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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

Dandelion Seeds

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The fact that my son Noah will never get to meet my dad is one of the saddest realities I live with, in my weakest moments. The fact that my father never even had the chance to meet my little Noah is gut-wrenching to me, in my lowest of lows. For if I had to name the two biggest influences in my life? They would be my father and my son.

My husband Davy is my forever one. But I married him. I chose him.

I did not choose my father and I did not choose my son. That is blood. I am their blood.

My mother is the one who carried me in her belly and pushed me out into this world, but it is my father who shaped me most. My mother knows this. She loves this. Because, my father was unlike anybody in my life and this will be true forevermore. I know this. I love this.

Because you see, to know my father was to love him, the way you love the feeling of your feet touching the ground firmly when you jump off a swing. The way you love picking up where you left off in your favorite book. The way you love free-falling into your own bed after some time away, because there’s just no place like home. Steadfast. Solid. My dad.

And his presence was surely felt this April when my little family of three made our trip back home to New York, to be at my brother’s wedding. Noah played his part of ring bearer and flower boy to perfection. It was just about the most perfect day that 17th of April…

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There were, however, countless loved ones in attendance who wished my father could be there, of course and especially my mother. But she didn’t need to tell us this. And we did not voice this sentiment to her either. We did not want to take her joyous day away…

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But my mother shed not one tear on my brother’s wedding day, although I had, she refused to. She glowed. Her strength that day kept me strong too. I owed that to her.

Her baby boy was married. I was married. She said this out loud in Korean to nobody in particular, as we left the wedding hall, but I heard her and I know in my heart she was talking to my dad who was listening from above.

My mother carried that same glow when she joined me and Davy and Noah on our trip to the cemetery to see my dad, just a week later. We had never made it to the cemetery on our last trip back to New York in 2012. I’d regretted it immensely. But I knew it was time to pay my dad a visit, and for Davy and Noah to pay their respects for their first time.

I remember my stomach being in knots that morning, the 23rd of April, an even bigger knot in my throat. I couldn’t swallow, as hard as I tried, the significance of the day. I cried, so very much, as I prepared to walk once again upon the grounds where my father lay for the last 12 years.

I never did let Noah see me cry that day.

I owed that to him.

~

Noah held my hand and he listened intently as I spoke to him…

This is where we come to remember my papa, your haraboji, because he’s not here with us anymore. He’s so very far away that we cannot see him or touch him, I’d said to Noah.

I’d then picked up a dandelion from the plush lawn by my father’s tombstone. Because one of Noah’s favorite things to do is blow on them and watch the seeds fly away. So I handed Noah the dandelion as we crouched in front of my father’s grave.

If you blow on this dandelion the seeds will fly away and some will reach haraboji way up in the sky. That’s where he is. That’s where he will always be, watching over us. And he will always know that you are the one who has sent him the beautiful dandelion seeds, I’d said to Noah.

Maybe one day Noah will ask about heaven and hell. And maybe one day I’ll tell him about all that’s heavenly, and not. Or not. My faith has not been the same since I lost my dad. It was never as strong as I pretended it was anyway. And I don’t know if it will ever be strong again. It is why I choose not to raise Noah in the Christian faith though that’s how I was raised.

In that moment though, Noah’s eyes lit up. He blew that dandelion so hard that the seeds starting swirling around his face, tickling him. We laughed and stared skyward together, as the precious seeds floated higher and higher. It didn’t matter how far they made it. Noah was entranced with the idea that he could somehow connect with the man whom I’d just referred to as “my papa.”

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We watched Noah run from spot to spot picking dandelions and sending seeds of love up to my father. He didn’t want to stop. Davy was surprised by how quickly Noah caught on to the idea of being able to reach my father. My mother beamed with pride. Her grandson was so expressive in his desire to be a part of my father’s world in that moment, and intuitive enough to know just what she, his halmuhnee, needed right then and there…

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And in that moment, all the once-tangled and painful knots inside me unraveled and I knew I was right to have waited to bring these three loves of my life together to where my father rested.

