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

Mid week blues and pain

Weather is gorgeous today. I wish my mood could reflect this sunny, mild day. I got a mouth sore a few days ago and the stinging pain feels like pins in my mouth. OTC medicine hasn’t helped much either. Wasn’t it like 2 weeks ago I had the undereye twitch?!

My body responds to fatigue like this. I’ve been on overdrive, feeling restless, and trying to keep kids entertained with activities. And no babysitter help to occupy the kids.

A couple of messy activities, gardening and cooking, wiped me out. Peat soil that got too soggy for herb seeds. This is what happens each time we undertake a project: 2 eager kids touching this and that, instructions out the door, and getting things all mixed up.

Before the mess

Soggy soil on the living room floor that I ended up blow drying to make it fluffier.

Attempting Korean rice cake dough with crushed red beans. Disaster. Clean floors afterwards but the dough debris all over the stove and counter.

And today a few flies flew into the house after we watered our seedling peas and onions outside. You would think it’s a wild animal that scampered into the house.

Screaming every time it flew by them. This is so childish of me, but I holed up in their play room and told them where to find the fly swatter. Then ,Elliot ran in and asked me if I could catch it with a clear cup so they could observe it. Ummmm, no.

10 minutes later…all the commotion over flies that can’tbe ignored…mommy pest control service and I’m back to the couch.

I need to remember God is in control and that my day is a gift from him. Then I think, what’s the point? I’ve been grouchy all day. What difference does it make now?

D0It doesn’t seem like what I do matters and that’s my problem.

Thanks for listening to my midday woes. Feeling more heard after writing this. Wishing everyone stays well and finds happiness in the daily details.

Some rambles in quarantine

* this post has been through many edits. I keep seeing holes here and there, thus the rewording and reorganization. Just letting you know. And of course, thank you dear readers for reading and for being here!!

Our family is made up of homebodies. We spend a lot of time at home, but this sheltering-in-place and social distancing are taking it to the extreme. All the news inform that staying home is the best solution: it’ll flatten the curve and hopefully prevent further spreading of this super contagious COVID-19. But even if you wanted to go out, it’s a scary prospect. You could catch it from non-symptomatic individuals or we could be carriers and unknowingly spread it. Too risky!

So we feel grateful to be home and for our health. We are extra vigilant to protect Ellis too: her underlying medical condition makes her more vulnerable. Though many people are stuck at home riding out this pandemic, there’s mounting fear concerning the present situation for ourselves and family, health issues, job situation, economy, and what the future holds. Click on a new’s story and be prepared for a meltdown; death toll keeps climbing, new cases mounting, protective gear in low supply for medical workers, and surgeon general’s warning that this upcoming week will be the “hardest, saddest.” Unreal. Cue…panic attack.

A lesson I’m learning through all this is that plans are only plans. I’m not a planner at all: the word itself gives me a migraine. But I still have broad ideas of what we would be doing the next couple of months, in terms of homeschooling, appointments, summer activities, goals to achieve etc. Then, when the first quarantine happened, my very vague plans suddenly became nothing but a past concern. Now, it’s a day-to-day thing.

For the past 2 weeks, I feel my mind sorting through this deadly reality. It’s all a confused, incoherent jumble at present. So much to digest as life turns inward and reality flipped upside down. But my plan (eeek, I said it!) Is to use this solid block of time to make memories with my family and dig up old things to do again. I aim to do that in bits, because this making memory thing is a laborious process testing my patience when kids get into everything and simple activities become elaborate disasters. Will we have stories to share when this is behind us.

Through it all, I’m working on strengthening my affirmation that God is in the business of performing miracles and bringing goodness out of awful situations. He’s done them before in amazing ways. However, the walk was and is not easy…so many perils, questions, unknowns, losses, and paralyzing fears. Reassurance is that a powerful God who raised Jesus from the dead walks with us through the darkest valleys. He’s that kind of powerful. I’m sticking with him.

