long winter days and nights

i believe in process. i believe in four seasons. i believe that winter’s tough, but spring’s coming. i believe that there’s a growing season. and i think that you realize that in life, you grow. you get better.

~ steve southerland

this quote is so on point. winter can be dreary, depressing, and drags on for what seems like an eternity in new england. and as much as i complain about the cold and being trapped indoors, i do like the snow. it’s so pure, bright, and pretty. i also like how it creates a soft blanket over everything. still, cold weather does not equal snow unfortunately because snow, to me, justifies the frigid temperatures.

 

i used to think winter made me appreciate my favorite season, summer, more but as i grow older, i’m not quite certain about that. i get cold easily even in the summer time so staying warm during winter has its challenges. lately, we’ve had extremely frosty temperatures with wind chills in the negatives. it literally hurt to be outdoors, just to get out of the car and run inside a store. now we are back to “normal” new england winter temperatures although friday was a balmy 60 degrees.

 

saturday, january 13: we beat cabin fever by going to the mall to ride the carousel. this was ezra’s first time riding an animal. the other times, he sat in the seat with grandma.

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friday, january 12. penny enjoyed splashing through the puddles in her hunter boots after a playgroup at a local school. she’s eating goldfish crackers from a cup.

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the warm weather + rain melted most of the snow away on friday

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there actually is a thing called the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder. i feel like i’m much happier during spring and summer when there is more sunlight and warmth. i’m also probably more cheerful during these seasons because we aren’t confined indoors resigned to do the same activities over and over. who knows? maybe if i lived in sunny california, i’d be happy year-round… but nothing is ever perfect. california lately has been besieged with natural disasters such as wildfires and mudslides, so there’s no escaping the force of mother nature.

white christmas! these photos are long overdue!

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this photo was featured on the ig page: moms with cameras

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eating snow!

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it’s been rough over here in the so household for the past couple weeks. the kids had been sick which is no fun for anyone. penny’s congestion finally fully cleared up on wednesday but ezra still has a rattling sound when he breathes. he’s also teething so he’s been incessantly drooling. (his third tooth erupted yesterday.)

our daily struggles mostly concern miss p: being nice and sharing toys with ezra, using words to communicate instead of crying and whining, and eating. p lost nearly a pound while she was sick because of her refusal to eat most foods. now the weight difference between p and ezra are 1.6 lb. i weighed ezra the other day and he was 24.2 lb! i believe some of p’s emotional outbursts are because she’s hangry, but who really knows?! mealtimes have been a battle these days but now that she’s feeling a lot better she’s starting to eat more again.

on a positive note, a big milestone occurred today: penny used the potty on her own for the first time! while i was cooking dinner, penny announced she had to go potty and walked to the bathroom. my in-laws were over for dinner and we all thought penny was just pretending, but when my fil went over to check she had pulled down her pants and had already peed on the potty! when i walked over to see for myself, she had already finished wiping! i’m so proud of this girl!

it’s day 14 of the new year and so much has happened already. ezra is 9 months old; i went to a preschool fair to start preparing penny for preschool; i’m planning ezra’s first birthday (and penny’s 3rd birthday, already!); and preparing for our cancun trip in march! oh, and i also started a book club! that, i will go into detail in my next post. i want to finish this post so i can start reading tonight.

stay warm, friends.

 

night changes

my favorite holiday used to be thanksgiving for as long as i could remember. i always looked forward to our huge family gathering, the endless amounts of traditional thanksgiving and korean food, and, of course, my birthday. the years that my birthday fell during thanksgiving weekend, or on thanksgiving day, were the best since i didn’t have to go to school, and, later on, work.

but now that i am married with two children, and also live a state away from most of my family members and relatives i feel christmas has usurped thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. for one thing, i’ve always loved christmas music. i could honestly listen to it all year long. as an adult, there’s something so nostalgic and cheerful about it… as if listening to the music alone will melt away the troubles of the world.

although christmas can be stressful (as most holidays can be) because of the expenses that come with purchasing gifts, thanksgiving became a source of anxiety once i had children. thanksgivings 2015 and 2016 were spent here in connecticut with my in-laws, my brother-in-law and his wife. dennis and i didn’t want to get stuck in crazy holiday traffic with a baby and dennis also had to work on friday.

this year, however, we were able to make it work (more details on the next post). although it was great catching up with cousins i hadn’t spoken to in a while (in person, that is) and seeing my grandma, it just wasn’t the same as it was even five years ago. for one thing, about ten family members didn’t attend due to scheduling conflicts or a personal issue within the family. also, my eldest aunt had passed away earlier in the year so her absence was palpable.

the title of this post is from a one direction song – yes, i’m a directioner. night changes discusses how things can change so quickly, and we notice this more as we grow older. i’m not as close to my cousins as i once was – and, distance can be one reason – so the family gatherings that i am able to attend can be awkward as we try to make small talk. i also wasn’t able to enjoy the food as much because i was helping to take care of the children, and making sure that they eat. this, of course, means that i can’t properly eat. i was still hungry even after devouring most of the food on my plate.

still, i’m glad that dennis and i made it work. bringing children anywhere is a challenge but we rose to the occasion!

did you know home depot hosts a kids’ workshop the first saturday of every month? my friend had told me about it but i had forgotten about it until i was notified through a weekly events page through hulafrog. this past saturday, home depot had a ‘make your own gingerbread house’ workshop where kids use a hammer and nails to construct their own gingerbread house.

it was a huge hit! people were spread out everywhere to assemble the houses, and a woman next to us commented how this was the biggest crowd she had seen for the kids’ workshop. i guess the holiday spirit had the people out in droves.

