welcome, 2018

and just like that, another year has gone by.

in previous years, like millions of other people, my new year’s resolution used to be to lose weight. although i would love to get my post-pregnancy bod back into shape i really want to focus on my emotional and mental state as well as my overall happiness and well-being.

my close mom friends know what i’m talking about because i’ve discussed this with them on many occasions, and they certainly can relate to the emotional and mental toll motherhood can take on you. some of you may wonder what could possibly have such an effect on me when i am blessed to stay home with healthy children who sleep well. that is certainly what my mom and sister wondered aloud when i had a breakdown at my mom’s house a few months ago.

no matter how well your children sleep, you’re always going to be tired. that’s being a parent. i think the chronic tiredness just becomes a part of you until your child moves out. i know i’m always tired because i choose to stay up late. every night i tell myself i’ll go to bed earlier, but i rarely do. if i happened to fall asleep at an earlier time it’s because i fell asleep on the couch while reading a book, trying in vain to update my blog, or while watching netflix. if i don’t stay up, i won’t get the chance to indulge in adult activities such as reading uninterrupted or even just getting to linger over a meal. these are all things i took for granted before i became a mom, and it’s the simple things i yearn for the most.

i’m going to try to put myself first sometimes. or even better, put dennis and myself first over the children.. for certain things. as parents, we sacrifice so much for our children but having a decent meal, for one, shouldn’t be one of them. sometimes i’m too tired to cook because of all the time i spent catering to penny’s ever-changing palate, but take-out isn’t usually healthy nor financially savvy.

i also used to love reading books and was reading a new book every week/every two weeks for a while until i hit a rut again. i got caught up in all of the things i had, and wanted, to do during my downtime like attempting to update my blog! i’ve had to renew two books three times already because i was having difficulty finding time to read. one of the books is the handmaid’s tale and i’m still only a quarter of the way through even though i just renewed it again.

i had also recently gotten a haircut, something i hadn’t done in 14 months(!) and had also recently wrote about. jjust having that done made me feel really good about myself. now i just need to get a massage soon as well as a mani/pedi 🙂

what i really aim to do is just be more h a p p y. this is tricky because you can’t exactly will yourself to be happy, you just have to be. by happiness, i mean… to relax a little, let things go, revel in whatever it is you’re going through, and enjoy life. nowadays with social media, it’s hard to actually enjoy the now because we’re so busy trying to document it for… later. i’m totally guilty of this as well. sometimes i have to restrain myself from whipping out my phone to take yet another picture to add to my library of 15,000 images.

i also have a bad(?) habit of building great expectations… for events, but mostly for people. i can hold a grudge like my life depended on it.. so i want to be more, not really forgiving, but more… understanding, and empathetic. often times i fret over certain friendships and wonder if the effort is really worth it. i feel like i’m usually the one reaching out to certain people, even just to ask how their day was and i just want to stop. i’m tired of wondering how they are. i’m just tired! i want to try to focus on the few great friendships i have instead of trying to cultivate a bunch just to feel like i’m part of a certain group. basically, this calls for me to be more loving to myself.. to be comfortable in my own skin and not feel like i need the validity of others – friends or family.

even with all of these revelations, 2017 was a wonderful year with the most memorable moment being the birth of ezra, our darling boy. it was also a challenging year as our family adjusted to a new family member and also having to endure the newborn demands once again.

it was a huge year for miss penny. not only did she lose her only-child status, but she also got potty trained in a week and a half; night-trained in a week; and begrudgingly gave up her nap/bedtime pacifier all within several weeks of each other. i blamed most of penny’s sudden mood changes and behavioral issues on the “terrible twos” but penny experienced many developmental growths and achieved big milestones (no diapers!)

i definitely can be too hard on penny sometimes. i’m just an impatient person to begin with, and i have a short fuse. maybe it’s because i get easily flustered and frustrated but i find it so difficult to understand, and empathize, with a two-year-old. i feel like a terrible mom most of the time because i get unnecessarily angry and annoyed at her behavior. it’s not like she’s an awful child; she has typical toddler behavior: jealousy over the baby and hangry meltdowns, to name a couple. my reactions sometimes make me wonder how i ever even enjoyed being a teacher until i remember i had specifically chosen elementary over early childhood for the reasons above. (and my experience at home is also why i don’t want to go back to teaching.)

every day i pray for more love, more patience, and more understanding. i want to love myself more so i can teach penny and ezra to love themselves more, too.

