Friday, December 30, 2011

Swinging, Rocking, Rocked

My world is spinning. I am a ballerina trying to do a triple pirouette on the tiny point of one toe.

I spin out of control. The world is a dizzying place. And my muscles are sore; they feel like melting jello.

This is my life right now on zero sleep. Do you like my metaphor?

Having a colicky infant is hard (she has inconsolable crying for hours every single day AND night). Having a colicky infant plus a highly active, non-napping toddler is very, very hard. I am really tired. Out of my mind exhausted.

But there is mercy for tomorrow morning.

I remember driving to the park. I probably shouldn't be driving. But I remember the oversized, swinging chair they have for the handicapped and kids with special needs there in the playground. I sat in that giant, cradling, contoured chair. And I swung back and forth, back and forth, my little baby strapped to me in the carrier I was wearing. It was the hand of God, that chair. I almost fell asleep there, quieted and soothed and rocked to sleep. Though nobody can see and many don't care, I am shrieking and crying and quite inconsolable at times inside my heart.

I rock my baby, and God rocks me. I will say it again. There is grace for tomorrow morning.

I respond to my baby every time she cries in pain; will God not respond to me? Will He not nurse me as I nurse my own child? "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Of if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him" (Matthew 7:9)

God hears my cries and He will answer and give grace for this moment and for the moment I will need it tomorrow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Four of us

We all sit on the king-sized mattress, on top of a soft, fluffy mound of blankets and pillows.

Tasha won't be left alone to sleep in her crib because she wants to be held. And so I hold her, gladly, knowing these days pass so fast and can it just stay like this forever?

She is propped between my legs and Noelle cuddles up against my side. Daddy brings a book and we, the four of us, read our bedtime story together. It's such a party. A sleepover.

It's so much fun that I don't want to stop with just one story. And usually it's Noelle who wants more than one book at bedtime. This time it's me.

But Kevin knows better - it's late for Noelle and for us, too. We were up until almost dawn with the newborn, but somehow the lack of sleep doesn't feel too bad.

The house is a lot noisier, too, with sounds of nonsensical chatter and singsong whimsy and baby's crying. Yesterday the walking and talking girl was climbing the stair rails yelling, "I'm trying to be a monkey! I'm trying to be a monkey!" while her father gritted his teeth and flared his nostrils with anxiety about her falling.

I am pretty much head over heels for my new little girl. She's the quiet one who just murmurs and nurses and breathes softly like a bird.

There is so much fat and marrow in these days. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; these days He has given and given and given. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Child of my Womb

I sit beside her miniature bed.

I am a big, pregnant lady - belly swollen and skin stretched impossibly taut - sitting on a laughably small, white chair. There's a weight limit on that chair, but it's always held me for these nine months of weight gain, so I continue to sit next to her as she drifts off into sleep.

She likes her back to be scratched as she drifts. So I scratch it for her.

Her skin feels as thin as a balloon and underneath it are delicate bones. Like once when I felt a toy Yorkie and its quick, shallow breaths felt so fragile underneath the bones and soft fur as breakable as a hamster's.

Asleep now, her breaths are deeper and restful and slower. Her eyelids are shut together as softly as petals on her cheeks and I wonder where is she now? Somewhere I cannot follow, somewhere God takes her, takes all of us individually when we sleep.

She came from inside me - deep down in the dark unseen - her head once wedged between my pelvis, murky waters cushioning ears and eyes from sound and light. Somehow God put her together: she has skin, hair, miraculous eyes, impossible brain so intricate, ten fingers and ten toes. And she can laugh like I've never heard a person laugh before.

She started a baby with meconium poop from all the months inside my womb, and now she walks upright in the world and talks to us and when she sees me tired she says, "Mama, you lay down to sleep awhile." O, Child, when did you become so compassionate?

It's a brief time He's given to me with this child. I feel it falling out of my cupped hands like sand through the fingers. And I am reluctant to let it go.

These Days

My heart is quiet these days.

I am thankful that this baby has reached almost 40 weeks.

That is God's goodness.

I am very curious the cup awaiting me to drink. What will labor be like this time? God knows. Long or short, painful or mild. He has a cup prepared for me to drink, when the time is right.

I am looking forward to meeting our new little one, nursing her, changing her diaper and marveling at what a miracle has been wrought in the womb. These nine months of dark mystery will sprout up into a flower.

