When I was younger, I remember my mother climbing the stairs to our upstairs attic where she would head after dinner nearly everyday for 2 years. My mom was earning her college degree long distance from a small private college in Maine and she used that little 8′ x 8′ room at the top of the stairs as her study. I don’t really even remember how old I was and I certainly didn’t understand what a big deal it was for my mom at that age; I just remember helping her sometimes with the grammar on her papers because English wasn’t her first language and even though she was a fairly fluent speaker, writing was a whole other story.
Of her 4 siblings, my mother was considered to be the “smart” one and the one that had the most ambition. She always wanted to be a doctor, but opportunities were scarce back then in Korea, especially for girls, so she went to nursing school instead and came to NY in 1971 soon after she graduated, seizing the first opportunity that she could find. But she always wanted a college degree. When she finally completed her studies sometime during my high school years, she traveled up to Maine for the graduation ceremony alone. I remember seeing photos of her trip to the college, but I always later wondered why we didn’t go up to the ceremony as a family.
When I think about my mom being the age that I am now, I think about her with a daughter who was 19 and already gone from the house and a son who was 13 and ready to enter high school. I think about how she switched careers at this age after 18 successful years as a nurse to real estate because she realized that her career was taking a physical toll on her health. She also knew that she had 2 kids to send to college and she couldn’t do that on a nurse’s salary. I don’t remember with clear details her transition from one career to the other because I had already moved out of the house at that point and quite frankly, was too busy trying to live my own life. But I do remember that my mom would cook and leave dinners wrapped up for my brother as her new work schedule had shifted and she was no longer home by the time he got home from school. My brother’s high school years in that respect, were different from mine.
I remember many years ago having a talk with my mom when I wasn’t feeling any validation from her, or praise, or whatever I was seeking at the time. After all those years, the approval from my mom wasn’t any less important than it was when I was 10. I don’t even remember what the conversation was specifically about, but I do remember her response. She asked me where her validation came from. Who was telling her that she was doing a good job? Who was telling her that they were proud of her? Maybe that is why she went to her graduation alone. She never expected validation from her family because she never received it before, from her parents or siblings growing up or from us. Maybe she learned to accept that ultimately, the only person she needed validation from was herself.
It’s ironic that I wrote that post about validation from strangers a few weeks ago, because I think about my mom’s response often. It wasn’t the response I was expecting, but it holds truth. We often expect so much from our mothers – the basic needs for survival, food, shelter, unconditional love, praise, and security. When we’re younger, our mothers are our mothers, beacons of love and protection, and we don’t necessarily think about the people that they are separate from that identity. But there comes a point when we realize that our mothers are people too – fears, insecurity, frustrations and all. Maybe you come to understand this when you see your mom cry in front of you for the first time or when you witness a vulnerability that you never saw or understood before.
As my girls get older I think about this more and more as we start having conversations not just as mother and daughters, but as people having discussions with our own opinions. I think about the message that I send out to the girls with my actions as well as my inactions. I think about the relationship that I have with my mother and the role that I have as a mother to my daughters. Whatever shortcomings may have happened in the past doesn’t have to be irreparable in the present, and I just want to say to my mother today that I am very proud of her.
Posted by Jenna | 25 Comments
This week was a blur. Not enough productivity, too much sliding down the wormhole to the past. Some days the lack of focus is so hard to overcome that you might as well pack it in. Eat another muffin, watch another concert video on Youtube. This is one of those days when the rain and the return to cold is dragging me down (and I’m actually considering retiring in Seattle one day? Hmmm). I’m not feeling this day.
Claudine and I have been having a regular exchange almost weekly where she goes to put her dirty clothes in the laundry basket and upon discovering that it’s full, walks up to me all huffy, but in a totally deadpan way says, “you’re really bad at doing laundry.” And then we go back and forth for a few minutes of banter, her stare almost challenging me. When she walks away rolling her eyes, I question whether or not that conversation actually took place, mostly because I stooped to the level of a 6 year old with my immature retorts back to her. Sadly, she is right. I hate doing laundry with a thousand passions so it often does pile up. I’m staring at the laundry right now, in fact. I was thinking recently how true it is that being a parent keeps us accountable in so many ways. The kids keep us in check and their school schedule is the rhythm that provides the structure to our days. If I didn’t have to walk them to school every morning, I probably wouldn’t leave the house or get to sleep at any reasonable hour that makes it possible to interact with humans in the rest of the working world. Meals too. They’re probably the reason we even have food in the fridge.
