Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Our Digital Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas! 5 Days ago...

We did not manage to send out Christmas cards this year, nor did I manage to get this Christmas letter/ blog post out before Christmas. But Christmas was less than a week ago, so I am still just a tiny bit proud of myself for writing this at 6:30am, before the year is up!

We had a ridiculously memorable year! It started off with some hard, crappy, sad, and difficult things, but as seasons change, so did the trajectory of our year, and we experienced many wonderful, amazing, unexpectedly incredible things.

In the winter, we were still a family of six. We still had little J with us (who came to us in July 2014), and she turned 2 in January, and I kid you not- that's when things started to go downhill for us. Terrible twos is real people. As real as paper, princesses (Kate Middleton.), PMS, and psoriasis. I happened to be struggling with the worst outbreak of psoriasis of my life, that had started in November, and didn't disappear until about April. If you missed out on that ugly chapter of my life, you can read more about it here . We had friends going through very difficult times too, and it was as if this dark cloud was just looming over us. Chris had become a sergeant in October, but was working nights and weekends and it was a really difficult transition for me. The moral of the story is: everything was very difficult for me in this particular season of life.

But the not-so-difficult things were that Lily turned 8 and Topher turned 7 just as we were transitioning to the spring. Lily is really starting to blossom with her piano playing, and Topher amazes us with his origami skills! Lily and Topher are still great buds (having them a year apart was totally worth it!) and they love playing video games together on the weekends and playing crazy games that they make up with their cousins. Spring was definitely better than winter, especially because J was in childcare during the week, which helped me to catch my breath and regain some of my sanity. I felt guilty about sending her to school, especially cause I am a stay-at-home mom and Mia was still home with me, but what I learned in this season of life was that I needed help, and I needed to accept it without guilt or shame.

Summer turned out to be all kinds of wonderful. Though this is usually my least favorite season of the year, living in the desert and all, but it ended up being so very enjoyable! We went camping with Barb and Jerry and , and though it was surprisingly very wet and cold, we enjoyed being with our family. Then we went to Toronto! We got to meet Jordan, my newest nephew, eat tons of food, hang out with our family and friends, and Chris and I managed to get away for three days to pre-celebrate our 10 year anniversary. It was SO GLORIOUS. I didn't ever think it would be possible for Chris and I to get away without our 4 kids, but we did it with the help of all the Hams in Toronto and Robert and Lindsay back in Arizona, who watched J for 10 days!! Then we came back home to the sweltering heat, but Chris got a schedule change so we were seeing more of his beautiful face at home. We managed to see my parents again for a weekend in Las Vegas while J stayed with Wes and Kim. Shortly after that, J went back home to be with her family (you can read about that here) and we decided to take a month break from foster care to regroup and rejuvenate. Even though I ended up in the ER after I threw out my back a week after she left, I was feeling so great! Having three kids can be hard, but having four kids, can be really hard- especially when one of them is a toddler and toddlers are not your jam. So after J went home, having only 3 kids felt like a dream.

Then fall continued on this dreamy high- I won an all-expense paid trip to New York through Wendy's Lookbook, Marissa Webb, and Banana Republic. IT WAS THE BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!! If for some reason you missed out on that fabulous chapter of my life, you can read about it here, here, here, or just click on the labels that say 'jihae does NYFW15'. This was also made possible with the village of people who helped out with the three kids. My friends and family are seriously SO INCREDIBLE!!! The day after I got back from New York, we went back on the list to get a foster baby (ONLY a foster baby! no more toddlers!) and we got one. A sweet little guy that was 2 weeks old. And then he left the next day. That was fast and crazy, and another unexpected blessing. (You can read about it here.) Our newest little guy, who is our third foster child, is still with us. He goes by W here on the blog, and he is a magical little being. We looooooooooooooove having a baby in the house again! And we adore him specifically. Then Chris went on a mission trip to Israel, which was an incredible, and beautiful experience. One of the biggest blessings of that trip was seeing God provide for the funding of that trip. Chris had to raise $3,800 and was very worried before the trip about how he would raise that. But as I mentioned before, our community is an incredible and generous one, and so Chris ended up raising more than $5,000, which helped some of his teammates out quite a bit too. Thanks to all who were part of this miracle and gave so very very generously! The day after Chris got back from Israel, he started at his new position as a sergeant at the police academy. This means he works normal hours during the week! We get to hang out EVERY WEEKEND! Together! As a family! It's the best!!!!!

 And now winter is back, but so very different from the winter we started off with. We are a family of six again, but a sane, and stable family of six. Mia turned 4 in November and is just so much fun to be around! Unless she's being crazy and having a tantrum. But otherwise she is so delightful and enjoys playing with Playdoh, Barbies, and Peppa Pig. Lily often plays with her and it brings my heart so much joy to see these sweet sisters playing together even though there is a 4.5 year gap between them. Speaking of sisters- I finally saw mine again! Jeehon and her family had been stationed in Singapore since August of 2014, so I didn't see them for over a year! So just this last week we all went to Las Vegas to celebrate Christmas (such an appropriate place to celebrate the birth of Christ our Saviour!) with The Malloys and my parents and my brother's family. It was so great for all 7 Ham cousins to be together, and everyone got to meet W and love on him too. I met my nephew Sunjae (yes that's Topher's Korean name too, but they are spelled differently in Korean, and therefore mean different things.) for the first time, and my heart feels complete and full having spent a whole week with my family.

Chris and I have been married for 10 years now and we are so thankful for this last decade together. It's had some downs, and lots of ups. I was looking through our wedding pictures recently and came across our wedding invitation which had our verse on it:

"A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecc 4:12)

 No matter the season, we are so thankful for God's provision, mercy, love, and grace. He has protected us from much, and saved us from more. As we wrap up another year, we are always amazed at the people who are standing around us, supporting us in all that we do. Thanks for walking through 2015 with us.







thanks Barb for taking these great pictures in your beautiful backyard!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Stuggle is Over!

Mia.

Oh my sweet, precious, last born. She is so crazy I don't even know where to begin with her!

I am going to be completely honest with you for a second here. I started this struggle series a few weeks ago, because something happened that I was VERY embarrassed about. And I didn't want to talk about it with others, because it was so embarrassing. But then I remembered that people have honestly actually come up to me and told me that my life looks perfect, and I realized I needed to be much more open about my struggles. I don't lie about stuff here on this blog, nor do I intentionally try to dupe anyone into thinking that my life is too good to be true. Did you read my posts about my first foster placement? I was a pretty serious disaster back then. And, oh wait. I still am today. I don't know how people could ever get the perception of perfection from looking at me, but I am here to proclaim that I am very mediocre and I am ok with that!

So, back to Mia. And my embarrassment. Mia just turned 4 last week. Two weeks ago? And even though she honestly potty trained herself at about 20 months of age (bless those older siblings of hers that I have been whining about!) she has not been able to sleep without a Pull-Up. She's FOUR. The diaper industry has been robbing me blind for almost 8 consecutive years!

I am realizing more and more that children's bladders are like snowflakes- not a single one of them is the same. Lily was successfully potty trained by her third birthday. But we had two VERY unsuccessful, and one VERY TRAUMATIC attempts before that glorious day that she no longer needed a diaper. She night trained herself within two or three days and the poop training took a bit longer, with the help of lots of Miralax and lots of prayers. Topher was potty trained before he was two, but he wasn't night trained until he was about three. His bladder was pretty small so he had a lot of accidents compared to Lily who had hardly any. Then Mia was on the same track as her brother, but then eclipsed the time that she required to become night trained.

I tried so many things with her: making sure she didn't drink anything after 6:30pm (she goes to bed at about 8), waking her up in the middle of the night to pee, making her do bikram yoga before bed so that she had no moisture left in her body... Just kidding. We really did try to bribe her with clothes, toys, and candy. But nothing worked. Do you know why? Cause her bladder is a snowflake. It wasn't and isn't like anyone elses. I was SO PROUD of her early potty training accomplishment, even though I know I truly had nothing to do with it. But then I was so embarrassed about her inability to stop peeing at night, even though I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!

Parents who are trying to potty train your babes: Relax. Don't compare your kid to any other kid.
There's no point. Your kid is a snowflake.

