rest of the day, the week.

I’m so mad that I’m sobbing on the phone as I tell the collector our account number and all that confirmation info. The guy must’ve thought I was nuts or either being dramatic to get a lower settlement. I explained the situation and asked what final settlement amount he could offer. I thought he may assume I’m not sincere with my story, so I had to explain that I was going to pay the bill but that this whole situation upset me tremendously.

I never expected to hear words of comfort from a debt collector: Don’t be too hard on myself.; It’s understandable how I could’ve not known in the middle of all this medical drama with your kid.; It’s a shame I wasn’t notified about this during a service pause.; He apologized that I was going through this but that now I know and can decide whether to continue business with them.

I cried more thinking how God comforts me through unexpected people. He knows the big toll caretaking has on me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But when I feel the day is too long to bear, He sends surprises in is perfect timing. Knowing that He cares so much to convey affirming words to me made me sadder with gratefulness and humility that He acknowledges a flawed person like me.

It was a surreal conversation. You don’t usually think of a debt collector showing this kind of thoughtful understanding to a collectee. His kindness made me cry more. Settled the debt, cancelled the account, and cried because I felt relieved to have this behind me.

The kids asked me why I cried. I explained that I was mad at myself for a stupid mistake of mine. I apologized to Elliot that I was short with him when he was just asking about a sandwich. Ellis shakes her head side to side like a grown up, saying “Mommy, it’s ok. Everyone makes mistakes.”

p.s. I am posting this without further edit. It takes so long to edit that it may keep me up through the night. I’m not upset anymore and have made peace with the situation. The medical supply company is just doing their business and I have the choice to change providers. No hate…I’m over it now.

A poo poo day

Oh no, what’s going on? Yesterday was a good day with the kids. Today is not off to a smooth start. eeek!

I woke up grumpy and far behind on some unspecified schedule I give myself. My sleep was erratic since Ellis woke up and cried that she couldn’t go to sleep. She had already been sleeping for 2 hours, so that was weird.

Then she stared at me and had that look of “I’m not feeling good.” She felt nauseated and on the verge of throwing up. She ran to the bathroom and stood over the toilet. Nothing. I looked at her sitting in the hallway ready to spray down the toilet afterwards. This happened two times with nothing coming out. Next, she was all flustered and needed a massage, a cuddle, and me to sleep next to her on the floor (closer to the bathroom if she throws up).

Wide awake at this point. Fell asleep when the sun was coming up. 😦 For a person trying to stick to a non-existing schedule, this is not good.

Elliot is upset with me because his tablet was not charged. I told him it’s his responsibility; that comment annoyed him. We’re working on designating responsibilities; it’s not a pretty process.

I hope you don’t mind me sharing this post with no specific message. Just sharing what’s on my mind.

Last day of June, Tooth Fairy, and pains of getting older; Another rambling of sorts

Under this unusual circumstance of a pandemic, my kids tirelessly remind me that they’re bored. There’s not much I can do about it; I’m running out of ideas and stamina.

They exclaim they’re bored, literally, 2 seconds after they sit on the couch from playing. What?! Or they’re bored as they take off their shoes coming in from a walk. It’s baffling. After they say the 2 dreaded words, they already know my pre-recorded statement: “Being bored is not a bad thing. I want to be bored.”

With all their shenanigans and their endless boredom, I can visibly notice how much they’ve grown. A surprising change is their voluntary teeth brushing in the morning. It used to be an agonizing experience getting them to brush teeth twice a day…there would be tears, sighing, bribes, yelling (I’m not proud of this one), and dreadful stories of what happens to un-brushed teeth.

One morning this mid June, both of them began brushing without the usual whining. I assumed this is some fluke or kids buttering me up for something. But it’s been two weeks now; they’re brushing twice a day.

I’m not sure what inspired this change, but it might’ve been prompted by a lingering cavity tooth for Elliot. Since it is a baby tooth, the dentist told us to watch it so that the cavity doesn’t get worse. X-ray showed his new tooth growing in and the best thing would be for it to naturally fall out.

The tooth held up fine until mid May when he felt some pain around that tooth. We all panicked because the dentist office was closed. For days I had him gargle with salt water and told him, worse comes to worse, I will have to treat it myself as a non-professional dentist with “yankers” (a facetious term we picked up from a dinosaur show; I don’t have yankers, for real). Sorry kid, it’s the COVID time: the dentist office is closed.

Thankfully, we got an appointment the first week of the dentist reopening after the shelter-in-place. It was a hopeful car ride to the dentist as we prayed for the cavity to not get worse and that it truly was wiggly. Prognosis: it’s ready to fall out but in pieces. The tooth cracked but it didn’t cause pain or show any infection. BUT if it hurts, he’d need to get it extracted involving laughing gas.

A week later, part of that tooth with the cavity broke off and fell out. The other piece is hanging tight. Relief felt all around.

