Jetlag and Thoughts on Motherhood

I got the best of both worlds -- mommy by day, rock star by night!

I returned safely from my whirlwind tour of Japan and Indonesia last night to a husband, two kids, and a dog who all were very happy to see me.  There is, truly, nothing like home.  I’ve been up since 4am, though.  It’s always harder to adjust to eastward travel, but it’s as good time as any to catch up on my blogging!

When I first became pregnant with Josh almost 15 years ago, I thought that my life was over.  I was facing 18 years to life, and I knew that I would always have to look after this helpless offspring who, at the time, could do nothing — not even eat and poop — without my assistance.  I had enjoyed a busy career in music, traveling the world and meeting all sorts of interesting people.  Yet, I knew that it was time to kiss my life as I knew it good bye and kiss the cheeks of my newborn baby.

I mourned that death of me at the time, pretty much going into labor kicking and screaming, not wanting to let go of my wonderful life.  I mean, I thought I had it pretty good, and I enjoyed my freedom more than anything.  I did not want to be tied down to domestic life.

For a while after we became parents, I still tried to fight it.  I wasn’t willing to give up my life as I knew it, and I tried hiring nannies and sitters to try to prolong the freedom I had had.  Eventually, though, it became obvious that I was not yielding myself to this new role in life called motherhood.  That’s when I let go.  And then it became wonderful.

In fact, life got even better, much more fulfilling and richer than ever before.  How did I even think that my previous life was so worth holding onto?  Once I dove into motherhood with everything I had, my life became much more…what shall I say? — centered.  To be sure, others may be very well-centered even without having children, but for me, motherhood brought everything into light and my life finally made sense.  Yeah.  Much more centered.

Fast forward 14 years, and I’m finally crawling out of the mommy fog and reentering life again.  Things don’t look exactly the same, and I’m no longer chasing unrealistic dreams and expectations nor running away from demons on my shoulders.  Yes, I had my issues back then.  Anyway, in the past year, it has felt like I’m slowly getting my life back, and it feels good.  In so many ways, my music ministry and career look so much better than ever before.  Ironically, though, I don’t care as much about it; I can honestly take it or leave it.  Boy, is that ever freeing!

As I sang at and taught workshops at this children’s ministries conference in Jakarta with other speakers from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and other parts of the US, I noticed that many of us have children about the same ages as mine — preteen to young teens — which made me think that perhaps my parenting journey is not all that unique.  For a while — maybe 10, 12 years — we (especially moms) need to let go of our own selves and focus on raising our kids at home.  Ten years used to sound like a very long time for me back then, but now, in perspective, it is just a blink of an eye.  Then, just at the right time according to God’s infinite wisdom, we get back out there and continue with our lives and leave a lasting mark on humanity, both by raising children who are, hopefully, well-adjusted and contributors to society themselves, and also by doing whatever God made us to do here on earth.

So, if you are stuck in the mires of life that is raising young children and you feel like you will never wear dry clean-only clothes and/or high heels again, fear not!  You will get out there again, in due time.  And then you will realize how much more fulfilling life is and that you wouldn’t trade all the sleepless nights and poopy diapers for anything.

No, I wouldn’t trade my life as a mommy for anything.  Would you?

Singing at New Hope Yokohama. Some of the young parents there told me they heard me long time ago when they were kids. Oh boy, I've been at this a long time!

My Former and New Flexible Self

These people are more flexible than I am! (iStock photo)

I used to be so flexible.  I used to be able to do the splits when I was in high school.  I also used to stretch before and after running and could bend sideways, forwards, and backwards farther than any of my cohorts.  Later when I was pregnant, my ligaments became even more loose in preparation for the Big Day when my hips would open sesame to expel a human from within.  Sideways splits were easy as pie in those days.

I thought I would always be limber, but then something happened a few weeks after giving birth.  My ligaments hardened up like concrete! And no, they didn’t go back to the way they were before pregnancy but in whatever position I happened to be sometime between noon and 1pm, 30 days postpartum.  I know this, because I was standing in the kitchen with my feet slightly apart, washing the dishes.  I now walk like a duck.  I can barely touch my toes today, and the floor remains far, far away if I attempt the splits.  When I try to bend sideways, my brain thinks that I’m at 90 degrees while my body stubbornly remains stuck at around 170 degrees.