2018 – bring. it. on.

[ these are some pictures i took from new year’s weekend in massachusetts. ]

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dessert crepes for dinner at burlington mall

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double duty: cleaning the floor and entertaining little brother

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a “typical” lunch made by my mom

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we forgot yuri’s booties so we used ezra’s socks

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it was stiflingly hot in grandma’s room

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grandpa lee and ezra passing the ball back and forth

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grandpa lee playing the fishing game, one of penny’s favorite christmas gifts

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ezra has been pushing himself forward for a couple of weeks now. he still can’t crawl; he has trouble lifting up his belly so far. he is over 23 lb so maybe weight is one of the reasons! he seems pretty content on moving around this way or just wanting to stand even though he can’t do that on his own.

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ezra on the move!

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#MomGuilt

mom guilt. most of us moms have it. in fact, I’ll even go as far to claim that 99.9% of us do. working moms may experience it due to balancing the demands of their job as well as parenthood; they also may feel guilty for not spending “enough time” with their children and missing out on their developmental milestones. we SAHMs get it too: hey, since we’re home all day, don’t we have time to maintain an orderly house, cook elaborate meals, and make sure the kids are fed and watered? dear lord, if only.

comparing ourselves to other parents as well as wrestling with feelings of inadequacy and failure probably have been around since adam and eve. of course, adam and eve were the only parents at the time so they didn’t have anyone else to compare themselves to; but they probably felt like pretty crappy parents (for lack of a better word) when their son, cain, killed his older brother, abel. i understand that this is a rather severe example but imagine eve’s anguish, shock, and sorrow upon realizing that one of her sons extinguished the life of another. in the meantime, i get worked up if penny ends up having a shorter-than-usual nap: i should’ve fed her more; i should’ve put her down earlier; i should’ve, i should’ve, i should’ve.

i beat myself up over any, and every little thing, that may go “wrong” in our day-to-day life, and i know many moms do too. the thing is, we know we are being unreasonable and overreacting but we can’t help it. there’s a little voice that nags me saying i could’ve done a better job handling a meltdown, preventing penny from tripping over a toy and hitting her head, and so on.. and yeah, maybe i could have.. but take a mental note and try to move on, right? instead i let it steep and the feelings of regret and shame gnaw at me. whether we are first-time moms or are wrangling five kids, we are always going to struggle because that’s what life is about. we think we got this parenting thing down one day and then it throws a curveball at us and says, “gotcha!” nothing is ever easy, and maybe that’s a good thing… at least, in parenting, because it’ll motivate us to put our best effort into it instead of being complacent or negligent.

boy, does penny keep me on my toes and test my boundaries every single day particularly as she gets closer and closer to the “terrible twos.” i don’t want to just throw her under a label and dismiss her behavior and actions because of what may be expected at a certain age. that’s why i try to hard to redirect her behavior, shower her with positivity and encouragement, and attempt to curb my own frustrations and anger.but hey, i’m only human too.. i lose my cool, i admit it. and it’s something i pray about constantly: learning to be patient but also remembering that penny is not yet two years old and still becoming aware of how amazing and vast this world is; it’s a lot for a toddler to take in and i’ve got to be poised and level-headed to guide her in being a patient and loving person.

just remember that this parenting thing will never really get easy. our generation may have it harder than the past ones because of social media. everywhere we turn, we are force-fed images of people appearing to be “the perfect parents.” but we need to remember that everyone struggles, even the rich and famous. my friend shared an article the other day about chrissy teigen opening up about her struggle with postpartum depression. and she feels guilty because she knows she has it good: money and help (her mom lives with her and she has a nanny) so she was mentally preparing herself for the backlash she will unfortunately experience from those who think that celebrities are above us and shouldn’t complain about anything. i readily admit that celebs and the uber-wealthy do seem to have it easier than us normal folk for many things but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that they’re human too. postpartum depression doesn’t handpick who it wants to affect; everyone’s susceptible.

many women are their own worst enemies.. and each other’s enemies. we should all be helping one another instead of bringing each other down. ever since i became a mom, i quickly saw how lonely and scary being a mother really was. your entire life shifts to accommodate this tiny human and it’s a huge adjustment. friends who don’t have kids can’t truly understand until they have one of their own, and when they do, i can’t help but think, “ha!”

