Identity in Motherhood

I've been feeling down lately. It's because I haven't been blogging. Well, it's because I haven't been writing at all. Writing has always been one of the few things that reminded me of who I am. I know that probably sounds strange, but in each phase of my life, writing centered me. If I was ever confused, stressed, or upset, writing was a megaphone into my brain allowing me to flesh out my concerns and thoughts while reminding me of my idiosyncrasies and individuality. Entering motherhood was no exception. I could have a million thoughts, stories, and words bottled up within. I would sit at my computer not knowing what I would write, but as soon as my fingers touched the keyboard it's like the words had a life of their own. Afterwards I would feel relieved.

With the craziness of having baby #3 and all that comes with the daily motherhood grind, I honestly lose my sense of self. Between the sleepless nights, tired days, constant wiping the floor, nursing, cooking, picking up toys, or stepping on them... I lose myself. What makes me an individual and not a domesticated convention? What makes me a person and not a human burp cloth? What makes me a woman and not a baby food dispenser? When you enter motherhood, you get a truckload of identities poured on you. You become a caretaker, a nurturer, and a family's cornerstone etc. I welcome those identities with open arms, but in the midst of that massive pile, I wonder which of these qualities are distinctive to me?

These are the thoughts I've been thinking. I recently found a pair of pearl earrings as I was cleaning our dresser. As I held it, my clothes felt extra raggedy in contrast to the iridescent bauble. Over a year ago I got a gift card to a clothing store. Every time I go to the mall and think I might use it, I look around at all the trendy neat pressed clothes and imagine what they would look like with spit up on it, which is what happens to every garment I wear these days. So I sigh and I walk right out. Don't even get me started on makeup. There's not enough concealer in all of Sephora to cover up the dark rings under my eyes. Jewelry, nice clothes, and makeup, are out of the question right now. As I cast these things to the wayside, I can't help but feel parts of what made me a woman go with it. Being tired, with a limited brain capacity and time, keeps me from writing, something that I really like and enjoy. I know that consistently engaging in my hobbies and interests are out of the question right now, but that too makes me feel like less of a person. What makes me, me? I'm a mother. It's apparent in what I wear, the bags under my eyes, my postpartum gut, my barely functional brain ... lately I feel like that's all I am.

As the blazing bright torch of motherhood gets passed from one generation to the next, does the light overexpose you like a washed-out image? Or does the brightness reveal you? Does the flame like a crucible enable you to me molded, stretched, and strengthened beyond what you were formally capable of? Like a burgeoning butterfly from its cocoon, does the pain and strife of it all allow you to discover yourself in a way you never would have, had motherhood not granted you the opportunity?

The latter has definitely been true for me. I'm certainly stronger than I thought I was in the many different ways that motherhood strengthens every woman. At the end of the day, when I think I'll just lock myself in a room, put on my earphones and drown it all out to some Jesus Culture "We Cry Out" but ... instead I make dinner, clean it up, wash the dishes, get the kids ready for bed and feed a newborn, and on good days I read my son a bedtime story. Granted, dinner might be pasta for the 4th night in a row, cleaning might mean a quick wipe down of the table and floors, Mr. Clean is not seeing his reflection on our dining floor, believe me...but if you're a mother, you know finishing a long hard day with your children fed, washed, and feeling loved is a true blue miracle.  When the night is still and I watch my babies sleep, a sense of pride fills my chest. I made it through another day.

In our adjusting to a new kind of normal, as I talked about in my last post, with a new baby, and all the craziness that goes with it, I'm hoping motherhood will continue to stretch and strengthen me not only as a mother but as a person. Motherhood in so many ways has offered me the ability to use my gifts in ways that would be dormant otherwise. I'm hoping I can continue to find myself through my interests and talents while being a mother too. Now that I got that off my chest, I feel like Bruce Banner waking up from the after affects of the gamma bomb. Human again.

I'm off to cuddle with this one...

