Mar 20, 2014  •  In Personal

When David Loses

There is a couple who is very dear to me. They are some of the hardest workers I know — having immigrated to the states with two daughters and no money to their name, they worked menial jobs and saved every last cent until they were finally able to afford a business, and then a home. They are honest, upstanding citizens who are looked up to in their community and loved by many.

They seemed to have achieved the American dream.

Then things began to fall apart.

The man became a victim of a serious crime which cost him his life savings and retirement funds. Not only that, his credit (which was in the high 700s to low 800s) also became marred because the theft had stolen his identity as well. However, the man refused to press charges (which would help clear his credit history) because he knew that the theft had a family of his own — “He has no money to pay me back and they’re sure to throw him in jail. How will his family survive then?”

Then came more troubles. The downturn economy which did no favors for their business. Medical problems. House repairs that needed to be addressed.

They began to fall behind on their mortgage payments.

Like many others in this situation, the couple sought a loan modification. The lending bank denied them with no clear explanation. The bank then began foreclosure proceedings.

The couple wanted to keep their home. They were more than willing to keep paying their mortgage — they just needed new terms for the loan so that the payments could be more affordable. (Their business is in a sector that has not recovered from the recession.) Considering that they obtained their 15-year mortgage before the real estate bubble when interest rates were still high, requesting to change the terms to 30 years and/or lowering the interest rate didn’t seem too unreasonable.

They even hired an attorney to help them keep their home. And over the next ~1.5 years, they did everything that was asked of them: submitting endless amounts of paperwork, attending numerous court-mandated mediation sessions, etc.

But the bank — and I am not afraid to use their name here because they’ve been nothing but uncooperative over this entire ordeal: EVERBANK — seemed to have a mission from day one.

You see, this couple had been diligently making their mortgage for years and years and had built quite a bit of equity on their home. They had already paid off 4/5 of their mortgage, to be exact.

So the bank knew that if they foreclosed, they would be making money.

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With the help of their attorney and the local court’s mediator, the couple applied for a loan modification again. When EverBank denied the modification, the court asked why. They did not receive all the paperwork on time, they said.

The court asked that another loan modification application to be considered. Once again, EverBank denied the modification, this time, on the basis that the couple’s income level was too high. When asked to see the figures that factored into that decision, EverBank revealed that they had added the couple’s gross business income into the final number.

Even the court mediator was flabbergasted. “Why would you do that?” he asked. “Business accounts are separate from personal accounts. How much their business makes should have little to no influence on this decision — just look at their W2′s!”

Things like this continued to happen. EverBank would “lose” paperwork the couple sent over. They would not supply the couple with paperwork they requested. And so on and so forth.

You know that the lending bank is being unreasonable when the court mediator continually berates them and apologizes for their behavior.

You know that the lending bank is being unreasonable when their own freaking attorney apologizes on their behalf.

“I like your family. I want you guys to keep your home. I want to settle this. But I can only do what they tell me to do.”

This couple recently made a Hail Mary offer — a large down payment to “buy” a modification. (Believe it or not, this is legal.) Even their own attorney was confident that this would work.

But once again, EverBank refused. They said that at this point, for the couple to keep their home, only a reinstatement of their loan — which the bank knows the couple can no longer afford because they have all their financial statements — would be acceptable.

It was clear that EverBank only saw dollar signs as they pushed this home for foreclosure.

(EverBank is no stranger to “unsafe and unsound practices in mortgage servicing and foreclosure processing” — just look at this settlement!)

The couple looked to other lenders for loans and refinancing options. But due to their marred credit score, they were turned away everywhere. Besides, no bank was willing to touch the existing mortgage because the house was already in the foreclosure process.

The last thing that the court mediator told the couple was, “Once again, I am so sorry. There is nothing illegal that the bank has done. This is a case of your being punished for paying off so much of your mortgage and building a sizable equity on your home. There is nothing I can do for you.”

The couple’s attorney wants to discuss bankruptcy and foreclosure options.

It’s always the worst when bad things happen to good people, isn’t it?

Mar 10, 2014  •  In Aerin, Claire, Parenting, Personal

Mega-Update on the Girls, Part 3: Sisters

I have written in the past about our OCD Nut (Claire) and Mini-Godzilla (Aerin). This character difference not only applies to how my girls clean/mess up their toys, but also extends to how they play and conduct themselves.