I started writing this post over two weeks ago. And miraculously enough- MIA NO LONGER WEARS A PULL UP TO BED! She had a week of waking up dry then wet every other night for about a week. And then her bladder decided to pull up it's big girl panties one day and the flood gates were closed! It has been so wonderful! And I am so happy for Mia and myself. So the struggle is OVER! I WON THE POTTY TRAINING WAR!!!!! Even though I had nothing to do with it.                        

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Struggle is Still Real. Part 2.

Sorry I lied folks. I said I would whine about Topher "tomorrow" but tomorrow was yesterday and yesterday was too busy and I died of tiredness when we got home. Even though it's about the same time now as it was when I died yesterday- I am not tired now. This is due entirely to the fact that I had my VERY FIRST eggnog latte of the year and I was so beyond ecstatic while I was ordering it, that I forgot to ask them to make it a decaf. See? The struggle. Daily. Really.

Anyhow, I have been having a hard time with Topher lately. I am not entirely sure why, but it has  a lot to do with my lack of patience for him, and his insane, amazing, yet annoying obsession with ORIGAMI.

Topher's brain is on a level that my little brain will never rise to. It can't. I'm an old dog. I have got no new tricks! Topher's favorite thing to do is to watch YouTube videos on how to make different origami creations. Not just a paper frog, crane, guinea pig (though that would be impressive)- but like crazy things that move to transform from one thing to a different thing, like modular origami transforming ninja stars. Out of Post-It notes. And he watches the video one time, makes the thing, and then just keeps making more and more things.

It's fantastic and insane. We have little scraps of paper EVERYWHERE. And pieces of papers that have been folded, and refolded, and folded over again and again, all over the place. It's maddening. And then when I try to tell my precious son that he needs to put his stuff away, clean up after himself, please don't leave the scissors lying around, he cops this attitude out of nowhere and lays on this strange guilt trip- 'Fine. I'll just throw all my origami creations in the garbage. You hate them all.' What? I just told you to pick up the scissors so your sister doesn't cut her hair off. Even though it looks like his sister has already cut a lot of her hair off...

I don't have an awesome parenting moment that follows Topher's dramatic monologues. I am often at a loss for words and compassion because I have no idea why he says that crap All the Time. I guess for attention (that's the #1 go-to answer for parents, isn't it?) I know I need to try harder. And as I type that, I know that I don't need to try harder- I need to humble myself more often as a parent, and be filled with the Holy Spirit, because only with Him, am I actually, genuinely, able to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient,  kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled.

Ugh. Letting it all soak in. For me. Not for you. Surely you don't struggle with this kind of nonsense...

Anyway before I drown my sorrows in a glass of whine (haha!), I leave you with Topher's third, and most recent draft of his Christmas letter to Santa this year:

"Dear Santa for Christmas I want these 4 objects. can I have looooooooooooooooootts of jumbo packs of origami paper and normal paper (some of it colored paper). "Origami Ooh-la-la" by Jeremy Shafer; "Origami to Astonish and Amuse" also by Jeremy Shafer. Please and Thank you.
Sincerely, Topher."

If anyone actually knows Jeremey Shafer, holla. Topher wants him to come to his birthday party.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The struggle is really real. Part 1

Coming back to real life and my first 'mom post' since all my New York posts, I thought I would share with you all the magical things that we've been struggling with over here in our neck of the woods.

Lily: Last week was a ROUGH week for our eldest. For some reason The Indian in the Cupboard was causing us all a lot of strife. This book is her book for the 'Book Club' (reading group) that she is in for her class. We bought the book at Barnes and Noble the day before she was supposed to have it at school, and then it was all down hill from there. Book Club is on Thursdays. They are supposed to read three chapters a week and answer a few questions. Lily took her book to school on Monday. And left it there. But she said she had finished chapter one, so I didn't need to worry.

Then Tuesday happened, and I told her to bring the book to the living room so that we could read it together. She wasn't coming, and when I found her she was sitting at the kitchen table with her school binder open. I looked at her and said "you forgot your book at school again, didn't you?" and then she started to sob. And like the awesome, compassionate mother that I am, I walked away. Cause I knew it wouldn't help to shake her. (See? Compassion!... or something...)

Then Wednesday came, and Chris and I were going out. Which is why I wanted to read with her on Monday and Tuesday! The babysitter came and I told her that Lily had to finish reading up to chapter 3 in order to do ANYTHING that night, besides eating dinner. For some unknown, insane reason, it took her TWO AND A HALF HOURS to read two chapters.

THEN came Thursday. The day of her Book Club. I was so proud of her for finishing her assignment and being ready for Book Club. Until I walked into the dining room at 10am to see The Indian in the frickin Cupboard sitting on the dining room table. I nearly lost my mind. No. I did lose my mind. I e-mailed her teacher and asked if they did Book Club in the morning or afternoon and that I would bring the book straightaway if Lily's group hadn't already met. And of course they already had. But her teacher said she did great and not to worry.

You'd think that would be the end of our trials and tribulations since Book Club already happened and we survived it. But no.

CAUSE THEN FRIDAY happened. And Lily dressed up like the cowboy from this fantastic book that has been terrorizing my life, and she even made an INCREDIBLE pumpkin that had an indian behind some cupboard doors. it was seriously a piece of art. So she had that, and her book, and she showed it off at her literary parade. AND THEN SHE LEFT THE BOOK AT SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!! On the lunch table. Outside. I called the school at 3:30. Janet, the front desk admin, picked up the phone, heard my sob story, looked everywhere, including all the garbage cans outside, and the lost and found, and saw no pumpkin, and no book. For the love people. And then at 6:00pm- on a FRIDAY- Janet, my most favoritest person in the world, called me back. In fact, like a sleuth, had to go through and try to find my phone number on her phone cause she remembered that I called around 3:30, and told me she had found the pumpkin, and the book, and also Lily's watch, which happened to be in the bag with the other two prized possessions. I am going to see who I need to call to nominate Janet for some kind of Nobel Peace Prize. Lily is alive, doing great, and we have enjoyed reading the next three chapters together very much.

Sometimes people say our life looks pretty perfect. It's not! See? The struggle is real.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

#jihaedidnewyork. only a month ago!


I just straight up stole that image from Wendy's Lookbook. I don't have my phone near me and I can't get all my pics on the computer properly. You'd seriously think I was 75 or something with my absolute lack of technological savvy.

That bottom right pic is of Marissa, Wendy and I at the end of the Banana Republic presentation that I went to on Saturday, Day 3 of my awesome NYFW extravaganza.


I started off the day with this gorgeous beaut once again:


We brunched at La Petite Abeille, which is the first place I went to with Wendy and Nina. I can't remember what my friend got, but I had these potato pancake things (like a rosti) with smoked salmon and sour cream. Oh it was so delicious! My mouth was so happy the WHOLE trip!!!!

After brunch, we walked around. I had to find a gift for my girls, cause I still hadn't done that. We went to an adorable book store, which was on like 17th or 18th Street, and I saw Eva Chen. I didn't stop her, cause she was with her daughter and another lady. But I was kind of starstruck and regret not saying Hi. Eva Chen used to be the Editor of Lucky Magazine, but has recently become the fashion person at Instagram. I'm really letting my weird stalker side show, eh?

My friend and I went to a few stores, she bought a ton of sweet books for my kids, and then we parted ways. I hope I see her again sooner than later. I reminded her that though the desert is terrible in the summer, it is like heaven on earth in the winter. And I should also take a minute to thank the incredible people who watched my kids while I played and Chris worked. I was gone 4 nights and my kids slept in 4 different homes! Thanks a million Lindsay, Christin, Carrie, and Grace for watching, entertaining, feeding, and loving my kids!!!!!!

I met up with Wendy and Nina for lunch, I don't remember what the place was called but it was delicious, and it was right across the street from Banana republic's flagship store on 5th Ave. Then we went over there and I watched Wendy take a bunch of pics for Banana's Instagram. I seriously just loved watching these women work! And even in the middle of working it, women would stop Wendy, and tell her how much they loved her, I would take their pictures, and Wendy would just stop and chat and get to know her fans a little better. She is seriously just so dang NICE.