While waddling around in my ever-stiffening body one day, I realized that becoming a parent has ironically made me more flexible in my heart.  I used to have such rigid expectations about myself, but now I’ve had to let go of them for the sake of our kids.  I also used to have every minute of the day scheduled with my to-do list, but a sick child would completely throw off all of my carefully-laid plans…and I wouldn’t resent it one bit.  I’ve let go of a perfectly organized house for a more realistic, fun home.  I’ve also stopped beating myself up when my kids didn’t meet some milestones, because some things are beyond my control.  Actually, not much in life was ever under my control; it just took motherhood for me to recognize this.

I don’t think I would ever go back to my former, inflexible self.  Back then, things always HAD to be a certain way.  Who wants a perfectly clean home when the kids are all stressed about it?  What child wants every minute of their days planned with activities?  Who cares about doing the splits when there is a sick child who needs you?

I’m writing this today, because Josh missed his baptism this morning due to yet another illness.  He really did have a high fever and looked rather contagious.  In my past life, I would have thrown him in the ice tub, made him get dressed, and fed him Tylenol for breakfast so he could be lucid enough for the 10 minutes at church.  After all, his name was already printed in the bulletin!  Instead, we let him go back to bed and sleep in.  Thankfully, Pastor Tim assured us that there will be another opportunity after he gets well.

Yeah, it would be nice if I could regain some of my physical flexibility from my glory days, but I wouldn’t trade the flexibility I’ve gained as a mother for anything.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do some stretches on the floor next to the bed where my sick child is sleeping upstairs.

Tell me — are you more or less flexible after becoming a parent, physically or emotionally?  What are some big lessons you’ve learned as a result of having a child?

The Many Hats of a Mom

A busy mom, which is redundant. (photo iStock)

Moms and employment have been in the news a bit lately, so with Mother’s Day approaching I thought I’d throw in my two cents.  I don’t know why people get so touchy about this topic; after all, we moms only work about 100 hours per week for NO PAY!

Before I became a parent, I had no idea how many hats I would one day be wearing.  Here’s just a short list of the jobs I’ve held as the primary household engineer:

1.  Babysitter

Yeah, I know — we are supposed to be parenting, not babysitting.  But you gotta admit — the first few months of your baby’s life is pretty much all about feeding, changing, and rocking, and burping.  Not much interaction happens with your newborn, so you just sit by your baby.  Babysit.  As I mentioned previously, I never did any babysitting in my younger days nor even help out in the church nursery.  I was a major fail at this gig, at least for the first couple of months.

2.  Teacher

Yes, I went to college.  Did it prepare me to be a tutor and, in some cases, a full-fledged teacher?  Nope.  It’s easy enough at first when they’re toddlers and I’m just showing them flash cards of animals, colors, and the periodic table.  It progresses from there to helping them with middle school algebra and Egyptian history.  Did I mention to you that I immigrated to the US in third grade and that I was not fluent in English until sometime in middle school?  How can I help my kids with 5th grade homework when I had never seen the material before?  Cramming for finals in college somewhat prepared me to become the teacher that I am to my kids.

3.  Thespian

I heard again and again that I should be reading to our kids, so I did.  But reading in a monotone would be boring for the child as well as for myself, so I tried my best at being as dramatic as possible: “So MAMA bear said to her cubs, ‘Why, YES!  You may go play outside and [sound effects here] FLY your KITE [gesticulate as if a kite].”  I wished so much that I had studied drama in school rather than my own major, computer science.

4.  Chef

I was so domestically challenged that my husband used to say that the best thing I made for dinner is a reservation.  Then we had kids, and I had to evict the crickets and actually start using our kitchen!  My parents used to own a Japanese restaurant, so I did know a thing or two about cooking…for 50 people or more.  I also was really in charge of one dish at the restaurant: tempura.  Well, our kids couldn’t eat fried food everyday for the rest of their lives, so I had to learn to make a wider variety of dishes.  I also have had to plan ahead and shop wisely so we don’t end up bailing and eating out too often, although I think we still go out far too often.  The main thing is that we’re all still alive and well!