A New Kind Of Normal: Adjusting to Life As a Family of Five

It has been two months since our little Audrey was born and we're still adjusting to the big change. I remember someone telling me that transitioning to 3 kids is harder than having your first baby. Now I can see what they were talking about. Life these past two months has been a constant juggling of priorities. With 3 kids needing your attention at the same time, a lot of the time, you find yourself constantly asking "Which child needs me more at this moment?" Is it the 2 year old that is currently foraging through my pantry looking for something to decay her teeth? Or is it the crying newborn? Or is it the 4 year old that so badly wants me to listen to his off key rendition to the Sesame Street song? I noticed that this constant prioritizing has made my brain wired to respond to 3  basic primordial things: food, sleep, and poop

1) Poop

My daughter is now being potty trained. She has a habit of going in her pull-up, taking it off, handing me the soiled thing, while looking at me like "You're welcome." My son on the other hand is potty trained of course, but has this insatiable desire to use way too much toilet paper. Seriously, he rips off chunks of tp like they are free lottery tickets. So then lo and behold, the toilet is always just about to overflow. I think I spend half my life in a bathroom these days. My newborn has explosive poops all the time. All these things will immediately get our attention and have us hail-mary-drop-everything while screaming our heads off.

2) Food

Food is forever and always hanging over my head. Who needs to eat now? Who is still eating? What mess do I need to clean now that he or she is done? I feel like I'm always getting my daughter something to eat because that's what she does all day, then getting my son to try to eat, because he takes forever to eat, then nursing the new born every 3 hours. I notice I feed the newborn first, then the others. Then if the newborn wants something she has to wait.

{In this area I notice how different it is for the 3rd child vs the 1st. When Joey was born his every cry was on the top of our priority list. Is he hungry? Diaper change? Does he want that toy? Does he want to be entertained? With the second child a little less, and now with the 3rd it's completely different. There's no VIP treatment just because you've been in the world only two months. If you are fed and your diaper is changed and now you're crying your eyes out because you want me to carry you around in the Bjorn, well get to the back of the line baby. I need to get your sister down from the kitchen counter, she's grabbed a banana and bit through the peel like some sort of spawn of Tarzan. Your brother has flushed the toilet for the umpteenth time hoping turn our bathroom into a real live Fantasia situation and after I do all that I need to FEED these creatures!}

3) Sleep

Sleep... O Sleep! I can write sonnets right now about how much I long for thee. Sleep has become the white elephant of my life. It's rare, elusive, impossible to maintain and deeply desired. What I would give for a full nights rest! Or if that's too much, what would I give so that my kids nap at the same time? It's like asking for the moon. I have two kids that hate sleep. I swear they are solar powered. As soon as the sun makes a slight appearance, their batteries are charged and they're ready to scale walls. However my new born doesn't sleep at night. She crashes when the sun's about to rise, making me crash too. As soon as my kids are up they want to see mommy and baby but unfortunately I'm out like a log. As a result my husband has taken over the whole morning routine so I can get some rest.

My son turned 5 yesterday and in the morning came unto the bed while I was in REM sleep to say "Good morning." What did I do on his 5th Birthday Morning? Hug and kiss him and tell him how much I love him? Nope. Problem is my brain was 90% in a vegetative state and all I could tell was something was interrupting my rest. From what I remember I thrashed about like a zombie and made incoherent noises, "Urhghahhahh!!! gAHHHHHH!!" It was only when I woke, and turned back into a human, that I realized.

I keep telling myself that this will all pass. That one day things will go back to normal. I will have a functioning brain again (another reason why I haven't been blogging because unfortunately writing requires a working brain unless you are just venting which is what I'm doing), I won't be willing to trade a kidney for an extra hour of sleep, I'll be able to distinguish between my dreams and reality (I don't mean that in an abstract way, I mean literally. I think I fed my son salami for dinner a couple nights ago but not sure if it was a dream).  I know that things will never go back to the way they were. From what I remember though, with each new baby things are a crazy-haze for a bit, but after a while things stabilize and each new kind of normal is in some way better than the last. The only thing is, in the begining you never know what the "new" normal will look like until you get there. For now with my compartmentalized brain, I'll take my own advice and get through one day at a time. Each day looking forward to be able to see the big picture a bit clearer.

In celebration of my husband's and son's birthday we had a rare evening out at the beach!