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It was a beautiful day, that day in April, visiting my dad. It was my very own happy Father’s Day. In Belgium, Father’s Day falls on the 12th of June this year, this Sunday, one Sunday before it does in the States. So I will be celebrating again and again. No tears. Just love.

So Happy Father’s Day to everyone, every day this month, every day of the year. Why not? For new fathers and grandfathers, fathers lost and dearly missed, or fathers found anew, fathers here and there and everywhere.

I feel you.

Loved. Cherished. Remembered.

I’m reminded always now, by dandelion seeds in the air…

~

As I finish this blog, I’ve received news that my brother is in the hospital and very sick. The doctors can’t pin-point the cause of his blood infection, but as of this morning he is out of the ICU and stable. I choose to believe this is my father watching over him. And though I wish I could end this blog on a lighter note, I have never been one to hide my emotions when it comes to my family. I ask that you keep my brother in your thoughts. Thank you everyone for your love.

Always.

UPDATE: Friday, June 10th. My brother has been released in stable health and has returned home to rejoin his new bride. I do not have all the answers, and maybe I never will, but all I need to know is that my brother is home again, even cracking jokes. The newlywedding can pick up where it was left off.

Amazing.

Always dishing,

Jun

Living In The Land Of

Windmills

…fill in the blank.

Living in the Land of _________.

Some of you may have chosen windmills or make-believe or “milk and honey” or plenty or penis or pussy or sushi, or whatever you love so much that you’d love to live in a land of it. Now imagine you don’t love it but you actually feel meh about it. Meh.

Because I live in the land of chocolate. Belgium. Chocolate is everywhere. Everywhere. There is no escaping it.

I get asked by chocoholic tweeters every day how much I love living in the land of chocolate. I’m just like meh. Meh!

But I don’t say meh because you just don’t say it in a land so proud of it. Sigh.

And I never actually loved chocolate. I only liked it. It’s sweet and melts in your mouth and sometimes has nuts. All meh.

But mostly, I just don’t have a major sweet tooth, unless the gates of menstrual hell are being unleashed or I’m stuck in a house of lunatics who want to take $500,000 away from me and I’m just, well, stressed. I’m a savory kinda girl.

So I’m sorry to all the boyfriends and other gifters who ever gifted me chocolate and I faked joy. I was happy about the thought put into it, but I have never felt joy receiving chocolate. So there. There’s something I needed to get off my chest obviously.

Interestingly enough. My little Noah’s not a chocoholic either. He’ll pick shortbreads or vanilla or hazelnut wafer cookies (like me) over chocolate ones. Hmmm. It’s one of our little things. I like sharing it with him because I don’t have to live alone feeling meh about chocolate in Belgium.

Though it means less cookies for me because Noah will kindly offer everyone a chocolate cookie until he has all the non-chocolates to himself. The force is strong in him. It would be cool to watch him win Big Brother one day.

Sigh.

Always dishing,

Jun

Confronting

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Mama, that boy has girls’ shoes on.”

“No dear, that is a girl.”

“But she has no hair, like a boy.”

“Because she is also sick like you and she lost her hair. And you will lose yours too, like her one day, because that’s what will happen.”

“But Mama, I don’t want to lose all my hair.”

~

How is a mother to respond to such a plea?

And what of the angst, when this child pleas with her mother and father that she doesn’t want to feel the cold and relentless prick of a needle in her arm? That pain and discomfort, all too familiar now, as she endures such steps in this many years’ journey that has just begun. This little girl, so charming and so smart, as smart as a slap to the face of reality that so many lives have changed overnight. Because, that’s what really happens when cancer hits close to home. Maybe you have cancer now, or your spouse or child, or you had it or know someone who did, however close or far the relationship. Maybe I’m just late to writing about cancer, but as much of a challenge it is, it brings together people who truly care about people. People.

