Jun Dishes

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Mijn Papa Is Dood

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Davy and I took our Noah to get a new pair of shoes after school today. Noah’s current brown suede loafers were worn out and getting smaller by the week and he wanted the very same ones, literally, except one size bigger of course. He’d be turning five this month, and it was time to upsize for sure.

But Davy and I somehow convinced him that the blue suede ones in the same exact style would be better. Different, but the same, and Noah begrudgingly agreed. It was clear he wanted the brown ones again, but really, he wanted McDonald’s for dinner more. So we walked up to the counter to pay, thinking the loafers were €50, only to discover that they were actually €80.

It turns out the blue ones were part of the “new collection” and thus ridiculously priced as such, while the brown ones were still last season’s, at a reasonable €50. Needless to say, Noah walked out of the store today with a new pair of brown loafers. Funny how some things just work out their own way, with lessons learned all around.

So with his new brown suede loafers in tow, Noah snuck in his request to be treated to McDonald’s for dinner. Davy and I obliged. We rolled up into the McDonald’s closest to home, ordered, and sat down with enough food for three including the quintessential Happy Meal. There was one other family in the PlayPlace dining area, a mom and her kids.

One of those kids, a boy just a little older than Noah, came over to our table almost immediately, wanting to compare Happy Meal Lego Batman toys and chat with Noah. His name was Jamie. Noah obliged, and I smiled. This particular McDonald’s always seemed to have some story in store for us, never a dull day…

I prepped Noah’s food for consumption, peeling open the usual condiments and unwrapping predictable bites of warm processed comfort food. That’s the thing about McDonald’s…you know exactly what you’re gonna get and that’s why you go back. The only surprises come along with the people around you at any given time.

“Mijn papa is dood.” My dad is dead.

I froze, mid-dip of my fry in the fritessaus fry sauce. I didn’t know if I’d heard that right. I looked up at Davy to see if he’d heard the same thing. This little boy Jamie, playing with Noah right next to me, had just announced clear as day that his dad was dead. Neither Noah nor Davy reacted, so I didn’t either. I honestly wasn’t even sure if it was the truth or some role playing with the Lego Batman stuff.

“Mijn papa is gestorven vrijdag. Hij is dood.” My dad passed away on Friday. He is dead.

And there it was. Jamie had repeated himself, with no emotions attached, making it very clear that this was real. I could barely swallow the fry in my mouth. It felt like styrofoam going down my throat. I wanted to hug the child, but I didn’t think I should touch him, so I told him I was very sorry to hear this news. My cynicism took over then, and I questioned the boy’s authenticity. And then his twin brother, Ike, popped up at my side. Fraternal Twin Ike joined in on the Happy Meal fun for a few seconds before announcing, too, that his papa was dead.

The whole scene felt unreal. And I noticed that Noah was chomping away at his nuggets and fries, wholly unaware, or perhaps purposely ignoring this whole thread of conversation surrounding death. I didn’t know if I should believe what I was hearing, or if I should comfort the boys in some way. But then the mother appeared and she gently scolded Jamie and Ike for interrupting our dinner and sharing too much, and she shooed them away. I told her that it was okay, that the boys could play, now or after they’d all eaten, whatever whatever whatever, my head was buzzing.

The mom apologized, but confirmed that indeed the boys’ father, her ex, had died last Friday, in a fatal motorcycle accident just nearby. And that she was trying to find some sort of normalcy in life by bringing her children – two boys and one girl – to McDonald’s, like any other day. Although she was no longer in a romantic relationship with the just-deceased father, their love for their children had always kept them close.

It turns out Davy had read the newspaper article about the whole tragedy, and knew of what she spoke. And all of a sudden so many questions were answered, at least for me. Those boys repeating out loud that their father was dead was less about those around them listening, and more for themselves. When would it actually sink in for them?

I excused myself at one point to go to the bathroom – to cry. I’ve never cried in the bathroom of a McDonald’s before in my life. There’s always a first for everything I guess.

I realized that I could relate in some way to this mother. I could see myself in her shoes somehow. I could have even been her on many occasions. Because there I was sitting there with my son and my estranged husband, feeling anything but normal in what looked like a normal family meal at McDonald’s.

~

Davy and I have been separated, for the second time in the last year, for a little over a month now. Today was our first real prolonged peaceful time together with Noah, for the purposes of doing something solely for Noah, in a long time. But it was way more than I asked for in many ways, and at close to midnight, I’m still grappling with things that prevent me from sleep.

