5 years and counting

june 29, 2013. five years ago, dennis and i were married in hamden, connecticut. how has it only been five years? so much has happened since our wedding that it feels more like it has been a decade. one factor is the bit with the emergence of two little ones. at times, i’m still in disbelief that i am a mother. i still feel like a 17-year-old at heart, and I’m still googling ways to solve toddler problems. don’t all parents?

but, there was a time before children. back when dennis and I enjoyed spontaneous date nights and could wake up whenever we wanted to on the weekends. dennis and I began dating in late 2009, but we actually knew of each other since high school circa 2000. dennis is a few years younger than I am so although we shared some mutual friends, we ran in different circles. oh, and he lived in Connecticut while I resided in Massachusetts. how did two teenagers who lived in two different states come to know one another? we both attended Korean churches that are part of a New England Korean community-type of association. this group organizes yearly retreats, and Dennis and I had attended the summer ones.

it wasn’t until 2009, post-college, that Dennis and I became reacquainted at a friend’s house party (a kegger, to be exact. ah, the joys of a kid-free life!) Dennis claims he arrived at the party in time to see me doing a keg stand. I ended up doing four of them that night so, needless to say, I don’t remember much of the party. however, Dennis reached out to me via facebook messenger to get together for a group snowboarding trip to sugar bush in vermont. I’m thinking he thought it was safer to have a casual group hangout rather than a date for the first get-together 🙂

five years ago, we could only imagine what parenthood would be like. we were so excited to become husband and wife, and the prospect of raising children was considered to be in the distant future. fast forward to 2018, and a life with a 3-year-old and a 14-month-old makes it hard to envision one without them.

though the children mean the world to me, I’ve heard, and read, so many times (most often from my mom) that we should put our spouses first, and not the children. of course, this does not mean to neglect or abandon them but to not focus most of our energy in trying to please and win over these tykes. perhaps, even more so with this generation, parents let their children dictate our lives even when we think we are being strict and disciplined. most of us just placate their demands because we want to avoid confrontation and arguing with unreasonable beings. I am totally guilty of this.

also, it’s worth mentioning that I’m fairly certain I’ve talked about this in past post(s) but its importance and validity is a reason why I’m bringing it up again. as I marvel over the past five years, I’m thinking of how dennis and I can focus more on our relationship without it being lost in our children’s world.

date nights are absolutely key in keeping communication and intimacy alive without the distraction of children, but these only occur a few times a month. it’s something as simple as being “unplugged” for an hour to truly prioritize the other person: listen and be engaged in what the other has to say. currently, we do our dance of asking how each other’s day was and sharing any issues that have arisen while offering support for the other. there, done. we eat dinner, tidy up the house, and pass out on the couch while watching Netflix. (these days, it’s dexter and america’s got talent.)

my goal is to have us take the time to have more in-depth conversations – serious and not-so-serious – about anything on our minds. I know being with the kids all day, every day, I have a lot of thoughts and ideas I’d like to share with another adult (and not necessarily with my in-laws all the time). it’s interesting how alone we can feel in this big, big world, isn’t it? we all just want to be heard, and who better to share my innermost thoughts and feelings than with the person I’m married to?

like so many things, it’s a lot easier than done. take for example, this blog post. I’ve been working on publishing this post for nearly two weekstwo! every time I had time (after the kids are in bed for the night), I would start typing and then I would doze off! (I’m actually nodding off as I type this.) or, I would put it off for another day because I had other things to do like read for my book club. certainly it’s my fault for staying up so late every night even though I tell myself every day that today is the day I’ll go to bed before 11. nope.

still, I can keep trying to accomplish small goals. I can also be kinder to myself instead of beating myself up over not completing my never-ending to-do list. love yourself. love those around you.

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my family

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penny’s 3rd birthday

I promised myself I wouldn’t go all out for penny’s 3rd birthday, especially since I had spent so much time, energy, and money on Ezra’s 1st birthday. but, it just isn’t me to not find an excuse to stay up late party planning and making decorations.

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penny doesn’t really love anything else as much as minnie mouse; but since she had already used that theme for her 2nd birthday party, I didn’t want her to reuse it. I settled on the unicorn theme which is really whimsical and quite popular.

to make the backdrop, I purchased a package of diy paper flowers from Michaels. this particular brand is recollections, and I had read bad reviews – difficult to follow illustrations, no written directions, requires a lot of tape/adhesive – but as they were the only kind Michaels sold, I purchased them anyway. they ended up being 60% off (regular price $19.99 for four flowers) maybe because they’re being discontinued? I couldn’t find any other diy paper flowers at Michaels – online or in store.