i organized and planned a gno tonight with 10 other women. most of them are mom’s and many of them also don’t know one another; in fact, i am the only one that knows every single person because i put the event together. knowing what it feels like to be a first-time mom (or a mom, in general), i wanted to create a fun girls’ night out where we can not only relax but network as well. maybe it can turn into some sort of mommy’s group and we can do monthly gno as well as reaching out to each other for events and play dates. as much as i am excited to go out, i am experiencing the tiniest twinge of guilt for leaving penny at home. heaven forbid, i miss her bathtime and bedtime routine – i’ll only be gone for a few hours, but there it is.. that little voice.. “aw, you’re leaving penny at home? but she’s been so attached to you lately.. and you won’t get to kiss her good night.” i’d like to think that what i’m feeling at this moment is more that i’ll miss her instead of feeling guilty that i’m going out. yes, she can drive me nuts but i do miss her even when i step out to run an errand solo.

so, i’ll go out tonight – 34 weeks pregnant and all – and enjoy being around other women while relishing a still-hot meal and taking the time to truly relax because, you know what? i deserve it. hey little voice, what now?

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my little helper hands me the eggs

 

the remedy

cold season has arrived. penny had two canceled play dates in the past two weeks due to her friends’ illnesses. i tried in vain to prevent penny from getting sick but you can only do so much. after 9 boogie-filled days, penny seems to have fully recovered.

it all began early monday morning (10/17) when i woke up to penny coughing. i saw that she had a runny nose and dennis suggested that was most likely causing her to cough. penny hardly coughed when she was awake; it was only when she was lying down. thankfully, she didn’t have a fever, was in good spirits for the most part, and still had a decent appetite. initially i was worried she had developed allergies so i cleaned, dusted, and aired out her room. we also washed her mattress cover, sleep sack, lovey, and blanket.

the coughing prevented penny from having a good nap and a well-rested night’s sleep for the next three days. usually 2.5~3 hours, she would wake up after an hour and a half (or less) because of coughing. during the night, she would sit up in bed for a little bit and look around, and try to go back to sleep.

the first thing i tried to help penny be more comfortable was the nose frida. we actually had only ever used this once before – when she was sick around her first birthday. we, and she, were lucky enough that she hadn’t been sick before that. let me tell you, that thing works! at first, she laughed when i used it because it tickled but she quickly grew to hate it. so much so that she would scream, flail, and cry when i tried to use it. i had to sneak up on her while she was playing to try to quickly suction mucus out of her nose. and, of course, her crying caused more mucus to collect in her nose. still, it was very effective at getting the mucus out since babies and young toddlers don’t know how to blow their nose.

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i honestly think she could have recovered sooner had she not been drinking milk. for those of you that have read my previous entries, i’m not a fan of cow milk. at first we gave penny hemp milk but when it proved to be costly i reluctantly gave penny some cow milk. i also purchased a brand of milk called ripple that is plant-based and available only at target (from what i saw). she never had a preference for a certain milk until i tried giving her ripple when she was sick. she noticed that it didn’t taste the same as whole milk and threw her cup in disgust! since she wanted milk, i had no choice but to continue giving her cow milk although i still limit it to 16 oz. a day. dairy causes mucus membranes to swell so it’s best to avoid it if you’re sick, but i can’t communicate all that to my daughter -_-

after the nose frida, i bought a vicks for babies plug-in vaporizer. i had read great reviews about it online on how babies and children slept well without coughing. in addition, i elevated one side of her mattress by rolling up 3 baby blankets underneath the mattress. i saw some improvement but penny’s cough was still affecting her sleep. next, dennis purchased a cool mist humidifier and we turned it on all night along with the plug-in vaporizer (and keeping the mattress elevated).

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that seemed to have helped even more, but it wasn’t until we applied baby chest rub to her feet that we noticed a drastic change! penny ended up sleeping her usual 2.5~3 hours for her nap and had uninterrupted night sleep – no coughing! again, i had read rave reviews but was still skeptical on how well it would work. i don’t know why but applying the chest rub to babies’ feet and putting socks over them truly works. for good measure, i also rubbed a little on her chest for nighttime.