We lose people in the news headlines every day it seems, that it’s an everyday occurrence that social media is filled with loss every day. And then the countless lives lost that don’t even make it to the ugly pretty news. Lives that are never even mentioned but are lost all the same.

And somehow you forget or maybe overlook the little victories, about people who live and survive, like a beautiful little girl who is taking well to the chemotherapy and eating and enjoying all the things children are supposed to enjoy. She may look different on the outside but she is the same spritely and joyous soul in a little body. Davy and I got to spend some time last week with Noah’s friend, Farah. She is just short of two months into treatment for leukemia. I’ve written about her before, and her parents Houda and Daan and baby sister Lynah.

Last week was emotional but we had fun that night with Farah in our presence. It was so very special. We did not bring Noah with us. One day when it’s possible we will.

But Davy and I saw Farah and she was as sweet and girly as ever, her eyes twinkled as always. She was her coy self and talkative in spurts, when I sat with her. We had blankets beneath us. We laughed, trying to get a video up on the iPad, because she wanted to show me something in English because she knows it is a language I speak.

Farah’s spirit sparkles and she is still everything good and right with the world, though her little body has been through many changes from head to toe already. And I wished I could take away as many daily dilemnas and pains as I could for Farah, as a mother and as a friend to Houda.

I say Houda is one strong woman. No matter how weak Houda may think she’s being at times. But she should never think herself weak. Houda keeps it together and she lets go when she has to. There is no shame in that. You must cry and lose your shit, in life, because it keeps you balanced and human and honest. But it takes a strong person to keep that balance. And I think Houda is really cool. That’s a rarity these days, sadly. But it makes you cherish it when you find it.

Since we last saw Farah, Houda and Daan have had to make the tough decision to cut her hair very short, because she started losing it at an alarming rate.

~

Since we were all last together, there has been one word that’s been stuck in my head because Houda kept using it in conversation. Confronting.

Confronting, as it relates to seeing your child go through drastic and sometimes overnight changes, and to be able to handle that kind of change. How you handle it truly shows what you are made of as an adult, as a parent.

Confronting. It’s actually the perfect word, and maybe often not used enough. Because sometimes shocking isn’t the right word but we use it, because I feel like I can’t use confronting because what I feel is not the same as Houda’s. But we are both mothers so I know well where Houda is. And she’s so honest about it it’s something to truly respect.

It must be indeed confronting. And maybe lonely. Because how many parents do you know in your immediate and one degree of separation’s away radius, whose child was just diagnosed with cancer?

Confronting. Even though you may tell your child, during chemotherapy, that this will inevitably happen. Maybe that conversation happened just a week ago, and it’s a most difficult reality to swallow for everyone. But I truly appreciate Houda entrusting me with her family. I try to balance what is customary here with who I am as a person.

Since then I’ve been wearing half my clothes inside-out some days, because so much has happened while my brain is trying to catch up with it all. Davy has since the last blog basically changed “bosses” at the Port of Ghent, where he’s a heavy machinery dockworker. So there’s a whole new hierarchy of authority for me to get to know, as “a docker’s wife.”

And Noah, he deserves all the love and attention he gets from those who love him, as he should.

The Little Shop

Noah takes very seriously his “little shop” where he parks his stroller outside and tends to business selling me croissants and cakes. He grows by leaps and bounds faster than my iPhone can capture, but I try. He is unabashedly wiser than his years but frolicking his childhood away. We have much to be thankful for every day, but especially cognizant of Thanksgiving coming up…

Memory

Noah also takes seriously indulging my mother in New York, when we all Skype after school. Lately we’ve been playing some of Noah’s simplest games and it gets pretty intense and very funny watching the whole thing unfold. There’s lots of love  not to be taken for granted at this pace of life we all fall into place in. We hope to, in the future, Skype with Farah, as both she and Noah both have already agreed happily to a date.

