penny’s first christmas

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penny in her playroom


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she loves yogurt!

’twas a very merry christmas!

i was so excited to celebrate our first christmas as a family because it’s such an important, and festive, holiday.

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playing with the gift the so grandparents got her


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one of her many gifts: a ball pit!


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thank you, jennie and kaylee, for the adorable headband!


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looks so much cuter with hair!

christmas is also my mom’s birthday. it’s rough having your birthday fall on the biggest holiday of the year and sharing it with jesus so we try to make it special for my mom. my parents came down for dinner on christmas eve, and we went out to eat with dennis’ parents as well. my mom is very selfless and doesn’t ask for much so i know she was overjoyed when we surprised her with a cake – strawberry cheesecake from vernon diner to be specific.

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i love you, mom! happy birthday ❤

taking advantage of being able to spend time with us, my mom practically held penny the entire time. she and my mil took turns feeding penny her bottle and butternut squash with pear.

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entertaining herself during dinner


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before we left for dinner

so much good happens in my life, and as every year draws to a close i wonder how next year can even possibly be on the same level, or even better, than this one. but every year has been better than the last.

2015 was no exception and is probably the most important year of my life since i became a mommy to a healthy, vivacious, happy, and beautiful baby girl. it’s hard to believe penny’s already 7.5 months. with each passing day, i’m in awe of what she knows and can do. for example, today she began saying “da da da.” she had been saying, “ba ba ba” for some time now but has been more vocal the past few days. she also has been screeching and yelling (while smiling) because she can.

penny also gave us a wonderful gift: sleeping on her own. we’ve been rocking penny to sleep since she was born. as she got heavier and heavier we have been wondering how long we would have to do this for. we knew we would have to start sleep training but i, in particular, was nervous about this daunting task. do we try the “cry it out” method? what do we do? it turns out we didn’t have to do anything except put her down.

when researching on sleep training i kept reading “put baby down ‘drowsy but awake'” and thought, “yeah, right.. penny will never sleep like that.” we were too afraid to risk it, and honestly penny probably wasn’t ready. until three days ago.

around 6 months, penny transitioned to a 2-nap day and her awake time has been slowly increasing. currently, penny’s on track to being on the 2-3-4 schedule. if you don’t know what that is, it means your baby’s awake period is 2 hours before first nap, 3 hours before second nap, and 4 hours before bedtime. for quite some time, penny’s awake time was 2 hours before each nap and then, maybe, 3 until bedtime. we have been slowly increasing the increments in her awake time while still following her sleepy cues.

we also noticed that if her second nap was a half hour and gave her a third nap, she wouldn’t fall asleep as easily for bedtime. therefore if she ever had a “disaster nap” for the second nap we would put her to bed a little earlier.

this website was so helpful in helping me figure out penny’s schedule. yes, all babies are different but the “sleep lady” was on point for penny’s needs. we don’t let penny sleep longer than 2 hours for any nap and we are mindful of her awake time.

back in november, penny was sleeping 10-hour stretches which were wonderful but also driving us crazy because she would be awake and ready to go at 4am. she would play for an hour or even more and finally end up falling asleep again. thankfully, she had learned how to self-soothe by then so she wasn’t crying for us but i would lie awake wondering if i would have to tend to her or not. on one of the nights penny would not fall asleep i told dennis to turn off the night light on the video monitor. we were skeptical, but it worked! with the room pitch-black, penny soon fell asleep! now we knew why she had had a hard time falling back asleep: as she became more aware of her surroundings, the night light distracted her and kept her from sleeping even though she was tired.

one of the other reasons for her early-morning wake-ups was that penny had started waking up around 6am or earlier so by the end of the day she would want to go to bed around 5:30! it was stressful trying to make her stay up until, at least, 6pm so she wouldn’t wake up so early the next day. (now that penny has a set schedule i see that she was trying to fully transition to 2 naps and we had to fiddle with her awake time.)

some days she slept even longer, until 5am, but then would not fall back asleep because.. face it, 11 hours straight is pretty dang good. that’s a well-rested baby. but again, with time, and with the increase in her awake time penny has been waking up after 6am and sleeping after 6pm.

i was pretty satisfied with penny’s progress until she threw me for a loop three nights ago. even though penny was tired, she would not sleep. i rocked her for 3 hours.. is that crazy or what?! every time i put her in the crib, her eyes would fly open. it was obvious she was ready to pass out because every time i picked her back up her eyes would immediately close. finally, out of frustration, exhaustion, and hunger i placed her in the crib around 9:40pm and walked downstairs.

as i ate a very late dinner and watched the monitor, penny fussed and played for ten minutes and then fell asleep. i couldn’t believe it. first of all, she had been on her side in the merlin suit and fell asleep like that! and second, there was no pacifier and no one to soothe her.. she just.. fell asleep.

thinking it was just a fluke and that she had just been exhausted from being up so long, dennis tried rocking her for her morning nap the next day. but, penny would wake up whenever he put her down. finally he came downstairs to see if she would fall asleep on her own AND SHE DID! penny has been telling us she’s ready to fall asleep by herself.. and we are ECSTATIC that we don’t have to rock her anymore.

