those busy toddler days

miss penny is 20 months old now – closer and closer to becoming a 2-year-old. every day, penny goes back and forth from being a fiercely independent toddler to a clingy one. most of the time she will want to do things on her own — placing different shapes in the correct cutouts, putting animals in a truck, etc. — and even knock our hands out of the way if we try to help. and then, out of nowhere, she will climb onto my lap or ask to be picked up. she’s been like a baby sloth lately – i’ll try to put her down and she’ll curl her legs right back up.

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i actually don’t mind the extra comfort that penny is seeking nowadays because i know i won’t be able to cuddle her as much when ezra arrives, but it’s getting more difficult to pick her up and carry her around as my belly continually expands. i wonder if it’s a phase she is going through or if she senses her baby brother – i’m thinking both. she doesn’t ask anyone else – not even her dad – to pick her up and hold her like she does to me. when dennis works the day shift, he does bath time. all he has to say is “bath time” or “bubbles” and penny will run into his arms. lately, she’s been twisting in his arms and extending her arms to me so i’ve been bringing her upstairs to give her a bath. even yesterday when grandma so tried to bring her upstairs, penny insisted i do it instead.

within the past month, penny has also had 6 teeth come in! she had 4 for the longest time and now she has all of her first molars (top and bottom) and two of the lateral incisors (one on top and one on bottom). they never really affected her sleep (lucky us) but probably had an effect on her daytime mood and eating habits.

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penny has been at the late end of the tooth eruption stage for all her teeth thus far

now we are just waiting for her canines, the rest of her lateral incisors, and later on, her second molars.

penny definitely acts clingy when i’m around; she doesn’t really look for me if i’m not there. last wednesday, grace and i went to new jersey for the day. i was a little worried that penny would look for me and get upset that i wasn’t there, but she was fine. dennis woke up in the morning to take care of her since i had to leave around 8am to get to grace’s house so we could carpool. dennis even made me an egg, cheese, and sausage breakfast sandwich to eat on the road! his mom came a few hours later to take over and penny was great, as usual, for the rest of the day as well.

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avocado toast at kuppi cafe

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i’d been to this cafe once before but i had no idea the owner and i had mutual friends. we ended up getting our orders on the house!

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lunch at mitsuwa

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nuna pipa car seat

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dream shade

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gam mi-ok before heading home

grace and i had a wonderful time in jersey. it felt so odd to be away from home for an entire day. i’m trying to think of the last time i did that and i really can’t remember. sure, i’ve been gone a few hours here and there recently but not a whole day. i just thought about penny the entire time (of course) and how much i missed her.

when we went shopping at garden state plaza mall, i vowed i’d buy something for myself because i rarely do these days. i ended up buying a lot of clothes from zara for penny (all on sale), a few items for dennis and jeggings for myself from uniqlo. grace and i also tried out strollers and car seats at nordstrom – uppababy vista for her and the nuna pipa car seat for me. i’ve been looking to replace the mesa car seat with a nuna pipa so i was glad i was able to try it out in person. the feature that i like the best is the dream drape – the extra sun shade extends to the baby’s feet. it also weighs about 7.7 lb: one of the lightest car seats out there. i’m still stuck on the color – the classic black is always nice especially since the infant insert is a cream color, but i am also partial to indigo.

my friend, grace, also had her mickey mouse-themed baby shower on the 15th. i made a banner for the shower and i’m really pleased with how it turned out. i made the mickey mouse cutouts and the letters without using any templates. the korean characters proved to be the hardest because i wanted the font to look authentic and the size had to fit inside the bunting.

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since the shower was at 3:30pm, i was able to bring penny. i’m glad i brought her so i can get her accustomed to attending more social gatherings since she tends to be shy; but also in a few months i’ll have to learn how to tote two (!) around so i should take advantage of only having to do one for now. it still did prove to be difficult because she wanted to be held for the first half hour (my arms were killing me) but she did eventually warm up and walked around and played with the other children.