Why Asian American Parents Should Watch Fresh Off The Boat With Their Kids

One thing I want to do as a mother is share my stories to my children. I hope these stories, like little faint flashes of light, help reveal who their mother is, and all the people and experiences that made me who I am today. Maybe that will help them get perspective in life and understand that many decisions, people, and circumstances make people who they are. My life has a good number of sweet uplifting Hallmark Channel worthy stories, about friends who cared, a family who loved, and mentors and teachers who took the time. But in that mixture racism like a stormy cloud, hoovered over my most formative years in the mid 90's. I always wondered how I would tell this story about this time period in my life.

Now I am a mother of three, living in Hawaii and I'm pretty sure they will not encounter racism the same way I did. I know they may have trouble relating to what I went through in the 90's growing up in an all white suburb in New Jersey, but I believe the stories themselves can have a life of their own once handed down and will mean something. My son is now almost 5 years old and at an age where I am starting to share some of my stories about how I grew up in small digestible fragments for a 5 year old. When he gets to be a bit older I also plan on sharing about my experiences with racism. As my family is beginning this important stage with my son, a very rare and momentous thing happened. For the first time in 20 years ABC aired a sitcom starring an Asian American family called Fresh Off The Boat based on Eddie Huang's memoir by the same name, a book I read and thoroughly enjoyed BTW.

The show takes place in the mid 90's around the same time I moved from New York, where there was some diversity, to an all white suburb in New Jersey and  experienced the same type of racism that is portrayed in the show based off of Eddie Huang's experiences in Orlando Florida.



Watching Fresh Off The Boat's pilot was like someone taking me by the hand and bringing me down memory lane, being the only Asian kid at school, trying to find where I fit in in a place where no one looked like me, the scornful looks at lunch, being called a "chink." The thing that struck me was, as Asian Americans these experiences are a source of pain and angst, and the show does not make light of these experiences but at the same time, there's a humor and lightness to how the story is told. I realized, when my son is a bit older and I am ready to talk about this phase in my life, the show Fresh Off The Boat provides a perfect medium to start that conversation.

In the scene when Eddie, played by Hudson Yang, is called a "chink," I love how Eddie fights back. The next scene cuts to him sitting outside his principal's office as a result. He doesn't cower at the word "chink," like I often did as a kid. He doesn't let it change how he sees himself, the way I let it change the way I saw myself. I also think that is why the scene can be funny because yes, racial slurs happen, it's a fact of life, but it doesn't need to affect how you see yourself. When my son gets older and I start to talk about this time period in my life, since he is growing up in Hawaii, he may not have any experiences that link that word with the same emotions I felt when I heard it, but I would like his reference to be how it is portrayed in that scene with Eddie. Then I can share that it happened to me, and in life things like that will happen, but it was a journey to not let those words debilitate me just like my son shouldn't let racial slurs or put downs of any sort define him, as it is exemplified in Eddie. 

You see, the show provides a portal into my experiences in growing up in the 80's and 90's, which is important because my son's experience as a third generation Korean American growing up in Hawaii, is going to be completely different. This also goes for all subsequent generations of Asian American's. For each generation the experiences as a whole are going to differ from one generation to the next. My parents, for example, were a part of an immigration wave that the Korean's Immigration to the U.S.: History and Contemporary Trends Study (1) from Queens College  calls the Acceleration Period. Due to economic uncertainty and political unrest in Korea during this period from 1976-1990 each year between 30,000 to 35,000 Koreans immigrated to the United States. Many of the second generation that came during this Acceleration Period were either the only Asians  or were one among few where they lived, like me. Now the second generation from the Acceleration Period are having children of their own. Our children's stories are going to be different. We as their parents are of Korean decent but we are American, we were educated here, we have established a place in society, and we understand the culture. Our kids will not need to be the liaison to the outside world for us. Our children will not need to translate letters for us. They will not need to sit in parent teacher conferences with us in case we misunderstand something the teacher says. Also it is also much less likely that they are the only Asians where they live. They will not have to carry the same burdens we did. Their experience growing up in America will be markedly different from our own but that doesn't mean they shouldn't know what we went through as second generation Korean Americans. That is why the timing for Fresh Off The Boat is crucial in that, as the second generation of Korean Americans from the Acceleration Period are starting to have children of their own in growing numbers, the show provides a window into our story for them. Maybe in knowing what we went through, they see they are a part of a bigger picture, that others paved the way for them. Maybe it will get them to understand why we do things the way we do as second generation Korean American parents. Maybe they will learn when they face any sort of opposition or discrimination that they can rise up and not let what the world says define them. We can be honest that our origins and our story started from our parents being "fresh off the boat," a term coined from discrimination and racism, but we can be proud our stories. The show is evidence of how far we have come as Asian Americans in that we can subversively use that term to illustrate that racism, opposition and troubles we may have faced, never set the demarcations for who we are, rather only made us stronger, as told in Eddie's story and ours.