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the flowers were… time-consuming. I thought I would be able to whip them up but I spent quite a bit of time staring at the illustrations to make sure I had the correct size petals and that I was assembling them properly. in the end, I winged it because I really couldn’t figure out some of the steps! (recently, I also began rewatching random episodes of one of my all-time favorite shows, the office, so that’s a huge reason why I took so long in getting things done!)

I purchased green, black, lavender, and gold glitter card stock to make the leaves, eyelashes, ears, and horn respectively. I just traced them freehand and cut them out. I used a thick gold calligraphy pen to draw in the leaves’ veins to make them look more realistic. for the unicorn’s ears, I had white card stock at home that I used for the inner part of the ears.

the party room’s walls are bright shades of highlighter orange and lime green so I bought two plastic white tablecloths for a white backdrop. unfortunately, the tablecloths weren’t thick enough to hide the colors and designs underneath but, at least, most of it was covered. (I had looked up the party rooms online in advance to see how they looked.)

the party favors were diy unicorn horns made of funmallows (mini flavored marshmallows). I purchased the styrofoam cups and 5 bags of funmallows from target. (I only ended up using 3 bags for 21 unicorn horns.) the cone shaped plastic bags were purchased from Michaels.

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I also purchased the unicorn tablecloth, straws, and napkins from target. good ol’ target – I also found penny’s unicorn t-shirt in the girl’s section (size xs). the unicorn headband along with the unicorn cake topper were purchased as a set from amazon. the pink tutu was a gift and the polka dot pants are from carter’s.

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for those of you that know penny, she LOVES to jump so having her birthday party at jump off trampoline park was a no-brainer. lunch was included in the cost – pizza and pink lemonade – however, I wanted the kids to have other options in case they didn’t want pizza or wanted snacks. the trampoline park has a strict policy regarding outside food besides cake and cupcakes, but an employee informed me that if snacks are included in the goody bags, they can’t say anything. perfect! my husband assembled separate goody bags – this time, in gold and white paper bags – with an applesauce pouch, goldfish crackers, and a sticker packet in each one. thank goodness because penny barely ate the pizza (like we knew she wouldn’t. she only had a few bites of the crust.)

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the unicorn cutouts are from Michaels

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the cakes were almost a disaster. I had one cake ordered from big y, a small New England  supermarket chain, because I didn’t want to spend almost $100 on a fancy cake like I did for penny’s second birthday and for Ezra’s first birthday. well, supermarket bakeries have their limitations as we know. I just asked for a simple, 10-inch white cake with lavender, teal, and pink flowers cascading down the back for the unicorn-themed party. the cake wasn’t tall enough in my mind for the unicorn decorations. plus, it was my fault in asking for “happy birthday, Penelope” to be written on the cake. the baker didn’t know where to write that since I had told them I was going to use a cake topper; so it was written on the side where I needed to put on the eyelashes.

after Dennis told them we weren’t pleased with the cake, we just got a smaller (and taller) one from the display and the baker quickly piped on the flowers. the manager told Dennis they normally wouldn’t accept our request because it’s too detailed for them. we ended up getting the other cake for free. it was actually great that we had two cakes because we needed both to feed 18 children and some of the adults!

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although I stayed up until 5am (and laid wide-awake in bed for an hour and a half) finishing up the party decorations, I had a really wonderful time making them. I don’t know if it’s because I was watching the office but I wasn’t feeling stressed or anxious. Dennis did wake up around 4am wondering why I was still up. he ended up coming downstairs to help me finish the details. ❤ Dennis and my mil also were kind enough to watch the kids while I took a nap on the couch for 2.5 hours later that evening.

I received a lot of kind words from the guests that day regarding the decorations and the party itself. the kids really enjoyed jumping on the trampolines and eating cake together. many of the parents thanked me afterwards for inviting them and we all remarked how the kids would have a great nap when they got home. (they did.)

the party’s over and done with, and I’m glad. but I did enjoy putting it together for penny. I hope she remembers how much fun she had that day.

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thanksgiving & birthday weekend

[12:30pm] i love my birthday because it usually falls around thanksgiving weekend so the festive mood from the holiday continues on to my birthday. sometimes my birthday falls on thanksgiving day which makes it even more special.

this year, thanksgiving got off to a rocky start. i got into a car accident on wednesday evening. i was craving pasta so i ordered dinner for the family (including in-laws) from cheesecake factory and i drove by myself to pick it up. i wanted to drive because i looked forward to the quiet time i could get in the car. dennis was working until 10 that evening so i decided to drop off food for him.

what should have been a half hour ride turned into an hour because of the holiday traffic. i don’t think it would’ve been that bad had there not been two accidents on the highway. at one point, three out of four lanes were closed which caused much of the delay. by the time i picked up the food and was on my way to dennis’ pharmacy it was already 5:30. i texted my mil to tell her to feed penny whatever food we had at home for now since i was going to be late.

