Five

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E at 5 months old.

And just like that, now she’s five.

Our sweet little baby girl, born into our family at a time when both J & I were pretty much still babies ourselves. We had no idea what we were doing. Granted, most first-time parents don’t but I feel like we really, really didn’t know what we were doing.

Her birth was traumatic and everything I didn’t want it to be. 30+ hours of medically assisted labor that finally culminated in an emergency c-section after two hours of unfruitful pushing. She was immediately whisked away to the NICU for observation, her 10 lbs & 4 oz of newborn girth a stark contrast against the preemies that usually dominate the NICU.

I remember being in the surgery recovery room, exhausted and no baby to hold in my arms. J was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open but in a bleary state of fatigue, he gave me my first ever push gift – something that I’d coached him on in the 9+ months leading to this momentous day. They were Tiffany earrings that he had thought were pearls but were actually silver orbs (the lighting in the store was tricky, I guess). We both had a good laugh at that and then it was silent because .. I had just given birth but we didn’t have a baby with us. Is this what it’s supposed to normally feel like after you have a baby? Empty and exhausted?

We were all eventually discharged to our tiny 2-bedroom apartment and that’s when the real adventure began. Newborn colic, nursing troubles, her need to constantly be rocked 24/7 in order to fall and STAY asleep; this girl kept us on our toes from Day 1.

And then things started to settle down a bit and I thought maybe, just maybe, the crazy stuff was well behind us now. Just another collection of stories to keep in my back pocket and conveniently whip out at future baby showers or coffee dates with friends.

Except that a year passed, then two, and she still wasn’t saying mommy & daddy like all the other little babies her age were. My mommy instinct raged strong inside me, warning bells screaming their alarm even against the pediatrician’s reassurance that everything is fineall babies develop at their own rate. Luckily for E, I’m not a mama to be told to sit when every fiber of my being says that I need to stand, so I fought for an evaluation even thought it wasn’t professionally recommended.

And then came the bombshell diagnosis that imploded our entire universe and changed everything forever. Autism. On the spectrum. Possibly high functioning but really, still too early to tell. Future difficulties include making friends and possible cognitive deficits, among other things. It’s a wide spectrum so there really are no answers other than yes, your precious baby girl, the one you’ve spent the last two years loving and raising, fits the qualifications for autism and may never learn to speak to you. Boom.

The darkness and heartache that followed is indescribable. I’ve blacked it out from my memory but my husband tells me that there were days that I didn’t even get out of bed. He’s now told me that he’s never been more scared than those months, seeing his wife curled in fetal positions and crying herself to sleep every night. I don’t remember but I believe him when he tells me these things because unless you’ve been through it yourself, you can’t know the pain that kind of diagnosis brings.

That is, until it doesn’t really bring that much pain anymore. Some sadness on some days, yes, but not the gut-wrenching-can’t-function-can’t-think-foggy-days kind of depression that initially followed me post-diagnosis. There’s a true hope that radiates when you’re being refined by fiery trials; everything the Bible promises about character & faith building during times of difficulty is true.

And now here we are. Five years old and so much SO MUCH so much to celebrate. This vibrant little girl whose words are at last starting to click with her mind; she’s beginning to let us see so much of that funny personality that we always knew was inside of her. She has developed such a compassion for her little brother and others around her. If she sees someone sad, she worries about them and wants to comfort them. Her favorite foods are pizza and bell peppers; her favorite colors are blue and pink. She’s shy and quiet, not one of those kids who will constantly be vying for your attention. She’s content to sit and look at a book by herself. She loves snuggling with us in the quiet hours of the morning, when the house is cold and little brother is still asleep. She’s girly to the core, and loves dress up, make up, and jewelry. She’s a perfectionist, always hesitant to try something unless she knows she can master it fully.

But most of all, she’s a blessing to us and to all who know her. She’s taught me more about faith, compassion, and kindness than my entire life taught me in the 25 years I lived before having her. She pushes me to be better because she reminds me that this life right here, although it seems like everything, it’s not everything. There is more & greater that is promised for us; a place where sinners are perfected, where autism doesn’t exist, where little girls who don’t have all the words they need to express themselves can open their mouths freely and worship The Creator who knows and sovereignly ordains all.

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Happy 5th birthday, my sweet E. I can’t wait to see how the Lord will continue to write your story and mine. I love you to the moon and back.

A Royal Affair

This past weekend, we celebrated E’s 5th birthday with a grand Disney princess themed bash in our backyard.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love throwing a good party. I love all the research and planning that goes into it & love executing all the little details … But without fail, for every party I’ve ever hosted, the last week leading up to the event makes me want to poke my eyeballs out. It’s not even because I have so much to do or what not. It’s simply the anticipation of a big day and the hope that everyone has a great time. This party was no different and the day before THE DAY, I told Hubby that I am never throwing another birthday party like this again. He laughed at me because we both know that’s not really true. Hahah.

