Friday, September 21, 2012

Morning hassle

This is my fantasy. The reality is far, far from it!

6:30 a.m. Hateful alarm rings. Mama shut it down before it wakes up everyone. Her footstep is heavy as if dragging shackles around her ankle. Her eyes are still closed. She walks like a zombie.

Mama is tired. Mama wants to sleep five more minutes. No, she can't.
She needs to get up, take shower, pack her daughter's lunch, and get ready for breakfast.

Her consciousness comes back after few minutes of hot shower.
Hurry, hurry, quick! Her mind is busy, her body is slow. Done shower, got dressed, her hair is still damp. 

Fast, fast, time runs out! She boils water for Oatmeal, slices strawberries on the side, packs creamy chicken pasta for lunch. She doesn't forget to write a note in the lunchbox: "Ma Chérie, mommy loves you so much!"

7:00 a.m. Wake up, sweetie pie. Mama calls her daughter softly.
7:05 a.m. Wake up, wake up, honey. Mama adds more strength on her voice.
7:10 a.m  Come on, baby. You don't want to be late! Let's hurry up! Mama's voice gets louder. Her daughter still wiggles under the blanket. She rolls out like a snail, she stands on her feet.     
7:15 a.m. A sleepy head walks slowly to the bathroom.
7:20 a.m She puts on her clothes and socks. She eats warm oatmeal breakfast so s..l..o..o..o..w.
You can't take all your time. You need to hurry up, Mama rushes and pressure up the speed. We need to leave in ten minutes.

They managed to get out of the house by 7:40. Mama should have expected highway traffic. "It's not good, it's not good at all", she murmurs, "slow like a turtle, three miles takes 25 minutes."
Her daughter gets in the school on time. She is happy to see her new friends. Still shy, still hesitant to say, "can I play with you?", but she is content to be in the kindergarten.

Hew...Mama sighs deeply. Back in the car, sitting alone, taking deep breath, mama stares out of the windshield. Grey sky, covered with dark clouds, yet she tries to find where the bright sun hidden.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Charlotte's Web

Summer 2012, I had a grand project for my daughter and myself; we will read a book everyday including chapter books. She started reading at three, and I knew it was time to move on to the next level. Every night we read a book, which becomes our cozy ritual. During bedtime story she points out my mistake and corrects my words or mispronunciation. To my defense I make same old excuses, "English isn't my first language. I don't know all the words or how to pronounce correctly." So far, I didn't receive any refutation.

I have heard of name of the book, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. But I haven't read English version. (Nor Korean version...) In fact, having acquainted the author E.B. White from One Man's Meat, was good stepping stone for me to embark on reading Charlotte's Web.  

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”
E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

What's the story?

When Fern convinces her father not to kill the runt pig of the litter, she names him Wilbur and raises him with a bottle. Soon Wilbur goes to live in her Uncle Homer Zuckerman's barn down the road, where she visits him every day. But when she's not there, Wilbur is lonely -- the sheep, cows, geese, and even the rats don't want to play and be his friend. Then he meets Charlotte, a gray spider whose web is in a corner of the barn door, and they become good friends. But soon after, they learn that Wilbur is to be slaughtered next Christmas to make ham and bacon. So Charlotte hatches a plan to make the Zuckermans want to keep Wilbur around forever.                                                                   


It has twenty-two chapters. That means we needed to be persistent and patient. Each chapter has at least seven pages. So we needed roughly a month to read. Some nights we read three chapters until I got thirsty, other nights we skipped to the picture book.

At the end of August, we finished reading Charlotte's Web. It was my own victorious moment, howling 'YES, I MADE IT' in my heart, patting my shoulders. I didn't give up nor rush it through. I managed to keep the momentum of reading chapters so that my girl was still interested in. 

     "'s too sad," my daughter said after reading the last line of the book, "My heart really hurts and I don't like it. I don't like sad story."
     "I know how you feel," I hugged her and rubbed her chest, trying to heal the pain. "It's ok. The way you feel now is normal, and if you feel like crying you can cry out too."