as i drove down the local roads of west hartford i felt annoyed that i was running behind because of the accidents on the highway. i noticed a man pushing a stroller up his front walk, and then i looked forward just in time to see a minivan had stopped in front of me. i cursed and slammed on the brakes, but i plowed into the car anyway. the man with the stroller whipped around at the noise of the impact but i was busy trying to salvage the containers of pasta that had flown out of the bag. thankfully no food had spilled onto the car floor but the damage was done to my car. the grill was snapped in half and broken bits were scattered everywhere.

i knew it was my fault and i braced myself for the other driver’s reaction. a young woman stepped out and walked over to my car. then she asked worriedly, “are you okay?” i hadn’t been crying before because i was in shock but her kindness and genuine concern started a waterfall of tears. i kept blubbering on about how i was sorry and that i’ve been so tired lately that i zoned out. she kept reassuring me that as long as we were both okay, that it was fine.

it was only after i stepped out to inspect the damage to both cars and took photos with my iphone that i realized i was nearly 5 months pregnant! i wasn’t in any physical pain and i wasn’t going fast enough for the air bags to be deployed, but i was still concerned for the baby and i shared this with the other woman. she was troubled by it and even told the police officer that had arrived to report the accident.

it took quite a while for the officer to do the paperwork, and while the woman and i stood out in the cold we talked about where we are from (she’s originally from west hartford but has been living in baltimore) and what our plans had been that evening. i told her how my family had recently visited maryland to visit my brother-in-law and his wife. i even recommended the restaurant founding farmers to her. clearly, it isn’t ever ideal to get into a car accident but i am so grateful that the other person involved had been so understanding and gracious. she was on her way to meet a friend for dinner and i had ruined those plans, but she was still so positive about everything. she explained that she had been in my shoes a few months ago and knew what it was like to have to worry about dealing with insurance and the other driver. i had been in accidents where the other person was at fault and though i certainly never screamed or lost my temper, i don’t think i was really that understanding.

after almost an hour after the collision, i continued on to dennis’ work. he was only a half mile away! he knew what had happened because during all of the chaos i had called him to let him know. after talking to him and dropping off the food i was finally on my way home where the entire family – including crystal and dan – greeted me anxiously. i was fine, i was fine, thank the lord; just relieved to be home with the family.

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thanksgiving day was spent cooking all day but it was worth it. initially we had planned on driving up to massachusetts to celebrate with my side of the family since we had not been able to do that last year. however, we reconsidered after thinking of the traffic (two years ago, it took us 3 hours to arrive at my cousin’s house) and how we would only spend two hours there and then have to drive back again for penny’s bedtime.

it was eight of us including penny and yuri – a relaxing evening in the comforts of our own home. i tried to be festive by making a thanksgiving banner and hanging up fall-themed artwork created by penny. although the food was delicious – crystal contributed by making mac & cheese and helping me with other tasks like flower arranging – it was really time spent with the family that i appreciated. we never get to see crystal and dan this often and it was great being able to see them in maryland and then here for three days the week after. we will see them next at our pastor’s wedding in february.

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the boys playing mortal combat x

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the spread!

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homemade pumpkin cheesecake pie

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macarons and mini cupcakes from baked by melissa

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praying for the meal

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we got chicken instead of turkey

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penny dancing while everyone cheers – this picture was from two days before thanksgiving

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having fun playing ping pong

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we went to a tree farm on saturday morning to get our christmas tree. it was easier when penny was 6 months old which is when we got our tree last year! since penny is mobile, she just wanted to walk and do her own thing. it took an hour to get a tree! i spent most of the time chasing penny and reining her in while dennis searched for a tree and cut it down. i did choose the final tree though!

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my birthday celebration on saturday evening was relatively low-key with dinner with close friends at a burger joint. i forgot to take a group photo  😦 alice, john, and grace couldn’t make it to the games portion of the night but most of us moved on to dave and buster’s. i had forgotten how fun that place can be although saturday nights are not the best day to go since there can be a wait for certain games. i even played pump (korean version of ddr) with my pregnant belly and all. i used to play with my brother when he was younger – he is like a pro – so i can dance to some of the harder modes but boy was i out of breath at the end!

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my sister brought a lovely assortment of cupcakes from boston

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raspberry mousse birthday cake from giuseppe’s in south windsor

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my brother (james) compared to my sister (jen)

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the highlight of that evening was definitely my sister and brother driving down from boston to spend the night. my brother actually lives in la now but flew home for thanksgiving weekend. it had been quite some time since the three of us had done something together so i was extremely happy that they had both made it. plus, they were able to see how much penny had grown and spent time with her as well.