sleep is such a beautiful, beautiful thing… and penny has been sleeping 11 straight hours without us having to tend to her. we still can’t believe it. of course, all will change when her teeth finally come in.. and the 8-month sleep regression is quickly approaching but we are SO enjoying this right now! and we are so proud that penny has been able to figure out how to sleep on her own. we are finally feeling more rested, and happier because of it too.

sweet dreams, penny.

vegas getaway

first of all, happy 1st birthday to avery!

i had the privilege of attending avery’s first birthday party yesterday in andover, massachusetts. initially, dennis and i were both going to go with penny but we knew it’d be easier if only one of us went sans baby. dennis elected to stay home and i brought my pump with me.

it was great seeing, and catching up with, old friends. i even kept my friend company while she pumped, haha. how things have changed.

the first birthday is a huge deal in korean culture. per tradition, the baby is also placed in front of a variety of objects that is supposed to predict their future: money or rice = wealth; pencil = artistic; book = scholar, etc.

avery chose money much to her mother’s dismay. (she was hoping avery would choose a pencil.) a lot of work goes into the first birthday especially with pinterest and social media putting the pressure on parents! i can’t wait to do penny’s first birthday. she will be 7 months on tuesday so it’s rapidly approaching!

back to vegas..our trip was a success! we had a relaxing, baby-free time with our friends and penny also did very well with my in-laws for four days.

although my mil texted a photo of penny along with reassuring words, i still worried during the entire flight. our flight departed at 2:10pm from hartford and flew nonstop to vegas. we landed at 4pm pst which meant it was 7pm back east. when i checked my phone, i saw that mil had texted saying penny went down for the night at 6:30pm. i felt a little better knowing penny slept at her usual time.

the biggest hassle was having to pump. i believe i pumped in six different locations. i also pumped twice on the flight to vegas and back home. we also carried my pump in dennis’ backpack and whenever it was time, i just took the bag and went to the nearest restroom. thankfully, hotel bathrooms are spacious and immaculate. i also made sure to pump in the handicapped stall so i could use the counter space or the baby changing table to set up my pump. honestly, it was inconvenient having to interrupt daily activities to pump; but i brought home over 100 oz which will be useful for when dennis and i go to punta cana in january!

be sure to request a fridge (free of charge) so you can keep the pumped milk cold. we also brought coolers and ice packs to keep the milk cold during the flight home.

i’ve also had a chronic cough since august (!) and my coughing fits have significantly decreased since coming home. maybe the dry desert air helped clear my passages. whatever the reason, i hope it’s permanent.

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flying over the rockies..?

we had a gorgeous view of the landscape just before making a descent to las vegas.

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aria

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i really liked the lovely christmas decorations at aria hotel. it was interesting to see various decorations at every hotel we visited such as caesars palace, the venetian, and bellagio. so much effort and money is put into the aesthetics. they truly were a visual feast.

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aria has a waterfall wall on one side of the building. water slowly trickles over the side and then a small gush of water cascades over the side in intermittent spurts.

the last time dennis and i went to vegas was two years ago for our bachelor/bachelorette party and we had stayed at the hard rock hotel. while nice, it wasn’t on the strip; this time we didn’t want to be too far from the action.

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the courtyard

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the weather was in the upper 60s to low 70s during our stay. the pool was heated but we didn’t go in. some of us did lounge on the chairs after breakfast to relax and get some sun.

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flaky almond croissant and croque monsieur sandwich from jean-philippe

we ate a lot of delicious food including a buffet dinner at bachannal, the #1 rated buffet joint in vegas, on the first night. i didn’t take a picture then because i was so intent on eating.. plus, i was falling asleep! i never got used to the time difference but i didn’t want to try because i knew it’d be tough when we returned home.

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pretty treats from jean-phillippe

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adorable cupcakes from bachannal

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on our way to bachannal

we walked around the strip and dined at bachannal the first night. we didn’t do too much but get settled in and rest up for the next three days.

this trip was much more different than two years ago. no clubs, no partying ’til dawn, and no crazy antics. after having a baby and being tired all the time, i just craved being able to sleep without having to worry about taking care of penny.

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the basics for a day walking around town

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visiting “paris”

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the girls before our dinner at javier’s

our group consisted of three couples. when we explored the sights, we all hung out together but we split up for certain activities – shopping for the ladies and gambling for the men. most meals we dined together as well especially dinner (and us girls wanted an excuse to dress up).

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we came to the venetian because it was kelly and mike’s first time in vegas, and kelly wanted to go on the gondola.

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we went on the giant ferris wheel that takes riders up 550 feet. it cost us $20 ($7 discount when purchased online) for a half hour ride. each pod fits about 40 people but there weren’t many people waiting to go on when we went so we had the entire car to ourselves.

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our last night, we explored old vegas on fremont street. we stopped by the pawn shop that is featured on the show “pawn stars”and also the golden nugget where the guys gambled briefly.