That night, a visit from the Tooth Fairy wrote encouraging notes for both kids, left Elliot’s tooth as a his souvenir as he requested in his letter, and hid small surprises for each under blankets. Usually she leaves it under the pillows, but this time the lumpy small Ninjago pod and Hatchimals Pet would be too obvious. Although Ellis didn’t lose a tooth, she has a tendency to remind you of her sadness frequently: she gets a small surprise for waiting patiently.

In the morning when he couldn’t feel the prize under his pillow, his eyes grew wide with nervousness. He’s matured because it wasn’t the old reaction of immediate crying. instead, he played it off like it was okay: maybe she doesn’t come for a cracked tooth or she’s sheltering-in-place because of COVID-19.

Dino chompers. Post-cleaning selfie

All those experiences may have motivated him to brush consistently. Ellis may be brushing for different reasons.

Ellis, 7, is still waiting to lose her first tooth. She has her eye on one of them but we’re not sure if it’s wiggly. Her teeth are small, like popcorn kernels. This has her jumping for joy that we’re going to the dentist this week. She’ll get the dentist’s authoritative word.

Then, she asked me if the Tooth Fairy would leave me a present if one of my tooth fell out. Do grown-ups get presents too? I replied, “Uhhhhh, that’s ok. I don’t want a gift from the Tooth Fairy. When you have grown-up teeth, you don’t want them falling out. It’s best to keep your teeth in your mouth instead of out.”

I shook my head in disbelief that I uttered those words. I felt like a dinosaur. Those are the kinds of things I heard from my parents or the older generation. There’s truth in it, but I was shocked to find myself saying the same thing.

It’s hard to get older and there’s a lot of regrets, wishes, and anxieties in facing the future. Changes are slow, sometimes dramatic, and seeing the difference/s from my young self to middle-aged self takes a toll on my self-image. It seems vain but the struggle is real. This will be a lesson of self-acceptance and thankfulness that with God’s help I get to see the faces of my 3 favorite peeps each day.

God created both youthfulness and aging. There are pros and cons to both, but I have to rekindle faith that God knows what he’s doing and that it’s a natural process of life. I was young once…now it’s transition time to a new stage.

p.s. Ellis got definitive word that bottom tooth is wiggly. She’s in high spirits!

Depression trigger incidents

About a week ago, Ellis plopped herself next to me on the couch and asked what I was writing on my blog. When she says something funny, she always asks me to put it on my blog and to say that she said it. She’ll take silly selfies or blurry pictures of our pet fish and ask me to post them. She probably thought it was a post like that.

Turning my face to hers, I quickly closed my computer and said “nothing.”

She’s learning how to read, so I can imagine her sounding out “depression.” Too young to talk about it with her. But this incident made me reflect on the unintended consequences of what I’m sharing.

This mental health issue started before Ellis’ heart journey. I wanted to clarify that, because I have been writing sporadically about it in my blog. In each of those posts, I reference it back to my current life circumstance of raising a heart child. However, it’s been a long-standing issue.

Last night a new thought occurred to me: what if in the future Ellis blames herself for my problem? In no way do I want that. This problem is mine.

It started years before having children and came to a full meltdown in 2009. Years of pent-up stress, meeting familial expectations, exhaustion, feeling lonely, no job prospect after graduation, student loans, and fears of failing at the last step overwhelmed me the day before defending my dissertation.

I never knew my knees could shake and buckle like that in public and wanting to just shut myself into a room. I went down to the subway station to take the train to Korean town for comfort food. Well, the place started spinning and I began to sweat while short of breath. I put one foot into the subway, thought I would collapse once the doors closed, and jumped out right before the doors closed.

Claustrophobia and panic attack: in the middle of rush hour in Midtown NYC.

I’ve had previous episodes, but the 2009 one was the most blatantly painful one that showed me what a meltdown looked like. In that phase of my life, I coped by avoiding uncomfortable situations that triggered panic, worry for days if I had to go to a new place, or gritting my teeth with a smile when the panic set in.

The first time I sought professional help was with postpartum depression. I dreaded going to the doctor assuming they’d put me in the ward. When I left for the doctor’s office, I asked Chris not to be surprised if I didn’t come home for a few days. I shared the same concern with the doctor, only to be told that many new moms suffer from postpartum depression.The depression saga continues with ups and downs. This is the first time seeking help for medication management outside of a general practitioner’s prescription, which is an unfamiliar thing for me. I want to step away from the the cloud constantly hanging over my head.

My ambivalence with seeing a psychiatrist keeps me from seeking God. He has compassion on me. Like a friend said, the mind is part of our body and it needs medical attention too. There’s no shame for a cancer patient who takes medication or seeks treatment.

However, there’s an unhealthy perception that I haven’t prayed harder or my faith is weak. Is it bad to want to be happy? And what happens afterwards when I am no longer sad and anxious? Lots of soul searching and feeling torn in wanting to get better but scared to go there as well. I know…it’s a dilemma.

ahhhh, to look at the ocean and feel its breeze