But I’m relieved that I can share some of what’s been going on in my life after months and months of silence and personal turmoil…

I found the article eventually, link, detailing the sad truth about it all. It shook me. It made me think about my own life.

My future. My present. My past.

Noah. Davy. My dad.

Death.

Life.

Happiness.

Everything.

Too much.

Fries turned out to be very complicated today.

I tried my best to convey what I could to that mom, my own way.

But I forgot to thank her, most of all, for her strength in everything, today.

Because, one day at a time.

Always dishing,

Jun

What Happened Before & After The Night Before Rice House

Family

Here’s some of what happened before and after the night before Rice House

I…

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Had Fun: I relished in all of my free time heading into the Grand Opening of Rice House. I’ve always wanted to be a fun mom. My own momz is a very fun mom.

~

SoupLadel

Shopped: This ladle was too big for me, but I did find one just the right size eventually. You know, for Rice House.

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Hated: This was two days before Rice House opened on May 1st. I hated seeing things unfinished but I loved the thrill of it too. We couldn’t have done it alone though.

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Loved: Davy’s mom and Noah’s Omi spent her own birthday busting her ass to help us finish up last details at Rice House, the day before the opening. We remembered to get her a birthday cake!

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Groceries

Displayed: Starting up the Rice House Grocery wall…

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Opened: This was me, before I gave myself 14 total cuts on two hands on very sharp knives, and bruises on my hips from bumping into shit. But I was still very happy, and am still.

~

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Mommied: Noah will always be my baby, and Rice House his sibling.

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Rolled: Lots of sushi to roll on opening day. Little did I know that this would be the easiest day ever, for the rest of my days of rice…

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DSC00381Dished: I ran out of sushi to serve, eventually, and had to improvise accordingly.

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BrusselsGot to meet a Big Brother fan: From Brussels. I was psyched! Such a sweetheart!

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I wish I could dish more, but I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes open. And the bow tie, by the way, was a temporary thing. I could never wear that thing every day.

Until next dish…

Always dishing,

Jun

The 7UP Bottle That Ate Freddy

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So Davy and Noah and I hosted our first Christmas Eve Dinner in our home last night!

So this was us this morning…

Hurting

Not pretty.

Me exhausted and Davy slugging on the sofa. Yet Noah was pretty thrilled about getting frozen orange juice in a bowl as a breakfast treat.

I think were all prettier last night.

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I also call this the “The 7UP Bottle That Ate Freddy” photo.

~

This year our home was full of bodies and souls on Christmas Eve. The prior year it was at Davy’s aunt’s, Tante Claudine (in white), and the year before that at Davy’s mom’s, Carine’s (in polka-dots). The year before that Davy and I were newlyweds and we spent Christmas Eve in New York with my family and friends. This year it was on us.

Last night, my corn came out of a can and my salad came out of a bag. But I roasted a 16 pound / 7 kilo turkey and made my own stuffing and cranberry sauce and candied yams with pink and white marshmallows, eggplant parmesan, mashed potatoes and a pasta salad. I made gravy from the turkey drippings. I get my adrenaline rush putting together dinners, admittedly, and yesterday I was on fire. Everyone had two plates of food and there’s not that much food left today on Christmas Day, which is part of the thrill.

Christmas Eve in Belgium is bigger than Christmas Day. Everybody parties like it’s their last Christmas Eve on earth and then Christmas Day everybody’s recovering. So there are no big dinners or parties on Christmas Day because that would be bad for the recovery process from the night before. See? I had to get used to this because back in the States my family always celebrated on the actual day.

I was far from my mother and brother and family miles away but I thought of them often last night like I am now. Love knows no bounds. My family here on Christmas Eve included family and friends who gladly threw on goofy Santa hats and managed to all wear them a different way!

Noah rocked his red bow tie and he really liked being different. He was awed by the Smobykitchen Davy and I got for him. He loved unwrapping the big box it came in and when he was presented with the finished product…

He was in kitchen heaven!

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(I’ll share some film later).

We placed Noah’s kitchen right outside our “real” kitchen. This morning we caught, on surveillance, Noah making breakfast for himself.