The day before the party the weather was miserable. Raining, cloudy, freezing cold .. And I don’t just mean a little spring sprinkle. It was STORMING. I’d planned the whole party around the idea that guests would stay in our backyard and the bad weather was freaking – me – out. We have a pretty large yard but a tiny house and the party would not work if people had to come inside. I’d spent too much money and time planning this event to cancel so I did the only thing I could do – I prayed. I genuinely prayed and asked the Lord to just let it be dry for two hours during the party and He abundantly answered. Not only was it dry, it was HOT. The sun was shining so brightly, the desserts and appetizers started melting and the day after, I had a few people tell me they got sunburned. Crazy!

Another party planning snafoo I had was with the desserts. I’d ordered a huge main cake, cupcakes, and cake pops all from one local baker who just works out of her home. She’d gotten good reviews on Yelp and Facebook so I contacted her almost two months in advance to place all the orders. I had a bad feeling about her almost immediately because her communication was HORRIBLE. I’ve worked with my fair share of small business owners and bakers and while I understand sometimes there’s a bit of delay in hearing back, once communication is made it’s usually very thorough and detailed. This lady was terrible … I should have trusted my instincts and gone with someone else but my usual vendors that I’ve employed in the past are all located slightly out of the way for us since we moved to our current town two years ago. Well, less than a week before the party date, the baker emailed me and said she was ill and would be cancelling my entire order. What?? EXCUSE ME?? Who does that??!!? I was panicking, you guys. Luckily I made a few frantic phone calls and was able to get an actual storefront bakery to accommodate my order. The desserts turned out beautifully in the end and tasted amazing to boot.

I only have two regrets now that the party is done and over: 1) I didn’t get enough pictures of the little things, like the favor table or the desserts I’d ordered; and 2) I don’t feel like I got to really sit and enjoy the party. I kept reminding myself to sit sit sit, and soak up the moment but when you’re the host, it’s hard to be sitting and chatting. I wanted to greet people as they trickled in, make sure E was having a fun time, ensure drinks were refilled, etc. I barely ate any of the food we’d catered but I hear it was delicious :) We hired a “taco truck guy” to come and make on-the-spot custom burritos, quesadillas, and tacos. YUM! I didn’t get any pictures of that either, boo.

I think my favorite element of the entire party were the florals. I hired a local florist to do the garland and floral arrangements, including the giant floral E, and I am OBSESSED with them!! They’re still all hanging in my backyard as I write this on Monday morning hahaha.

I ordered these custom Disney princess cookies from a separate vendor than the main dessert baker and this lady was amazing to work with. She was worth every penny! Look at E enjoying her Snow White cookie ;)

And of course no princess party wold be complete without actual princesses in attendance. I found a great local company that hires out your favorite Disney characters. E’s favorites are Snow White & Elsa and it was priceless to see her hugging and interacting with them. They were legit in-character the ENTIRE time, too, even all the way back to their car. Love!

Our girl was so spoiled this day. I’m so happy that I was able to celebrate our special princess in this way; she’s been such a blessing to our family. I hope we made memories that we can all cherish for a lifetime.


Poor Spartie was confined to the house for the duration of the party. But he was allowed out afterwards and had a ball finding random desserts on the ground and eating them -_- 

Celebrating Thirty

This year being a somewhat special birthday (hello, new decade and all that jazz), J graciously agreed to send me to NYC for a few days. A few of my girlfriends were able to join me and we all spent some serious girl time together, away from kids and husbands, and it was a unique whirlwind way to celebrate turning thirty.

Before I left for NY, though, I was able to celebrate my birthday quietly with my husband and kids, which was special in its own kind of way. The day was a typical day; there was still laundry to do, preschool drop offs and pick ups, nap times & therapies to stick to … I guess this is what birthdays look like as you get older. Definitely less opportunity to be narcissistic :) I did get spoiled with some lovely flowers and candy deliveries from both my husband and in-laws. Oh, and I forgot to mention that my mom’s birthday is very close to mine so my side of the family celebrated both our birthdays together earlier in the month already. My mom said she couldn’t believe she had a thirty-year old baby … LOL, I guess we never stop being babies to our mothers, huh? :)

Anyway, back to my actual birthday day. Like I mentioned, the day itself wasn’t anything that fantastic but J did come home from work with these lit up cupcakes, singing Happy Birthday, which I thought was so sweet. When we were first married, I remember one year my entire birthday passed without any candle-blowing or cake to eat (although he did treat me to dinner and get me a gift) and I was so SO upset, I cried. He apparently never forgot that year and has been very good about remembering to bring something, even if it’s something small, every year for me to blow out a candle on ;P What a keeper, huh? Haha.