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penny & ethan

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with the mommy-to-be

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i thought it was an actual cake

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i wish i had brought food from home though because she couldn’t really eat any of the food provided. she snacked on sun chips, a few crackers, pineapple and strawberries; refused cheese and, not surprisingly, the olives and roasted veggies. i thought she would, at least, eat a few bites of the creamy pasta but she didn’t. she wanted the salad – she likes lettuce even though it’s hard for her to eat it – but ended up munching on the raw onions! she also ended up eating a cupcake sans frosting and drinking juice from a juice box for the first time ever. when we got home, i made sure to feed her a little bit more before starting the bedtime routine.

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a highlight was that i won one of the games – something that i’ve never done at a baby or bridal shower, i believe. i got a starbucks gift card with a “year of the rooster” illustration on it – yay!

recently, a few mommy friends and i met up for a group play date. we were excited to visit imagine nation, a children’s museum in bristol, for the first time. i was wary of the distance though (a 40-minute drive) since the museum opens at 9:30am and penny and i would need to leave around 11am to come back home in time for lunch.

penny actually ended up doing really well on the car ride (credit goes to the forward-facing seat) so that wasn’t an issue. we all discovered when we arrived there that the museum is closed on mondays and tuesdays! one of the mommies suggested we go to the public library a half mile down the road and we all hoped they would have a decent children’s section. they do! in fact, they have one of the best children’s rooms in a library that i’ve ever seen: spacious, filled with toys and tablet stations (!), and a sensory board on a wall. it ended up working out because penny and i had gotten to the museum around 10 so we would’ve only had about an hour to play. (admission is $10/person.)

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penny enjoying strawberries while parker munches on veggie sticks

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penny and serina checking out the sensory board

dennis and i ended up bringing penny to imagine nation later on in the week. the exhibits are spread out and capacious but we felt that the museum geared towards older kids – at least, 4~5 years old and up. penny is still young enough where she wasn’t engrossed in many of the exhibits like the wellness center where you can pretend to be a dentist. personally, i liked the giant bubble and the art room. penny did paint for a short while in the art studio but even the tables and stools were made for older children. she liked the interactive floor, glow sticks (they have these at other kids’ museums), and the musical instruments the best. i was debating whether we should have penny’s birthday at kid city or imagine nation but we decided on kid city after our visit to imagine nation that day.

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air blowing up a balloon

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pushing the table so the marker can make lines

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interactive floor

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she liked the magnatiles and especially the color-changing table

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she likes playing with different musical instruments at home so she enjoyed herself

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squashing aliens

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not a fan of the sportscenter broadcasting station

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the water was too cold for her liking

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giant bubble maker

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check out the snake skin

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she just wanted to play with the markers

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painting buddies

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i made snowflakes as the duo painted

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it’s fascinating to see penny develop an interest in toys that she had not cared for in past months. now that she’s older, she likes to play with the pegs and peg board that i had gotten for her back when she was 16 months. when i had first introduced them to her, she only liked the place the pegs upside down and put them in cups. now she actually puts them on the board and also stacks them on top of each other.

one of our neighbors works for lego and she gave penny a minnie mouse duplo set this past summer. all penny liked to do was dump out the pieces and methodically put each one back in the box. she would point at the airplane and say “bi” (short for “bihenggi”, airplane in korean) but was still too young then to really build with them. our friends, katie and mike, gave penny a farm duplo set as a baptism gift and she plays with it all the time! she particularly likes the people that came with the set – calling the boy “dad” and the girl “grandma.”

penny still loves cars and trucks, and she has a bunch of them. we don’t really get her cars that are pink and “girly”  because we don’t want to pigeonhole her into the category where girls only like/have things that are pink and purple. penny has a good amount of pink clothes but so much more are gray and navy. personally, i like those colors better because they match with other items of clothing.