So thanks girls, for saving me from a life of take-out and TV dinners and vampire hours. You make me laugh when you make my bed for me, even better than how I make it, but leave me a post-it note on the pillow reminding me to thank you. You make me smile when you offer to give me a foot massage, squeezing my feet with little fingers for all of 2 minutes before dropping my foot like a hot potato and running off when your sister wants to play with you. You make me look forward to birthday week with your schemes and whispers behind my back even if I’d rather forget the fact that I’ll be turning another year older. Your enthusiasm for even the mundane things in life is the spark that keeps me going on days like this.
Posted by Jenna | 23 Comments
I don’t know why I even have a “craft” category for the blog seeing as we seem to only accomplish 2 kinds of crafts each year – paper snowflakes and Easter egg dyeing (and if you click on crafts, that’s pretty much all you see post after post – so much so that it’s laughable). We haven’t even carved pumpkins in the last few years because the girls get too attached to their pumpkins and can’t bear the thought of stabbing them with knives and scooping out the guts. Oh! I tried to teach the girls how to make origami cranes last week, but that didn’t really go over so well because I forgot how to fold one myself and the only origami paper we had was too small for tiny hands trying to make precise folds. Hey, I tried.
After last year’s rather successful first attempt at natural egg coloring, we went back to the Paas dye tablets, mostly because Mark’s mom sent us a box in the Easter care package she sent us. We didn’t do anything fancy this year (though I thought about it for a minute, I swear). Mia did scratch a phrase in wax on one of her eggs: “Peace, love and hamburgers” (uh, whatever that means to 9 year olds), but we did try ombre-ing a few of the eggs. I think next year I might try experimenting with tape.
We took our traditional drive upstate to spend Easter with Mark’s dad and uncle. The girls get super excited about Easter because of the egg hunts (this year we drove out to a state park to hide chocolates in the woods). Nothing was Spring-like about it because the weather was still a bit chilly and the trees still so bare, but they still had a super good time. I find it funny that they are both so blinded by the fact that one of us is obviously the Easter bunny hiding the candy. I’m surprised that Mia still believes there’s a furry animal with thumbs capable of placing chocolate eggs on window sills and perched on tree branches. She knows there isn’t a tooth fairy and hasn’t really believed in Santa in awhile (though she claims to believe in him again), so why the Easter bunny? Especially when I had “mysteriously disappeared” while Mark took them to a bench to look out over the lake.
Posted by Jenna | 3 Comments
The thing that I couldn’t get over with the night shows at Disney and Epcot is that they do this huge, Olympic ceremony caliber production every single freaking night. I mean, am I right? I knew that I didn’t want to miss the electrical parade and the fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom even though it meant keeping the kids up after that marathon of a day. At one point during the afternoon, Mark hinted that maybe we didn’t need to stay to catch the show – I mean we’ve seen fireworks before. Pshaw. We were pretty tired around 6pm, but after we finished a quick dinner and re-emerged back into the park under the night sky, we all perked up because the crowds were thinner and the park had more of a party atmosphere. By the time we found a spot on the sidelines for the parade at 8:30 the girls were fading again, but as soon as the twinkling floats approached us at 9pm, Miss C was waving to all the characters and actors and at one point reached back in a bit of a panic after realizing that she wasn’t wearing her mouse ears. “I need them”, she said as she put them on and resumed waving.
A few last words about Disney: It’s pretty impressive how well run everything is. Just about everything is seamless right down to all the sounds. Being audio geeks, we couldn’t help but note how smooth all the audio scenes from the rides cross faded into each other or all the analog synth sounds that were used so well in the parade. Sometimes when you really observe what’s going on around you it’s completely surreal and even a bit bizarre when you realize that you’re riding in a clam shell on a long conveyer belt of people on one of the rides – a conveyer belt that continuously loads and unloads thousands of park goers in and out non stop for 12 hours a day. But you really do sort of have to suspend your disbelief and buy into the fantasy which we did for the most part, aside from those few moments where you shake yourself into reality and you catch yourself thinking, where the hell are we?
Oh, and I just figured out yesterday why my mom thought it was so important that we take the kids to Disney and why she saw it as such a pivotal part of the American experience. When I was a kid, I used to look at these old photos of my mom wearing one of those black Mickey Mouse caps with mouse ears and standing next to one of the 7 dwarves. She was 25 and had made a layover in Southern California on her way to NYC from South Korea in 1971 when she first immigrated here. Disneyland was her first exposure to America. Arriving from a country that was struggling to get back on its feet from the Korean War, the Disney experience in sunny California must have felt surreal and worlds away from her childhood filled with poverty and a broken home. Can’t imagine what she must have been feeling at the time – all the emotions of leaving her country and her family (including me as an infant), but there was also the anticipation of starting a new life in a new world. That is true magic.