After loitering at the store for a while longer, we hoped into a cab and made it down to Banana's Spring/Summer 2016 presentation. (Word to the wise: save up some extra spending money for some fun-colored, gorgeously tailored pieces from Banana next spring!) We were there about an hour before everything started and it was just COOL watching everything transpire. Marissa was there telling the models what to do. There were tons of press photographers getting their shots before the 'public' (I don't actually know how you get into these things...) came in. And when it was time for the press photographers to go- it was time for them to go! I saw a couple of them hide their cameras and just stay in the room. the difference between the Banana presentation and Marissa's runway show was that Marissa's models walked and the Banana models pretty much stood in place. But beautiful clothes were present at both shows, and I feel like my first (only? last?) Fashion Week experience was an eventful and mesmerizing one!

 That night we went out with Wendy's beautiful friends and we ate, talked about life, and a bit about clothes, and our families, and traveling. I was sitting at the cool kids' table and I was loving it. I will probably never see these delightful people again (except in my Instagram feed) but I am so glad our paths crossed and I got to meet some fantastically fashionable professionals who are living their dreams.

I said bye to Wendy and Nina at the hotel, and we made promises to see each other again. They only live an hour plane ride away, or a fun 6 hour car ride (which I actually love driving), so I hope to see these two again. We have texted and will emoji the crap out of each other on Instagram. It's not a traditional friendship, but it seems as though more and more friendships and relationships blossom over the interweb nowadays, so maybe I now have a 'currently traditional' relationship with these women.

The plane ride home was an excellent one, since I got to sit in the aisle and got up to pee three times without bothering anyone. Sitting in the window seat on my way to New York- I held it for five hours. I think that's some kind of personal record for me. I was afraid of terrorism, or mechanical malfunctions that might prevent me from getting home to see my beautiful family AND from letting me enjoy all the new, beautiful, wonderful things I had gotten on my trip, so I prayed fervently to get home safely, hoping that the fact that my priorities were straight (though just barely) would save me.

It's now been over a month since that crazy weekend in September, that I vowed I would never forget but am already feeling foggy on some of the details (what did I eat for lunch on Saturday before we went to Banana again? How did I not take more pictures? Why is my memory so terrible?) So, even if my tales have already grown tiresome to you, and just barely interesting. I needed this post more than you did! And with that- we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming of mothering, living unglamorously, though exceedingly blessedly, and suddenly a bit more stylishly.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Shopping spreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have never been on a shopping spree before in my life.

The closest I have ever come to going on one was two years ago, when I went shopping with my parents and sister in Las Vegas, and my dad was feeling super generous so he bought my sister and I new shoes and some clothes. It was so very fun, unexpected, wonderful, and a memory I will treasure forever.

But. That was my dad's money. He works a lot and hard. I got some $30 shoes and probably $50 worth of clothes. So great. Cause you know I know how to get a bang for my buck! But, I wouldn't call that a real shopping spree.

When I heard I won this contest, and that there was a SHOPPING SPREE AT BANANA REPUBLIC involved, I nearly lost my mind. as did those who were nearest and dearest to me. there was lots of speculation and hopes and reality, but when it came down to it- I had no idea what to expect. Even while it was happening!

So, day two of my incredible NYFW extravaganza started off with me meeting a dear friend who I went to high school and university with. somehow, even with those two major educational similarities- we veered way the heck away from one another after our post secondary education. I moved to Korea, and taught, and eventually got married and had a crap ton of kids. My sweet friend decided to go to Harvard Law and is now a pretty incredible lawyer in New York. I hadn't seen her since she came to my wedding ten years ago!

We met for breakfast at this little place called The Grey Dog Café. It was delicious. And once again- it was a novel treat to eat my food while it was hot and fresh! Eating with no kids and one incredible adult who never needed my assistance with anything was such a great start to this amazing day!


And then my important lawyer friend had to go and lawyer it up, so I went walking around, and waited til it was time to meet up with Wendy for my shopping spreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!

When the magic moment had arrived, Wendy and I walked into the flagship Banana Republic store on 5th Ave, and Sarah and Amy were there waiting for us. Sarah and Amy are my new heroes because they were the ones who arranged all of my flights and hotel stay and other major wonderful details of my trip, cause they work for Gap Inc. (I'm positive. Cause I google stalked them so hard.)

Wendy asked if I minded if she styled me today and I said OF COURSE NOT! who would not want to be styled by Wendy of Wendy's Lookbook?!?!? So, we waked around the store and seriously just started grabbing things. Not Walmart-Black-Friday style grabbing. A slow, intentional, and thoughtful grabbing of clothes that I would never have dreamed of owning!! Wendy grabbed stuff I never would have picked, I grabbed stuff that I knew I was going to get whether Wendy liked it or not (I don't know if she ever just wears plain cotton shirts...) And then we went to the dressing rooms.
Or MY dressing room.


Yes. Amy and Sarah sectioned off the largest dressing room for me, and even had a little velvet rope sectioning off my party area. How do I not have pictures of that? I guess I was too damn excited people! They had juice and champagne- there was no end to the awesomeness!

And then I tried on The Stuff. I started with a little black dress that Wendy picked out that I NEVER would have picked. It was form fitting but not skin tight. And it was incredible cause I have no figure. No, I have the figure of a 12 year old boy. And after a large meal, I actually look like a malnourished child- flat on top, distended belly. It ain't pretty. But this dress! This dress made me look like a lady.

Wendy had also picked out a ton of outer pieces like a blazer type vest- Marissa Webb inspired, some sporty looking vest type thing, an actual blazer (that fit like a friggin glove!), and I picked some cardigans (cause I cannot live without cardigans.) We mixed and matched things and it was the most fun I had ever had in a store. EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


HAPPINESS PERSONIFIED!

The clothes we started out with...

Me. Drunken with material joy.

And then it was all over. I tried everything on. Said no to some stuff. Said HECK YES to everything else. And then Amy and Sarah took my stuff and had it sent to my hotel. Thank you ladies for not over looking one single detail! And thank you Marissa Webb for making Banana Republic a store that I want to shop at again!
The shopping spree was over, but the greatness of my day was not. We went to High Tea at Bergdorf Goodmans. It was all kinds of crazy fancy. We had yummy tea, wine, adorable finger sandwiches, scones, and dessert things. Magnifique!


While we were at High Tea (we were supposed to get there at 4, we got there closer to 5:30) Wendy made reservations for dinner at this amazing restaurant with the unfortunate name of 'Quality Meats'. Kind of made me think of 'The Dress Barn', which is apparently trying to make a fashion comeback- which will take some Herculean efforts due to that name (maybe they would succeed if they changed the name of the store.) Our meal there was outstanding (the meat was top quality! they weren't lying!) But between our late lunch and our very late dinner- I watched Wendy do some shopping. And that was also lots of fun. Except that I was wearing heels. And I don't remember the last time I wore heels for that long.

After dinner, we got back to our hotel at about 11pm. Nina turned in to do some work, and then Wendy and I went to get foot massages. I don't particularly like it when other people are touching me, but I did want to saw my feet off with a butter knife after walking around in heels all night- so I agreed to the foot massage. Wendy and I had a great time chatting about life, and love and love languages. Our talking spilled past our time at the massage place, so we hung out in the lounge of our hotel til about 1am. We laughed, we cried. Maybe we did become blood sisters in that hotel lounge after all...

I was pretty exhausted after I got to my room. But my adrenaline was pumping again when I opened up all my bags!!!!!

Here's some of the stuff I got...

And here is a less glamourous shot (cause it's in my bedroom in my house. I need new and fancier bedding!!!!) A ton of people have asked me how much stuff I got from my shopping spree, so I will give you a run down:
-two pairs of jeans (both ripped!)
-a pair of pants
-two dresses
-a sweater/dress
-two long sleeve tees
-a tank top
-the cute glasses t-shirt you've seen me in at least a dozen times by now
-the smart cookie sweatshirt (one of my fave items!)
-a long cardigan
-a blazer, a sleeveless blazer, and that sporty vesty thing I was talking about
-a pink moto jacket (Wendy's pick! I do love it though I never would have picked it.)
-an awesome jean jacket that actually fits me well
-a super cute black skirt (the striped thing next to the jeans)
-two belts, a ring, and some bracelets

basically I made out like a bandit!