Meanwhile our oldest has blossomed into a flower all her own. She's a little personality so sweet and real as any person walking this earth. Suddenly she's been insisting that she absolutely will not wear pants - she wants to wear skirts and dresses. And she prefers pink or purple to any other color. "I don't like black," she says.

She is also very unlike the rotten child that I was when I was her age. Whereas I used to hoard all my food, she shares even her most favorite and prized snacks with me and her dad and anyone else who is close with her. She is marked by a very peculiar generosity and trust in those around her.

She has remarked before that she would like to share a bed with her baby sister. I imagine this would be a sweet arrangement once they're both a bit older...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

...for all the Hard Things

From my journal of "Learning to See and Name Gifts" :

63. Second, third, and never-ending chances. I lose my way but God gives another chance. Again.

64. Forgiveness. God's, my husband's, my daughter's.

68. Sleep. Lack of sleep. All the circumstances that prevent my napping.

69. A child's sudden onset of stomach virus at the end of a long and tiring day. God has a reason.

70. The rice cooker whose button was never pressed. We ate a bountiful meal regardless. How blessed to have a fridge so full we could never starve if we tried.

71. Imperfect days where all my plans are frustrated.

72. God's grace when I've failed His testing AGAIN; failed to see He was the One disrupting "my" plans in order to show me that I need to slow down and take every moment from His hand. I cannot craft the story or outcome of my life. Life is not a big personal TO-DO list nor a cosmic stage to dramatize all my petty achievements. Every single day of my life is His story to tell, not mine.

74. His patience in spite of my incredible ignorance of His ways.

Thank you, Lord, for every frustrated plan of mine, for every wrinkle in my day. Your story is greater than mine and I will let You write it on my life.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Shortest and Surest Way to Happiness

If anyone would tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness
and all perfection, he must tell you to
make a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything

that happens to you.

It is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you,
if you thank and praise God for it,
you turn it into a blessing.

If you could work miracles,
therefore, you could not do more for yourself
than by this thankful spirit.

It heals and turns all that it touches into happiness.”

~ William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

Monday, August 8, 2011


She scampers up the step-ladder, finally at Mama's height. I put the small stainless steel pot in front of her on the kitchen counter, then hesitate before I set the box of oatmeal down, too.

Her little hands reach out, grabbing the container, eagerly, ambitiously pouring the entire contents into the small pot. Flecks of oatmeal decorate the counter and floor.

Thank God most of it made it into the pot. I laugh. Thank God there wasn't much in the box left to make an even bigger mess.

We strike fire and put the pot to boil for our morning breakfast.

Then, as I clean out the fridge, I scrape leftovers - a mound of uneaten quinoa - into a trash bag. The whole thing avalanches onto the floor.

But I stop and think, that's okay. There's mercy for that.

And then I really stop.

So there's mercy for that? But there is no mercy for the child who spills a little oatmeal onto the counter? Who was only trying to help? Who was only trying to imitate her mom?

Later the same morning, I collide into our kitchen cart. The pumpkin seeds in the bowl I hold go flying everywhere. And then my eyes are opened.

God is showing me something.

What is mercy, Jean?

Can I really expect my two year old to keep standards that even I can't achieve? "Don't spill that! Watch out! Wipe your hands!"

Does God make me apologize - make me say "I'm sorry" - every time I am imperfect?

I am crushed beneath the weight of my own stone-hearted hypocrisy.

I judge, I criticize, I find fault. And while I don't knit-pick, I am exacting. And all this on a little person who is forced to spend all day in my care, who just learned to walk a year ago, is barely able yet to pull down her own pants to sit on the potty, and can't even yet hold a pencil the right way. She can't even make a line on a paper, only stabs or scribbles; her fingers aren't developed enough for her to spread jam on toast, she only gouges at the bread with her knife.

And I am holding a standard up to her that even I can't achieve. When she spills her water, when she accidently pees on the carpet, if she drops a ton of crumbs on the dining room floor - just for making my heavy, pregnant body get on hands and knees a hundred times a day, wiping and cleaning - I sigh, I begrudge, I grit my teeth.

God have mercy on a person such as me. Show me how I cannot even live up to my own standards. Let me see how I would balk under my own oppressive oversight if I had to live with a person such as myself. Teach me how to see the mercy and lovingkindness you extend towards me everyday, and give me the grace to extend this same mercy and lovingkindness to those whom I've been entrusted, especially the defenseless young!