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sunday morning before church – penny liked the small basketball we got for her from d & b’s

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penny likes watching us cook

on my actual birthday, i was scheduled for a 10am ultrasound and anatomy scan. dennis and i found out we are having a B O Y! the technician asked us if we wanted to know and dennis blurted out that he could see the penis so there was no denying it! thanks to genie, we had decided on popping a balloon filled with appropriately-colored confetti to reveal the sex. i even brought scissors, tissue paper and ziploc bags with me so i could continue cutting the confetti. of course i stopped cutting pink ones after we found out the results. by the way, i had done research about the confetti-balloon reveal and many women recommended cutting up confetti using tissue paper because it’s light enough that it’ll float nicely for the photos. the store-bought ones are too heavy and would probably just fall instead of flying around for a greater effect.

after the appointment we stopped by party city and the employees stuffed two black 24-inch balloons with sky blue and royal blue confetti; then they filled them with helium. we also got a regular white balloon for penny to play with. when we arrived home, penny was napping and we ate lunch with my mil. we were going to do the reveal after penny woke up so mil went home for a few hours and we rested. a little before 3pm, both parents came over and we went onto the field to take a the first round of photos. we filled two balloons in case the first photo shoot didn’t come out well. we also had mil practice taking pictures by holding down the shutter button on the iphone so she could take consecutive pictures rapidly.

the pictures on the field came out nice enough – especially our reactions – but it was too bright so the color of the confetti was difficult to see. we changed locations to our driveway where the shade and the white doors of the garage made for better photos. i ended up holding penny because it’s difficult to get a toddler to participate in photo shoots, really.

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the photo collage we used for our announcement

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we really would not have minded if we were going to have another girl but having a boy is wonderful too! so many of our friends and family commented that we are lucky to have one of each – which i suppose we are – but we all know health is #1. when i met with my ob after the ultrasound she said everything looked great which is not something she gets to say often (usually only once a day). she said nowadays that any little thing can be considered a “high-risk pregnancy” so to give us good news was great for her as well.

that evening, dennis and i enjoyed a quiet dinner at market grille. we ordered a bunch of apps from the happy hour menu and i indulged in a blackberry-pomegranate-ginger soda. we had planned on going to the movies afterwards to watch arrival but we were both tired (and wanted to watch the missed episode of the walking dead) and felt bad that we would be coming home late since mil was watching penny as usual. we ended up stopping by dave & buster’s to play a few games ( we ended up with over 1,000 tickets) and kept the tickets so we can save up to get a really good prize for penny. 🙂

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sorry for the terrible quality – snapchat photo

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it’s no wonder after that eventful week that i’ve been tired… tired enough where i can actually fall asleep during penny’s nap like i did yesterday. i thought i would close my eyes for a half hour and i ended up falling asleep for an hour! i sat upright immediately after realizing it was 3:30 and penny was still sleeping (almost 3 hours!) so i got up to wake her. let’s see if i can squeeze in some shut-eye now…

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maryland & dc

penny’s hit another milestone – 18 months! this means in six months she’ll already be two years old. what?! this also means that in six short months she’ll already be a big sister to a one-month-old. oh boy.

this post will be about our family vacation to maryland & dc; and i will also share tips and advice on how to make traveling with a toddler a little bit easier on everyone. we came back home around noon on monday and put penny down for her nap right away. we planned everything around penny’s nap schedule and it worked out perfectly. our days went like this: wake, quick continental breakfast in the hotel lobby, morning activity, lunch/nap, afternoon~evening activity, dinner, penny’s bedtime, and adult time.

we really looked forward to penny’s nap time because that meant we could nap too! what made this trip so much easier on everyone was that we booked a 2-bedroom suite. penny got her own room, mil stayed in the other room, and dennis and i slept on the pull-out couch. the hotel provided a pack-and-play and we brought our own mattress and sheet for it after finding out the hotel doesn’t provide that. initially we were going to buy another one and have it shipped to crystal and dan’s apartment but dennis found that we could fold the mattress in half, stuff it into a dry cleaning bag, and check it in as luggage. we flew southwest which provides two free check-in bags for each individual.

of course, we made sure to bring along the baby monitor and the white noise machine. we also made sure to pack her favorite books, cars & trucks, tons of snacks, pens, paper, and the ipad. it was a short 45-minute plane ride from hartford to baltimore. she did great during take-off and landing because we had her either drink milk or eat a fruit & veggie pouch. the ipad was a lifesaver – since we hadn’t been giving her screen time on the ipad ever since her 15-month checkup it was like she was using it for the first time. she was entranced and had even forgotten how to use it until dennis touched the screen with his fingers.