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eating a cracker while posing

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setting the nail in place

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looking over the instructions

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first time using a hammer!

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people kept coming!

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finding a spot

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the finished masterpiece

as for christmas, it will only get more enjoyable as the children get older. penny’s favorite christmas song is “jingle bells” and she loves to laugh during the “laughing all the way” line as well as shouting out “hey!” during the song. she also hung up a few ornaments on the tree as ezra watched.

now that we finally have our tree up, i am just waiting for our new family stockings to arrive. i ordered personalized ones from pottery barn kids and they are on their way. another thing that is in transit are our family pajamas. i’m not sure we’ll be able to create and send out a christmas card in time this year. i’ve been wanting to take pictures of the kids in front of the fireplace but i have been waiting on the stockings. if anything, we won’t be able to have christmas cards made in nice cardstock because express shipping will be so expensive. i do want to commemorate ezra’s first christmas so i will have to have something made!

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one of the elementary schools in my town is teamed up with frc (family resource center), and they host a playgroup on friday mornings. i recently began bringing penny so now we have an activity every weekday to keep us preoccupied. it’s very similar to the library playgroup where there is a storytime, extension activities, and free play. what’s different is that snack is also offered and the children sit together at the end of the playgroup to eat.

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making a snow-covered tree using q-tips and white paint

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decorating mittens

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night changes

We’re only getting older, baby
And I’ve been thinking about it lately
Does it ever drive you crazy
Just how fast the night changes?
Everything that you’ve ever dreamed of
Disappearing when you wake up
But there’s nothing to be afraid of
Even when the night changes
It will never change, me and you

 

christmas tree canvas art

for one of our holiday-themed activities, penny and i created a christmas tree using washable paint on canvas.

penny loves to paint (mostly to feel the squishy paint between her fingers). i hid her paint set because she would ask every day for me to open them. i felt bad about hiding them but it can be a hassle setting everything up for her to only have her paint for a few minutes and then wander off with paint all over her body.

when i do come up with projects, i mostly do them after dinner so when we are finished she can go right into the bath tub. it also helps if someone else is around like dennis or my mil.

i came up with the christmas tree art myself. i have leftover contact paper from when i made a faux marble countertop for penny’s play kitchen so i figured i could use that to create a christmas tree template.

first, i unrolled the contact paper over the canvas to see how much i would need. after cutting the paper, i placed it over the canvas so i could draw an outline of a christmas tree. i also used a sharpie.

then, i carefully cut out the tree (save it for later!) and then peeled off the adhesive backing from the “scrap paper” (or the white space of the tree). i lined up the contact paper with the canvas. i pressed the paper down, smoothed it out, and wrapped the edges around the canvas.

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penny had fun smearing green paint all over the canvas. it didn’t matter that it got on the contact paper because the paint didn’t get underneath it. while my mil gave penny a bath, i carefully peeled off the contact paper and viola – an evergreen tree! i let it dry overnight and placed it on the windowsill out of penny’s reach.

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for the next part of the project, i peeled off the adhesive backing from the tree cutout that i had saved and placed it right over the tree. using sky blue paint, penny painted the background. again, the contact paper helped preserve the picture. thankfully dennis was around to help me with this part.

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then i had penny glue on colorful poms to represent christmas lights. initially i had white glue on a plate and gave penny a paintbrush to randomly paint glue on the tree. this didn’t work because penny was just dabbing glue on and the poms wouldn’t stick. i ended up helping her paint glue on and place the poms on the tree. (i have poms with adhesive backings that would’ve been perfect but i let penny play with them months ago so they’re not sticky anymore. if you can find poms like those, that would be ideal. i had gotten them from target around easter so the downside was that they’re pastel-colored – not exactly christmas light-material.)

for the final touch, i cut out the gold glitter star and glued that on.

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using contact paper on canvas inspired me to do more art projects with penny using these two materials. dennis and i decided on a woodland theme for our baby boy’s nursery and sprinkle so i’m going to create artwork depicting woodland creatures. i can have penny help by having her paint on the body of the animals (with the help of cutouts) and i can do the finer details like the facial features.

the goal is to have four animal canvases and maybe i’ll make some others with just evergreen trees. i really liked how the christmas tree looked before having all the decorations put on it – it was simple and had more of a rustic feel.the sprinkle is about two months away and i know it’ll approach quickly so i hope to get a start on these next art projects soon!

for a more low-key art activity, penny painted white snow onto blue paper to create a landscape. then she placed holiday-themed stickers on the paper. in hindsight i would’ve used dark blue paper for the white paint to show up more.

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we’ve had 3 snow days so far but have yet to venture out in it. one of the reasons is because all of penny’s snow gear is wrapped up under the tree, but it’s also too cold! i’m sure there will be more snow once christmas is over so we will get to play outdoors. we also live near an elementary school and our backyard faces the hilly field so we will have to buy a sled soon.

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i had to take yuri out for a walk while penny napped

penny had fun playing with fake snow at her toddler class last week. it’s a material called “insta-snow” that the instructor purchased on amazon. it’s cold (though not as ice cold as real snow) and fluffy. it was amazing to see it transform into snow once water was poured onto it.

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snowman collage using glue and cutouts

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first time playing with shaving cream!

i had penny touch snow for the first time when she was about 8 months old and she hated it – too cold! it’ll be interesting to see her reaction this winter.

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23 weeks!

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.

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.