THANKS AGAIN BANANA REPUBLIC!
I no longer look like a run down clearance rack monger.
And my husband thanks you ;)

Monday, October 5, 2015

an average person's fashion week experience

You know how amazing things happen and you think they are so incredible that you will never forget them for as long as you live? And then you live a little more and you realize you can't remember anything? I don't remember any of my kids' first words. I started this blog because I could not believe that I could forget something that momentous. I don't remember the date that chris proposed to me, even though that was one of the best days of my life! So, needless to say, I am still reveling in the wake of my New York trip, and I have told so very many people all about it already, but part of me is afraid that I am going to forget the details. The fun, amazing, unreal details of this trip. So even if you are all done with my #jihaedoesnewyork posts- these are for me to reread when i am 80.
(Let's be real, I'll probably forget some major details by the end of the year. The marbles are pretty loose up here.)

My first full and official day in New York started with me looking out my hotel window and noticing rain. Oh glorious rain. So I got my face and hair ready for the day, which did not take long because I am a lazy bum. But I wore eye liner. Cause New York deserves my best face! I put on a jacket, grabbed my umbrella, and headed out to 5th Avenue to go look for a little black bag and some jewelry to wear to Marissa Webb's show later on in the day.

I had a free continental breakfast of coffee and croissants (gluten be damned! i was on vacation!) at the cute restaurant downstairs, and then I felt fueled to explore the city. As soon as I got outside, I turned on my Pandora to superloud, listened to some good ol'90s rap music, and felt like I was walking the streets of Toronto as a young, bright eyed high schooler. i did not have a care in the world. No that's a lie. I was slightly terrified that I would look insane and out of place being at a fashion show later on in the day. but I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't at this fashion show because I am in the fashion industry. I am a stay at home mom who wears clearance clothes from target. They didn't pick me cause I'm chic. They picked me because a random generator popped my name out! 

As I was walking around, I was definitely overdressed for the rainy appearance of the day. I was hoping it would be freezing cold but it was kinda humid and muggy. I was regretting my clothing choices as I was sweating along Fifth Avenue, but someone asked where my jacket was from. Old Navy. Kids section. On clearance. $6. Fashion week was starting off just right!

I got a text from Wendy asking if I got in ok and that we would go to Marissa's show together at about 2. So fantastic. I stopped at Stumptown Roasters for a delicious decaf Americano. I love me some Starbucks, but since I was on an adventure, I decided I would only drink coffee from independent coffee shops (or small chains! I guess Stumptown is not as small as I thought according to the interweb) for the duration of my time in the Big Apple.

I went into a bunch of beautiful stores, but couldn't find what I was looking for. I did run into a CVS and bought a lipstick, something I haven't done in over a decade. Jeehon usually just gives me lipstick. Where was my sister when I needed her most?!!?! Stupid Singapore! Why are you so far away!?!? My next major purchase after the lipstick was at the Lego store. They had a little $5 set of the Statue of Liberty that I knew Topher would love. Speaking of my kids- it was Thursday. The big two were at school and Chris had to go to work later in the afternoon. So Lily and Topher would be going to their wonderful Aunt Lindsay's after school and spending the night there, and Mia would be spending the night at my precious friend, Christin's. Chris worked until 2am every night that I was gone (except on Wednesday) so I had a slew of my finest friends and family watching the kids and making my trip a reality! Thank you Lindsay and Christin for taking my kids!!!

At about 11:00am, I got a text from Wendy asking if I could do lunch at noon. Absolutely. I walked around some more, still looking for final pieces to make my outfit look a little bit more awesome for the runway show that was quickly approaching. Then I got a text from wendy saying that we would go straight to Marissa's show after lunch. OK! I texted back. then at about 11:40 it dawned on me that maybe I should be dressed and ready to go by noon. I texted Wendy back to see if that was the case, and she replied in the affirmative. Aw crap. I was about ten  minutes away from the hotel, and now it was 11:50. and I was not dressed. So I ran. If you know me- I don't run. Ever. But I did not want the first time that I met Wendy to be five minutes after I was supposed to be meeting her! So I ran. And I was sweating. And a little bit peeing. Cause that's what happens when I run. Cause I've had three kids and apparently my bladder kind of sucks.

I got to my hotel room at 11:55. Stripped off all my clothes, put some more face on, put on a grey dress (a clearance find from TJ Maxx for $5!), with black leggings (from Forever 21, regular price like $4), and some black booties (also clearance from Kohls for $7), and a black blazer (my sister's from Korea, probably about $20. so my entire outfit probably cost as much as most people's belts at the fashion show), and ran down to the hotel lobby by 12:02. I may not be a fashion plate, but I wasn't going to make Wendy wait for me!  I beat her by 3 minutes. Success!

So, again, deciding what to wear to the show was the most stressful part of my trip (next to finding five people to watch my kids). I debated whether I should buy something new. And EXPENSIVE. But I had to remind myself that I didn't win this contest because people liked my style or my clothes. No one was expecting anything from me. So, I got over myself and I picked stuff I already had (and clearly did not pay much money for) that I felt would go with the Marissa Webb vibe, and that was it. There were a good number of people at the show wearing the designer's beautiful clothes. But lots of people were wearing white button down shirts (MW loves her some button down shirts!), and pretty normal looking stuff. I didn't stand out in a good way or a bad way. Relief.

I met Wendy and Nina, who works with Wendy, in the hotel lobby. We chatted and immediately became blood sisters. Like we got out a little pocket knife and exchanged blood, that's how tight our bond was. Just kidding. That's creepy. But we seriously all hit it off right away, decided we were all food sharers, jumped into an Uber (my first time ever), and grabbed lunch at La Petite Abeille. That's 'little bee' in French. I'm so glad I got a minor in French from U of T. Speaking of the University of Toronto- Nina is from Toronto. And Wendy used to work at Wells Fargo, and I bank with Wells Fargo. See? Deep, meaningful connections. But seriously, these women were the bees knees and I was so dang happy to be with them all weekend long.

here we are at La Petite Abeille. Nina, Wendy, and Me (right to left)
I'm wearing lipstick. But you can't really tell. Which begs the question- why did I even bother?!?

After we ate some delicious mussels, Brussel sprouts, a salmon burger, and fries, we headed to the Marissa Webb show. We got there 10 minutes late, which made me want to poo my pants, because I thought if they were punctual- then we missed it. But fortunately they were very fashionably late getting started. I was seated in the Friends and Family section behind Marissa's parents, and I felt like the absolute luckiest girl in the world.

The show was stunning, unreal, ethereal, beautiful, and a little bit bad ass. I didn't hardly take any pictures because I could not believe I was there!


this was before the show started.


And this is the adorable, amazing, genius herself- Marissa Webb, at the end of her show. The two figures on the bottom left of the picture are her parents, who adopted Marissa and her three siblings. Wonderful people! I google stalked them a little too hard before my trip so I was too nervous to say hi to them, even though I just wanted to hug them.

After the show, we got to go backstage and meet Marissa. Don't be dumb. Don't be weird. Don't be dumb. Don't be weird. We said Hi. We hugged. I don't remember the rest. hopefully I wasn't dumb or weird. Who knows. I did meet her brother, who did all the music for her show, which is just plain cool. I love meeting people who think family is important. Because in this world, there are plenty of people who don't. And you know I know that first hand. And it's heartbreaking.