Posted by Jenna | 18 Comments
Miss C left this box for me on my bed side table last night, instructing me to open it in the morning. I usually sleep in on Thursdays since it’s the one day of the week that Mark walks the girls to school, so she knew that she probably wasn’t going to see me in the morning. Truth is, she made this Valentine’s Day box way back in November and hid it among her things until last night. She likes to plan ahead like that, although Mark just got a note on a green post-it. When asked why he only got a post-it when I got a box of treasures, she replied that she didn’t have enough time because of all the Valentines that she had to make for all her classmates.
So when did Valentine’s Day become another Halloween? The kids came home with cards and all sorts of candy collected from their classmates and dumped them on the floor to sort and look through. I guess the good thing about it is the mandatory rule of bringing a Valentine to everyone if you plan on handing our Valentines. We didn’t have such rules when I was a kid. I still remember how dreadful Valentine’s Day was back in high school. Like many schools back then, some adult thought it’d be a good idea to give teenagers an opportunity to give out roses for their girlfriends/boyfriends/secret crushes during homeroom period. It was the one day of the year in the years of teenage angst where your relationship status or lack thereof was made public and flaunted. Yeaaaah, really great idea. All the popular kids carried around their multiple roses like a status badge that proved just how popular they were. Couples sent each other flowers; the rest of us unloved ones walked around rose-less and everyone knew it, unless you made a secret pact with your girlfriends before hand to send each other sympathy roses so you didn’t look like a complete loser sitting there empty handed during homeroom when the roses were handed out. My high school was a big school – there were about 700 kids in my graduating class so the cliques and social groups were varied and deep, but it didn’t matter if you were a jock, a cheerleader, a brainy nerd, a rocker or an arty goth freak. Valentine’s Day had a way of crossing social lines and making anyone feel awkward and annoyed. High school. It was carefree, but oh so complicated and full of angst all at once.
Valentine’s Day never was a holiday that I embraced or liked, despite the fact that I have either been in relationships or married for the past 23 Valentines. Mark and I have never really celebrated it and if you’re in the restaurant industry then you would be working that evening anyway, just as he did for pretty much every Valentine’s Day up until we started the business. But like a lot of things, it’s taken up a new meaning now that we have kids. I think Mia’s beginning to move away a little from all the lovey hearts and such, but Miss C is still all over it, although both girls kinda sighed after making their 20th Valentine with a few more to go.
When I asked Claudine why she liked Valentine’s Day so much, she replied that it’s a day where we get to love each other a little more. I told her that I loved her the same on this day, just as I did everyday.
She didn’t really care for that answer.
Posted by Jenna | 16 Comments
Hi. It’s been really cold here. The kind of cold that hurts your face. I don’t think we’re used to winters like this anymore. Brutal. But I have to say that I haven’t minded all that much (not that I’m spending any real amount of time outside), but I just make sure to bundle up in a million layers and wear my ridiculous floor length down coat and shearling lined boots and it’s been…refreshing. But what is up with the kids refusing to wear hats and gloves in this weather? Do they not have the cold feelings? I’ve given up forcing them to wear their cold weather things because it’s gotten pointless. I’ll at least flip their hoods onto their heads if they refuse to put on their hats and they’ll immediately flip it back down. Repeat the back and forth flip/unflip all the way to school.
Mark and I both had a very busy week of work. The week ended today on his birthday, which we celebrated with a dinner out at a newish ramen place and some cake at home. The girls get so giddy over birthday cake it’s contagious. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love cake, but the sheer giddiness! Claudine insisted that Mark sit at the head of the table and that I bring the cake over while they sang happy birthday with the apartment darkened except for the candle. It had to be done a certain way – their way. So bossy.
Anyway, the cake. It’s been so long since we’ve bought a cake since Mark is the resident cake maker. It’s kind of like eating other people’s cookies – something we rarely do or buy at the store because, well…you know. While eating cake, Mark and Mia discussed what kind of birthday cake she might want for her upcoming birthday and she said Black Forest. It made me laugh. Mark’s been asking the girls for their requests on cakes ever since they could talk and have an opinion, and he’ll usually make what they request. The cakes all turn out good no matter how unusual the flavor combination, but it doesn’t always mean it’s a hit at birthday parties. There will always be those handful of kids who will bring their uneaten plate of cake to Mark and politely (and often shyly) say, “I don’t like this cake”. Haaaaa. I guess sometimes you can’t compete with Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines.
Posted by Jenna | 11 Comments