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later that night, we ate dinner at lemongrass, a thai restaurant, and saw “zarkana”, a cirque du soleil show. it sounds lame but i fell asleep a few times! even though it was our last night in vegas i still couldn’t stay awake. i just wanted to stay in bed… it took enormous effort to crawl out and get ready for dinner.

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zarkana

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it was only a week ago that we departed for vegas but it seems like it was last year. we missed penny but it was so sublime being baby-free for four days. penny usually sleeps most of the night but we get woken up to her short cries and movements. after being woken up, it’s difficult for me to fall back asleep because i lay there wondering if she’s going to fully wake up or drift back into slumber.

we nearly forgot what it felt like doing things for us as almost every aspect of our daily routine is catered towards penny. we could wake up whenever we wanted, eat to our heart’s content, and be spontaneous.

i’m glad our trip was a success because now i don’t have to stress over leaving her again in a month. actually, i’m just worried about this upcoming week because my in-laws left today to go on a caribbean cruise for 10 days. this means i’ll be alone the majority of the time and it’s dennis’ long work week. my mom is supposed to come down for the day on wednesday and i have a play date on saturday so that helps but i so wish i had company all the time…

 

 

 

thankful

it’s already december! one more month and it’ll be 2016. i have gone through so many firsts with penny and soon it’ll be her first christmas 🙂

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we cut down penny’s first christmas tree!

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last week was thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, and we had been planning to go up to boston to celebrate it with my side of the family. for those who know, my family is huge (about 50 members or so) and it’s always a good time: tons of food (korean and american); gambling (poker for the younger generations and hwa-to, 화토 korean cards for the older adults); and football to name a few activities.

our family even has a facebook group to update each other on events. on november 1st, someone starts a post on who will bring what to thanksgiving. we always have to have 2 turkeys just because of the sheer size of our family. there’s usually ham as well, and we also have sullung-tang, 설러탕 or gook-bab, 국밥 for dinner in addition to the leftovers.

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my family, sans us, at this year’s thanksgiving!

dennis and i had been fretting (mostly me) on enduring 3-hour traffic; dealing with an overtired baby; and having her spend the night in an unfamiliar place. we had a list on what to pack and it was practically everything baby-related item we own including a pack ‘n play and her monitor.

in the end, we opted to stay home. i was really sad about missing out on my family’s thanksgiving (i cried!) but it was truly for the best, and i don’t regret our decision. plus, dennis’ brother, dan, and his wife, crystal, drove up from washington d.c. to spend thanksgiving here and we would not have been able to spend time with them had we gone up to boston. we also had not seen them since july when penny was about 7 weeks old! it was a relaxing, intimate get-together with both korean and american food – thanks to crystal and our mil.

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the so family

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obligatory ‘funny face’ photo

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it was also my 32nd birthday on the 28th. i didn’t have the motivation to go out and celebrate but dennis was sweet enough to plan and organize a birthday dinner for me. at the end of the day, all i really look forward to is lounging on the couch and passing out in front of the tv. but i’m glad dennis made sure i take time to enjoy life as well.

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delicious strawberry-peach cake

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as a birthday gift, dennis is also treating me to 4 days in las vegas! we are leaving this coming sunday and i’m incredibly nervous about the trip. it’s not just the hassle of pumping, saving milk and transporting it back but i’m so anxious to leave penny home for 4 days. although penny is comfortable with my mil she goes through ‘mommy phases’ where she can only be soothed by me. i just worry about her crying for me at night especially since she’s been sleeping 9~12 hours straight as of last week. i know babies are unpredictable and just when you think you have their schedule figured out, it goes belly-up but i worry how much  it will be affected when i’m gone.

mil was over yesterday and she took the initiative to jot down notes on penny’s awake time, how much to feed and how often, and nap length. she’s really great with penny and very loving and patient so i know she’ll do a great job.. i just need to reassure myself. and anyway, the trip is happening so there’s nothing i can do but try to enjoy myself! we are going with four of our friends and it’ll be nice to get away and treat myself… right?

well anyway, i need to get my mind off the trip because i’ll drive myself crazy with unnecessary stress.

today is penny’s first swim lesson! she absolutely loves bath time so we figured she’ll take to swimming but it’s in a whole different environment so who knows, really? her bathing suit arrived a few days ago and though it’s size 6-12 months it’ll be too small for her in a month or so. her lesson is from 4:30-5pm which is perfect because then we can come home and do her bedtime routine. i’m nervous because i’ll be taking her by myself (and going in the water too!) so i hope all goes well.

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important update on penny’s supposed milk allergy: she is not allergic to dairy.. hooray! at her 6-month visit, our pediatrician changed penny’s poopy diaper and noted that it looks normal for a breastfed baby. he advised us to get probiotics to help with her bowel movements. we give penny 5 drops a day by spoon and now she’s down to 1-2 bowel movements a day! i’m so relieved because a dairy-free diet is unbelievably difficult and i didn’t want have to deal with that… of course, i would have had to if penny really was allergic, but she’s not!

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all in all, i have a lot to be thankful about… and during times of trial, i hope i can think of moments like these to spur me on.