We went back to the hotel, ate some more Brussel sprouts, and chocolate, and ice cream. Then we went to Gap, Inc. and got to see the Banana Republic team do a hair and make up run-through for their up-coming presentation on Saturday. Marissa was obviously there, and I just felt SO TIRED for her. It must have been so exhausting getting ready for a runway show, but then to turn around and get ready to display Banana's Spring and Summer collection just a few days later! Seriously, this woman is a torrent of creativity and energy! We did some spicy tequila shots, looked around and saw the oufits that the models were going to wear, and even the outfits that the servers were going to wear (they thought of everything!). The coolness of this whole experience was exhausting. And it was only day 1 of 3 of awesomeness.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

placements 2 and 3


September 14th was the day that chris and I decided we were going back on The List to get a new foster babe. in case you aren't familiar with The List, and how foster babes typically show up at your house, here's a little run down of what you can expect:

-you tell your agency what you want. for us, we are just looking to foster newborn babies-3month olds.
-when their office opens, at about 9am, you start getting calls regarding kids that fit your age range. they tell you as much as they know about that kid, and you can say yes or no to that kid. and even if you say yes, it doesn't mean that child is definitely showing up at your door. when we went on the list over a year ago to get J, I said yes to about 6 babies, and none of them showed up.
-your agency sends your name to DCS (department of child safety) and then DCS tries to match up all the 'yeses' that all the different agencies came back with, to find the closest family (location wise) to where the baby was taken from. so, again, a lot of the babies that I got calls for a year ago, were in way north and west phoenix, and surrounding cities. not close to us.
-then DCS calls you back if you are the family they picked for a particular kid, and then they arrange to have that kid's case manager call you about all the other details.
-and then the kid shows up at your house and you get to take care of them until it's time for them to leave.

so, we were pretty certain that we wanted to go back on the list on the 14th. but then we had friends staying with us on Tuesday night before they were going to drive across the country to live in South Dakota. I did not feel great about the idea of having a brand new foster babe screaming through the night while I had guests staying at my house who needed a really good night's rest... and then chris had a physical fitness test on Wednesday morning, and he really needed to get a good night's rest too, so it looked like it would make the most sense for us to wait to go on the list on Wednesday morning, not Monday morning. but chris and I rarely do things that make sense.

we were officially on the list Monday morning, and we got a call at about 10:30 regarding a little two week old boy who needed a home. we were all about it! we drove to target to get some formula and size one diapers, and went and picked him up. my sweet cousin dropped off a ton of baby gear that we didn't realize we really needed - like a swing and lots of clothes. he went through five outfits in his first 24 hours with us! he was a sweet, skinny, little guy with the longest fingers and biggest feet you ever did see on a baby. this kid is Definitely going to be a pro athlete one day. or a clown. we had a fantastic time with him. he ate every two hours- even in the middle of the night, and we realized that a full night's sleep was no longer something we should ever hope to attain ever again.

and then Tuesday evening happened. we were out for dinner with our friends when I got a call from someone saying they wanted to come and see the baby. I thought it was the case manager, and I told him that we wouldn't be home for another hour or two. he said that was fine and would meet us at our house. so when we got home, this guy shows up and we get to talking. turns out there was a MASSIVE communication break down and that our little baby would be going back to his mom and dad immediately. I was very happy that this baby would be reunite with his family- cause that's why we do what we do- so kids can be with their families; but I was so surprised that we only had our second placement for about 33 hours! the kids said bye to him, and topher broke down into hysterical tears. he was so sad that this sweet baby came and stayed with us for such a short while, and he could not understand why we would never see this baby again. I guess topher is ok with being a foster family as long as we stay in touch with EVERYSINGLECHILD that walks across our threshold. sorry son, that's just not going to be able to happen.

so the baby went home and we ended up having no babies in our house Tuesday night. SO our friends, and chris, got a quiet, and full night's rest! can you believe that?!?!?!? it was exactly what I wanted, but it manifested itself in such a different way than I could have ever tried to orchestrate myself. Good one God. good one.

so we went back on The List the next day and got a call for a little days old baby. at a week old, he had already been with us for more than half of his life. it's so crazy. I am so very very happy that he is here with us. he is juicy, cute, lazy (I think he sleeps 23 hours a day), and all around perfect. the kids LOVE having him here, and are constantly wanting to hold him. everything is so great, except that it breaks my heart into a million pieces that someone could walk away from their beautiful, perfect, and precious baby. but I say that without judgment, because I do not know this baby's parents and the lives that they have lived. I am just praying for them to be able to change their ways so that they can give this baby the chance he deserves to be successful in life. and I also pray that if they aren't going to ever change their ways, then that they would be gracious enough to sever their rights soon so that this baby can go to an adoptive home that would love to lavishly love this little baby as their own. but until any of that happens, we are enjoying this baby, and being a family of 6 again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Look into Wendy's Playbook.



A few years ago, my sweet friend was watching the news while hanging out at home. they asked some random trivia question, to which she knew the answer- so she called in and won a WHOLE YEAR'S WORTH OF FREE ICE CREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That was the coolest contest any of my friends or loved ones had ever won.

UNTIL last week.

So, as you all know, I really did totally and truly win the Wendyslookbook + Marissa Webb + Banana Republic contest. And I really did have a truly exceptionally awesomely wonderful time.

On Wednesday afternoon I flew from Phoenix to New York (ok ok. I flew into New Jersey. That does not sound as glamorous! But Banana Republic did arrange to have a very nice Black SUV pick me up and drive me to my hotel in Greenwich Village. There we go, the glamour is back.) I had 4 and a half hours to myself on an airplane. So I picked up the latest copy of InStyle and devoured it in between taking a nap, and drinking copious amounts of coke and water. Getting to the pages of who is where and leads which fashion brand read like a press release after a trade dead line. It was riveting. Peter Copping at Oscar De La Renta after years at Louis Vuitton and Nina Ricci, Julien Dossena at Paco Rabanne who came from Balenciaga, Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski at Hermes who came from the Row and Celine.

Then on the way home, I read 'The American Way', the free magazine they had in my back seat pocket. And I devoured that as well. It helped that Marshawn Lynch was on the cover, and he's my boy cause he helped me to win 2nd place in my fantasy football pool last year which made me a 12,500 cents richer at the end of the season. In the rare interview with Mr. Beast Mode himself, they described Lynch as "a model for how the game should be played: passionately, fiercely, unrelentingly." (Jan Hubbard) I saw that this week in New York watching Wendy Nguyen and Marissa Webb working their magic at fashion week!

Maybe you already know Wendy and are a part of her massive online following. She has over 400,000 Facebook friends, 700,000 Instagram followers, thousands of YouTube subscribers, and I have no idea what her numbers are on Twitter and SnapChat cause I refuse to join those communities. I have kids who need me to pay attention to them too people. Gotta limit my social media community and screen time. Anyway, if you don't know her- Wendy is in this elusive club of being a legitimately amazing fashion blogger. I follow her on Instagram as she posts pictures of herself in perfectly tailored outfits, toe numbingly high heels, fluttering her thick, gorgeous, albeit fake, lashes. But her lashes are the only thing that are fake about her.

I was SOoOoO excited to meet Wendy, but i wasn't sure what it would be like to actually hang out with her. All Weekend Long. But it was like visiting an old friend. We talked, we laughed, we ate brussel sprouts EVERY time they were on the menu, we shared food, and stories about our lives, and marveled at the points that intersected, as well as the points that were on polar opposite ends of the spectrum.

Wendy gets free clothes and shoes for making them look amazing. Which is not hard to do when you have size four feet because you are four feet and 11 3/4 inches 'tall' and you have the face of a beautifully sculpted doll. I, on the other hand, am going to start getting free formula from WIC for our foster baby. But this was not as isolating a point as one might think. Wendy has been in the foster system and she knows what it's like to live without parents whose main purpose it is to take care of their children and love them and cherish them, as most of the 18,000 kids in Arizona's Foster system can relate to. But that's not a stumbling block for her. It's not an excuse she uses to prevent her from succeeding.  It's one of the many forces that has driven her to the success that she is presently enjoying. Yes Wendy has a YouTube channel and is all over social media, but what you may not know about her is that she has a non-profit organization reaching out to girls in the system, and she wants to encourage and empower them. She also has a t-shirt line that she is trying to grow that will be both fiscally and environmentally responsible. And also adorable. Successful, gorgeous, creative, smart, and environmentally friendly?!?!? She even drives a Prius for the love! It would be so easy to hate her, but only if you didn't actually know her.

 My preconceived notions that fashion bloggers are narcissists with amazing clothes and a serious knack for taking great selfies was crushed this weekend. Watching Wendy and a few of her close fashion blogging friends brooklynblonde and 9to5chic talk about which cameras and lenses and editing programs they use, was fascinating. I had NO IDEA what they were talking about, but they spoke with such knowledge and enthusiasm, and were sharing ideas instead of hoarding information so they could all improve (community over competition!!!!! I don't know if showit.com started that hashtag, but I know the showiteers use it a lot and it's so great!).