"Do not let mercy and truth forsake you. Bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you shall find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man." Proverbs 3:3

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

As we sit down to share a meal

Noelle is trowelling tiny, cut-up spaghetti into her small mouth.

" good," she says. Pure, heart untainted, pleasure expressed.

She's enjoying her meal and so am I.

Then suddenly, "I love you, Mommy. Thank you."

Then she wants to thank God for all sorts of things. For the spaghetti. For the chair. The water. The playdough. So as we shovel spaghetti into our mouths, we punctuate our eating with "Thank you, God, for the delicious food...for Hello Kitty...for Gummy Bears..."

When the spaghetti runs out, I get up to pull strawberries out of the fridge, and Noelle says, "Pray [for] Mommy." She folds her little hands and says, "Dear God. Thank you [for] Mommy."

My heart explodes into a million dots of fiery lights.

I am thankful, too, dear Child. And dear God, I am thankful to You for all that you've given me and continue to give me.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Won't Be Just Me Anymore

I love looking at her little face every single day. She's like a doll, but with a soul and spirit - an inquisitive look in her eyes, always. She sometimes is so knowing. I'll chat monologue style, and then say to her, "You know what I mean?" And she gives me the most knowing look in her eyes, like, "Yeah, Mommy, I know..."

My heart is so full these days with just my family of three - husband, daughter, me. We travel light. Really light, especially because Lemon Drop (baby #2) is nice and portable in my womb. Just get up and go! But then I look at Noelle sitting there, all by her lonesome self, filled with so much laughter and enjoying her what-have-you. To multiply this "ha ha ha" sound would surely be so good!


And it won't just be her anymore.

She'll have a little companion - not a big person companion, but a little one. A littler one than her! Snow cones always taste better when you're enjoying them with a sibling.

Two sisters together. What a sweet life.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Spicy Peaches

She insists that these plums are peaches and that they are "spicy." You mean, sour? "Spicy!"

And on the way to the library today, she exclaimed, "So excited!" She's also developed this high-pitched falsetto laugh that she uses to fluff up her delight at things. "So excited: ha HA ha!"

My days are filled with laughter - mostly Noelle and her little voice, "ha ha ha!" everywhere we go.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Learning to See and Name Gifts

I've been inspired to open my eyes and see not what I want but what I have.

I didn't realize that so much of what I think about and journal about (in my private journal) relate to the future. I am always dreaming about future projects and goals. It's not necessarily a bad thing, since the ability to have vision for the future can be a great motivator in life. And, plus, creative people must, by definition, have a visionary mindset. They must be able to see or envision what does not yet exist.

But I also want to be a joyful person filled to the brim with gratitude for the things that surround me every day. I really want to see every blessing from God and not miss it.

So I must learn to take the time and see the blessings, to name them, to count them, and to record them.

I plan on reading the book One Thousand Gifts: Learning to See and Name Them by Ann Voskamp, once it becomes available at the library. That's the book whose quotes are inspiring me. I'm sixth in line, so it won't be until a few months from now...but I'm so happy to be able to read free books at the library!

Until then, I'm starting my record of one thousand gifts right away, because gratitude and joy start the moment I think of a gift He's given. I think I will kick it off here, and post occasionally some highlights from my journal. Without further ado...These are the gifts I have been given:

1. The privilege of borrowing virtually any book I wish to read from the library

2. Having a view of trees, flowers, animals and people from our dining table every mealtime

3. Successful potty training with Noelle

4. The cool, night breezes of summertime in Los Angeles

5. Hearing Noelle say, "I love you" and "Goodnight" every night before bed

I encourage you to read the blog post that inspired me to thankfulness. It's truly uplifting, especially if you struggle with getting discouraged in the daily grind of life, like me. Some days I can't see past the dirty dishes and runny noses, the diapers, the laundry, the fatigue. But my spirit has been so refreshed today by the simple practice of gratitude! I am excited to become a more grateful woman.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Oh, the sweet life of being diaper-free! No more stink; everything gets flushed straight down the potty. Oh, the goodness of God in letting me live during the era of modern plumbing and sanitation! Kevin and I have actually stayed up way past our bedtime on numerous occasions talking about the history of chamber pots. How GRATEFUL we are for modern toilets and sewage! How grateful for hot running water, for showers and drainage. If you stop to think about it, every time we take a shower, it is a luxury that pre-modern mankind has never known before!