And…

Wishlist

This

This is a photo of love and support sent from many parts of the world to be donated to the children’s cancer ward of UZ Gent, the hospital where Farah is currently receiving her care and treatment. Cancer has far too many faces.

At first Davy and I were piling boxes into the dining room but then the boxes transformed into just outpouring of love. Even the always cynical Davy was touched by the immediate response from so many of you. It’s right there in our personal space, it can’t be missed.

Thank you to everyone who has given their words of wisdom and love and support, and those who were able to give through the Farah’s World wishlist and fund. Your cash donations will be matched and the wishlist fulfilled. I had no idea what to expect, and the boxes of love keep coming.

It’s not really done here. Fundraising and donations, mostly because civil and social functions in Belgium are well-funded. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need, even at basic humanitarian levels just to bring smiles to children’s faces. I struggle with riding the line between who I am and stopping myself because “it’s not really done here.” Because I don’t want to change too much while adjusting to life here. Since starting the wishlist of animal blankets, I have talked to parents and grandparents and friends and fans who have all been touched, in some way.

Thank you. For whatever your reason for being kind today, it has made a difference in someone’s day. That’s a good thing, still, that nobody can take away.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

 

Here Goes Nothing

Windmills

This is the obligatory “jumping back into blogging after being MIA is daunting” blog. Especially since there was a once upon a time I blogged every day. When Noah was tiny and napped and he napped often, and I chose not to nap but instead to write. So “Here Goes Nothing” is less about nothing and more about everything. Lots has happened in five months, and some things have remained very much the same.

Rice House is one year, three months and twenty-five days old today. Happy belated birthday to Rice House. Davy and I are very proud of what Rice House has become thus far, and relieved that Rice House is officially debt-free and on its way to more greatness.

And proud of Noah. Noah starts back up at school on the First of September at three-and-a-half. He’ll be in the same kindergarten class but with a different teacher, and still right across the street diagonally from Rice House once again. At the start of summer he was still rocking pull-ups and feeling stressed about potty training but today he is fully-potty trained and also in his first month of sleeping in a twin-sized official big boy bed. The transition has been smooth and I’m grateful. I never take this kind of shit for granted because all around me I see parents struggling, couples struggling and families struggling. But making it. And sometimes not making it. Life is hard for everyone and it’s a different kind of hard in Belgium, than it is in America.

I look forward to seeing life through Noah’s eyes for years to come. Everything my eyes saw, growing up in Manhattan, is on a whole other planet compared to that of Noah’s life here. The concrete jungle versus some of Europe’s oldest landmarks. Windmills even.

Windmills

 

Such stories he could tell you about windmills…and Legos (link to video in case it doesn’t show on your device: Legos)…

Noah will have many many many more stories to come.

He is already very much a prolific storyteller in two languages, speaking more Dutch and sprinkling in perfect English whenever he wants. His newest word is congratulations and I can’t wait to teach him to use it.

Noah’s begun to memorize and understand Korean when he Skypes with my mother, his 할머니 halmuhnee. That is what he was taught to call my mother from the very beginning and their bond is strong despite the distance between them. I call her momz in writing but Noah knows her only by 할머니. He calls Davy’s mom Omi and her partner Patrick Opi. He calls Davy’s dad Opa and his wife Oma. Everything in its place and everyone with a unique identity. I can’t wait to for our next trip back to New York for my brother’s wedding.

My brother Danny, Jun Young 준영, who is marrying a young woman I once met as a young lady. Anita. But she’s all woman now and I’m going to cry a lot seeing them walk down the aisle in April. I will cry for their happiness and my dad’s happiness. My dad passing away at 51 nearly killed all of my family in different ways, but now we celebrate him more and cry less. Anita was there for my brother when my dad died and she’d been with him since. They are making it and on their wedding day I will probably bawl and then laugh and not be able to keep eye makeup on. I may have to go with just a natural look and see what transpires.