(1) Pyong Gap Min: Queens College and the Graduate Center of CUNY (2011) KOREANS’ IMMIGRATION TO THE U. S: HISTORY AND CONTEMPORARY TRENDS. Retrieved from:

Life With Three Kids... So Far

I have officially survived two weeks as a mother of 3. Our life seemed to be chaotic before, but now we are in full whirlwind mode. Either one of us is with the baby, or the other two kids. It's what my husband likes to call "playing zone defense". I'll yell out "I'm going to feed the baby!" or "Diaper change!" and my husband will say  "Going to take the other two outside!" and back and forth communicating who what where and when. And in many ways it is everything I expected with 3 kids under 5... but in some ways it's very different. Even though I'm tired, even though my body is unrecognizable, even though I'm still swollen and in some pain... I feel joy.

Pregnancy number 3 was the worst. I felt like I underwent 10 months of torment, emotionally and physically. I was excited that I was pregnant and I felt baby number 3 would certainly complete our family... then the last trimester hit and I was in pain all over. It was like my body was scolding me for having 3 kids. My back ached all the time, heart burn was no joke, and I kept getting sick. One time I was hospitalized for food poisoning. I was in such excruciating pain that my Dr. had to put me on morphine (that stuff is awesome BTW). With each hiccup my Dr. assured me that the baby was healthy and fine with a really strong steady heartbeat.

So there was the physical pain but there was so much going on inside of me emotionally. Each night I tossed around exhausted and uncomfortable from a full day of chasing around two kids, I couldn't help but think thoughts like "What have you done Joy? How are you going to raise another kid? You are so tired and spent now it'll only be worse." These thoughts plagued be daily. It was like there was a nay sayer hidden behind each of the pleats in my maternity dress. Thoughts that haunted me, that I carried around with me all day and night.

But now she's here. Our beautiful daughter is here. Yes it is one more child added, but her arrival has changed the dynamic in our house. My four year old son is now an "oldest brother" always looking after his two sisters. He loves to hold her and my heart swells up with pride as I see him take on his new role with such confidence. My daughter Kaitlyn who was previously the baby, is now an older sister and her greatest joy is coming into our room in the morning to see her sister. When the baby cries I quickly hear the pitter patter of her little feet running towards the room. Before she struggled to get a grip around our door knobs to open the door. Now she can open it in an instant because she feels her little sister needs her. If she feels her sister's blanket is too close to her face, she'll gently fix it to make sure she's comfortable. While I'm changing the baby she'll be next to me handing me the wipes. Now every time I look at Kaitlyn I feel that she's changed, she seems so much older now next to her sister, it's like she grew up to be a little girl and an older sister in a matter of two weeks.

When I became a mother I noticed there are two types of mamas, those that love the newborn phase and those that don't. Previously I belonged to the latter party. I always wanted to get past the newborn stage and get to the cute chubby interactive baby stage. Now, that this is most likely my last time around in the newborn phase, I've been soaking up each moment. At night when I feel her steady rhythmic breath  on my chest, it's as if the whole world is still and it's just the two of us. I love how her breath smells like berries. With each breath it's like every negative thought and doubt dissipates into thin air. Those ten months of burden are done and now the fruit of it all is right before me. Those thoughts are negligible vapor compared to the living breathing beauty that is before me. With this little bundle of joy came a slew of sleepless nights and the typical post-partum woes, but that pales into utter insignificance compared to how she has changed and completed our family.


My Little Helper

My son is now 4 and 1/2. He's different now. I remember an unnie (older sister/friend) once told me, "4 is a different world." I was skeptical. I thought I would be spending the rest of my life managing one tantrum-meltdown after another. If it's your first time on Daechoong Mama, maybe a little preface is in order. Basically my son drove me crazy the last two years. He was an absolute dream before 2, but then his sister was born and it was game over. He started testing boundaries all the time. He became picky with his food (he still kinda is). He started HATING sleep and naps. If he didn't get his way it would lead to insufferable tantrums, often in public. But then he turned 4 in March and I started to see changes in him. Then, when the school year started in August, it's like a light switch turned on.