Seeing her trying not to cry, instead being angry at book, reminded me my immature version. This was one of the coping mechanism that I had developed since I was little. Being grumpy and angry at others made a lot easier to deal with heart-bent situation, and certainly it worked. (Funny thing is lots of people do that too.)

After reading the whole book, I understood the small words - All Ages, at the bottom of the back cover. It wasn't only for the young children, because it also made me paralyzed from its impact after reading. Charlotte's Web was published in 1952, yet after 60 years it still touches many readers' heart. The truth of life says itself.

 “After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die.”
E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Post-CPS strike

CPS strike was over yesterday, after seven days of raising pickets, marching downtown Chicago, honking to support teachers. Chicago public school teachers fought for the fair contract and better work conditions, and it's said it was a good fight.

 As a parent of Chicago public school, I'm so glad finally I can send my daughter to school. Luckily I am a stay-home mom, which gives me more flexibility to adjust and navigate this time of uncertainties. I checked the news every hour if there were any negotiation progress. Week two, my temper got irritated, my feeble patience was lost.

There's no question about the correlation between teacher's dissatisfaction and students' learning experience. When a great and professional teacher is threatened by job security, or lack of community support, she or he is less likely put one's time in teaching. Overall, teachers need some kind of appreciation from general public and I think CPS strike was a beacon of urging their roles in the society.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012



Sun Hee Yoon

 When I'm tired, I eat Kimchi. When I'm sad, I eat Kimchi. Tonight I talked to my mom over the phone, and her voice brought me a reminiscence.  As a ritual, I pulled out a jar of Kimchi and had some.  

 Whenever I eat Kimchi, I eat my memories. With one bite, I go back to my mom's kitchen.
I see a girl who's waiting for a newly-made Kimchi of the year. There are more than 5 boxes of Napa cabbage which have been marinated in salt water through the night. Next, I see a bucket of freshly grounded chili pepper that has red velvet texture with yellow seed sprinkled. I smell of minced garlic, chopped spring onion, sliced radish and the essential ingredient - fish extraction. My mom mixes all these ingredients into a thick paste. She uses her bare hands. She used to tell me the best taste of food comes from bare hands and sincere heart. Her magical hands paint the plain Napa cabbage into red leaves one by one, from sturdy outer leaves into soft, tiny bud. These red cabbages remind me the red rose petals. Finally, I see a girl who’s hoping her mom would give a little piece of Kimchi into her mouth.
    “Do you want to taste it?”
    “Yes, yes! Please!”
My mom folds the tiniest and softest layer of kimchi and slided into my mouth with smile. That was the taste of my mom’s love.

  When I visited USA for 2 weeks in 1993, the first thing in my mind as soon as we arrived was having Kimchi. I desperately wanted Kimchi stew with rice for a dinner, but instead I got a fried chicken with Coke. That night, I cried for Kimchi for the first time. I realized how big its existence was in my life. It was the case of wake-up call; when a thing is absent from us, we realize we took it for granted to be there.

  In 2002, I studied abroad in Australia and New Zealand for 6 months. Among 60 members of international exchange students, I wasn’t the only one who was hungry for Kimchi. Someone told me they would go to Korean grocery to buy a jar of Kimchi. It took us more than 2 hours to get to the store, but it was all worth it in the end, especially when we laid a slice of Kimchi on top of steamy ramen noodle.
  We even attended the Korean church while we were studying in New Zealand because we could have decent meal with Kimchi at the end of service. When I didn’t have money to buy a jar of Kimchi, I was longing for Sundays.   

  Yes, I'm a Kimchi folk. I grew up with this strong scented food, and it became part of my identity. Now, I live 5000 miles away from Korean peninsula , yet whenever I smell of Kimchi, I’m home. Kimchi has been an invisible yet strong thread, which connects me with my culture, and it reminds me where I'm from.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sentimental Mama

Mama sat down on a chair, trying to write about how she feels.
Mama got teary eyes, thinking of her only child, today, off to kindergarten.
Mama tried to act tough, act strong, but no avail.
Mama is sentimental, mama broke into tears.