Because a lot can transpire “since last blog.”

Davy and I as individuals, and in our marriage, have come a long way we’re well on our way to hitting the five-year mark. No marriage is perfect, that’s just suspect, but there is no shame in our game and that’s all that matters. We fight and take turns being assholes to each other, and we struggle like everyone else. And we’re making it. Shit gets real. But we’re stronger than ever.

Plus I turned 40 in July. And there’s no going back. Not with that shit. I may not look old but I do look older. I’m more than okay with that. SPF for the win.

So when I get asked multiple times a day if I’d “go back on Big Brother” it’s like there’s a short answer and then there’s everything I wrote about in this blog so far plus it’s not the easiest question to answer. Maybe. Depends. Who knows? I have so much on my plate, some shit needs to be planned and some just done on a whim because spare pockets of time pop up.

I do know that I’m back to watching Big Brother again after a season-and-a-half hiatus. I’m enjoying most of it immensely. Big Brother 17 is the closest we’ve gotten to an Old-School BB in a long time. It needed to be said. I am enjoying BB17. Despite my horribly scathing and cringy judgmental tweets, I am actually. This doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. And some people don’t get this. Meh. Who cares. The trolls always find me. Always. So I’m working on a back to BB blogging blog. And it will be a Power Rankings blog but of course my criteria have changed.

Would I trust this HG to babysit Noah for an hour or two?

Would I employ this HG at Rice House?

Would I double date with this HG (and their potential significant other)?

The double date thing comes up because people here in Belgium love to do it to the point of, really, and it’s something you can’t really avoid. It was something I couldn’t avoid last week…so it’s a new criteria in this Power Rankings. Would Davy and I go out for sacred free time with this particular HG and their date? Next blog.

Always dishing, Jun

Old Traditions, New Traditions

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Once upon a time, I never had a blog. But ever since I started this site, every year, I’ve done a birthday blog for my little Noah.

And by “every year” I mean this is the third…

So Noah turned three this past weekend, but before we ever got to birthday candles and balloons and presents, our little family of three struck poses:

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Noah even had a wardrobe change and donned a traditional hanbok, literally translated as “Korean clothing.”

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He transformed into a Korean prince, just like he did on his first birthday and his second birthday.

I marveled at how much he’d grown into the hanbok, which he’s now worn the last three birthdays…

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~

And then on Saturday morning, Noah awoke and had a bowl of miyeok guk, literally translated “seaweed soup,” a very traditional Korean meal especially for birthdays…

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Why on birthdays?

Because miyeok guk is also the first meal Korean mothers eat, by tradition, after giving birth, because the seaweed provided loads of nutrients and minerals to new moms.

And so we have this soup every year on our birthdays to remind us of what our mothers did for us, and to bring luck into our lives.

I plan to serve miyeok guk as the special of the week this week at Rice House, to celebrate Noah’s birthday with as many people as I can…

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And once all our soup was eaten on Saturday morning, it was time for a bath and another wardrobe change!

Time to party!

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What Noah didn’t know was that his papa spent the night before, toiling away and putting together the “big” gift…an electric Bugatti…

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Needless to say, Noah was THRILLED.

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He even gave his new car a good cleaning in-between rides…photo-25

~

And the next morning, on Sunday, Noah awoke to a second birthday party with all new party guests, and a whole new cake!

DSC06080 DSC06082And best of all, Noah got lots of hugs from his Pepe (godfather) Koen…

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And in fact, it was Pepe Koen who had hooked us up with our family photo shoot in the first place, yielding pictures like this one…

IMG_2828It was a very good birthday weekend for our Noah, two birthday parties and all, that wore us all out.

And we’d do it all over again, just for Noah.

But maybe next year we’ll stick to one big party…

Thank you everyone…for all the love, birthday and every day!

Always dishing,

Jun

Hey, Bruce Lee!