He started listening when we asked him to do things. He started understanding boundaries. When we told him simple instructions, he started to follow them, and not disobey just to drive us crazy. Also, he loves to help . He's taken ownership of his role as an older brother. He understands that because he's the oldest, it's his job to help. I remember reading in Babble or one of those hipster parenting blogs about "getting your toddler to help." I tried to get him to help me make a sandwich or something when he was 3, and it ended up being a whining-tantrum-filled fiasco, resulting in an inedible sandwich and piece of my soul dying.  "Hipster parenting blog, ruining my life!!" I thought, and I vowed never to let him help me with anything ever again. Then he turned 4 and having him help me is fulfilling, fun, and at times a God-send!

He started to help me cook. I noticed the Crock-Pot is great way to introduce kids to cooking. I don't have to stress about burns etc. I typically cut up the ingredients and he puts it in the Crock-Pot and will help me mix it. Afterwards he's so proud of the end result and will go on and on during dinner about how he made the food we are eating.

I noticed there are plenty of ways he can help, like pealing carrots.

When we make egg salad sandwiches for lunch he'll cut up the egg whites with a butter knife.

He's got a butter knife and he knows how to use it!

Another amazing thing is that he'll eat salad now!

When his sister finds kiddie siscors and decides to hack apart the silk flowers, it's big brother to the rescue... vainly picking up the pieces and trying to put it together.

Just before I took this picture he grabbed his sister before she ran into the ocean.

Gathering seashells for his sister.

After breakfast on Saturdays they'll have chocolate milk. Joey will grab one for him and his sister and put the straw in for her.

When we go to the mall and Kaitlyn runs around the stores, Joey will usually grab her just in time.

 Just 6 months earlier I used to dread taking him to the bank. He would run around the bank trying to get on top of the teller counter like he was about to perform a heist. Now while I'm at the bank Joey will sit with his sister and feed her snacks.

I took these pictures over the course of a few months. I noticed, each time he was able to help me cook, or help with his sister somehow, over time I soon expected it. Now I expect him to be helpful and be an extra pair of hands and eyes with watching his sister. I realize also, that the last two years are a blur. I remember while I was going through that time I felt like it would be forever.

I was recently backing up my hard drive and I went through some old videos of him. Some videos of him crying and whining, trying to piece his words together and get attention, he still had some baby fat in his cheeks. I strangely felt sad that it seemed like such a distant memory, almost like I was watching another child. I felt like I missed those times, even though they were filled with frustration and strife.  I couldn't help but think, "Is that how he looked? Did he really use talk like that? Did he really act like that?" I look back and I wonder did I handle that phase as best as I could? I remember losing my cool so many times. I remember it took every last drop of patience (and I have very little) to keep from shouting at the top of my lungs on a daily basis. Did he mellow out because we were always disciplining him or was all that unnecessary and all I needed to do was wait till maturity took over? I'll never know for sure. All I know is that although I love this new found chapter in seeing my son mature, seeing his distinct personality take form, seeing his love for learning, his love for his family, especially his sister, and his overall optimism that is so unique to childhood... the last phase is gone. Nothing I did can be undone.

I'm realizing motherhood is a train without stops or breaks and once you ride through one phase, if you don't take a close look around you, breathe in the air and enjoy the scenery and appreciate everything about it, before you know it, it's gone. Though there's always looking over the horizon to what the next phase has in store, it's a journey that's always looking forward. I need to keep that in mind with every new territory motherhood takes me, lest I pass through and not remember or appreciate where I was.

Banana Ice Cream

So I'm in my last trimester and my sweet tooth is no joke. I crave all things sweet. At the end of each meal I feel it is incomplete without dessert. Which is really not good for baby, I know. I'm actually amazed that I passed my glucose test, a real miracle if you ask me. So I found this recipe for banana ice cream and I know its been done over and over again. It's nothing new but I was majorly skeptical. "There's no way it'll taste anything like actual ice cream!" I thought. But I tried it and it does. It really tastes like ice cream. So all the sweet deliciousness without the major guilt.