Will she be fine?
Will she listen to her teacher well?
Will she be shy to make friends?
Will she eat lunch without my guidance?

A butterfly in my stomach woke me up in the middle of night.
It was two a.m., and I looked for my little girl.
She was sleeping soundly, peacefully.
When did she grow so tall, so fast?
I gently grabbed her hand and touched her hair, as I listened to her deep breathing.

Now you will be gone to school most of days.
You will make new friends, meet new teacher, spend your days in the classroom.
You will bring lots of stories to share with me,
I will be there to listen to you, your every single words.

This is how mom feels on a first day of school.
A great sentiment of the reality, our rich memories from the past,
I look at your baby photos, your chubby legs and baby belly, now they are hardly can be found.

My little girl,
I wish you for the best as always.
Have fun at school, enjoy learning, respect others, be confident and be yourself.


copyright Sun Hee Yoon

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Kissing Hand

Last Wednesday my daughter and I went to the Round Up meeting at her school. She is going to kindergarten and she will stay seven hours from Monday to Friday. I've been busy buying school supplies, planning lunch menus, driving a school route. I think I'm ready or am I? 

During the Round Up meeting parents and kids sat on the colorful rug, which was settled in the middle of the kindergarten classroom. A teacher sat on the small chair, and introduced the book, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. 

After reading we were asked to move to the craft center and to draw our hands on the construction paper. My daughter and I traced each hands and decorated them with flowers, hearts, and a nail polish as well. A teacher walked around and asked friendly questions to my little girl. She answered without hesitation, "I am a good illustrator and I write a story like my mom." A teacher showed me a big smile, I smiled her back. 

My hand will be placed on top of my daughter's cabinet, so whenever she misses me she will go and touch my hand. Her little hand is already laminated and will be placed in our car rear mirror. 

School starts in less than 36 hours. Although I'm thoroughly done with her prep, I still can't get out of the haze or in a shock that my little baby is going to kindergarten. My girl, however, gave me a strong assurance that she would be fine when the teacher had asked, "are you all going to miss your mom and dad?" 
"No, I'm not going to miss my mom. I'm ready," she answered. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Summer has Come and Gone

Millennium Park

One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” 
                                                                                                     ― Henry David Thoreau

Copyright Sun Hee Yoon
Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at Art Institute of Chicago
Summer reading program : You Are What You Read in Lincoln-Belmont library

Water spray at Fellger Park in Roscoe village

Copyright Sun Hee Yoon
Gold Coast Beach near by Lincoln Park Zoo

Summer has Come and Gone   
By Sun Hee Yoon 

What do we do in summer? 
We go to the park, to the museum, to the beach and to the library. 
We spend our days under the sun, under the shade, in the water, and by the water. 
We love to walk, run, swim and relax. 

What did I do in summer 2012? 
I made memories of life with my mom and my family.
How I missed her! Words can't describe how I feel. 
Sometimes I don't know why I feel that way.
Changes for better, changes are good. 
I can drive now, I can drive highway 90/94. 

What do I remember of this summer?
I remember the heat and humidity of the first week of July.
I remember the burning sand and cooling lake breeze on Montrose Beach.
I remember the taste of juicy watermelon out of the refrigerator.
I remember the sound of cicada's singing on a dark green summer tree. 
I remember the laziness creeping over my head, and left me shame and guilt.
I remember my mom.. her gentle grip over my hand, her voices in the house, her laugh with my little girl.

Summer has come and gone.
My mom has come and gone.
My life in Chicago still goes on.
My life must keep moving forward. 

copyright Sun Hee Yoon
My mom at Art Institute of Chicago

copyright Sun Hee Yoon
Odyssey Cruise dinner with my mom