Balance, Strength, and Resilience

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I can still remember waking up really early during grade school so that my mom could give my brother and me to our nanny in order to catch a bus to the city (NYC). Or, I can still see my father standing on the foyer in his winter coat and cap, me in the kitchen preparing a sandwich, running down the stairs to hand off to him before he left for a night shift. Or, as we got older, how my mom and dad struggled every day to make it home after an hour plus commute to watch one of my track races, drive me to dance class, or watch one of my plays.

After commuting to-and-from work for a mere 30-45 minutes a day with a 2-year-old in my backseat, I ask myself this question nearly every day: “How did my parents do it?” Sometimes when I get home it takes me over an hour (yes, you read that right) to decompress before I return to my normal self. Some days I power through and have dinner on the table before 7 p.m. Other nights I curl my car around the fast food lane on the way home, thinking “This is it, I just don’t have the energy to cook, and there’s nothing wrong with fast food.”

It’s not just about how I am handling it. It’s about how are we handling it. My husband is a PhD student and I work full time. Fortunately my husband and I both partake in household responsibilities, but at times it can feel imbalanced. This past January, in the middle of my post-Christmas wintry blues, I found myself struggling, not just physically but mentally. And usually I’m good mentally. I mean, there isn’t anything a little shopping therapy can’t fix, right? Wrong. I needed help and set out to find it.

My husband and I changed a few things. First off, my husband started doing more pick-up and drop-off. Since my son’s daycare is close to my work, I just assumed that I would be doing it every day. I think one of the valuable lessons I learned is that with anything involving our son, my husband and I should talk it through. When I brought it up to my husband, we agreed that he would start taking Lucas to school up to two times a week (if Bill Gates can do it, so can you!). Even though it’s been only a few weeks, it’s made a big difference.

And I should stress my point about talking things through and being direct about it—things that I’m not very good at. I am slowly learning to open conversations, trying not to let my emotions overtake a conversation, and also trying to listen, really listen (I know that one is easy to say but hard to do).

I don’t know how my parents juggled everything, but I do know this—they did so much for my brother and me out of love, a love that is generous and faithful, a love that stands by in the midst of difficulty, a love that teaches strength and resilience.

I find myself trying to be there for my husband and son as my parents were for me. As we are working on balancing responsibilities, we are facing these questions: How can I love generously and faithfully? How can I love in the midst of difficulty? How can I love in order to build strength and resilience?

What are some of the questions you find yourself asking as a parent trying to balance responsibilities or childcare?

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The best gift ever

We all know the winter holidays is one of the busiest times of the year, and one of the best gifts you can give your kid is a little extra family time. My friend just posted this Youtube video on what kids really want for Christmas (hard not to shed a tear). Here are a few of activities we’ve done together and I’ve noted an upcoming free activity at Duke Gardens which sounds like a great event to introduce your kid to a myriad of holidays.

  1. Try baking cookies with your kid, let them stir the dough or put the decorations on the cookies. I recently made this M&M cookie recipe using mini M&M’s and let my son top some the cookies with the candies.
  2. Try painting some holiday ornaments. I purchased these wooden ornaments several years ago at an after-Christmas sale at Michael’s (you can’t tell but he’s painting a wooden soldier head). Cloth, construction paper, and newspaper are also good alternatives!
  3.  Go to some ‘free’ holiday events. We brought our son to the 11th Annual American Tobacco Tower Lighting in downtown Durham and he had a blast!

On Saturday, December 12th watch the Chapel Hill-Carrboro holiday parade between 10 am and 12 pm. 

On Saturday, December 19th visit Sarah P. Duke Gardens for a Holiday Celebration: Make & Take Crafts from Around the World.

Creating Home

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What does it mean to create a home? Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about this question. Settling down, as in putting down roots in one place, is something that I haven’t had to face before. But since my husband will be finishing up his PhD hopefully in less than two years, it something that I have to start mentally preparing for.

For the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in a class on immigration and migration in Asia. In the past week, I’ve been challenged to think about what “home” means. For migrants, home can have multiple meanings. It could mean one’s country of birth, family, different places one has traveled to, a car, a boat. While listening to author Ha Jin talk about home, he described “home” as more of an action or having agency rather than a physical place. Home is something that you enjoy and put your energy toward. These words really struck a chord with me, because for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about home as a specific place I’d like to raise my family in, a place where I’d like Lucas to grow up in. Anticipating what home could or should mean gives me anxiety. After my husband finishes his PhD, where will we go? Who will we become? Ha Jin’s definition puts a spin on the meaning of “home” which gives me comfort and assurance. I enjoy my job, I enjoy exploring the Triangle Area, and I enjoy being with my family. Putting my energy into these activities are my home. Creating an environment of love and care for my family is my home.

Usually when I pick up Lucas from daycare, he greets me and then immediately says “home.” This is because for the first few weeks he spent in daycare, I said “now we go home” when I picked him up at the end of the day. Last week, instead of going home after daycare, I took him to a store we normally don’t go to. After about 15 minutes he said “home” a few times. I realized then how much he loves routine, and also how much a strange place can elicit a longing for home, a longing to feel secure.