5.  Nurse

I’ve learned to take temperature on a feverish child, catch vomit in a bucket, diagnose diaper rash, administer medicine disguised as a yummy snack, determine by the color of the snot whether the illness warrants a visit to the clinic, keep up on immunization shots, and diagnose the cough as allergies, cold, or TB. I wished so much that I had gone to nursing school but am so thankful for WebMD.  Oh yeah, and my husband!

6.  Other jobs I’ve held as a mom:

  • Seamstress
  • Therapist
  • Personal trainer
  • Financial advisor
  • Event planner
  • Personal shopper
  • Coach
  • Makeup artist
  • Hair stylist
  • Barber
  • Cobbler
  • IT specialist & computer consultant
  • Ghost writer (oops)
  • Librarian
  • Police
  • Attorney
  • Gardener
  • Cleaning lady
  • Theologian
  • Travel agent
  • Chauffer

…and, as they always say, the list goes on.  But my favorite title is this:

Mom.

Did I forget any other jobs on the list?  Which is your favorite?  Please share with us!

Once a Mom, Always a Mom

My parents, happy in paradise...I mean, Hawaii.

My parents moved to Honolulu to retire about 5 years ago after finally relinquishing their Japanese citizenship to the US. Today, while traveling in Tokyo, I received an email written in Japanese from her with the subject “Please Be Cautious.” The body of the email went like this: “North Korea is testing its nuclear missiles between April 12 and 13. I think you’re flying back to LA during that time. Please be careful.”

A part of me is glad that I still have a mother who cares about me like no one else ever will. However, another part of me can’t stop laughing at the lunacy of her caution. What, pray tell, should I do to prepare myself in case of a nuclear missile launch? In particular, if they actually do shoot a nuclear missile towards the very aircraft in which I sit, what could I possible do to escape my certain demise? Run into the lavatory? Duck under my seat? Notify the Authority? There are times when we all have to face our final destiny, and no mother can stop that. Certainly not by email from Hawaii.

This is the same mother who tried to grab my hand while crossing the streets of Honolulu during our last visit. No, she wasn’t trying to steady herself; rather, she was trying to protect me from cars whizzing by Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. She’s nearly 80 years old, so I can’t imagine her providing me with much protection, in spite of the fact that she is still in great health.

Many of my friends ask why, when their only grandchildren reside in California, would my parents move to Hawaii. Wouldn’t they want to be involved in their grandkids’ lives? How could they only see them, at most, twice a year on vacation in Honolulu?

The truth is, my mother cares too much, and she almost smothered all of us when my kids were young. She couldn’t stand watching me learn by mistake in parenting, and she couldn’t stand to see me or my kids experience pain. So, in her most loving and caring way, she chose to remove herself physically from us to create a geographical distance between us because she could not separate from us emotionally. Where would be the most sacrificial place to live in retirement? The paradise known as Hawaii. My dad was not going to refuse.

My mother's latest project

It’s turned out to be the best decision for them ever. They are enjoying their golden years strolling the beaches of Waikiki and playing frisbee together at Kapiolani Park. (Actually, I think frisbee is great exercise — jumping, reaching, throwing, catching…) My mother picked up oil painting at the ripe old age of 72 and has been churning out amazing works of art on a regular basis. My dad, who has always been a learning junkie, has signed up for unlimited classes at the local Apple store and has become quite an expert. I think he secretly hopes to someday work at the Apple Genius Bar so he can help out old people.

They bought their plots at a cemetery on Diamond Head, and every now and then they pack a picnic lunch to go sit under the tree canopying their future resting place. “We went to go visit our grave today,” she reports. “You should join us sometime. I’ll make some rice balls and your favorite teriyaki chicken for lunch.” I really don’t care to go visit my parents’ grave any sooner than I have to, but one of these days I’ll go humor them.

So, here we are in Tokyo visiting my parent’s homeland, and my mom is sending me directives by email. I just let her know that I appreciate her concerns and leave it at that. As much as I tell myself I won’t be doing the same when my own kids are grown, I just have a feeling that I’ll be sending similar emails to them in a few decades.