I took some ripe bananas and I cut them up with a butter knife straight into a gallon ziploc bag. People suggested leaving them on a tray separated in the freezer but that's way too much work and I have no room in my freezer for all that. I just laid the ziploc bag down flat in the freezer so the pieces will be somewhat separated. I left it to freeze overnight and then had it ready for my lunch-dessert time (know there is no such thing as lunch-dessert but there is when I'm pregnant).

Frozen and ready to go! Then I stick them in my Ninja Chop, about 2 cups worth and add 1/4 cup of milk. I just kept adding bit by bit until the bananas were able to be blended. Careful, it's a fine line between banana milkshake and ice cream, so just add a little bit at a time.

Then I blended it until it was nice and smooth.

I had to stop and mix it a few times with a spatula. Then I added a couple drops of vanilla extract.

Creamy and ready to go. I had to take out the blades.

blended banana ice cream.jpg

Time to scoop out.

I then put a bit of chocolate syrup on it. Ok so not totally guilt free...

So I gobbled this up in 2 minutes. It was rich, creamy, sweet and it hit the spot. Warning! It only tastes like ice cream as long as it's not melted. Once it starts melting it tastes like liquified bananas. Gross! So you must eat it quickly. One time I added peanut butter to it and it was amazing too. You can also added walnuts or almonds, whatever you like. Either way you're fooling your body into eating wholesome fruit!

6 Reasons Why My Life is Like The Lord of The Rings

It's been an eventful few weeks in our house. I keep telling myself I need to write a post but when I think about how things have been, the only thing that really comes to mind right now is The Lord of The Rings and the amazing parallels..

1) Because most days I wake up looking and feeling like Gollum.

2) Because my daughter eats like a hobbit. Here's the daily hobbit meal schedule:

7:00am – Breakfast
9:00am – Second Breakfast
11:00am – Elevenses
1:00pm – Luncheon
4:00pm – Afternoon Tea
6:00pm – Dinner
8:00pm – Supper

So move everything up one hour and change that tea into orange juice and yep that's pretty much her schedule.

3) Pinterest and DIY mothers are like elves. They are other-worldly crafty creatures that make you all the more aware of your humanness. Pretty sure the rules of time and space do not apply to them. What I mean is... Can I be like you please??

4) Because I feel like my life is all about cleaning cheerios off the floor. The sight of it brings out a Sauron-like wrath in me!

5) Because everyday is like a daily trek to Mordor to get rid of or overcome the Ring, which is crayon marks and cheerios on the floor, toys scattered everywhere, a sink full of dishes, and a meal I need to prepare in 5 minutes lest my hobbit daughter has a Peregrin-Took-melt-down.

This is what my daughter looked like at 10am this morning...

My little hobbit eating egg whites and oranges... her second breakfast. She looks like she's ready to sing a verse.

6) Because at the end of the day the speech I say to myself is a lot like the speech Aragorn gives a the Black Gate (in the movie). His speech is a War Speech. My speech is an acceptance speech. So much of motherhood I feel like, is accepting the fact that things do not go the way you would like or according to plan but that's fine. Tomorrow is another day.


His speech:
"Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship; but it is not this day! An hour of wolves, and shattered shields, when the Age of Men comes crashing down; but it is not this day! "

My speech

"Mother of Joey and Kaitlyn! I see in your eyes you are weary and you're sweating your heart out in this heat and humidity. A day may come when your house does not look like Gollums cave, when your furniture is not scribbled all over, when you make a dinner that everybody enjoys, and all the toys in the play room are organized, and everything you planned on getting done, is finished. An hour of rest and feeling accomplished, when everything doesn't seem like it's crashing down but it is not this day!!"….

There may come a day when things are easier and I'm not a harried mess but not today and that's ok….


Now unto Elvenses... I'm beginning to lose track...

Dear Andy

Dear Andy,

It is a cool quiet night here in Hawaii. The kids are asleep and I have a few moments of peace before I head to bed. As if your impression is carried on the slight breeze coming through the room, your memory is evoked randomly, as is usually the case. I've become used to your memory showing up in my thoughts unexpectedly over the years, little things seem to conjure them up now and then and often.