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penny’s nose was still dripping like a faucet during the day and going outside made it worse (we had to take yuri out though). this morning, she woke up without a runny nose and we haven’t had to wipe her nose all day. fingers crossed she’s back to 100%!

next time your little one has a cold, try all of the above remedies but definitely have baby chest rub on hand. we used the walgreens brand but any brand will do, like the vicks for babies. do not use the adult vicks on babies as the scent is too harsh for them. i would also advise against using cold tablets and cough syrup even if they are for babies. there are just too many scary stories out there about babies dying due to an accidental overdose (such as from benedryl). plus, there are limited studies on how effective certain cough syrups like zarbee’s really is. science based magazine states zarbee’s is more or less “effectively diluted honey.” it might even be more beneficial to give your child actual honey (only give honey to babies over 12 months old) to coat the throat instead of using “placebo or no treatment.”

it’s still only october so we have a long winter ahead of us, but i hope that is the last illness penny will have this season. everyone’s miserable when a baby is sick especially the little one since she can’t communicate her discomfort. penny will get her flu shot along with another round of vaccines at her 18-month checkup next month so hopefully those help her to stay healthy this winter.

this reminds me: i need to get my flu shot soon too especially since i’m pregnant. i’m halfway through 15 weeks and for the past few days i’ve been feeling flutters. i felt penny move for the first time at 16 weeks so i can distinguish between gas and a baby’s movements (i would hope).i particularly feel the baby moving more when i’m lying down. (penny, too, was always more active when i was still because she was lulled to sleep when i walked around.)

this is getting more and more real every day! in less than a month we will also find out if we are having a boy or a girl, and then we can actually start planning for the baby’s arrival. we do want to paint the baby’s room and buy items based on the baby’s sex. once my belly actually starts getting bigger and i feel actual kicks, i will actually feel pregnant too. i’ve gained 2.2 pounds so far and i still fit into all of my skinny jeans.. and i hope i can still wear regular clothes for as long as i can!

penny staying busy at her toddler sense class

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we also visit different libraries (3 towns so far) to check out the children’s room.

lately it’s been difficult to coax penny into a stroller: why ride when you can walk, right? it’s not easy to walk the dog if penny isn’t in a stroller when i’m by myself so i have to bribe her with crackers lately… or just place her in the seat while she’s crying.

after a nice stroller ride, i “rewarded” penny by letting her walk around our yard while yuri watched from the foyer.

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some indoor activities penny enjoys are coloring and playing with stickers. she particularly likes putting stickers on my face and laughing. during a recent trip to a toy store in west hartford, i got the idea of buying reusable stickers. they’re a hit! she likes placing them on the different scenic backgrounds that the stickers came with.

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she’s actually quite good with not putting objects in her mouth.. she never really has! if she got curious and would try, one “no” would suffice. penny uses crayons and markers correctly which is why we weren’t too worried about her using markers.

as it gets colder and darker, i’m trying to find more activities to keep penny preoccupied indoors. i’ll have to think of other creative ways for penny to be engaged. i’ll be sure to share those – successful or not – in future posts.

it ain’t over ’til it’s over

remember how i had declared, with much relief, that penny’s sleep regression seemed to have ended? yes, well, forget that, because it’s still in progress. after talking about the sleep regression with my friend, jisun (언니) at church yesterday, she confirmed that the regression can come and go – one night your baby will sleep wonderfully and then the next time she will have multiple wakings.

an important thing that i need to keep reminding myself: penny is just a baby.

watching yuri, our dog.

watching yuri, our dog.

she loves feeling different textures

she loves feeling different textures

she doesn’t intend to wake up, and stay awake for hours. she’s exhausted too – this is obvious because she makes up for lost sleep during the day – and is still trying to figure out how to transition to the different sleep cycles. sometimes she’s successful, and other times she’s not.

saturday night, for instance. she woke up at 1:30am and was moving around, but didn’t cry.. and her eyes were still closed. i was pumping so i let her be. she became more and more agitated that she couldn’t fall back asleep and began crying and trying to self-soothe by putting her hand in her mouth. when her cries escalated, i finally attended to her at 2:30am. she had been trying for an hour to fall back asleep! i ended up rocking her for AN HOUR AND A HALF. during this time, penny’s eyes were wide open but she was quiet. my chronic cough hasn’t gone away and my throat started to tickle, threatening to wake penny up. i put penny down too early because her eyes flew open and i had to start the rocking process over again. by the time she fell asleep at 4am, it was time to pump again!!!!! as i finished pumping, she woke up! this time she was hungry, and had a very wet diaper. she downed 5.5 ounces and when i rocked her, she fell asleep and stayed asleep for over 4 hours.