Aerin is a daredevil while Claire still remains one of the most cautious kids I know. Aerin likes to play outside — and doesn’t mind getting dirty! — while Claire prefers indoor activities. (Even then, she is known to quit an activity if she sees that she is getting dirty, and requests to go wash her hands or to take a bath.) Claire loves reading and being read to, while Aerin prefers to flip through books at her own pace, often quickly. And while Ariel remains Aerin’s favorite character, she has many Ariel dolls and isn’t attached to just one. By contrast, Claire still loves her giraffe and he will forever be her favorite toy.

And so on and so forth.

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Painting together at their play easel

The good news is that as they mature — Claire growing more patient and Aerin better able to communicate her wants and needs — they are able to get along better…and just recently, they have actually started to PLAY TOGETHER.

Yes, it took more than 2 entire years, but my daughters are finally starting to enjoy each other’s company and play together and even miss each other when separated.

They still fight. They have even gotten physical at times (pulling hair, scratching, pinching, hitting) — although this is more on Aerin’s side because she is a physically communicative person — but the disagreements are slowly becoming less frequent and less dramatic.

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Making Valentine’s Day cards together

So to bear witness to times when they have been separated for hours and finally reunite — to see Aerin smile and laugh at the sight of her big sister, and to see Claire run to go hug her little sister…

When they walk/run around the house holding hands…

When they share their toys and snacks, even feeding each other…

When Claire shouts, “Let’s have a dance party!” and they both start to boogie…

When they join hands to play “Ring Around the Rosie” or “Going to Kentucky”…

When they kiss each other goodnight and Claire says “I love you” to Aerin…

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Yeah, those moments make this hardened, cynic’s heart melt into a giant, goopy puddle. :-)

I’m not sure if my daughters will ever become best friends — their opposite personalities aren’t exactly complementary. But I hope that they will learn to love and treasure one another, to accept and embrace each other’s differences, and to rely on each other for strength and growth.


This was like the fifth time in a row we were doing this song, so everything is a bit sloppy (Aerin even falls down!)
and I’m seriously out of tune from all the singing and dancing and laughing. :-)

Mar 8, 2014  •  In Art/Design, Entertainment, Toys

Dolls That Resemble Celebrities and Characters

South Korean artist Park Seoung repaints and stylizes dolls to resemble celebrities and pop culture icons. I was first introduced to his work by the kickass Michonne doll that’s been making its rounds through the interwebz, and I was delighted to click on over to his Flickr page and discover his other works.

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Michonne

Continue reading »

Mar 7, 2014  •  In Claire, Parenting, Personal

Mega-Update on the Girls, Part 2: Claire

Claire has been thriving at her Montessori preschool.

I recently went in for the mid-year parent-teacher conference, and her teacher couldn’t say enough positive things about her. For example, although Claire is one of the youngest kids in the class, she’s always one of the first to understand and complete new assignments and activities. Not only that, she is a leader in the classroom — I’m told that other kids look to her for cues and guidance.

This isn’t always a good thing, however, because when she becomes disruptive, all the other kids tend to follow too!  ;-)

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I was AMAZED to observe Claire already identifying continents.

Claire has been able to read short, simple words for a few months now, but last month (at 3 years and 4 months of age) she demonstrated to me that she has started writing too. The first word she wrote for me was “DAD” — “Look, umma! D-A-D spells dad!”

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This isn’t to say that her Korean and Cantonese are lagging behind — she continues to stay comfortable with all 3 languages and seamlessly switches back and forth between each one. J told me that she has started to speak Cantonese with a Hong Kong accent (where he’s from), and we recently observed her speaking Korean in the Gyeongsang dialect too. (I was born in Daegu, which is part of the Gyeongsang region. I purposely try to speak Korean in the official, Seoul dialect to my kids, but I think Claire picked up my Gyeongsang dialect from listening to me speak to my parents. :oops: )

While Claire’s preschool has been tremendously helpful in helping her along academically, I think that the biggest change that this first year of school has brought forth has been her personality. She has really come out of her shell since starting school, and has become a confident, outgoing young lady.

If anything, she has become a bit bossy from her “leadership duties” at school, but her teacher told me that they’re working on cultivating that trait to one where she can help and teach the younger kids. :-)  And I am starting to see that in her dealings with Aerin — she tries harder to be patient, and guide her little sister in learning.