Noah'sKitchenCorner

We don’t really have surveillance…

Always dishing,

Jun

Heather’s Daughter

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These are excerpts from a few different blogs written by someone I know, Heather:

My gorgeous, stunning amazing, twelve year old has an eating disorder…

     She ate today without pushing and without a fight. I realize that we’ll have more bad days than good days, but I relish the good…

Yesterday wasn’t as good as the day before. She didn’t eat breakfast, lunch and picked at dinner. She said dinner, stuffed peppers, her request, was too filling…

     She talks a lot at dinner, as if to distract us from the fact she isn’t eating…

I think there is a light at the end of this very, very, very dark tunnel. She’s such a bright light, I wish she saw it in herself…

     She’s starting to layer her clothes more. She wore leggings, a skirt, tank, shirt and jacket today. So many clothes for such a little body.

Not that I ever thought it would be easy, but this, this is hard…

     We don’t have family support. We have friends, but I don’t want to expose too much of her story if she isn’t ready…

~

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Everybody always has advice about everything. Sometimes the best advice comes from the least likeliest of sources. If you’ve had a daughter or son or friend, or a brother or sister, whomever struggled like Heather’s daughter is struggling…

I’m hoping there are some of you who may be able to share something with Heather, or recommend some real nitty fucking gritty books to her, as she starts on this path.

Always dishing,

Jun

A Culturally Diverse Family

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I’ve been accused of being “obsessed with race.” Some people shun topics that make them feel uncomfortable or uninformed. Some ask very open questions about topics like race and identity, and real life in general. Believe it or not I don’t think about race all the time, because I’m just being me all day and “me” has no real race.

You’re born a certain race, but your identity is in your hands.

 

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My family is more culturally diverse now than it was three years ago, as I write from my home in Belgium.

I hope for Noah, just shy of being a year-and-a-half, to always retain each part of his strong heritage.

I speak only in English every day during the day with Noah. Davy speaks only Dutch to Noah. Davy and I speak both English and Dutch to each other, as do most of his family when I’m around them.

With my mother, on Skype. I speak only Korean because it’s a special time Noah connects with my mother and family in America. Korean is most comfortable for my family still, after all these years living in New York. Noah seems comfortable with Korean too, as he responds to my mother’s requests for him to clap his hands or blow her a kiss, and understands all her words of praise. Noah understands three languages and he’ll use select words in English and Korean, but he speaks mostly Dutch words.

Language and nuances aside, there are adjustments I’ve made as an American expat living in Belgium. Religion or gay rights is not a “big” thing here in Belgium like it is in the states, or in Korea. Gay people have the same exact rights as straight people in Belgium. This isn’t the case in America, and in Korea being gay is ‘legal” but rights are not equal. I grew up in the church and taught Sunday School, and if Noah’s interested I hope to pass on some parables and songs of praise. I haven’t been religious in a very long time, but I’m open to teaching Noah a little bit of everything about everything…religious or gay or not.

Also, generally speaking, Belgians dine on one hot meal per day and two cold ones, as opposed to Americans who tend to love hot meals. I think Belgian diets are healthier on average, than an average American’s diet. Koreans eat the most rice by far, of the three countries, and I’m happy to be Korean.

I love rice so Noah loves rice, as does my husband Davy. Noah eats a little bit of everything because he loves his food. In addition to a Korean and Belgian and American palate I wish for him a life even fuller than mine and good food all the way.

When my mother was here, we celebrated Noah’s First Birthday in Korean Dol  fashion

NoahDol

 

In my spare time I write down stories I was told by elders in my family, and details of events I remember from growing up in our highly functional dysfunctional Korean family. Having been born in Korea I’m only recently piecing together many pieces of my family’s simultaneously moving parts, while living apart in two separate countries in the 1970s.

I had my first real Christmas the year I joined my parents in New York.

Doll

I learned to love America quickly, and I loved speaking English. As I got older my “American-ness” had to be squashed at times convenient for my parents, and their Korean rules. I was expected to uphold old Korean traditions and tediously repeat Korean vocabulary exercises. I didn’t want to learn Korean then, but I’m thankful now that my parents made me attend every Sunday for two hours Korean language instruction.

I grew up well-traveled but over-sheltered in a Korean household. I wish to give my Noah room as he grows and develops his personality, and his own wings. I believe he’ll need space as he envelops traits from three very real and present life cultures. I never want him to feel squashed.

Noah has roots in Belgium and Korea, and family in America. As much as my life is Korean and American and Belgian…Noah’s life is too and more than my husband Davy’s. I wrote a little bit about my identity growing up, and now as a Korean-American adult leaving her 30s soon, I’ve adopted Belgian culture into my life.

Belgium is home, and I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

Always dishing,

Jun