as a former teacher, i figure it’s never too early to introduce the alphabet. we read books about letters and numbers, but i also wanted penny to be able to play with magnet letters. after much research, i settled on a jug of roscoe learning magnetic letters. i wanted large, foam letters and these have magnets on the entire backside. plus, they have multiple letters for each one so you can actually spells words and make sentences. the softer colors were also appealing to me. i’m not sure if this company makes numbers but i hope they do.

we are continually encouraging penny to be aware of her body and her bowel movements. she has been telling us “응가” (eung-gah, kind of like a grunt in korean when kids poop) when she has to poop but will refuse to sit on the potty. the past few days we’ve caught her mid-poop so took off her diaper/pull-up and sat her on the potty. she resisted but i sang a song and the last bit made it into the potty. when dennis took care of penny in the morning yesterday he was able to have her go in the potty as well. it takes a lot of praise, patience, and encouragement.

hurray to finally updating another blog post. i started this last night but was able to finish it this morning because grandma so is over this morning to help out with penny. *thankful*

penny’s selfies

penny having fun with daddy’s 27-year-old cray pas crayons from korea!

10 months and counting!

IMG_5295we’ve reached the double digits for months – just two more and she’ll be a year old :-O

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it hasn’t yet been a week since my last post but so much has happened since then. and, i don’t want the following entry to be super long because it’s crammed with everything that has been going on. i’m trying to whip this post out while penny naps because after she wakes up, i’m taking her to michael’s crafts store to buy more spray paint and other items for sprucing up her new ikea furniture.

we took a family outing (grandparents included) to ikea on monday to buy “a few items” for penny’s playroom and ended up spending over $500.. how…?! it’s so easy to spend money… my gosh, but these are all things we need for her playroom.. for the most part. as a first birthday gift, the so grandparents got penny a play kitchen along with pots/pans/colander and plush produce. the kitchen comes in a standard white-and-wood color but i wanted to spruce it up. same with the latt table and chair set. i already began glamming it up by spray painting the kitchen fixtures gold. one of the chairs i spray painted a petal pink color, and i want to buy 4 more colors today. (i ran out of the gold, too.) i have painter’s tape all over the furniture because i am going to do color-blocking for the tables and chairs.

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instead of getting started on the dol towers, i’m putting my energy into her furniture.. well, i still have 2 months left to do those and i don’t want the unassembled furniture sitting around in the boxes because penny will keep trying to play with them. we are also aiming to paint the walls so we’ll have to get started before hanging things like shelves, penny’s growth chart, and artwork.

thankfully penny’s playroom is our walk-out basement so even if i’m alone i manage to work on these projects. i step outside for a few minutes to spray paint while penny and yuri peer through the glass door. then i leave the pieces out on craft paper to dry and i keep painting as needed. i also have her nap times and bedtime to work on them as well.

i’ll be sure to show the finished products in a future post!

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neil’s donuts!

random doughnut picture, but neil’s donuts in wallingford, ct has the best doughnuts.. and my friend, grace, drove there to get a box for her and got some for dennis and me as well! ❤

it’s amazing how much language penny acquires on any given day. although we speak a mixture of english and korean to her, we use a lot of korean phrases so it’s not a surprise that her first words are all in korean! and, she can say a total of 4 of them: 맘마 (food), 엄마 (mom), 아빠 (dad), and 까까 (crackers). the last one is fairly recent and she doesn’t really enunciate it as well as the other 3 words but we know what she means.

some other cute things she does is to give us kisses when we say 뽀뽀 (kiss). we lean in and she puts her wet mouth on our cheeks, haha. she also shakes her head back and forth when we say 도리도리. i’m not quite sure of the meaning on that one but it sounds similar to 돌다 which means “to turn around.” however the other phrase is spelled differently and my mil thinks it has a japanese origin from back when korea was under japanese rule.