the first time that i tried putting penny down in her crib, i had noticed that her diaper was full but didn’t want to further stimulate her by changing it so i left it alone. in hindsight, it’s possible she woke up because she was uncomfortable, and that made her realize she’s hungry too.. who knows? again, she’s just a baby. she’s not waking up to annoy us. this is my mantra that i’ll just have to keep repeating to myself when i find myself getting agitated during these frequent wakings.

out of desperation, i had been googling about the 4-month-old sleep regression the past few weeks. a great blog post i came across is found here: help! my 4-5 month old is sleeping like a newborn again!

this post helped me understand what penny is going through developmentally, and empathize with her. around 4 months of age, the “fourth trimester” ends (the first three months of a baby’s life is referred to as the “fourth trimester” because those months are like an extension of life inside the womb.) and suddenly, the entire world is opened up before their eyes. anything, and everything, is fascinating and you may find (like i did) that your baby is highly distracted to even eat which results in night wakings up make up the calories.

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penny has been pursing her lips a lot 🙂

taken just before we left for church this morning

taken just before we left for church sunday morning

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what i also liked about this post is that the writer reassures us, the parents, that we aren’t doing anything wrong. it’s easy to blame ourselves when we are up for the fourth time in just as many hours trying to put the baby back to bed. just like how i had thought if i had changed penny’s diaper, she would’ve slept longer… maybe, maybe not.. she IS going through a sleep regression so she could have woken up around the same time even if she had a dry diaper.

just keep doing what you have been doing: feed/nurse (if necessary) and comfort them. this, too, shall pass. babies especially need you during this challenging time. another helpful point to remember is that soon your baby will be crawling, then walking, and then running… sometimes the days can drag on but as a collective time really flies by… as you cradle your wide-eyed child at 3am, try to keep in mind that she won’t “need” you as much as she gets older and learns how to self-soothe. she won’t hug you for no reason or cling by your side.. she’ll want to be with her friends, or play games on her ipad instead of wanting to be held by her mom. though difficult to appreciate now, please try to cherish these moments with your sweet little baby.

i’m talking to you, jax.

it’s not about you anymore

—- 6/10/15 —-

motherhood has been extremely taxing since day 1. as mentioned in my previous post, i’ve had to deal with latching issues. though it was resolved for the most part, i developed mastitis in my right breast due to plugged milk ducts. i produce much more milk than penny, or the pump, can drain so it gets backed up. when this happens, the breast gets infected and swells. some symptoms are a fever of 101.5 or higher, flu-like symptoms such as chills and body aches, redness (wedge-shaped) on the breast, and burning pain that can extend from your breast to your back during and after breastfeeding. i woke up on friday morning (6/5) with chills and body aches. although you’re miserable and in great pain during this time, it’s highly recommended to continue bf as nothing can drain the breast of milk more effectively than your baby. this is clearly easier said than done – it’s difficult battling flu-like symptoms without having to constantly nurse a newborn, and i tried to tough it out the entire day. i knew it was bad when i found myself crying in the nursery while my mother-in-law sat oblivious downstairs. i was too proud to tell her at the time because i felt like i had failed as a mother. let me tell you, it’s hard maintaining a positive attitude and staying strong when problems keep arising but one look at penny and i know i would do anything to keep her happy and healthy, even with my own pain and suffering.

currently, i’m on medication and i’ve been feeling better. i make sure to massage the affected area thoroughly before and after a feeding or pumping. applying heat also helped – before a feeding, i made sure to hold a heating pad to both of my breasts. i also felt much better after a hot shower. a helpful tip i received from a fellow mom was to apply lanolin to the nipples before getting in the shower to help with sensitivity. i still have to take a shower covering my nipples with my hands because the water pressure is painful.

as i sit here writing this, the lo (little one) is snoozing away in the pack ‘n play. it’s 3:22 in the afternoon and it’s a balmy day. the weather app on my macbook says the current temperature is 80 degrees but it was probably hotter earlier.. who knows? i have yet to step outside today which was not by choice.