another thing that helped was that mil was randomly selected to go in the pre-check line going to and returning from baltimore, and she was able to bring penny through the quicker line. while she waited for us, she entertained penny by having her look out at the windows to watch the planes take off and also fed her snacks. much better than having to deal with a feisty toddler in a slow-moving line!

when we arrived in baltimore, our luggage was already waiting for us so we didn’t have to waste precious time waiting and sifting through the baggage claim. it was also an 8-minute shuttle ride to the car rental place. the only thing that took a little bit of time was installing the car seat. it was pretty beat up and dingy (word of advice: bring lots of wipes – not baby wipes but sanitizing ones. we used wet ones to clean the baby seat). penny also sits in a rear-facing convertible seat back home (connecticut law is until 2 years of age) so she really enjoyed facing forward during the car rides on our trip.

one thing i really wanted to see during our trip was the national mall: the lincoln memorial, the washington monument, and the white house. we thought about it and decided to nix it because it’s a lot of walking and it would most likely be difficult to find parking on a weekend particularly veterans day weekend. hopefully i can cross these off my bucket list in the near future. it’ll be much easier sight-seeing when penny’s sibling is, at least, three years old.

most of the activities were catered towards penny but we had just as much fun seeing her experience new sights and sounds. best of all, we were able to meet up with crystal and dan (despite their busy schedule); we also enjoyed our adult time after penny went down for the night by playing games, eating ice cream, and talking. we’ll be able to see them again next monday when they drive up from maryland for five days!

on one of the days we met up with my childhood friend, clara, and her son, barrett, for breakfast at founding farmers. i hadn’t seen clara in well over a decade! it was so great to catch up with her and meet barrett. i completely forgot to get a group photo of us especially a few snaps of penny and barrett together. it’ll be some time before we see each other again but hopefully i don’t forget next time.

day 1: travel/playseum/dinner/sleep/adult time

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she loved watching the planes


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goodbye, connecticut!

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on our way to the hotel!

be with me, a playseum in bethesda

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touching various herbs and spices at the chinese market

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this was a neat room – “grandma and grandpa’s house.” it was full of vintage items


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a tin box featuring a young queen elizabeth II

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princess room

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dinner & after-hours:

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dinner at a nearby korean restaurant

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ice cream for the adults! dan and i got toasted sesame brittle and crystal and dennis got caramel coffee. vanilla for mil!


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teaching crystal, dan, and mil how to play blokus

every night we went to bed around 10:30~11pm. we were tired way before that but wanted to spend time with crystal and dan since they were busy during the daytime. and, of course, we tried to sleep as much as we could since we had to wake up when penny did. aforementioned she did very well sleeping in the hotel though.

day 2: wake/breakfast/brunch with clara & barrett/nap/port discovery children’s museum/dinner/penny’s bedtime/adult time

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playing basketball at the hotel after breakfast

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stuffed french toast at founding farmers

port discovery children’s museum in baltimore

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she liked climbing on top of the drum


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toddler room

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interactive floor

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she enjoyed cooking at the diner

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she loves cars and trucks


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spinning display of dancers during chu’seok (korean thanksgiving)

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souvenir: fire engine

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we got back to the hotel around 6pm where crystal and dan were waiting with italian food for dinner. after penny’s bedtime routine, crystal and dan taught us a card game called bang and we played until 10:30.

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praying before penny’s bedtime

day 3: wake/breakfast/smithsonian national zoo/lunch & nap/playground at silver spring/dinner at 옛골 (yett gol  – korean restaurant)/penny’s bedtime/pack & adult time

note: going to the zoo right when it opened was a great decision. there were very few people there until we were getting ready to leave around 10:45 – then it started getting packed with groups of school children and families.

the zoo is free. we spent 2.5 hours there and it was well worth it. parking is $22… they have to make money somehow.

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right when we parked we saw two squirrels fighting


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looking at the zebras in the way back

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we were very excited to see the pandas!

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this panda is getting treats out of the ball

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family of wild deer making their way through the grounds


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turtles and lemurs (not pictured)


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tiger


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casually observing the llamas

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cute goats perched on stumps

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penny was having a meltdown here


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much-needed family photo

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the only downside to coming early was that we weren’t able to see all of the animals. some of the enclosures were being cleaned so the animals weren’t there like the lions.

in the evening, we took penny to a park that had a huge playground. there were really tall slides and after going all the way up to the top to slide down, i chickened out. that’s how tall it was!