when you go back and forth between languages, things get lost in translation. sometimes there aren’t words to adequately describe or define what it is you’re talking. this is so true of the korean language. for instance, the word 애교. simply put, it means to act in a cute manner but even that doesn’t capture the true meaning of the word. however, it applies to girls acting all cutesy mostly for attention. penny definitely knows how to put on a show because when we say 아이고~ 이뻐라! (oh, so pretty!) she tilts her head to the side. it’s so adorable and we all get a kick out of it. when my parents saw it for the first time they couldn’t stop laughing.

speaking of my parents, i was so happy that they drove down from boston – with a ton of korean food nonetheless – last friday. even though they only live a little less than two hours away, we don’t get to see them often because of the restaurant business. in my last post i mentioned how my parents had sold one of their restaurants. they had 3 and now they’re down to 1 which means more free time! my parents are looking forward to taking a long-overdue and well-deserved vacation this summer. and hopefully that means more visits as well.

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it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

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brewing homemade jujube tea

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삼계탕, or cornish hen stew

olivia g.’s 1st birthday is in two-and-a-half weeks!! genie has been spending most of her free time finishing up decor and finalizing all the details for her party. it’s sheer madness how much emphasis, money and time is spent on the first birthday especially since it’s a huge ordeal in the asian culture. obviously it’s for the parents and pictures than for the little one, but..particularly as first-time parents we can’t really help but go all out. plus, with social media and pinterest displaying all the latest trends and cute details it’s easy to go overboard.

last saturday, genie and i drove down to new jersey for the day. although it was a baby-free day, nearly everything we did was for the babies. i set my alarm for 5am so i could get dressed and pump just before leaving the house. genie and i hit the road a few minutes before 7am and got to new jersey around 9. first stop: hmart (a korean supermarket). we expected it to be busy on a saturday morning but it seems as if they had just opened because it was fairly quiet and everyone else had a few decades on us. 😛

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the cooler was filled to the top

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view from kuppi cafe

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first birthday rice cake

although i mostly got snacks and a few necessities, genie’s sole purpose was to buy ingredients for olivia’s birthday lunch since she and her mom are making korean food for the party! as we stood in the check-out line, a 할머니 (grandma) placed her hands on our cart and started leaning on it. startled, we looked at her and she said that she was using it to help her stand up. we let her, of course, but we wondered if she was going to take it; we had a lot of bags to carry to the car along with a bag of ice. as we were paying, i tentatively made a move to get the cart and she asked if we needed it, and we said, “yes…” but then i quickly told her it was okay and genie ran out of the supermarket to find another cart. we didn’t mind helping her out but it was so bizarre that she zeroed in on our cart when there were so many around. maybe she thought we didn’t need it because we’re young..?

other stops we made were paris baguette where we each left with a giant bag of pastries and milk bread. then, yedang (a korean rice cake shop) to inquire about ordering a rice cake for a first birthday party, and then…pumping in the car -__- the main reason we took dennis’ suv down to jersey is because it has tinted windows, shades, and an outlet in the back row. we still had to take turns pumping (and the engine was running for a half hour) so i’m sure passers-by were wondering what was going on…

we met up with our friends, rob and almex, for lunch at a ramen shop. it was good but the sodium made me feel nauseous later on and i was hanging my head out the window like a dog :-X afterwards, we went to a coffee shop on the waterfront. it was funny because almex remarked how the name of the shop is weird (he pronounced it: coo-pee), and then i saw the sign: kuppi. right away i told him “it’s cup-pee” (which is how you say “coffee” in korean).;-)

lastly, we went to rose bedding & interiors to check out hanbok, a traditional korean clothing. there were so many pretty designs and they all cost over $100 for the baby ones. an outfit they will only wear once… eesh. we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the specialty ones – these are the ones that are made in-house- but genie stealthily snapped a photo while the shop owner assisted me with the water cooler. 😛

despite an early start to the day, it flew by quickly. we couldn’t believe it was already time to go home. we took turns driving so the other could pump in the front seat – oh man, we are so looking forward to weaning!!! – and made a pit stop at a diner in southern connecticut. as we made our way to the bathroom, we both exclaimed, “oh my god!” at the sound of britney belting out “baby, one more time…” turns out, there was a high school dance party going on in one of the banquet rooms and we wondered aloud if we would be able to get away with crashing it. alas, we were wearing jeans and the kids were dressed up.

