15 June 2014

A Father

I saw you as a stranger. Far away and exciting. A quirky seventeen year old. A boy with a bit of an ego. The skateboarder, the car fixer-upper, the music blaring teenager, the student. You were quiet and charming.

Then you were loud. Daring. You became a part of me. And then you were apart from me. We loved as tall as the mountains and as deep as the seas for as long as they separated us.

Then you were brave. Noble. You signed a contract with the Air Force, and exchanged band t-shirts for a camouflaged uniform. Leaving the comfort of your home promptly after graduation.

I blinked, and there was a ring on my finger. I was seventeen, dizzy with anticipation, and engaged to my best friend.

Then, I saw you as a groom. On a frozen day in February. Promising our lives to each other after our love for one another had surely reached its capacity.

Oh, how foolish we were.

Then you were my husband. The peace maker, the IKEA furniture builder, the place in which I found my footing. After two years in this role, I was positive I had seen every facet of you. Every bit of strength, gentleness, and love pour in and out of you.

But then there was Her.

A daughter. A girl that broke us down just to teach us both how deep our hearts could stretch. A girl that stole our pride and replaced it with humility. You jumped in head first into the love she brought with her. I see that love flooding out of you as you brush tiny blonde ringlets and persuade belly laughs out of her. Her first word was appropriately "dada" and she nearly happy cries when you walk through the door each day. She has shown me just how much softness, courage, and love you truly contain.

I have seen you as a boy.
A stranger.
A friend.
A working man.
A fiance.
A groom.
A husband.

A Father.

Of all the versions of you that I have witnessed, this is certainly the best.
You were made to love her.

Photos taken August 2014 by Mary Claire Roman and Marielle Chua.

13 June 2014

ten and eleven

My big girl.

Although, I tried my hardest to slow time down, here we are, just over two weeks before her very first birthday. I have so many feelings about that, but for now, I will just share who my girl is today. She is so close to walking, and took her very first steps on July 12th! Though, she still prefers to crawl everywhere. She has 2 and a half teeth, and is slowly growing her fourth. She sleeps eleven hours a night and takes two two hour naps, most days. She still loves blueberries, bananas, avocados, and watermelon. She has a new love for chicken and Babybel cheese too. She nurses 4-5 times a day still, and will point down my shirt and sign "please" when she wants to eat. Which should be interesting as we continue to nurse past her first birthday. She's obsessed with sticking her tongue out and blowing raspberries on our bellies. She talks and signs a lot, which always amazes me. Most is untranslatable, but she will sign "more," "yes," "please," & "all done." She knows the words "yes!" "yup!" "purple," "brown bear" (for her favorite book), "tata" (turtle), and "yay!" when she claps. She yells "opa" when she blows kisses. She finally says "mama" which is the sweetest music to my ears. She makes an elephant sound when we tell her to "be an elephant!" She raises her hand when we say "who's cute!?" or "who's my girl!?" And she finds her belly button when we ask where it's at (still unsure where she learned that one.) She's also gotten reeeeally aware of her bodily functions, going as far as saying "burp" when she burps and "poop" when she needs to go. Because of this we bought her her own tiny toilet seat & she goes (at least #2) on the toilet nearly every time she has to go (at eleven months old!). I am aware that is abnormal, and early, but it makes me (the least potty mouthed person) want to shout from a mountaintop about poop. I am just so dang proud of her for making that connection and figuring that out. Plus, the less dirty diapers we have to change, the better!

She is still morphing into the most darling cuddle bug. She is constantly coming up to us (and her pal Mickey Mouse, of course) to give hugs, and kisses, and because this affection is so new to us, it's the greatest thing on Earth. She hates wearing things on her head and loves to blow out candles. She still dances like a goof to terrible music, but thinks The National Anthem that plays daily is the best song of them all.

She is forever my little bookworm, choosing to sift through her pile of books over her basket of toys. Her new favorite to read is "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?" She had a blast on her first ever camping trip this month, and first ever trip to the water park too. I've got a sunshine baby on my hands and it makes me so excited for this summer.

She is rowdy. She hoots and hollers nonstop, and I love it. She loves to be alive, and her spirit is everything to me. I just cannot believe how much love, and light, and pure joy this girl contains. I am so lucky I get to watch her grow up.

13 May 2014


Nine months. Sixteen and a half pounds. Twenty-eight inches.