When we move in two years, a new place will be a strange place for Lucas. Home will have new meanings, but it will be the familiar things we do, like having dinner or playing at the park together, that won’t be strange. We put our energy into what we do as family, and this creates a “home” for ourselves in our interactions, dynamic spaces of surprise, hope, love, and longing. I’m no longer anxious about settling down or putting down roots. My roots are here, they’re now, they’re flourishing in fresh soil, the soil of my soul, actions embedded in memory and given to those I love, and shared in my efforts, my energy. Yes, my roots are home.

Lucas at 23 Months

Pau land Lucas

I’d rather be biking now, but my mommy insisted we take some photos before it got dark. They got me a new balance bike which I wish I could spend my entire day on. I talk about biking to my caretakers at school even. I actually just learned to say “mommy” and “daddy” instead of “mama” and “dada.” The other night I called my Lolo (grandpa) “Lolly” but they said I had to say “Lolo.” Fall weather is the best for collecting leaves and playing outdoors. I’m happy today is sunny!

We Shouldn’t Stop at 30

Bloody Shame

We shouldn’t stop celebrating our birthdays when we turn 30, nor should we forget the different time capsules that have already been buried in our 20-nothings and early 30-somethings. I barely remember turning 30, or 31 for that matter, and I just turned 32 on Sunday.

I started my blog right before I turned 27 but couldn’t keep up with it. After turning 27, I quickly went from spending hours watching crime series in my parents’ home in NJ to working in a fast-paced job in DC, so I had little time to write. Now life is a little more balanced and although I cannot summarize five years in one sitting, I will share some life-changing moments.

2011- A few weeks after my birthday I married my husband on August 27th. We married on the same day Hurricane Irene hit the Jersey shore, a few miles short of our wedding venue. When the church doors opened I gasped to see the church pews full of guests who had managed to make it to our wedding. It was a blessing to have all our friends and family witness this special day, our nervous exchange of vows, our first kiss, our first tears. I had a sip of champagne before our first dance and ended up bawling in the arms of my husband. While I blame the champagne for the tears, my true thoughts were that after so many trials, Paul and I were finally married!

2012- Paul and I moved to North Carolina before I turned 29. Within a few months of our move, I fortunately landed a terrific job as a staff assistant at Duke University. I loved working in a less stressful position and had a wonderful, supportive boss.

2013-This was the year I gave birth to Lucas Vincent, my baby boy!

Amy Allen photo of Lucas Mom holding LucasLucas datedLucas Newborn

Photos (except for hospital one) by Amy Allen Photography

2014- I went on a short trip to China in July for my job! In one of my very old blog posts, I vowed to return to Asia.

2015- I started taking a better look at how I want to live my life for myself, my husband, and my child. This blog is helping me with this process.

More birthday pics to follow!

Bye Bye, Baby

Nature trail

I wish I could slow down the rate of my baby’s growth, but that would be like preventing a snake from shedding its skin. (Lucas was actually born in the year of the snake!).

Yesterday when I dropped off Lucas at daycare he didn’t cry. I put him in his chair at the table for breakfast, gave him a kiss, and slowly walked away. He looked worried but didn’t cry. I can’t believe he’s a big boy now.

I don’t know where to begin. Lucas loves Thomas the Tank Engine, tests our boundaries, and loves pizza like every other kid, but he also has his own individual personality that screams LUCAS. He LOVES dancing. I was watching a ballet documentary two nights ago and he tried to imitate the arms of the dancers! He likes broccoli, believe it. He loves bird-watching and already relishes in insect and bug hunting. He’s imaginative. He held a pool noodle in his hands and wielded it like a pole vaulter and yelled at the top of his lungs with a smile from ear to ear. And he LOVES his “Dada.” He sorts things and at daycare one day, he removed all the marshmallows from his plate and put them on his friend’s plate.

Some of his favorite books are “Goodnight Gorilla,” “Toot & Puddle,” “Giraffes Can’t Dance” and strangely, “The Gruffalo.” Before that it was “Little Owl Lost” or “Barnyard Dance.” And the one word that melts my heart every day when I pick him up from daycare is “home.” When I picked him up the first few times, I said, “Let’s go home now.” Now he says it every time he sees me when I pick him up, without fail. This morning as I held his right hand and walked him down the hallway, he reached for his father’s and said “hand.”

I could go on and on. I walked through the baby store, Buy Buy Baby, yesterday for the first time in perhaps half a year, and one of the first racks I passed had the onesies on them. Lucas doesn’t need those anymore, and I don’t need to buy baby items anymore. Lucas will turn two before I know it. As we say “bye bye” to our baby, and as we see more glimpses of “terrible” two, I don’t want to ever forget these moments of growth, joy, and babyhood.

Blog Reboot

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After neglecting my blog “27” for about four years, I’m rebooting my blog as “NC Mommy Moment” with the hope of telling stories of everyday life as a wife and mom. I left a stressful (but rewarding) job three years ago when I relocated with my husband to North Carolina so he could start his PhD. At the time I had no plan of having a family, but I soon realized that North Carolina was an ideal place to start a family, and two quickly became three!!! Now that my boy has started sleeping better, I have a little time to reflect and share some mommy moments with you. Happy reading!

“In a dream one person enjoys one hundred years of happiness and then awakes, while another awakes after being happy for just a moment.”
Śāntideva, The Perfection of Forbearance, The Bodhicaryāvatāra.