After all, once a mom, I’ll always be a mom.

Do you have any stories of your own parents still trying to parent you? Let me know in the comments below!

He Used to Be Somebody’s Baby

And to think...this guy used to be in diapers

Once I became a mom, I began to look at people differently.  It dawned on me one day – hey, everyone used to be a small, helpless baby at one time!  This had a profound effect on how I viewed, in particular, two sets of people: hunks and criminals.

Like most normal women, I used to look at good looking guys and swoon (that is, before I met David, of course!).  I wondered what it’s like to be such a chick magnet and what type of cologne he used.  Is he a model?  Does he have a girlfriend?  Does he work out?

However, after I became a mother, I began to look at such hunks much more maternally.  I wondered how cute he must have looked as a little baby in diapers. Was he colicky like my son, or was he an easy baby?  Did he start walking early?  At what age was he potty-trained?  I bet he was extremely handsome even as an infant.  Well, my baby is beautiful, so I wonder if he will some day look as good as that male model for Abercrombie & Fitch.  Oh mister, you really need to put some more clothes on or you’ll catch a cold!  How could your mom let you pose like that? Oy.

And then there are the criminals.  Back in my childless days, I would see a mugshot on the news and not give it much thought beyond “too bad this person made a bad choice and is paying for his own consequences.”

Now that I am a mother, however, no mug shot goes by me anymore without my heart breaking for his mother.  Again, I would be reminded that he used to be someone’s baby who needed diaper changes and feedings around the clock.  I bet the mom received gifts and flowers from family and friends when she gave birth to him, just as I did.  I’m certain that the mom had hopes and dreams for this guy, just as I do for my own son… hopes that he might one day become the President of the United States, a lawyer, and/or a champion bowler.  When did this guy start veering off course?  What could the mom have done differently to keep this from happening?  I better do everything right in raising my baby or I might see my his mug shot someday on the news.  What if I am one day the recipient of that 3am phone call from the county jail?  Yikes!

I am working hard right now to help our kids make the right choices as they grow up, but I can’t always control what choices they’ll make eventually in life.  Perhaps they’ll make some good ones and some bad.  Of course, I pray that they’ll mostly make good choices and will spare themselves from going down the road to destruction.

Whether they one day appear on the cover of a magazine or on the “wanted” poster, I do know one thing for sure: I will always be my kids’ mommy.

And I will never, ever stop loving them.

 

 

Practicing the Presence of God

Eternal Treasure cover art

Eternal Treasure CD

For my weekend post, I’d like to share with you a song I wrote during the Bovine Period of my life.  I often refer to my “Eternal Treasure” CD as my album postpartum.  Although this song wasn’t a top 40 hit, it expresses this mother’s heart fully and is one of my own personal favorites.  You can hear a sample of the song at iTunes or at CD Baby, but here are the lyrics:

Practicing the Presence of God

(verse 1)

She looks outside her window to watch the world go by

People doing lofty things as she tends to her baby’s cries

Well, it’s only for a season

She knows, but for some reason

Though she loves her family there’s a loss she can’t deny

Though her former days are over and things are different now

She vows to serve her Jesus in the best way she knows how

(chorus)

With her heart and soul and mind

Loving all the time

And practicing the presence of God

In her very special way

All throughout the day

She’s practicing the presence of God

(verse 2)

She thanks God in the morning

For the tiny feet and hands

Embracing them with a mother’s touch

In a way no others can

There is joy in daily living

When we’re called to do the living

In His grace and mercy

We can do as he commands

So to give back to Lord Jesus

For the deepest love she’s known

She will serve her friends and family

In the same way she’s been shown

(chorus)

(bridge)

Though her world may be so tiny

And surrounded by these walls

She will fill it with much laughter

And do her best to heed her call

(chorus)

Words and music by Junko Nishiguchi Cheng, copyright 1999 Everyday Hero Music (ASCAP), produced by John Andrew Schreiner

I’ll be back on Monday with a new post which — I hope — will make you laugh…or gag.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Check back soon.  Have a wonderful weekend!