Praying that you stay safe and healthy. And here’s an empowering thought from pastor Jud Wilhite’s sermon yesterday:

“You can make yourself miserable or you can make today memorable.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

7 years in a nutshell

Seven years ago tonight, I arrived at the hospital to get induced for labor at 36 weeks. It was a fearful night full of unknowns and insecurity. The birth plan was for the baby to be born the next afternoon, so she could be taken to the NICU for care before the shift change for the medical team.

I didn’t know if the next day was going to be the worst day of my life: would we see our newborn and begin the medical care to bring her home soon, or were we going to leave the hospital with news that every parent dreads?

For 16 weeks, our family prepared for the best and the worst. When we first found out that our 20 week fetus had a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), we were terrified from the news and prospect of how we would be able to navigate the future. Doctors sat us down telling us the hardships ahead: surgeries, emergencies, hospitalizations, oxygen saturation, weight and eating issues, feeding tubes, etc. We were lucky to have found out early on, because she could get timely intervention after birth. In some unfortunate cases, the condition is discovered after birth and doctors can lose valuable time to give appropriate care. If no surgical intervention is involved, the condition is fatal.

After the first surgery, the most precarious time would be the first year with survival rates of 20-60%.

Our faces turned white and breathing short. After the doctors explained the diagnosis of this condition, we were counseled with the option to terminate. Feeling like I was in a dream, I had to ask the doctor how much time I had to decide. Chris and I said nothing to each other on the drive home. We picked up lunch, ate at home, and took a nap. Elliot, 1 1/2 year old at the time, was mad that we had the audacity to nap and not give him attention: he came over and bonked us on the head with an empty plastic milk carton. That was his nonverbal cue for ‘I want milk.’

It took us a few days to process the news. We didn’t talk about it, and when we finally discussed it, we both agreed this baby was God’s special gift and he had good plans for us: difficult but good. And the rest is history. It’s been indescribably difficult with lots of unexpected hospital trips, constant nightmares, depression, and a heart held in fear of the worst.

Yet in the storm, God has blessed us so much through her. We call her the ‘game changer,’ because our lives turned upside down when she arrived. What we foresaw for the future stayed in the plan phase. I couldn’t have imagined this kind of life or have wanted it, but now I can’t imagine something different. In difficult times God never lets us down. This is weird to say yet some of my fondest memories are these hospital stays, which made me realize that memorable moments do not only mean happy experiences but hard ones too. We talk about those times with tenderness, disbelief, and humor in recalling what happened. On occasion, Elliot still talks about the day I cried and had to drop him off at our neighbor’s house when I had to drive Ellis to the E.R. He says the chips he had with our neighbor that day was the best ever.

These experiences try our spirits and stretches our faith. We kick and scream, metaphorically, when we think Ellis is getting sick again casting a dark gloom over me. Chris knows that I get super sensitive and start yelling. Don’t ask: I just do because he asks questions, that seem non-common sense about what to do. We know this is my coping mechanism, so he’s aware it’s not a personal attack.

But I love my little girl with her funny laughs, wild hair, and spunkiness. The best is when she hugs me and loves on me at random times. One time I had a nightmare and cried in my sleep. It was late at night but she woke up, turned over, and patted me on my back saying, “Mommy, it’s okay. You’re just tired.” The she fell back asleep. It’s like she was the comforter that night.

We’ve been through a lot together and have seen each other at rock bottom. We’ve cried holding each other for different reasons, but fear was the underlying motivation. But when I feel her warm arms around me, I’m reminded how God has made her stronger and bigger all these years. A miracle.

God had different plans for us; plans we wanted to refuse at first. Still, we don’t know what the future holds but we trust God by looking at how he has brought us through the sudden storms. Moments when my heart drop from terror of the worst outcome, I can do nothing but sigh and give it to God. I don’t do this because I’m super holy or have great faith. The weight of the issue drowns me and it’s so deep that I can only give it to God for keeping my heart safe.