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That night, we hired a babysitter to come and watch the house while the kids were asleep so J & I could steal away for a rare date night dinner. Unfortunately, she was a new babysitter so it was our first time using her and I didn’t confirm with her before the day and she forgot to come!! I was a total sad girl for a good half hour. The babysitter wasn’t answering her phone or texts and we had to cancel our dinner reservation and I ended up just changing into my pajamas and giving up. J said it was one of the saddest things he’d seen, a birthday girl all dolled up and slowly undressing and putting on pajamas LOL!! He’s so dramatic. Anyway, she ended up calling me later and saying OH MY GAH so SORRY, and I asked if she’d still be able to come right then and she said she could! So I got re-dressed and we went out for a late dinner … it wasn’t how we originally planned but it was a memory made.

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Okay, now onto NEW YORK!! We only had a few days to spend in the city because us moms being gone meant our husbands had to take time off work to pick up the slack/watch the kiddos. We tried to pack in as much as possible but of course there was no way we could eat/see/do everything that we had on our wishlist. But here are some of the highlights of our trip! —

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Grand Central Terminal

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Broadway (Aladdin; front center orchestra seats!)

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Riding the subway & hailing a cab 

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Ladurée

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Times Square (INSANITY)

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Highline Park

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FOOD (unpictured: Halal Guys, Shake Shack)

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I didn’t get pictures of us in Central Park but we did get to stroll around there for a little bit. We did so much walking (SO MUCH WALKING) that by the end of the last day I thought my feet were going to fall off. I wish we’d had time to get a foot rub or something but I settled for elevating my feet on the hotel bed before sleeping.

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And then before we knew it, we were all back home! Lessons learned for next time: no layover flights and maybe stay for an extra day so that we can savor the trip a bit more. All in all, though, it was totally memorable and an awesome way to bow out of my 20s!

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The New 20

I have a pretty significant birthday coming up this month; this year is the year I turn the big 3-0. Considering that my birthday is later on in the year, I’ve had the pleasure of watching most of my friends and family (including my husband) embrace this new decade of life before me. Each time I congratulated another person for entering their 30s, I didn’t give much thought to what kind of significance that might or might not hold for a particular person. To be honest, the thought of turning 30 has never really scared me that much. I was never one of those women that felt compelled to lie about her age or joke that I’m turning “29 for the second time”. Maybe it’s because I’ve accomplished pretty much everything that I wanted to during my 20s – finishing school, getting married, having babies, owning a home, etc. All those big milestones were things I wanted to hit before bowing out of this second decade of my life and I’m proud to say that I did them all. Maybe the only thing that I wasn’t able to do was the whole “3-before-30” (three kids before 30) thing but honestly, I’ll take two kids and be happy with that. Most moms my age are just getting pregnant with their first baby so I still feel ahead of the curve. Add to that the blessing of good Asian genes and I don’t even look like I’m 25, much less almost 30 so I haven’t felt much woe about turning 30.

Until now.

Now that it’s here and in my face and oh-my-gaw-it’s-really-happening-this-month, I do feel this odd sadness and sense of desperation about turning 30. I don’t want to turn 30. Haha, isn’t that so funny? All year, I didn’t even give it any thought like it was no biggie and now that it’s here I’m slightly panicking.

I can’t seem to figure out why though. I think maybe it has something to do with the fact that while I don’t really mind being 30, 31, 32 … the thought of being 38, 39, and what comes after that REALLY freaks me out. Right now, my body has been pretty kind to me despite having two kids and I don’t really feel that much worse for wear … but in 5 or 10 years, will those wrinkles start to show and skin start sagging? Will the baby weight from the next possible pregnancy stick around and not ever go away?

Also, I have this really strange idea that once I’m in my 30s I’d have to be more careful with my fashion and beauty choices. I’ve seen too many middle aged women who just have not aged gracefully because they haven’t allowed their fashion/beauty choices to mature along with them as they grow older. Clothes that are too tight or trendy, makeup that is too gawdy or heavy … I mean, I’m even at the point where I’m questioning whether or not I can even still choose pink colored accessories (wallets and such). Oh, and the dreaded neck skin. Regardless of if you cake on the makeup or use good skincare on your face, if you neglect the neck, your age will TOTALLY show through. And anytime I see an older woman (<– zomg, see? will now be in that category of older woman???) with a pretty, well-kept face but a wrinkly, saggy neck I just want to gag.