I laugh when I read Anabel's eighth month post where I defined it as "busy." Which, don't get me wrong, it was just that, but nine months, holy cow. This girl. She is an active thing. She crawls at lightening speed. She cruises the furniture. She has so many shin bruises (and one busted lip) to prove it. She is constantly dancing. Non-stop swaying of her tiny hips. She's even perfected a head banging move that is quite hilarious. Any and all sounds persuade her to move her body. Namely, our obnoxiously loud washer, the phone ringing, and the sound of us brushing our teeth, but she prefers, and requests, even, that we turn on the radio first thing in the morning. 

She was born to dance. 

And she will make music with anything she gets her hands on. She actually "tests" everything she picks up to see what sort of sound she can get out of it. She appropriately now knows the words "dance," and "shake your booty." 

She will hurriedly find Eric Carle's "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?" When we ask where "Brown Bear" is, and she is eager to love on "gee" (Her stuffed Mickey Mouse that we got our honeymoon) when we ask her to find him. She also blows and gives kisses freely and often now, which is just the best since she has protested affection nearly her entire life. She is a babbler. She thinks she is hilarious, and she is  l o u d. She tries to get everyone near her to laugh, and will even go as far as forcefully fake laughing/yelling at herself to do so. She also does this head-tilt, giant grin thing to try and catch our eye. I didn't think it was possible for such a little human to grasp the concept of sarcasm, but she's got it down pat. 

She loves FaceTiming family back home, and it has been such a blessing to be able to share her with them from so far away.

She finally sprouted her first two teeth, and she uses them well while gnawing on her new favorite, watermelon. Which is a bit unfortunate since watermelon in this country runs at over a buck a pound! In fact, she tries to use those teeth to eat anything she can possibly find. She has a love affair with food (and all non-food alike).

Her rolls are starting to sadly disappear. Her hair is getting blonder, and the curls are starting to form perfectly. Thank you very much, 100% humidity. 

She's getting so big, and her personality is getting even bigger. She loves hard, she plays hard, she sasses even harder. She's just so darn smart and she carries so much light in that tiny two feet body of her's.

10 May 2014

5 Things My Mother Taught Me About Perfection

If you know my mother, you know full well how eccentric she is. Or in other words, nutty. She's energetic and quirky. She's chatty and long winded. She is sarcastic. She is messy. She is cantankerous.

If you know my mom, you know her ability to drive one a bit mad.

If you really, truly know my mom, you know there isn't another person more wonderful. I could spend my whole life writing and never be able to properly represent her heart. She is as generous as they come. Her entire existence is centralized on serving others. She is passionate about simple things (the color purple, Pt Cruisers, Michael Jackson, to name a few).  She is the reason for nearly all that I am, and in motherhood I have seen her in myself even more. Narrowing down all that she's taught me is an impossible task, but here are the pieces she illustrated in her parenting that I hope to carry on in my own home.

1. Take care of yourself.

Growing up, my mom would take "vacations to Hawaii" on a weekly basis. My dad and us kids knew this meant my mom would take a nap or a "time-out" in her room for about an hour to recuperate. This allowed her to address her needs as an individual in a way that wasn't harmful or neglectful for us kids. This was her way of assuring that she was able to be her best self for us. These days, I find myself taking my own kind of "trips to Hawaii" on occasion. Usually on mornings when Steven can wake up with our daughter and I get to sleep awhile longer and to wake up slow. I can see, first hand, the importance of acknowledging my needs, so I can be there thoroughly for my children too.

2. Love your children as they are.  Love yourself for who you are, without reserve. 

My mother treated me and my brothers like we were important. She would emphasize our strengths and never try to water down the spirits we were born with. Your son wants to take tap dancing lessons? Dance your heart out, kid! Your other son likes playing dress up with his sister, complete with eyeshadow and lipstick? Pucker up! Your daughter wants to be a percussionist or join a swim team, only to quit within a few weeks. After money was spent on a snare drum and swim lessons. Well, she tried. And you are proud for that. When your children are desperately searching to find who they are and want to dye their hair a rainbow of colors, you don't sweat it. "It's just hair" she would always say. She would tell us that we were smart, funny, beautiful, strong, IMPORTANT before the world noticed we were. Even if we weren't smart, funny, beautiful, or strong, we were always important.