i was looking forward to today because my friend and i had planned a playdate for our girls. since penny is now 3.5 weeks and olivia is about 9 weeks i guess the “playdate” is really an excuse for us newly-minted moms to get together to vent, get fresh air, and attempt to remain(?) sane.

clearly, i’m still new to this game. though the car was loaded with all carefully packed baby essentials, i had underestimated the power of a newborn. yes, i was nervous about going out on my own particularly since i hadn’t driven in nearly a month and now i was toting along a very precious cargo. but yet, i kept hoping that everything would run smoothly – i would try to time her feedings and naps so we could leave the house by late morning/early afternoon.

penny has been fussy lately during the evening and nighttime hours which is normal for newborns. it’s been difficult trying to time our dinners – usually one of us (dennis, mostly) has to abandon our meal at the table to go console penny. and to console, we go through a list of troubleshooting methods: swaddling, holding her, singing, mamaroo, baby carrier, diaper change, feed, pacifier, and go for a walk to name a bunch. it’s quite exhausting and frustrating. last night, i had to forgo second helpings of dinner so i could feed penny. i resumed eating about an hour later.

there are also days that penny is fussy in the early to late morning hours. lately after an early morning feeding at around 5:30am, she’ll want to cluster feed again and doesn’t end up taking a nap. she becomes overtired and agitated making it harder for us to put her down. this is what happened this morning. i fed her nearly every hour (one was a 50-minute session!) until noon which was the last feed before the car ride so she would be all set for a few hours. although she had fallen asleep on me, she woke up crying when we tried to place her in the car seat. of course, changing her bottoms from bloomers to pants didn’t help (the car seat straps were digging into her bare legs). dennis tried soothing her by holding her and gently rocking her back and forth while she sucked on a pacifier but he had to get ready for work. if it was this difficult trying to get out of the house, i didn’t want to think about the half-hour car ride and trying to walk around blue back square, an outdoor shopping plaza in west hartford. so, i canceled the date and now i’m sitting here forlornly, wishing i could be outside.

to be honest, planning dates and going out with a baby solo is probably all too soon just like dennis suggested. it has only been three weeks and moms are recommended to get 6 weeks of recovery and low activity.

—- 6/11/15 —-

the above post is all i got to yesterday. little did i know today would be even worse than yesterday. right now it’s 6:40pm and penny has been up since 7:30am!!! she’s been suffering from acid reflux so her naps (if we’re lucky to have her go down) have been cut short because she’s spitting up. she has her 1-month check-up on monday so we are hoping to get her zantac to help with the reflux.

i’ve been alone the past few days while dennis has gone to work. my friend, genie, was sweet enough to leave her lo with her mom and come assist me for a few hours. we took a walk outside which calmed penny down but the oppressive heat was too much for my dog so we had to cut it short. before dennis came home with food, all i had to eat today was a nature valley bar and 2 hard-boiled eggs. 😦 penny kept wanting to feed and that is all i was able to do today besides change my clothes and wash up.

here is penny in calmer times:

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penny relaxing in her pack ‘n play


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penny at 3 weeks


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penny at christina & john’s baby shower – 5/30/15


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this was also the day of her newborn photo shoot.. this shot was taken at the baby shower though

i keep hearing that “things will get better” but it really makes me wonder: when? and anyway, even if “this, too, shall pass” there will be other issues to deal with such as teething, and the dreaded growth spurt in the sixth week. what’s kept me somewhat sane during this time has been my wonderful husband. after hearing what a tough day i had had today, he came home from working all day to provide dinner while he took over finding ways to soothe penny. after i collected myself and ate, i found dennis upstairs doing skin-to-skin with our dd (dear daughter). it’s important to have a support system especially during the first month and i’m fortunate that dennis is so hands-on and encouraging. my friend, genie, (a recent mommy herself) and i also text back and forth all day sharing our joys and woes – usually we are up at the same time feeding our girls even at 3am.

i want to end this post by giving a s/o to the mommies and friends for their words of encouragement and advice: genie, christine, jules, alice, jen v., mouy, jisun, and dana. thanks also to grace k. for always bringing bubble tea when visiting! 🙂

i’ve been typing for so long, penny woke up from her too-short nap. time to resume the madness… but it’s all worth it, right?