i’m happy with my life right now, but sometimes… sometimes i get wistful and think how if i had the chance to go back and relive from 17 on, i’d “live it up” a little more. i was always so insecure and shy, and it took me until my 30s to truly start to embrace myself. but, hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? just because i have a baby now doesn’t mean i can’t have fun.. it’s just a different kind of fun, i suppose. it’s not too late to check off all the things on my ever-growing bucket list, and i need to slowly get a move on that. i’m a different person today than when i was in high school, and i really am grateful about that.

 

rolling with the punches

penny’s growth spurt has ended! it lasted from july 31-august 6. i was able to figure out the dates through the baby tracker app. since i log every time i feed penny, i noticed that during those 7 days, penny’s total time spent nursing/feeding was about 2.5~3 hours a day. normally, she feeds for 1.5 hours a day. at her last checkup, she was nearly 12.5 lb.. surely she must be 13 lb. by now!

yet another way i could tell that her growth spurt had ended was that she returned to her regular sleeping schedule. i began sleep training her at 2.5 months to get her acclimated to having a sleep schedule. newborns don’t really have a schedule but as penny is nearly at the infant stage it was important to start getting her used to sleeping at certain times so she won’t be overtired. she began going to bed around 9-10pm around two weeks ago but i noticed that she would barely nap the last 3 or 4 hours before her unofficial bedtime. this alarmed me because she was so overtired and wasn’t easy to put down. we slowly started moving her bedtime to 8:30, then to 8, and now she sleeps anywhere from 6:30-7pm. it has worked out well for all of us because penny isn’t exhausted and we aren’t eating dinner separately or late because of her late bedtime.

it also helps to have a bedtime routine. ours is feed/bath/*feed/bed. when i nurse her, i try to do it in her nursery with only the lamp on (not the chandelier) and piano music playing in the background (along with the white noise) to get her ready for bed. thankfully she loves baths and is very calm in the tub. we sing and talk to her (and then soothe her once she’s out because she hates getting out of the tub!) while giving her a massage to help her relax even more. afterwards, we apply lotion to her entire body and put a fresh diaper and an undershirt on. usually by this time, she is tired so we haven’t successfully been able to read a bedtime story to her. (i was actually able to read one to her tonight so i hope to incorporate that into the routine.) the last feed is optional as she may still be full but i do offer it so she’ll be more content and sleep longer. lastly, we give her a pacifier and her eyes immediately start getting heavy. then we place her in the magic merlin suit (more on this in my next post) and rock her until she falls asleep. recently, she’s been passing out in our arms in ten minutes or less… i hope this continues.

due to penny’s earlier bedtime, dennis and i have been able to spend more alone time with one another which we truly appreciate. we are eating dinner at a more reasonable time and also unwinding by watching tv and talking to one another. my sister turned 30 last week, and i organized a dinner for 8 people to help her celebrate. while dennis and i got ready, my sister and mil gave penny a bath and got her ready for bedtime. then we all left while my mil rocked her to sleep. lo and behold, she passed out around 7pm.

happy birthday, jen!

happy birthday, jen!

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i think brendan, jen’s bf, told us to do tiger claws

the boys came out too!

the boys came out too!