Even when the "spirits we were born with" led us down paths that she didn't dream for us, she loved us anyway. Despite her conservative demeanor, and our judgmental surroundings at times, she never tried to change who we were. She always knew that her worth as a parent was not determined by her children's failures, or successes.

She lived this truth, too.

I do not remember a time in my life when my mother, a woman who struggled with obesity the majority of my childhood, talked badly about herself or her body. In fact, I remember more often my mom expressing "how good" she looked, and how good she felt. As a child, I never believed my mom to be "fat" because she never let that word fall on our ears. Even if she felt it inside. She taught us how to laugh at ourselves. As children, it was detrimental to our hearts to have such an example of confidence. In a world that teaches us to be ashamed of self-love, that tarnishes our idea of what matters in a human... well, her confidence was everything. Without the confidence she exemplified, I would not have learned the significance of loving myself, and in turn, teaching my daughter to love herself, too.

Through my mom, I learned loving yourself is the beginning of all victories.

3. Be your children's safe place. 

My mom talked to us. She answered our "whys?". She listened to our childlike wonder and curiosity. She taught us about our bodies. She taught us about death. She explained her decisions to us. She communicated her love by giving us her time. Even when our hearts were broken and the last thing we wanted to do was "talk about it," she would communicate through different ways. She would sit with us while we sobbed. Rub our backs and hold us while we soaked her in tears, without needing to know details. She wasn't too big to tell us she didn't have an answer for us, or too big to say sorry when she was wrong. She never dismissed us. Although we fought, respect was a two way street in our house. She was our safe place.

4. No work is more influential than work done in the home. 

My mother is a working woman.  She is so by default. She was raised by a dairy man, and spent her childhood milking cows and tending to the farm early in the morning and late into the night. She has continued working through her marriage. Managing businesses. Working full time. Going to school full time. Working from home, working away from home. My mother is educated, and persevering, and busy. She always taught us to work hard.

However, my mother has always stressed that raising her children was the most monumental, fulfilling type of work. And when she was home with us, she was present. She knew full well, as I do now, that your children's childhood is fleeting. No worldly success, no degree, no title, no amount of monetary value would ever be as rewarding as the love she felt from, and the time she spent with her children.

5. Be real with sorrow.

My mother never tried to shelter us from her struggle. She never tried to lessen the reality of her pain for us.

In 1995, while she was away on a business trip with her two younger children, me included, my oldest brother was in an accident with a lawn mower that ended up taking a third of his heel. He was told he'd never walk again, and had to endure several excruciating surgeries to repair the damage. My mother was devastated. Stricken with guilt, she would lie in bed and cry with my brother through painful bandage changes. She gave up a large part of her life to help him recover, to teach him to walk again, and to overcome the trauma of that accident, both physically and mentally. She healed right alongside my brother.

In 1997, she was in a car accident during a rainstorm that sent her car spiraling on the freeway and rolling down a hill. Miraculously, my brother and her survived, but she was not afraid to show us kids the aftermath. The mini van was now a heap of crushed metal. Her body was covered in dark black bruises, scars, and seat belt burns as a result. She showed us the proof of her survival in her battered and beaten body.

In 1998, my mother became pregnant with her fifth child, a little boy that was to be named Nicholas. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, at around 7 months along, my mother found out that his heart was no longer beating. Not many can relate to this sort of pain. I won't pretend that I can, but I watched my mother, devoured in agony as she carried this little baby for a few months longer; and delivered his lifeless, perfect little body at home. We were well aware of his existence, and his passing. Each of us kids were allowed to hold him, and I remember his violet tinted skin and the dimple in his chin, (much like mine and my mother's, my brother's, my grandfather's, and my own little girl's). My mom didn't hide my brother from us, instead we witnessed her anguish as she was forced to bury one of her babies.

Through each of these unimaginable circumstances, and dozens more throughout her life, we were able to see my mother overcome life's inevitable despair.

She taught us that life will not cater to us. She taught us we are not entitled to ease.She taught us to be optimistic. She taught us to forgive life's blows, to become better.

She taught us that she was human.

My mom is an incredibly flawed human being. Her house was almost always unkempt. She raised her voice a lot. Her children weren't dressed in trendy clothing, nor were they always well behaved, or excelling academically.

She is heavily reliant on the grace of God.

However, through her unyielding love, she surely gave her children a happy life,
and that alone makes her The Perfect Mother.