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She remains quite stubborn, but has matured enough to know when she has done something wrong. We have never given her time-outs, so we were quite amused when, starting this year, she started to give herself time-outs by retreating to the little corner by our front door. Not as a punishment, per se, but to separate herself from other people and stimuli, and to give herself a chance to calm down and (hopefully) think about what has just happened. She will run to her corner every time she gets upset, after she throws a tantrum, or she realizes that she has upset someone else.

Another recent development is her attachment to her father. She entered a “daddy is best” phase a couple of months ago, and he has replaced me as her favorite person. And because she, like most 3-year-olds, tends to make everything so dramatic, I have conversations like the following every day:

Claire:  {big sigh}

Me:  다정이 왜? (What’s wrong?)

Claire:  다정이 슬퍼. 너무 슬퍼. (Claire is sad. So sad.) {sigh}

Me:  다정이 왜 슬퍼? (Why are you sad?)

Claire:  아빠 일하러 가서 슬퍼. 아빠 보고싶어. 엄마 아빠 전화해줄래? (Because daddy went to work. I miss daddy. Can you call him for me?)

Sometimes, when she’s flat-out refusing to listen to me, I have to call J at work so that he can talk to her for me.  :roll:  My mother tells me that I was the same way too, starting at around Claire’s age. She says this is typical of kids (especially girls who have younger siblings), and that it usually lasts until they hit puberty.

To be continued… 

Mar 6, 2014  •  In Aerin, Parenting, Personal

Mega-Update on the Girls, Part 1: Aerin

A few weeks ago, Aerin had her 6-month evaluation by the state’s early intervention services.

To be completely fair, it hasn’t been 6 months since we started therapy — it had taken a month to find our therapists, and we had missed a lot of sessions in the months of December and January due to all the crazy stuff that was going on in our household. So when we finally held the review, we had just started to have regular sessions again.

For this reason, I believe that Aerin could have done a lot better at her evaluation. Nonetheless, I was satisfied with the results, which is that we will continue the current schedule of therapy (developmental intervention 2x a week, speech therapy 2x a month), except with a new developmental interventionist.

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Both of Aerin’s therapists agree that she has made tremendous strides. I have lost count of the number of words she says a long time ago (I never paid too much attention to the exact number for either girls), but she is comfortable with simple 2-word sentences and has started to say 3-word sentences. She knows her alphabet and has been identifying both letters and numbers for a couple of months now. She knows her colors, body parts, animals, and everyday objects, and is quite a singer. :-)

That being said, she’s not a very chatty person. It’s obvious to everyone in her life that she understands practically everything she hears — she just doesn’t like to, or prefers not to talk much.

The reason we have decided to change to another developmental interventionist is due to her stubborn personality (and a good, stern DI may help her more in the long run). Although it is obvious that she is a very bright child — both therapists frequently tell me that there are concepts and activities she grasps that are a year or two ahead of her peers — sometimes she just flat-out refuses to do what is instructed.

A good example of this happened a couple of weeks ago, when her therapist wouldn’t let her do something she liked. She immediately clammed up and refused to cooperate any further. The therapist brought out a bucket of Mr. Potatoheads (one of her favorite activities) in an effort to win her back, and it seemed to have worked…at first. But when the therapist asked, “Aerin, can you give me the mouth?” she handed over every part, one by one, except the three mouth pieces. It was quite comical, actually, to see this passive rebellion at such a young age — although I may regret saying this later down the road!

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Another reason we had collectively agreed to continue with the current line of therapy is because Aerin will be turning 3 in November. Our state has a separate set of criteria for early intervention starting at this age, and both our therapists are confident that she will not qualify for these services (she’s now only slightly behind her peers). So we want to milk the therapy sessions as much as we can in the next few months; while the sessions are expensive ($200-$300 a month), they are still partially subsidized by the state and have been tremendously helpful. Not only to Aerin but to me as well — I’ve been learning so much about childhood development, how to deal with undesirable behavior patterns, and how to most effectively talk to young children.

I only wish I had learned this stuff before I had kids! 

We’re still in the process of finding a new DI. We love our current DI and have developed a good relationship with her, but she is a speech therapist who does DI occasionally, and she believes a strong DI who is a trained child behaviorist will be more beneficial for Aerin.

Additionally, we all believe that her progress will accelerate even more when she enters preschool in the fall. We’re thinking of enrolling both girls in Claire’s school’s “summer camp” program (which has a bit less academic learning and more outdoor activities) for a few weeks so that the transition will be easier on her.

To be continued…