Anyway, Noelle has been doing GREAT with potty training. We started "introducing" her to her little potty at around 18 months, putting her on it right before her bath. After about a month of doing this, she began to make "deposits" randomly into it, for which we gave her stickers. But she was still in diapers all day and night and was definitely not trained to use the potty for every single void.

When she hit two years old, I got a little nervous and decided to get serious about potty training before the birth of our next baby. I didn't want to change two kids' diapers, certainly not a toddler's diapers. My opinion is that if the majority of the world potty trains their kids by the time they are one, or at latest, two-years-old, then why can't I? (Do a search and you'll find it's true! Only because of disposable diapers and our modern busy lives have we as a society started to potty train our kids later and later, at three or even four-years-old) (Another interesting fact: my brother was diaper-free by one year old! Yes! And can you believe this was the norm in China and Taiwan just a few decades ago? He was potty trained by my grandmother, who also had bound feet, another relic of ancient culture, but that is besides the point...)

So, in a nutshell, when she turned two years old, we cracked down on potty training by taking away her diapers. No more poo poo and pee pee in the diaper. Now it will go in the potty.

[Cue circus music.]

Screen shows toddler frantically walking about pooping and peeing all over the carpet, underwear, and VERY occasionally, the potty.

Camera does a close-up of mother's contorted face, the anguish and frustration pouring out onto her face in the form of sweat beads.

The above scenario went on for about two weeks, during which time I became a depressed and sour-faced wife. Kevin would come home from work and I just couldn't do much but stare at my food during dinner, mope about my life, and continue to make Noelle sit on the potty like the tyrannical potty training Nazi I had become. (Seriously, putting a child on the potty every 30 minutes of her waking life is truly a form of torture for the mother, not to mention the child).

But, then came small successes. Gummy bears were gobbled up in increasing measure as she experienced the reward of voiding in the potty instead of in her underwear. And there was also the joy of becoming independent, of becoming responsible for her own bodily fluids. Now she screams, "I did it!" every time she goes. I can't imagine depriving her of that pride for another year, had I decided to wait until she was three-years-old.

With a few days more practice, and having to help me clean up her own accidents, she really "got it." We're in the third week of potty training and now she tells me when she needs to go. I can take her out in public and she will use the public restrooms. She sometimes wakes up dry after sleeping. It feels like a miracle and I look at her a whole new way. No longer a baby, I guess. But a small, little adult on her way to independence. It may not be the most delicate of topics for conversation, but I am truly proud of my little girl for learning how to be responsible for her own pees and poops!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Potty Training and Other Fun Adventures

Nobody ever told me that potty training a two-year-old meant that I would have pee spots all over my carpet! Sometimes I can't tell if it's water that spilled or if she ran around and dribbled everywhere. Now I hope you don't avoid coming over because of what I just shared!

Motherhood has been full of surprises. I really had no idea how much a baby can nurse when they first come into the world. Like...up to 18 times a day?

I had no idea that my toddler has the capacity to pee a full load every 15 to 30 minutes at times. Who knew since there was a diaper there to keep everyone blissfully ignorant? I was not warned that I would have to strap the toddler to the potty the entire day in order to prevent wet spots all over my carpet. And did anyone else know that people keep portable potties in their cars to give their kids a place to pee? I certainly didn't.

Also, the child just turned two but is fast approaching the day when she will no longer need a nap at all anymore. I just didn't know that I would still need a nap even after she outgrew hers. Now I find myself saying, "It's mommy's nap time. You keep quiet and try not to wake me up." My how the tables have turned!

I have a feeling that this is just the beginning. When I look at parents who have teenagers to care for, I can only scratch my head...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Home Birth

For baby #2, we are planning a home birth!

I just finished reading Maria Von Trapp's book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, and was struck by what she said about having one of her babies in America. It so closely mirrors the way I feel about it:

"Oh, and time and again, Mrs. Dinker told me that one had to have a doctor and one had to go to a hospital to have a baby. I was finally persuaded to make one concession: the doctor. But go to a hospital -- that was ridiculous. Why? What for? I wasn't sick. In Europe you went to a hospital when you were dangerously sick, and many people died there, but babies were born at home. Would they in the hospital allow my husband to sit at my bedside? Could I hold his hand, look into his eyes? Could my family be in the next room, singing and praying? The answer to all these questions was "no."

All right, that settled it. I tried to explain that a baby had to be born into a home, received by loving hands, not into a hospital, surrounded by ghostly-looking doctors and masked nurses, into the atmosphere of sterilizers and antiseptics. That's why I would ask the doctor to come to our house."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Your Authentic Self

“Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Itsy Bitsy Spider and other Memories

We sit on the toilet and sing Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Well, it's more like Noelle sits on her little potty and I sit on the bathroom floor singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider.