I'll be listening to an awesome worship song and I'll wonder what you would think of it. I remember while you were working in the city you had Tower Records on speed dial and they would deliver whatever new Christian Contemporary songs or worship CD that came out to your office. I remember you telling me you would be on the phone with them "What's new? Polka?? ....ok... Bring it in!" You said you did that because we, as poor youth group students, wouldn't have the means to buy a whole bunch and sift through the best ones, so you would do that for us. When you found an amazing album you were the first to tout it to all of us. Your services wouldn't be needed anymore in this day and age when I can hear a sampling of any song I want on iTunes but this act of love and many others are what, till this day, cements your memory in my heart.

The fact you would dedicate whatever free time to hang out with immature, ungrateful youth group students continues to impact me. You would drive us back to our homes, be available to chat or IM anytime we needed it, and you also would not shy away from giving us a good dose of truth in love when we needed it.

You've left an indelible impression on my life and on the lives of many others.

As my thoughts whirl around my head each day I never know when your memory will be stirred up like tonight. For the past 12 years its been like this. Funny though, when I remember you it's not what you did, how you sacrificed, how you loved us that comes to mind, it's the little things, like your laugh. I remember your laugh was so deep and loud it seem to bellow through the room. I can still hear it like it was yesterday. The depth of your laughter was almost indicative of your ability to make others laugh. Laughter pervades almost every memory I have of you. I remember always learning something from you. You knew everything from pop culture to sports, to theology and that you had the perfect tension of being in the world but not of it. I remember you leading praise and being ushered so close to the presence of God it's as if I could feel His breath on the back of my neck.

Interestingly, each year as I go through different life stages, your memories stay the same, but they reverberate differently as time goes on. I remember when I first started working full time and feeling absolutely spent, and then remembering how you worked full time but put in every effort for those around you and for ministry. So many times my fatigue and excuses become diminished and petty when I remember you. And so many times, even today, I find myself peeling off my bed, picking up a late phone call, putting in one more ounce of effort, because you taught me that effort, the interactions, and sacrifice mean something. Your memory reminds me that maybe my efforts could one day mean something to somebody the way your efforts and heart impacted my life and many others.

I don't know why it had to be you in the north tower on September 11, 2001. I don't know why someone that was capable of loving so much and giving so selflessly had to be taken from us that day, someone we all knew and loved as a brother. Maybe because your passions were too deep for the shallowness of this world, maybe because your laughter could not be held in a fleeting shadow (Job 8:9), and your ability to lead others in worship was fit... only for heaven. I look forward to the day we'll all worship together again.




Really random picture of Andy at the BYG Retreat at the Streamside cafeteria circa 1996... I think.

Postpartum Drepression: My Story

Postpartum Depression is isolation, fear, loneliness, and sadness.

Now that I'm pregnant with our 3rd child I've been pondering upon my postpartum experiences with both my children. Since time has passed, I'm able to look back and get a clearer picture of what I was going through. When I gave birth to my son in 2010 the subsequent months were a dark and lonely time in my memory. When I think about how I felt and the way I acted, it's almost like I'm looking at another person. The person I became is so unlike the person I normally am, I can't help but think, "Was I really like that? Was that really me?" what gives it away is the tight knot that forms in my stomach whenever I think about it.

The thing is, I thought I was prepared to be a mother. I read numerous books, watched a million YouTube videos on child birth and nursing. We had the nursery all ready to go and every baby product that was necessary. But nothing prepares you to be depressed. A few months before giving birth I remember reading about Postpartum Depression and talking to people about it. I remember people saying "Some women get so depressed they want to abandon or hurt their baby." It's funny how when we talk about Postpartum Depression or read about it, people always equate it with its most extreme dark form, when those cases are a miniscule percentage compared to the massive numbers of women who deeply love their baby but are depressed after giving birth. When we attach PPD with only its worst form, we don't talk about it for what it is. All we do is stigmatize the people suffering from it. Now I know, you can still love your baby more than life itself and try to be the best mom you can be, and still suffer from it. In reading its harrowing descriptions I quickly dismissed it thinking, "That will not be me."

But, I don't know if its a combination of being up all night when the rest of the world is sleeping, or being sleep deprived, or the hormone changes, or the stress and the burden of being a new mom, maybe it was all those things, but after my son was born I found myself deeply depressed.