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even though her growth spurt ended a few days ago, she still has not been her usual self because she has also been going through a developmental leap. the current one that she is on, and will be ending tomorrow, is “smooth transitions.”

after going through this leap some of the things that penny may be able to do are:

  • follow something with her eyes in a fluid motion √
  • turn her head in a fluid motion when following something √
  • more lively, more active, squirms, and is turning in all directions √
  • rolls from tummy to back (with a little help) – i’ve been doing lots of tummy time with her to keep strengthening her neck and core. she hasn’t been able to roll over on her own yet but she’s not quite 3 months yet so we’ll keep practicing!
  • shakes a rattle – she’s definitely grabbing objects more often and moving them around but hasn’t shaken a rattle
  • discovers new possibilities of the voice such as cooing, screaming, and crowing √
  • blows saliva bubbles √
  • clearly shows in her behavior when she finds something funny or interesting √
  • clearly enjoys light bulbs slowly illuminating from soft to bright – we don’t have a dimmer so i can’t try this out but she loves looking at light fixtures so i turn them on and off for her to observe.
  • clearly enjoys sounds that gradually go from high to low or vice versa – i haven’t experienced with volume yet but i do play music when she’s awake to have her exposed to background noise and different genres.
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look at her grabbing toys!

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tummy time!

tummy time!

penny actually hates tummy time so i do it when she's in a good mood after nursing.

penny actually hates tummy time so i do it when she’s in a good mood after nursing.

practicing sitting up with her new sit-me-up chair

practicing sitting up with her new sit-me-up chair

since she’s learning so much, she has been exhibiting typical symptoms of this leap which are crying more often, longer, and harder; wanting to drink more; wanting more physical contact; withdrawn (often); thumb sucking (often); and quieter and/or less mobile behavior. besides the last one, penny has been showing all these symptoms for the past two weeks. she prefers being with either me or dennis probably since she sees us the most. even with my mil, she had been fussing when being held by her. but sometimes she doesn’t like to be held; she actually really enjoys lying on her back and observing everything around her.

this past saturday we ventured to new jersey to attend an annual pool party at our friends’ parents’ home. initially we decided not to go because of the long commute but changed our minds so that we wouldn’t be so tied down by penny. the more we expose her to car rides, the outdoors, and other people the better she’ll be able to cope and to take naps on-the-go (something that she’s struggling with as she’s used to napping at home in her dark room with the white noise on.)

her brief nap on the way down to nj

her brief nap on the way down to nj

well, what should have been a 2.5 hour car ride one way turned out to be 4 because of traffic and two pit stops to nurse and change diapers. needless to say, penny barely napped on the way down so she was super cranky… and then we brought her to a brand-new place that was blaring music and had tons of people milling around. she started crying hysterically right away. As a result, dennis and i spent the majority of the time indoors because every time we stepped outdoors, she would freak out (the loud music didn’t help). she was calm, and even napped, for a little while when dennis wore her in the baby bjorn but after she woke up, it was game over. it was disappointing that we didn’t get to swim or really enjoy ourselves but we did get to mingle and catch up with friends we hadn’t seen in a while. we only stayed for 3 hours before heading home (penny’s bedtime is 7pm and it would take us 2.5 hours to get home). she actually slept on the way home because she was so exhausted and ended up sleeping for 8.5 hours that night.

i’m thinking she was extra sensitive because she’s going through her leap but she’s a fairly sensitive baby to begin with. one example is that we change her diaper often because she can wake up early from naps even with a slightly wet diaper. she also LOVES diaper changes by the way. she will lie there smiling happily and kicking because she’s looking forward to getting a fresh diaper;  it’s pretty cute.

penny and i are meeting up with genie and olivia for another playdate tomorrow afternoon. we like to meet up at westfarms mall because nordstrom has a mother’s lounge for breastfeeding and pumping.. so convenient.. every place should have one. i get nervous bringing penny out on my own especially since she gets agitated in the car seat (really, i would too if i had to sit there with a sweaty back for hours), but i’m trying to build my confidence so that we both can get used to being out and about. she’s a baby so it won’t really be a smooth outing but as long as i can keep a cool head it’ll be okay. dennis is always telling me to ‘roll with the punches’ and be ready for any outcome because a baby’s behavior is unpredictable. i’ll also be with a friend tomorrow so that makes me feel significantly better.

to the mall we shall go!