There are moments during the day where I look at her and she has her two tiny pointer fingers touching each other, and she is staring intently at her fingers meeting. She sings some melody, not quite "Itsy Bitsy," but it's supposed to be something like it. She's thinking so hard -

"How does it work? How does mommy make her fingers look like a spider climbing up the spout?"

And then I remember so vividly of thinking the exact same thing when I was little. I remember putting my two pointer fingers together and thinking, "It's something like this...but I can't quite finger out how to make the fingers climb..."

It is amazing how we go from simple, happy, goofy, little things to complex, self-sufficient, knowing adults. It happens moment by moment, song by song, letter by letter. And suddenly we are grown up.

This afternoon I put in a ballet workout video. For the first time Noelle got on the floor and imitated what I was doing. Leg in the air, stretching.

And, of course, I remember when I did workout videos with my mom.

Do you ever feel like you are just living the dreams/lives of many mothers before you?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Sewing Revelation

I have owned a simple sewing machine for 10 years that I got from Walmart for $99. For those 10 years I could never finish an edge to look like it was done with a serger:


All the projects I wanted to do that called for this serged edge required a more expensive sewing machine. But, now, NO MORE!

I cannot believe it took me 10 years to realize that I can create a serged-like look with my humble, little machine by simply using an "over edge stitch."


Also known as the "overlock stitch," it is used to prevent the edge of a fabric from fraying. All you have to do is switch your presser foot to zigzag and sew your edge with half of the zigzag on the fabric and half of the zigzag off.

Or as my instruction manual writes: "Place the edge of the fabric under the presser foot so the needle enters the fabric when the left side of the zigzag stitch is sewn and misses the edge of the fabric with the right side of the stitch. Sew with this needle position along the edge of the fabric."

This little piece of knowledge - just like when I discovered how easy "bias tape" was to use - changes my creative sewing endeavors forever!!!

Going from mere "vision" to "reality of making the vision happen" is so rewarding. There's so much more to discover, too. I think over the years I've realized that I'm not really a crochet, knit, scrapbook or knick knack craft kind of person. But sewing has always stuck, and along with ballet (being my chosen form of dance), it is now a recognized recreational pursuit worth investing in.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Waking up the mind

A curious thing has been happening here in the Lee household.

We are reading more.

During dinner Kevin reads The Screwtape Letters aloud to us. We also read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle for some fun. During dinner prep, I put on The Swiss Family Robinson audiobook for Noelle and me to listen to.

My mind is waking up!

The fire that once burned bright in my schooling days has been lit again, and the flame is burning stronger everyday.

I notice that Noelle can entertain herself for a longer time now. What a huge change from a few months ago! She used to get bored easily and want to watch Sesame Street. Now she's always busy doing something, reading a book, pretending to cook, pretending to dress up, feeding her doll, looking at bugs and dogs. Recently she's been fascinated with Chinese audiobooks and learning her Chinese alphabet. She's not running to the laptop screaming, "Elmo! Elmo! Elmo!" any longer. What a relief! The "no tv" experiment is working. One of the things I seek to give Noelle is the ability to be resourceful and creative and imaginative, and the ability to experience the joy of reading.

Our resolutions are working on me, too. I have a whole, new list of books I want to read and am reading. I'm journaling again. That part of my mind that has been underused is now getting exercised again. To my shame, all the time I've lost, all the moments I did not use my mind for God's glory, when I did not love Him with my fullest potential - may God restore the years that the locusts have eaten.

And Kevin's having a renaissance of his own as well. He's the one who wanted to watch a theatrical adaption of C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, an interest which has plunged me delightfully back into the world of thinking and imagination again. Tonight we sat through a 1.5 hour theatrical adaptation of Screwtape Letters at the Alex Theater in Glendale. Can I just say that my mind felt very strained for the first 15 minutes of the show? My modern, image-dependent, sound-bite addicted, ADHD sensibilities simply could not adapt so quickly to a one-person monologue, much less a monologue written by one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. Ever sat through a Shakespeare play and just got really nervous because you couldn't follow anything they were saying? That was me tonight. But it got easier once my mind started waking up a little to do some work. Paying attention, I am realizing now more than ever before, is really a skill to be cultivated. Neglect it and your whole life suffers.