I also got to meet Nina, who works with Wendy as her graphic designer, and photographer, and who knows what else. Nina (who also has a blog: citizensrunway) is from Toronto of all places, and we share a serious love for the same greasy Chinese food restaurants. Less than 6 degrees of separation from Rol San! I watched Nina and Wendy take pictures for their blog, and it was eye opening to see how hard they work to come up with the beautiful images that I (and probably you too) take for granted on my Instagram feed.




I feel so very privileged to have also been able to meet Marissa and shake her hand and hug her and even do spicy tequila shots with her this weekend. She went from having her Spring/Summer '16 runway show on Thursday, to having to get ready for Banana Republic's presentation (like a runway show- only the models stand in place and don't really move for an hour) for Saturday. Needless to say- she was VERY busy. but I loved watching her interact with her team at runway show, as well as at Banana Republic. This woman is a fierce leader who knows how to get things done! And done with style and swagger! I wanted to talk to her more about her having been adopted, and about her time at J Crew, and about bacon cheeseburgers, and her fiancé, and her family. but then she would have been scared by how much I already knew about her from stalking her on Google. so I tried to just smile and not look too crazy...

ALL these women that I met this weekend, much like my Marshawn, are truly passionate, fierce, and unrelenting in their fashion, and blogging businesses!




I'll write more about my trip in the next post, but I just wanted to dedicate this one to Wendy who made #jihaedoesnewyork so very much more than just a quick weekend getaway, but an experience that I will remember (and TALK ABOUT VERY OFTEN) for the rest of my life!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

#jihaedoesnewyork day half

today was such a s fantastic day!

1. i went to the phyisical therapist today and they are getting me started on not having a janky back! (Cindy's word. not mine. cause im not white.) but while i was there, i got a text from Wendy!!!! it was like getting a text from a unicorn or something equally magical and almost unbelievable (you like how i said almost? i watch a lot of princess movies so i am beginning to think that they must exist.)
2. my precious hubby took me, mia, and our sweet 3 year old nephew who stayed the night last night, out for brunch. (and after i left, chris handled having 4 kids like a rockstar. he is such a stud!)
3. he dropped me off at the airport and i wasn't late or at the wrong terminal, things that normally happen to me when i travel.
4. today was no ads on pandora day! so i was able to stand in a very long security line, listening to my Jay-Z  pandora station with no interruptions!
5. i took a nap on the plane! cause i was flying BY MYSELF! i didn't have to take care of anyone! it was glorious! and then i read over 500 pages of the fall fashion issue of InStyle magazine- cause no one wanted to talk to me and no one needed any fruit snacks or to be taken to the potty.
6. i arrived in new jersey and got picked up in a pimpin black Yukon by the nicest driver ever. we chatted about his two little girls and his family back in pakistan. gotta admit i was a little afraid of being abducted but was very happy to arrive at my hotel safely AND quickly!
7. my hotel room is ADORABLE! and i got to watch Jimmy Fallon and Ellen Degeneres lip sync battle while being in the same city as them! FUN!
8. there was an envelope waiting for me when i got here and it was a lovely gift card from Banana Republic, giving me some spending money for food and travel while i'm here. do these people know how to put a contest together or what?!?!?!?!?

I LOVE YOU BANANA REPUBLIC! AND WENDYSLOOKBOOK! AND MARISSA WEBB!

praising Jesus for this ridiculously amazing time!

it's 1:30am here. so i am going to sleep now. cause there's a strong chance tomorrow is going to be EVEN MORE FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

this is bananas

I am and am not a lucky person. I am so lucky to be married to chris, who is possibly the NICEST guy in the world. I am so lucky to have three beautiful babes, because I know from the experience of too many that are close to me, that getting pregnant, and staying pregnant, and walking away from the hospital with a healthy baby- is an ABSOLUTE miracle. I am lucky to be alive, cause I've done some dumb stuff in my life that definitely could have killed me (like texting and driving.)

But I am not lucky in that I have never won the lottery, I don't get chosen to win a $20 gift card to target no matter how many times I fill out their bloody surveys! i'm not a winner. if that makes me a loser, i'm a happy one at least.

BUT. this week, I entered a contest. and I won. I think.

here's something you may or may not know about me. I love clothes. a lot. when I was in fifth grade, I was the 'school' (I don't think anyone else but me ever read it) newspaper editor. the paper was in French. and I think there were three pages. maybe four? anyhow, I wrote most of the articles, and my favorite was when I did a fashion makeover for my teacher. in pencil crayon drawings. she loved it, and so did I.

nothing ever blossomed from that love of fashion and elementary journalism, besides reading all the fashion magazines at my mom's convenience store, and eventually working at ICE, a tiny store in Toronto, that eventually became KITSON (you probably are familiar with this store if you live in California. they're all over the place.) but that's the place where I fell in love with Kate Spade, Bumble and Bumble, Philosophy products, Seven jeans (man they make your butt look good! totally worth $200 if you have that lying around), and many other products and brands that I would read about in those fashion magazines at my mom's store. I loved it all. I didn't need any of it. but it was all so beautiful.

now, as a stay at home mom in Arizona, I have even less exposure to those fun and fancy things. I wear flip flops and super cheap clothes. most of my gear is from target, old navy, forever 21, H&M and the occasional super cheap gem from tj maxx, or even Nordstrom rack. i am very content with what i have. i do however DREAM of having fancier and nicer things- and that's the beauty of INSTAGRAM.

i have a shared facebook account with chris. it's for us to stay connected to friends and family. i have an Instagram account for me. i follow my friends on there, and some brands/companies that i love, and then my imaginary fancy friends. for some reason, my fancy friends are all Asian. that's sheer coincidence. i love Chriselle of the Chriselle Factor, Aimee Song of Song of Style, and Marissa Webb who has her own line and is the creative director of www.bananarepublic.com, and Wendy of  www.wendyslookbook.com. the ladies are on a different level of glamour and fancy awesomeness, but still relatable in their honest struggles and vulnerability. Marissa is adopted Korean, and Wendy is a former foster kid. See? real and relatable. that's why we're friends. even if they don't know it yet.

so, Wendy and Marissa teamed up with an insane contest on Wendy's blog last week. all you had to do was comment and they would pick a winner at random. you didn't have to like five other instagrammers, you didn't have to tag five friends. you just entered and you were done. i actually almost forgot i entered.

UNTIL MY LIFE CHANGED when i opened my gmail to find an email from none other than WENDY! and then another email from someone at gap/banana republic asking for my personal info (not my ssn or bank account info!!!!!) so they could set up my flight. CRAZY, RIGHT!!????!?!?

so, i feel like i am dreaming, and i don't want to wake up. if this is all legit and i really totally and truly won this contest, then i will be flying to New York, going to the marissa webb show, shopping at banana republic, and going to the banana republic presentation at New York fashion week.

who would have ever thought that this could or would happen to the likes of little old (both adjectives are seriously on point at this point in my life) ME!???!?

and even though i can't take anyone on this trip with me- i am taking YOU along with me! unless of course i didn't really win. in which case, i will proceed with my life, and wait to read about someone else's experience in InStyle magazine next month.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

see ya laters

two weeks and three days ago, we brought J to her new permanent home. back with her brothers and sister and a kinship placement that we feel is pretty safe. we dropped off our girl with suitcases, bags, and bins of stuff and said our "see ya laters". and then we went and had Korean food. and it was all so good. and anti climactic.

some might call me stoic, others may see it as heartless- but i'm not a crier. when chris and I were dating in korea and he left me to come back to Arizona, I didn't cry at the airport. he and I said our "see ya laters" in front of a bunch of our friends and my sister, and chris caught his plane and the rest of us got back into jon sim's car and went home. and the talk of the town after that was that people thought I liked chris a lot, but after seeing my coolness in action at the airport, thought otherwise. but even though I didn't cry, my heart was absolutely, undeniably, utterly broken.

so needless to say- I didn't cry when I left our little girl, who we had loved and tolerated for over a year, with her family. I was scared for her. I have worried about her and thought about her daily. but I have not cried for her.

tonight, after not seeing her for two weeks and three days, the longest period of time that we have gone without seeing J in over a year, we got to take her out for dinner and ice cream.

it was amazing.

and strange and crazy.

and I even cried a bit.