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dennis and dan walking up the rubber hill

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bedtime routine


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reading with uncle dan

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we didn’t get to hang out with crystal that day because she had a lot of assignments for grad school. we only saw her briefly when she came to pick up dan at the hotel. after penny went to bed, we played blokus and went to bed.

day 4: wake/breakfast/travel/home/lunch & nap

i didn’t take any pictures of us making our way back home.. i guess i was just too tired. after coming home around noon and putting penny immediately down for a nap we quickly ate pizza and napped as well.

it’s always great getting away but there’s nothing like home!

before i close, here are some helpful tips for traveling with a little one(s):

  1. start packing two days in advance. i packed all of penny’s clothes, accessories, and pajamas two days before we left and left things like her lovey, sleep sack, and baby monitor until the end.
  2. book flights first thing in the morning. (or red-eye if it’s a long flight.) our flight from hartford -> baltimore departed at 8:45am. we loaded up the car and waited until 6:30am to wake penny up, changed her, and left. we wanted to make sure she still got enough sleep. thankfully our flight was short so we made it to the hotel in time for her nap.
  3. find out what the hotel provides and doesn’t provide. the mattress pad for the pack and play was a lifesaver because she definitely would not have slept well on a thin pad that comes with the pack and play. the continental breakfast was also a HUGE plus! we had one less meal to worry about and it was so convenient. also, find out if the hotel is near restaurants and stores. ours had babies ‘r us and target across the street. we made a trip to target twice to buy snacks, milk, water, and cheap toys from the dollar section for penny.
  4. plan an itinerary and keep in mind of the distance to/from hotel, the hours, and admission. while researching for baby-friendly activities i came upon “be with me” a playseum for children in bethesda. it was about a 20-minute ride from our hotel and we brought her here our first day in maryland.
  5. be realistic. you won’t get to do everything you want to do and you have to be okay with that. little ones get tired really easily and is it worth dealing with their meltdowns because you absolutely had to check out a certain museum?the trip was definitely a lot easier on us too because we had an extra pair of hands from my mil. at the smithsonian zoo, she didn’t want to stay in the stroller at one point so we took turns carrying her and letting her walk. see if you can get your parents or in-laws (or other family members) to join you on your vacation. the extra help helps!

fun with family & friends

having visitors never gets old… especially when they’re family, and it’s unexpected! we had celebrated my fil’s 70th birthday on july 4th.. but as the 70th birthday is an important occasion we received word from crystal and dan (dennis’ brother and our sister-in-law) that they would drive up from maryland on friday and leave on saturday!

the last time we saw them was for penny’s 1st birthday, and they had flown in for the day. it’s especially times like these when i wish they lived much closer, but at least they aren’t too far enough where they can’t make day (or two) trips.

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snapchatting


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face swap

unfortunately, we didn’t take a group photo of us.. but dan did take candids of us. our family “tradition” is to watch american ninja warrior when we wind down for the night. we also introduced our parents to snapchat and we had a lot of laughs over the various selfie lenses.

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i really like the above and below photos because they’re from two different perspectives.

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on friday, we had a low-key dinner at home with italian food and just hung out watching anw, using snapchat, and enjoying each other’s company. we went to blue back square and ate at cheesecake factory for lunch on saturday. afterwards, we came back to the house and the brothers played ping pong while the rest of us talked. as always, the visit ended way too soon 😦 but we are so thankful that they were able to come up! they should be coming up next for thanksgiving, and we hope to make it out to maryland/dc area soon.. perhaps in april when i have spring break.

the only downside from the weekend was that penny caught some sort of virus. she woke up with a fever of 102 after her second nap on saturday. usually her second naps are 1.5 hours and we have to wake her up but this time she slept for an hour and woke up on her own. the poor thing — she was so warm.. initially she was smiling and being playful, but then she started becoming fussy and crying because she didn’t feel well. we think she may have caught something from playing at a bounce house on friday. dennis and i were looking for an activity to do with penny since it can get mundane being at the house all day. we took her to jumpin’ jonny’s, a bounce house, in our town. she had a great time but it’s easy to see how germ-ridden a place like that can get with sweaty kids running around in socks on vinyl bounce houses that are probably not cleaned often (or at all). needless to say, we won’t be going back there (or any other bounce house) until she’s a bit older…

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penny met this cute girl, savannah, who’s 1.5 years old and they took turns pushing each other on cars.. so adorable!

i’ve been trying to find different activities to do with penny since we can’t always take a walk because the july heat prevents us from going outdoors during lunchtime. sometimes i’ll take her to my in-laws’ place because their condo neighborhood has a pool. it’s going to be in the upper-80s/low 90s this week so i’m thinking of taking her on wednesday.

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she prefers being in the water than being in a float

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yet another rabbit in our backyard!

on one particularl day, dennis suggested the mall and they have an indoor children’s playground so i decided to take her there. lo and behold, the playground is being moved and renovated so it wasn’t at its usual spot 😦 i ended up taking her to barnes & noble since the children’s section usually has a play area. penny liked just being able to get out of the stroller and walking around — she doesn’t find the gluxe as comfortable as the vista. she also played with the trains at the thomas the tank engine train table. a toddler joined her and they shared the trains.