NoahSchool

If my life ever became a book that became a tv show or movie, which may never or somehow happen, my biggest fear would be that I can’t recognize that life that’s being portrayed as mine…I think I might know just a little bit of how Eddie Huang was and is feeling to this effect about his memoir being made into ABC’s show Fresh Off The Boat, which premiered Wednesday…

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Eddie’s the 11-year-old in this photo, set in 1995 (Courtesy of ABC)

 

Aside from the forced and inconsistent accents of broken English, there weren’t actually as many “negative stereotypes” of Asian people as many feared there’d be. And Randall Park seemed to just have been plucked out of Kim Jong Un mode in The Interview, and dropped right onto the set of Fresh Off the Boat as far as his speech was concerned. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t very much to grasp at all in the way of “real” scenarios growing up in an Asian-American family. The show was all over the place trying to please everyone, that too much was lost. The best and comedic moments were those in which network propaganda was dropped and we got actual glimpses into shopping/shouting in the “Taiwanese market” and what happens come “report card time” in an Asian-American household.

I have to assume Eddie Huang’s memoir is better than what ABC put forward, despite having some of the cutest and endearing little boys in the cast of this family. To say the show is white-washed would be an understatement.

I mean, I’ll be the first to admit that when All-American Girl came out, starring my Korean sister-from-another-mister Margaret Cho, in 1994, I was so excited to see a Korean person on a major American television network that I didn’t care whether or not the show was actually good. To me, at the tender age of 19, I felt validated as a young Korean-American. There she was, funny-as-fuck-to-me at the time, Margaret Cho, on her very own tv show! I ignored the fact that everyone else on the show wasn’t Korean, hell, MASH was supposed to be set in South Korea and there were no Koreans ever to be found in the cast. That was never a huge problem for me, just like it wasn’t in All-American Girl, because above all else I’m a realist. And no major television network is going to employ a slew of Koreans, or Chinese, or anyone who checks off the box labeled “Asian or Pacific-Islander” on government documents, for one television show. A friend of mine, who also happens to be a fairy princess, actually writes specifically about this on the regular.

So bearing in mind that not everything you see on television is accurate, let alone real, how much are we actually supposed to take away from this new ABC show Fresh Off The Boat? Well, I’ll tell you what I walked away with and what left an impression…

“Yo Chinese kid. What’s your name again? Something Chinese?”

This quote is taken from the first school lunchroom scene which young Eddie finds himself in. He’s questioned as to what his name is, in a most rude way, by another student. It seems everyone in this particular Orlando grade school is white, with the exception of Eddie and one black student.

This scene also happens after his teacher pulls this face…

Eddie

…while attempting to pronounce Eddie’s “Chinese” name, on this, Eddie’s first-day-of-class-in-a-brand-new-school…

This teacher’s face bugged me, and not just because I’d seen that same expression on some of my teacher’s faces, growing up, trying to pronounce my own Korean name. And also because this week in particular I had a putting-it-mildly-unpleasant experience with a teacher myself. Specifically, my almost-three-year-old-son’s preschool teacher…

I’ll rewind.

My husband Davy and I were eating dinner with our little Noah on Tuesday evening, when Noah tried to get my attention across the table.

“Hey, Bruce Lee!”

I tilted my head in cartoon-like confusion. Where had he picked that up? Bruce Lee? He knew nothing of martial arts nor had he ever watched Kung Fu Panda (this is where my brain went). So I asked Noah to repeat himself. Perhaps I’d misunderstood or heard it incorrectly.

“Hey, Bruce Lee!”

I put down the taco I’d been eating (it’s usually taco night in our home on many given Tuesday), and I asked Noah where he’d learned that name Bruce Lee. He replied that his teacher called him that at school. And he mimicked again…

“Hey, Bruce Lee!”

I was shocked. I didn’t want to freak out Noah by freaking out myself. He had no idea the significance of that name.