I don't remember going on a second date with chris, but driving to pick J up today felt a lot like a second date, where you aren't entirely sure if the first date went well or not. did I make a good first impression? was there a connection there? would the other person be happy to see me or not? I had no idea what to expect. which is the truest tagline for foster parents if ever there was one.

so, we drove up to J's house. I could already hear some hustling and bustling behind the screen door. J's guardian opened the door, we hugged, said our hellos, and there was J, standing there, so shy, so pretty, and slowly she said: "mommy!"

I scooped her up in my arms even though it felt like she had punched me in the gut. I actually think I would have preferred for her to say: "hey you asshole! where have you been for the last two weeks?" so, she still thinks I am her mom, and that chris is her dad, and that we've left her at this other house, with these people she knows, but has- in her mind, never lived with before. I felt like such a negligent parent, even though I know in my right mind that I am not.

the power also went out at her house due to last night's crazy storm. J's guardian told me they haven't had electricity since 7pm yesterday. yes it's September, but it's still SO HOT here. the thought of J sleeping in this HOT house, through absolutely no fault of her guardian's, broke my heart. it made me so sad for her. everything makes me so sad for her.

things got worse at dinner. we had pizza and wings and were having a great time. as we were winding down and waiting for topher to finish his chicken wing, that he was practically making out with, J sat on chris' lap and said: "dad. go home." sucker punch number two. that wasn't a "dad, why don't you go home. get out of here" statement. it was a "dad. take me home." statement. it was heavy. and chris, being the awesome man that he is, said: "let's go have ice cream at mc donalds!"

this foster game is so strange. and I realize it's not a game. it's children's lives. but it feels like a game sometimes. a game that has no rules and lots and lots of moving parts and chutes and ladders and winners and far too many losers.

we survived our first year in the foster care system. it was a glorious, and very taxing one. my kids were absolute rock stars during the whole thing and they, like me, did not cry when we dropped little J off that day. but it's probably cause we tried to explain the rules of this game to them early on: children will come, we will love them, and there will come a time when they will go. and that's what happened with J. but since she has left, mia has asked about her everyday, and at bed time or dinner when we talk about our favorite thing and our not-favorite thing from the day, she has said that she misses J. every day. for the last 17 days. lily has told her aunt elisa that when she sees pictures of J or sees her name written somewhere (topher had a math problem with J's name in it! pretty amazing cause her name is not very common) that she gets choked up and misses J and sometimes even cries a bit. topher says he misses J on occasion. he's a true dude. he doesn't talk about his feelings much.

so, maybe none of us watsons are criers. but it doesn't mean we aren't feelers. we get all the feels. when we dropped J off at home after our night out, I was afraid she was going to cry, and cause a scene, and want to come home with us. but her family was just coming home and there was much excitement and talking, and she was back in her guardian's loving arms, and we said our "see ya laters", and got in the car and drove back home with dry, stoic eyes.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

the verdict is in

I love foster care!...

there is truly never a dull moment. every story is different, and every situation is so very very unique. our cousins who have been fostering a little elementary age girl for a year and a half, have been in the midst of a transition plan for months on end, with no actual end in sight. transition plans are ideal, but certainly not mandatory.

we went to court yesterday. twice actually. well, we thought we went to the right courthouse first, but fortunately we got there really early, and found out that they changed judges, and therefore courthouses. so chris and I jumped back in the car and drove 15 minutes away to the correct courthouse. we made it with time to spare- because they started late- which is understandable when you have about five different lawyers representing this one family. our case worker from Christian Family Care Agency came as well, and it was so perfect having her there. she is the best. I love our licensing agency with all my heart. they take such phenomenally good care of us. if I haven't completely scared you off of wanting to become a foster family, you should look into being licensed with them!!!! but back to court: it started, and the more people were talking- the more it sounded like J was going to be with us until the next court date, which probably would have been in December. when I was anxious about the unknown last week, I had the burden of not knowing whether or not we would be a family of 6 or 5 by the end of the week, but to be completely transparent, I was very VERY afraid that J would be staying with us for longer.

I don't know if you have picked up what i've been putting down about her this last year- but J and I are not kindred spirits. instead of being the apple of my eye, she was more like an eyelash in my eye, under my contact lens. this has had so very much more to do with the fact that she is a toddler, and that I too am a growing, developing, selfish being, and pretty much nothing to do with the fact that she is a 'foster child'. but nonetheless, I have struggled with dealing with this toddler that I have not been able to connect, and bond with. I have been her caregiver and provider for over a year, but I do not at all feel deserving of the title 'mommy', as she has been calling me, because, you know, I think she thinks i'm her mom... the whole thing. it's insane. it's maddening. it's why I am insane. did I mention that I love foster care?...

BACK TO COURT: after all 87 of the lawyers said their piece yesterday, the judge proclaimed that J would in fact return to her other four siblings, this weekend. it was the absolute best case scenario that we could have hoped for. had the judge told us to return her home that day, it would have been a rushed and unfinished mess of unsaid good byes. instead we get to really enjoy, cherish, and bless this little girl for a few more days, and then send her back to her family that has greatly been anticipating this reunion. I cried some sincere tears of sadness, but I cried some serious tears of joy and RELIEF. a HUGE burden had been taken off of my shoulders. it's a burden that I have put on myself- the burden of feeling like I HAVE had to love this kid as if I conceived her, and held her in my womb for nine months, and birthed her and got to know her and THEN had to deal with the terrors of being two. I don't know why I put this burden on myself. but I did. daily. and the guilt, and the feeling of falling short for the last year was crippling at times. so even if it makes me sound very heartless- I am glad to see J go.

I feel like I need to defend what I just now said. but i'm going to leave it there.

for now.

this is not my last post about J, because I have a lot to say about our first foster placement experience. but I have a ton of things I need to do to get this little girl ready to leave our home.

we really REALLY appreciate all the prayers and support we have gotten, especially this last week as we waited to find out J's fate, and in turn our own. keep on praying, especially for J, as she is being thrown into the deep end of life back with her family (transition plans are for chumps!) pray for her to somehow understand in her innocent mind, that we didn't abandon her, and that we did what we were supposed to do as her foster family. pray for her family to be ready for life with a toddler (good luck suckers! just kidding!!!! no I'm not.). and pray for us as we take a month off to rejuvenate and relax and enjoy some much needed calm before the next storm...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

next week

I absolutely realize that no one knows what will happen on any given day. sometimes the best things happen- like you run into an old friend you haven't seen in forever. or you find a $100 bill in your back pocket (that's never happened to me before, but I can only imagine how happy I would be if that did happen. actually, when I was in Toronto there really was a $100 bill AND a $5 in the washing machine and I almost pooped my pants with excitement. but then I bragged about finding it and my mom took it from me cause she 'claimed' it was hers. she let me keep the fiver though and I still felt like a lottery winner.) but on the flip side- terrible things can happen without any warning. I don't have to give examples of this because people are all too familiar with tragedy and pain.

but, as much as I can- I like to plan ahead. I have a big dry erase calendar in our dining room that has all the events of the month on there. I check it often, add things, occasionally erase things, and if it doesn't make it on the board- it doesn't exist. I have almost forgotten to show up somewhere for lunch more than once because it didn't make the calendar.

there is an event next week that is in bright green- which signifies all the things that have to do with J. the event is a court date. the last two court dates- one in January, the next in May- J's siblings were all returned to a kinship placement. J's siblings are all older than her, and so at present the kinship placement is just a 'guardianship'. in other words- they're still foster kids living in a foster home. so as soon as J's siblings went home in may (maybe it was april...) chris and I started mentally preparing ourselves for J to go home at the next court date- which is next week. BUT there are a bunch of things that are supposed to get done before J goes home, and I honestly have NO IDEA whether or not they've been done yet. NO IDEA. and no one has any answers for me. so, even though I am aware that we have to take it one day at a time, and we shouldn't be anxious about anything (phil 4:6), and that each day has enough troubles of it's own (matt 6:34)- I DON'T KNOW WHAT MY FAMILY WILL LOOK LIKE NEXT WEEK. it's very strange.

now mind you- we've been here before. J is our first foster babe, and she has lived with us for a year and a month. 43% of her life. before we got her- we were in this limbo of not knowing when we would get our foster baby and what they would be like and how long we would have her for. foster care is living in limbo. for foster kids, and for foster families. it's not normal. but nothing in this whole picture is. but we've generally known what to expect with J and her family situation. until the last few weeks when we were finding out things weren't really happening, but there was still a chance that they could get done. so we are operating as if J probably maybe isn't leaving, but also trying to be prepared for if she surprisingly perhaps by chance does... it's enough to cause a person to jump out of a moving vehicle. again.