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one of her all-time favorite books: the going to bed book by sandra boynton


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her current favorite: goodnight, moon

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we ate lunch at the food court – pizza and baked ziti – but penny was more interested in the carousel. i didn’t let her go on it this time (she had gone before) but i did let her “drive” the coin-operated cars… minus the coins. she enjoyed turning the steering wheels 🙂 to adults, it may not seem like much but the stimulation from being at the mall alone is a lot for a toddler. she passed out quickly for her afternoon nap after we got back and, yes, i had to wake her up.

speaking of “waking her up”, penny’s been having erratic naps lately.. and taking a long time to fall asleep. i think she’s trying in earnest to drop a nap. i know i mentioned this a few times in previous posts but the signs are coming up again. she has been fighting her morning nap like she’s not tired enough to take one. her awake time from morning wake-up to first nap had been 3 hours, and lately she’s sitting up in her crib and playing. if she isn’t playing, she nods off but fights sleep while sitting up!

yesterday, she fought both morning and afternoon nap. granted, she had slept for 12 hours straight the night before so maybe she wasn’t tired enough.. we took her out of her crib at 11am and kept her up until 12:30pm to see how a one-nap day would work. nightmare… she was overtired.. i think we kept her up too long.. reading about 2-to-1 nap transitions, it says to gradually push back the morning nap in 15-minute increments and i just shot towards a 12:30pm time.. yikes. i figured, we had to squeeze in lunch so we would have to do a later time.. well, now i know. she cried on/off and was nodding off for her second nap. she finally fell asleep and woke up after 50 minutes.

she was off for the rest of the evening. i left the house around 4pm to meet up with friends for a gno and dennis said that penny cried basically non-stop after i left. she has been experiencing some separation anxiety / attachment to me lately so that didn’t help with her being overtired. she flat-out refused dinner and milk (whoa) so she went to bed at 6pm on an empty stomach. for those that know penny or read my blog regularly, you know that penny loves her baths.. but she even cried during bath time!  poor dennis… he actually rocked her for a while to soothe her and she ended up falling asleep in his arms.. only to wake up when he placed her in the crib. but..she ended up sleeping from 6pm to 6:45am — that’s nearly 13 hours! so much for waking up at night because she’s hungry..

i still use the babytracker app religiously, and thank god for that because i can see her sleeping patterns and figure out when/how to transition her to one nap. this one’s a doozy, i hear.. and i just want to make it as least painful as i can for all of us. i’ll keep you posted!

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i still had a lovely time with these ladies despite being worried about penny

the girls and i tried out bar louie, a new restaurant that opened up recently in blue back square. initially we sat indoors because all of the outdoor seating was taken, but we spied an empty table and ran outside to claim it! 4/5 of us are married and 3/5 of us are baby mamas so this was a much-needed night out. much thanks to the baby daddies taking care of the little ones so us ladies could relish time together. ❤

and last.. but not least.. for this post.. our dear friends, alice and john, welcomed their baby boy, ethan 진명 choi, on june 30, 2016. he was 19.5 inches long and weighed 6 lb. 14 oz. the pictures john took of us holding ethan make it seem like we are the proud parents of a baby boy, haha. seriously though, we are overjoyed for our friends. we love you!

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fourth of july weekend

happy birthday, usa!

the us celebrated its 240th birthday on monday.  july 4, 1776 – when the united states achieved independence from the tea-sipping brits. it’s actually quite surprising how relatively young our country is (although it really has been around for many, many years). i’m proud to be raising penny in the states where it is still seen as the land of opportunity and the land of hope. the world is moving at at even faster pace with life-changing inventions and innovations. it’s an amazing time to be alive, and i can’t wait for penny to take full advantage of what life has to offer us.

with that said, i was eagerly anticipating this year’s 4th of july because we had planned a family outing to elizabeth park in hartford. the rose garden, a very popular spot for pictures and picnics, is still very much in bloom, and penny is currently loving to touch everything particularly flowers, leaves, and pine needles.

after penny’s last nap, we drove down to hartford with the in-laws to have dinner at ichiban, a korean-japanese restaurant. penny did well (for a while) sitting in the high chair because she was busy looking around to check out other people and the restaurant itself. when she got fidgety, my mil took her to look at the fish in the fish tank and that kept her preoccupied while the rest of us finished our dinner. it takes a village!

afterwards, we went to elizabeth park to walk around and take pictures. we tried to recreate a picture of dennis and his brother, dan, (when they were around 2 and 4 years old)  sitting in front of the flowers by placing penny in the same spot but she wasn’t in the mood to take pictures. we had to sing a few songs to get her attention but she didn’t really smile. oh well.