I remember staying up at night clutching Joey and suddenly my heart would palpitate and I would get so scared. I thought I saw things and heard things, that (I know now) were not there. I remember crying hysterically for absolutely no reason. I remember listening to David Archuleta songs and crying thinking "He really understands! These songs are so deep!" I still have his songs on my iPhone and every time they play, I laugh at how ridiculous those thoughts were.  I remember watching 50 First Dates on Netflix one night, and weeping when Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore broke up. I remember every time I nursed my son I felt like every last drop of epinephrin or Oxycontin or whenever hormone makes you normal and happy, would get drained from my body. I tried looking up information on it, but couldn't find any information online about being depressed after nursing. I remember pinning after my old life, when I was free, and my husband and I had time to ourselves. I lamented the end of date nights and romance. I bemoaned the end of my youth. I felt the toxic cocktail of all the the above mixed with a deep sense of inadequacy as a mother. I remember my husband grabbing my shoulders and looking at me with eyes filled with concern and saying "It's going to be okay. I need you. Your son needs you. We need you." Tears fell down my cheeks. I heard him but I wasn't listening. I felt like I was drowning and he was calling after me. His words were inaudible as I was sinking deeper and deeper into sadness and despair. Everyday I thought "My life is over.." I mourned the end of my life as I knew it and had no picture of the immense and immeasurable joy that was to be mine, living the life of a mother.

PPD went on for a few months. I remember when my son was 1 and 1/2 months, waking up in the middle of the night because he was crying. I was grabbing his diaper while holding him, half awake, I glanced his way and he was looking at me and smiling for the first time, a full bright smile, brimming with love and innocence. I'll never forget that face. For the first time I sensed he knew me, he recognized me and was happy I was there for him. I felt like someone took a pickaxe and chipped a hole in the concrete emotional prison I was in. The first piercing beam of light that was my son's smile became the first of many. Day by day his smiles, his recognition in who I was was, his interactiveness, slowly chipped away at the depression. By his 100th day it was nothing but a distant memory and the indescribable joy of motherhood took over. I realized I can take him places! Everyday was like a play date with me and my chubby beautiful baby. I realized that I alone, as his mother, was given unlimited access in discovering his unique personality. I got to experience the world through his eyes and nurture him each day and each day I fell more and more in love with him. I think about that time period when he was 3 months to 2 years old, and it was an absolute dream. I have nothing but happy memories of that time.

I look back and I realize at the time I didn't identify what I was going through. I just thought "Of course I'm sad, I'm sleep deprived!" I kept my struggles deeply hidden, not only from the outside world but also to myself. I couldn't be going through PPD, because I felt that would mean I don't love my baby, it would mean I was a bad mother. Now I know nothing was further from the truth.

I think about how, after I gave birth to my daughter, I didn't go through the same depression. The funny thing is my postpartum was much harder with Kaitlyn. It took longer for my body to recover, she didn't sleep through the night until 6 months as opposed to 2 months with Joey. Also nursing Joey was cake compared to Kaitlyn. Nursing Kaitlyn was an absolute horror show the details are not for the weak of heart or stomach so I'll spare you.

Was I tired? Yes. Was I in physical pain? Yes. Was I depressed? NO.

It could be because I was so preoccupied with my son's adjustment to the new baby, or maybe it's because I made more of an effort to be around people, but if I had to pin point it I'd say it's because I knew the prize was well worth the struggle.

I look back and I strongly believe there is a spiritual aspect to why women go through PPD. Why is it that when we as women are tasked with the most important job God has placed before us, that we feel the most scared, alone, and vulnerable? If you know of someone that just gave birth offer your support in the form of company, a hot meal, an encouraging word, but most importantly offer your prayers. Pray that she'll be reassured, strengthened, and protected.

Part of me wishes I knew back then what I know now. If I could go back I would say this to myself and to any new mother out there struggling:

It's hard and painful but that is not your fault. This time period, as stressful as it can be, is no indication of how amazing your life will be as a mother. Like the yellow brick road littered with jewels, motherhood will give you access to an indescribable experience, where the journey itself is a gift. You are not alone, do not be scared, you are a great mother, you are amazing, just take it one feeding and one sleepless night at a time.  Slowly you'll see the bright colors and the sparkling jewels in discovering how unique and amazing God created your baby. As Robert Frost says "The only way out is through." You will make it through, better, stronger, and in love.