Friday, July 24, 2015

Shasho On A Fesh

a few weeks ago we were driving home from our friend's house. J is two years old, and she LOVES to repeat herself. I don't know if she thinks we can't hear her, or if she just loves the sound of her voice, but she repeats herself to the extent that I often want to eject myself out of a moving vehicle.

J: "mom! mia has shasho on a fesh"
Me: "i'm sorry, what did you say?"
J: "mommy! mia shasho on a fesh!"
Me: "i don't know what you are saying sweetheart."
J: "mom!! mia has SHASHO ona fesh!"
Me: "OH! Mia has chocolate on her face. yes, I see that now. that's fine."
J: "mom! mom! Mia shasho on a fesh."
Me: "i know. thank you."
No Joke- she tells me about five more times. shasho on a fesh. shasho on a fesh. shasho on a fesh. shasho on a fesh. SHASHO ON A FESH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Me: "Ok J. Please stop telling me that Mia has chocolate on her face. I know that she does. and its not a big deal. but if you tell me that she has shasho on a fesh one more time I am going to lose my mind. do you understand?"
J: "mom?"
Me: "yes J?"
J: "mia shasho on a fesh."
Mia: "mom! did you just lose your mind?"
Me: unbuckling my seatbelt and preparing to jump out into oncoming traffic. cause yes, I have in fact lost my mind.

Friday, June 26, 2015

candor found in camping and canada

June was a whirlwind. we went camping for three days. then we came home. and then we went to Toronto for 9 days. and chris and I managed to go on a secret getaway for three days without any children to celebrate our ten year anniversary a little bit early. and Robert and Lindsay and their kids watched J that WHOLE time (with some help from Charles and Grace, and Barb and Jerry!) and now we are back to real life and 110+ degree days. and everything is so very great and wonderful.

except when it's not.

we are 11 days away from celebrating J being with us for a year. a whole year. 365 days. 40% of her whole life- she has spent with us.

admittedly, our honeymoon period with her lasted a pretty long time. and I am SOOOOOO very thankful for that. but man- when the honeymoon ended- about six months ago. it was a slap in the face.

speaking of slaps in the face, there is a story in the Bible that makes me so uncomfortable every time I read it. it's from Mark 10, starting at verse 35:

"And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus and said to him,
"Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."
And he said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?"
And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." "

who do these guys think they are??? and more importantly- who do they think Jesus is? a freaking genie? "do for us whatever we ask of you." ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? that's ballsy!

it wasn't until I read that verse pretty recently that I felt uncomfortable for a different reason. I used to feel embarrassed for James and John for presenting/demanding such a ridiculous and presumptuous and vain request. I suddenly felt embarrassed because I have been just as presumptuous and pompous and vain when praying to the Lord. and I don't want to sit at Jesus' right hand. I don't need fame and acclaim. I want ease and permission to be lazy and QUIETNESS. and I feel like I deserve it. cause i'm a foster parent. and cause Jesus- can't you see how hard I am working over here, and how much I am giving to this little child who just takes and takes and screams and then takes some more?

chris took 17 days off of work to make our vacation marathon happen this month. it was so fantastic. I was SO excited to vacation. we went camping with chris' mom and step dad, and brothers, and their families. J came too. we camped with 4 kids. well, there were nine altogether, but I was responsible for four of them. and then I was SOOOO excited to go back to Canada to see my side of the family, and meet my newest nephew, Jordan, and eat, and be merry. and I was so happy to be with chris for our getaway. that guy is seriously my favorite.

but, here is a list of things that went wrong over the 17 days of our vacation:
-chris had an eye infection. it was like pink eye- only worse. he had to see an eye doctor in the middle of our camping trip because he was so uncomfortable and in pain. this infection lasted for a whole week.
-it rained so much during our four day camping trip that we had to cut it down to three days. and we were camping IN ARIZONA. the desert. you know- where it never rains...
-when going on our anniversary getaway, we realized that as a Canadian citizen, you MUST travel with your permanent resident card. failure to do so results in a $585 fine. FIVE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FIVE DOLLARS. fortunately they waived the fee because it was my first offense. BUT, our getaway was only three days and we were coming back to canada, and then would be coming back to the states again. so, I had to get my INCREDIBLE neighbor to look for my card and FedEx it to my parents' house and that cost $75.
-my period was two weeks late so I thought I was pregnant, even though I took four (negative!)pregnancy tests and chris got a vasectomy last month. my period showed up 14 days late.
-trying to get back to phoenix- we missed our connecting flight in dallas and had to sleep in the airport with our three kids. and mia peed her pants while she was sleeping and we threw her clothes in the garbage.
-Robert and Lindsay's daughter had salmonella and had to go to the ER while they were watching J! 
-when we got back to Arizona our new (to us) minivan had to go directly to the shop and get thousands of dollars of work done to it over a span of four days.

it was a lot. and every time something bad happened, and I prayed that it would stop, or that we would get some help, nothing happened. or at least nothing good happened. or at least, what I was expecting to have happen didn't happen.

but here is the silver lining to the bad things that happened and just some other great stuff that happened:

-coming home early from camping gave us plenty of time to do five loads of laundry and pack for our trip to Canada.
-I will never travel without my permanent resident card ever again. and paying $75 for FedEx is a lot less than paying $585 to the people who are always trying to deport me.
-I have the best next door neighbor in the universe.
-i'm not pregnant! but that two weeks led to lots of different conversations, and chris and I are glad to still be foster parents, and one day there will be tiny foster babies in our arms, but for now we need to be thankful for the big baby that kind of runs our home.
-chris bought a warranty for our van so we paid ZERO dollars for all the repairs that went into it. the warranty has already paid for itself, and then some.
-we were able to see a friend of ours while in Toronto, who I thought was going to lose his life to cancer last year. fortunately he is in remission and we were able to hang out with him and his wife and two kids.
-my nephew is tooooooo cute! we got to see him every day that we were in town. my sister-in-law is a wonderful new mama, but she is a phenomenal wife and I praise Jesus that my brother found her and married her!
-my younger brothers took great care of my kids while we were away, and the kids loved hanging out with their Samchoons.
-while at a mall in toronto one day, I was standing around with our family and before me stood one of my dearest friends in the universe. we went to high school and university together. she was supposed to be one of my bridesmaids but was in the middle of exams at MIT and couldn't make it. she lives in Beijing with her hubby and one year old son. it was the most unexpected and beautiful blessing to run into her and spend a few hours catching up.
-J did so great while at Tia Blanca (white aunt if your Spanish is no Bueno) and Tio Roberto's house. She slept through about half the nights she was there which was a major source of stress and anxiety for me (on Lindsay's behalf!) she had lots of fun hanging out with Barb and Jerry, and also Charles and Grace, and we are so blessed that our friends and family love on J so well.
-Robert and Lindsay are the best for watching J for ten days and not flinching when we were delayed an extra half a day.

it is so very very easy for me to get caught up in all that is bad, and hard, and exhausting. and when I am being a giant Ass, it's so easy for me to feel like I don't deserve any of these terrible things, because I am SO good and I am doing something SO GOOD.

this weekend, my brother in law preached a fantastic sermon about adding 'SO' into our prayers. (you can watch it here. it's pretty great!)
he gave examples of how to add 'So' and why we should do it:
"i want my kids to be good...SO... I don't have to parent them." that one hit me in the gut. there are some 'So's I have to remove from my vocabulary, while adding them to my prayers instead.

"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." -Mark 10:43-45

Thank you Lord for being SO GOOD. thank you for not always answering my prayers, and thank you for blessing me SOOO much even though I don't deserve it at all. I pray that you would make me a better Christian, and a better mom, but especially a better, and more humble foster mom SO that all the kids who live in our home now, and in the future, would come to know you and accept you as their personal Saviour. we aren't a foster family so that we will have more blessings and riches in heaven, we know we will be in heaven because of You. we are doing this SO that these foster kids will be singing your praises up there with us.