I exchanged a glance with my husband and continued to eat, although I could barely taste my homemade salsa anymore. Like I said before, I’m a realist. I know that raising an interracial child in a homogeneously-white country such as Belgium comes with its pros and cons. I just didn’t think I’d have to deal with it so soon, and certainly not involving a teacher, Noah’s teacher.

Thoughts raced through my mind as I watched Noah finish his dinner. But I knew the answer in my heart was that he was, in fact, telling the truth, as children his age brutally do, and that there simply was no good explanation for an adult and educator calling my Noah “Bruce Lee.” And obviously repeatedly, for Noah to have brought it home.

Noah is his name. Noah is what he should be called, at school and anywhere else for that matter. I told Noah that the next time someone called him by another name he didn’t know, that he should reply, “My name is Noah!” We practiced this a few times. Silly stuff. I called him by different animal names and cartoon names and each time he replied, “My name is Noah!” I felt better about it all going to sleep on Tuesday night.

Davy and I decided to nip shit right in the bud and have a private talk with Noah’s teacher on Wednesday morning. We arrived at school early, determined to get to the bottom of Bruce Leegate, and were disappointed to learn that Noah’s teacher was in another building “making copies” and we should return in the afternoon. I actually did learn later what these “copies” were, and what was so important about them that she wasn’t available to talk that morning…

So Davy and I returned in the afternoon, to collect Noah, and to speak with his teacher. We started the conversation off by relaying our taco night conversation and the teacher’s eyes bugged out, and before we could even get to the part where we ask Noah where he’d learned “Hey, Bruce Lee,” we were interrupted. The teacher pointed out the window to the courtyard and claimed Noah must have heard it outside playing. We replied that most toddlers don’t know who Bruce Lee is. The teacher quickly replied that it must have been a third-grader then, and that “a talk would be had with the third-grade teacher.”

Strange.

Stranger still, the teacher went on to say that sometimes “handicapped people with mental issues pass by the school and one of them must have said something to Noah.”

?!

The whole time I had my head tilted and my lips pursed, as I listened to this teacher (in Dutch mind you) go on and on until she finally asked, “Did Noah say who said it?” And before I could answer she answered herself with, “No, Noah doesn’t know everyone’s names.”

But oh, Noah knows names that matter. Still, I never answered, and I looked right into the eyes of the teacher and saw that she knew I knew she knew I knew. And I made a decision then not to crucify her or vilify her because I saw in her eyes fear and remorse and…

That was enough for me, and for Davy, and for Noah for whom we are the greatest advocates. We told the teacher that this was unacceptable and that we didn’t want this happening again, without pointing our fingers at her, because we all knew what had happened. And she knew we’d all but called her out. And Noah’s teacher is in fact a fine and good-hearted soul who simply let her ignorance shine on the wrong side of right. I don’t believe in my heart that it was done maliciously. And I do believe said teacher got the message. And that’s all that matters. The message.

Since then, Davy and I have shared this experience with several friends and family members. Most decent human beings were rightly outraged and supportive of our reaction and handling of the incident. Those less decent have made excuses as to why any white figure of authority would call a small child of Asian descent, Bruce Lee. Some people choose to ignore ignorance, which is a whole different kind of ignorance unto its own. Some choose to deny it, and excuse it, and even consider me “too sensitive.” Because I’m a minority? Because I’m Asian? What if I was Black or Hispanic or Middle Eastern? What are the Bruce Lee equivalents of that?

“My name is Noah!”

This is what I’ve taught my son to say proudly.

Fast forward, and coincidentally, to the lunchroom scene I mentioned above from Fresh Off the Boat…little Eddie’s response to “Yo Chinese kind. What’s your name again? Something Chinese?”?

“My name is Eddie!”

Kinda perfect.