Birthdays have always been really big and important to me. All my life I’ve made it a point to celebrate well and celebrate hard for my birthday. My husband traditionally spoils me the entire week leading up to my birthday. But part of me feels like after this 30th birthday, it would be kind of juvenile to make a big fuss over myself turning another year older. It just doesn’t feel like something to celebrate?? Hahaha, I don’t know.

Is that stupid? I’m sure plenty of women in their 30s would probably huff and puff at this blog post. I’ll probably read back on this next year and laugh at myself. But these are seriously the strange thoughts that have been haunting me this month as I get ready to embrace 30. Can you tell that I’m freaking out just a little bit?

Four

It’s E’s 4th birthday. We spent the past few days celebrating her special day – my husband thinks it’s ridiculous but I’m a firm believer in the birthday WEEK celebration. Today, I sat down to update her book of love letters (it’s a notebook filled with pictures & letters I’ve written to her) and as I was flipping through the older letters, I started bawling. Actually, to be honest, I’ve been crying this whole weekend. Not necessarily for the reasons that other people cry on their kids’ birthdays. For me, there is a lot of sadness mingled with the celebrating. Yes, birthdays are a big deal in our family and a very special affair but they also remind me of when E was much younger … back during a very innocent time when we didn’t know anything about special needs and autism and how big a role they would play in our lives. As proud as I am of her, and much as she has grown in her own way, at these yearly milestones I’m still reminded of all those hopes and dreams I had for her when she was first born. Will she still be able to achieve the things she wants to do? Maybe … I don’t know. All I do know is that her path is going to be much more challenging and difficult than it will be for others. As a mother, my heart aches very much for her because of this.

We all went out to dinner as a family on Saturday night and the waitress kept asking E questions. How old are you? (That one she was able to answer.) Are you enjoying your birthday? How’s your dinner? Obviously, E completely ignored or just stared blankly back at her. At the end of dinner, the wait staff came out to sing happy birthday and my sweet, precious girl was so excited that she was frantically flapping her arms the entire song. The next morning as I was thinking about it, I burst into tears. The past few years, we’ve been able to enjoy celebrating her birthday out in public without strangers noticing anything amiss about her. So what if a 2 or 3 year old waves their arms or doesn’t answer your questions? To a certain extent, those behaviors are still common in kids that age. But we’re starting to enter the age when it’s a noticeable difference when E doesn’t pick up on the social cues she should or act the way that neurotypical kids her age do. I can’t help but feel a sense of foreboding, a ticking timer on how many more years we have before I start getting the stares. The what’s wrong with her … whispers. Pretty soon, she’ll be a tween and at the age when her peers will be asking to have birthday parties with their friends or spend time alone at the mall. Will E ever be invited to these parties when she’s bigger? If she wants to have such a party, will she have anyone to invite? These are the small burdens that make my heart sink and my eyes well with tears. They seem trivial, I know, but at the end of the day I just want her to be happy and to have people around her who love her (other than her family). As a side note: I still think it’s absolutely adorable when she flaps her arms. She only does it when she’s very happy or excited and I can just see the joy exuding from her little arms and hands as she flaps. I think it’s so cute and when I think about how other people might snicker at her because of it, it makes me even more sad because they’re missing how sweet it is to just see someone show pure joy without abandon.

Sometimes, I wonder if there will ever be a year when these kinds of thoughts don’t cross my mind on her birthday. I guess in one way, you can say that I still feel a sense of loss for what could’ve been and particularly for what I assumed would’ve been when she was younger. Sometimes when I think back on those first few months/years with her, I’m angry at myself for so naively believing that everything would come her way. Of course she’d have friends. Of course she’d talk and tell me silly things. Of course she’d grow up to ask me about boys and makeup. Of course, of course, of course. But none of these things are guaranteed to anyone, even parents of typical developing children. The simple truth is we just never know what will happen; tomorrow is never promised to anybody.

I hear the cynicism in my voice as I write this and I dislike that about myself, too. I’d like to think that this unique set of circumstances that God has placed me in simply gives me a sobering sense of reality and priorities but oftentimes I know I let it weigh me down more than it warrants. I just want to say that I know that there are many reasons to be joyful, too.

Today, I’m so thankful for the past four years that we’ve had our with our beautiful little girl. I don’t know what the future holds for us. I’m sure there will be many more moments of triumph and laughter, but also many more moments of defeat and devastation. If I could change any of her future for her, I would. If I could protect her from any of the hard moments, I would. But I can’t, so I’ll do the only thing that I really can do – look to the Savior, cling to the cross, pray for grace and miracles and keep my eyes heavenward and towards eternity.