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she did, however, enjoy walking around (with our assistance) and even ran a few times. she also surprised us by standing on her own for about ten seconds or more on a few occasions. she was afraid though so we helped her sit down. xD after walking around the rose garden, we enjoyed watermelon and cantaloupe before checking out the ducks in the pond. penny started getting fussy so we knew she was tired.

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after we got home and penny was in bed, the rest of us enjoyed cake that i made for my fil’s birthday. his actual birthday is on the 8th but we decided to celebrate it early since my mil works that day until 6pm. in korean culture, the 70th birthday is a huge milestone. (it used to be 60 but since life expectancy is longer than ever before, the age changed to 70.) my fil is more of a private person and keeps to himself so he definitely didn’t want a fancy gala – he just wanted a low-key dinner with us. we are hoping dan and crystal will be able to come up from maryland this upcoming weekend to help celebrate his actual birthday together. we know it’s tough for them to take time out of their schedule to come visit (even though they wish they could!) since crystal is taking two summer classes and dan is busy with church, but we hope we see them, at least, once this summer!

*edit – dan and crystal ARE coming up this weekend~ hooray!

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a former colleague shared a recipe for blueberry zucchini cake with lemon buttercream (from a blog) and i decided to make that. i LOVE lemon and it sounded like a perfect summer cake. it turned out even better than i had expected – the recipe is definitely a keeper! i hope you enjoy it as much as we did 🙂

 

freedom

after 13 months, my breastfeeding journey has come to an end! i used the last bag of frozen breast milk two days ago and i haven’t pumped to actually get milk since tuesday morning. i did pump for a few minutes yesterday to relieve some discomfort but haven’t since. no more pumping while eating; no more pumping during penny’s naps; no more setting the alarm so i can pump before penny wakes up for the day; no more lugging the pump (and the milk ) to and from vacations; no more pumping in random bathrooms, hotel rooms, other people’s homes, and airplanes.. no more!!!

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last bag!

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newark airport in new jersey recently acquired these pods for nursing and pumping moms!

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pumping before our flight to aruba!

before penny was born, i set my goal of exclusively breastfeeding at one year not realizing how difficult it would be. for those of you that have been following my blog since penny’s birth, you’ll recall the trauma my body endured and the many tears that were shed. i went through severe nipple damage, made multiple visits to the lactation consultant, had a tongue tie procedure for penny to help with her latch, suffered through two bouts of mastitis, had a drastic supply drop around 3.5 months due to taking mucinex for my cough (and then pumped every 2 hours for days to bring the supply back up), began exclusively pumping around the sixth month due to distracted nursing, went through three different pumps, suffered from acid reflux and allergies because i didn’t want to take medication for fear of it affecting my supply, and also had countless clogged ducts.

even during every “setback”, i still would not consider formula. dennis bought a few cans just in case but we never touched them. i understand breastfeeding is not for everyone particularly when moms have to return to work but it was a choice that i made, and i truly wanted to stick by it. i did start supplementing with hemp milk around 10.5 months because i wanted to start the weaning process as i was so tired of pumping. thankfully, penny loves hemp milk and has no allergic reactions to it.

if i haven’t mentioned it before, the reason why i chose hemp milk is for political, personal, and environmental reasons. i don’t drink cow’s milk because of lactose intolerance and personal preference but i didn’t want those to be the reasons for penny. the main reasons for her were because i’m not a fan of the dairy industry nor the carbon footprint it leaves behind. humans are the only species to continue drinking milk after infancy, and they’re the only ones to drink milk from another species. plus, it takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a gallon of cow’s milk! after doing more research i found that almond milk actually uses more water than cow’s milk so now i’m considering switching over to hemp milk too. of all the milk and milk alternatives, hemp milk is the most environmentally-friendly.. and it tastes great too! the only downside is that it’s expensive: it costs $4 to get a quart of hemp milk!

at penny’s 12-month checkup we got our pediatrician’s approval to give her hemp milk but was told that she needs to limit her milk intake to 16 oz. max daily once she fully transitions. she loves milk so much but it’s important that she eats a variety of food for nutrition and growth. she’s going through a picky stage right now so i give her smoothies to provide fruits and veggies in an alternative way. today is actually her first day fully being on hemp milk so i’m not going to obsess her going over 16 oz. for a week or two.. i’ll see how it goes.

just before i started this post, i finished washing all of my pump parts and got sad about putting them away. that was 13 months of my life right there.. i eagerly looked forward to not pumping anymore and now i’m wistful about it! but, i really am ecstatic that i don’t have to do it anymore… that is, until the next baby comes!