And that all-important document that was being “copied” by Noah’s teacher on Wednesday morning? It turns out it was copied eight times because eight students, including Noah, out of the twenty-two in Noah’s preschool class, are being advanced to the kindergarten class mid-school season at the end of this month. We discovered the photocopied letter and evaluation, in Noah’s backpack, after we left his teacher and awkward conversation. It turns out we probably did do the best thing in this case, since Noah’s teacher will no longer be his teacher come March.

And in particular, Noah was evaluated as demonstrating very advanced lingual capabilities. Not surprising as he’s fluent in both Dutch and English and picking up new Korean words every day, and explaining a lot, and another reason why Davy and I must always listen. Always listen to your child. And always stand up for what is right.

NoahSchool

Noah will be the youngest student in the kindergarten class, which usually starts at age 3.5, something Davy and I are most proud of.

Now if we can only get him to tackle potty-training…

Always dishing,

Jun

Merry Christmas Eve Yet Again

NoahsVeryFirstChristmas

I don’t know where the time has actually gone, looking at Noah’s very first Christmas photos from 2012…

NoahsFirstChristmas

But it’s time for new Christmas photos to make their way onto this blog.

A Christmas Eve tradition you can call it…

~

Noah’s one year older and just a couple inches taller,

Since Christmas 2013,

Though he’s dressed in the same shirt and bowtie…

NoahOnTheSofa

His shirt fits better still rocking the no-pants look, that’s no lie. 

NoahChristmasTree

Except this year, Noah’s Christmas tree gazing is focused.

He appears almost wiser.

SantaAndFrostyAnd his priorities are most definitely set this year,

Adjusting his snowman’s jacket,  

Having deep discussions with Santa,

Ensuring his name is on the “Good” list,

that’s right,

Noah.

~

Merry Christmas Eve to one and all.

Always dishing,

Jun

Noah’s Dope Doop

Teehee

A little bit of what’s been going on outside of Rice House…

Because finding a balance between rice and home is most important…

Pieces

The day before Noah’s big day…

~

OutsideTrio

Waiting for Sunday Mass to end before Noah’s Doopsel (Christening/Baptism), last Sunday, May 18th. Having my momz here was the icing on the holy water.

~

NoahAtChurch

Noah, looking dope for his doop! How much he has grown…

~

Teehee

In church and feeling giddy. Who would have thought?

~

CandleNoah started singing “Happy Birthday To You!!!” Everyone in the church laughed.

Everyone.

~

Signing

Noah’s godmother and godfather signed “The Book” and I couldn’t be happier or prouder of our choices for Noah.

~

Unveiling

Post-chuch party time and the big reveal time for Noah!

~NoahHouseJoy

We got film. I’ll share when I have more time. Noah squealed and made all our hearts jump a beat along with his.

~

Everyone

Time for cheese and all the fixings!

~

It was a beautiful day.

Always dishing,

Jun

Noah’s Birthday in Photos

FamilyHanbokPhoto

Noah’s been 2 whole years old now since last Friday, and his birthday weekend was everything he never expected.

To turn two again, chronoligically…

Noah'sDaycare

BirthdayBoy

 

Surprise

NoahsFirstCandle

 BathDeco

 

NoahHanbokSittingAlone

NoahHanbok

FamilyHanbokPhoto

Group

JoyUncleRobbyCandidSmilesPapa

GiftsHappy

PoliceBirthdayPartyKissRiceCakesSalads

CakeWow

BlowingCandlesNoseBumba

~

Thank you everyone for your love and support.

This blog is dedicated, in loving memory, to my grandfather’s brother. He now joins my grandfather and my father. He was the very first in the family to step foot on U.S. soil before the rest of the family followed suit, in stages. He passed away on the Thursday before Noah’s birthday and I have been mourning him in my own way, and celebrating Noah’s precious birthday too.

Cancer is real. Life is real.

Living is…eating the nose off your fabulous Bumba birthday cake.

Happy Birthday sweet Noah.

Always dishing,

Jun