Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas, 2011; And, ambivalence.

Jeongmin smiled at me for the first time (real smile, not just gas or contentment) on X-mas eve.  I captured it on camera Christmas morning.
This year for Christmas, we had an especially lovely family celebration. My dad's brother, Rob, and his wife and son joined us for the festivities. Plus, of course, I suppose Jeongmin's first Christmas is a big deal (even if he won't remember it, being only three weeks old).  I'm not a sentimental "Oh my god--it's baby's First Christmas!!!" type, but Min Gi is and so is my mother, so I'm glad it was pretty special.  And maybe my son will turn out to be the holiday lover in the family, so it's good I got some pictures of him with the whole tree/present thing.

 Baby J's big gift from Santa--a new jungle playmat.  He loves the mirror and he's starting to be more aware of his environment, so it's the perfect time for him to start playing like this.  Yes, that is a "My First Christmas" baby outfit... a present from a friend who couldn't use it for her baby last year.

At the risk of alienating people and becoming a grossly unpopular Scrooge-like figure, I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas.  Partly, it's that I'm not Christian, so a lot of the religious spirit of the holiday is not a part of my scripting, but we all know that Christmas is as much a cultural holiday in the U.S. as it is a religious one, and it's that part of the celebration that I find myself feeling such ambivalence about.

Giant Monkey attack--nearly eats the baby.

I love the family togetherness, the good feelings, the yummy cookies and other meals, the stories and folklore, the warm wishes from everyone, and even the decorations (especially the ones that come out year after year and have special meaning--Grandma's old ornaments, the ones my siblings and I made in daycare centers when we were little, the woven ones my parents brought back from their years in Ecuador). I missed all that while I was in Korea from 2007-2010 and being "home" for Christmas these last two years has been amazing.

There is only one present in this picture I need or want.

What I don't love is how something so nice can turn so blatantly commercial and become a pressure cooker for gift giving and receiving in which your obligations as both the giver and recipient are immense. I actually heard people I love saying things like "I spent $80 on them--she better wear them!" and wondering aloud if they had spent "enough" money even though the gift they had already picked out was lovely, thoughtful, and appropriate.

I don't get it.  I love giving presents (and who doesn't love getting some thoughtful gifts?), but I often do so throughout the year, as things occur to me.  I don't get the whole holiday=stuff thing and kind of never have.  My first Christmas where I could talk, my parents got me a really nice Fisher Price house and a bunch of other stuff.  I opened the one toy and played with it for like an hour or so.  Mom then asked me to open my other gifts, and I said "No, this is enough for today."  (Of course my parents, who had worked hard in shopping for and arranging gifts for me made me open the rest of them, but this has become family legend.)  My first Christmas where I purchased my own gifts with my own money (in high school), I made donations in each of my family's names to a charity that suited their own personal interests (like the WWF for my sister and a comic book free speech group for my brother).  I usually try to make presents if I can.

But this year, I didn't have time (or in all honesty, the free cash) to shop this year and the cookies I had planned to bake didn't happen because Jeongmin got sick with a minor cold in the days leading up to the holiday, so I did not get presents for people this year. I feel bad about it.  I feel overwhelmed by my too-generous relatives.  I wonder if somehow my dislike of commercialism and failure to wrap something up and put it under the tree disappointed them (even though I got everyone presents when I went on vacation this summer and other events of that nature).

I may be the only person in the whole of America who didn't find the stories of people anonymously paying off Walmart and K-mart layaways heartwarming. Maybe it's because I work all year for an organization that has to tell people (often good, hardworking people) that the rent money relief they so desperately need in order to not become homeless is currently out of funds, but I don't find "donations" so that kids whose parents can't really afford it can have a bunch of cheap, plastic junk to be very charitable. I'd rather make sure we have the cash so they don't become homeless. Or so we can fund a program to help them find a job when they're out of work or quality, affordable daycare so they can keep their jobs.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful.  My mother is the opposite of me and always expresses her love through giving and loves nothing better than holidays.  She decorates up a storm and is wonderful at picking out Christmas gifts that make everyone feel special and loved.  It overwhelms me, but I truly appreciate her generosity.  I just think spending time with people is more important than getting them stuff.  Even when it's stuff they want.  And that what you do throughout the year is a bigger deal than one specific day.
Will I feel differently about making him happy through purchases and toy gifts when he is older?  I don't know.  For now, I just love him and want to spend time with him (and the rest of my family).  That's all I really care about.


Christmas 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mommy Brain, cloth diapers... and, of course, pictures!

Jeongmin's "windmill" arms--working it!

My brain is slowly adjusting to mommy life and the inevitable "Mommy Brain" that results from the sleeping in spurts, the never fully stopping with the baby care (even when I'm sleeping or when putting him down for a moment), the obsessing and mooning over my new little man like some love-struck preteen.  I'm starting to feel more relaxed and comfortable with caring for Jeongmin.  It helps that babies get a little easier each week.  He's sleeping longer and having more regular patterns.  He's also started getting more fun and alert at playtime.

Sporting the cloth diapers, and waving hello to his fans.

This week, I finally completed my cloth diapering stash to my satisfaction.  Gwen, my old boss from Oedae and good friend, shipped me her nearly-two-year-old son's old BumGenius one size pocket diapers and inserts, so now I have a total of 11 of that style (Gwen's are version 3.0 and I have 3 version 4.0--honestly, I don't really see much of a difference at this point).  I also have 11 Softbum Omni shells (obtained from diaperswappers.com) and many inserts that work with them (bumgenius OS terrycloth inserts have a snap that work well with the Omni shells, some infant pre-folds, and softbums staydry super pods), including some Kissaluvs size 0 fitted diapers.  Newborns need a lot more diapers than older ones, so hopefully when he outgrows the Kissaluvs, I won't need to replace them with more inserts.  I have 3 all-in-one BumGenius size small, too, but they don't seem to be absorbing much at this time (my only real leaks so far have come from these), so I'm trying to wash them a few more times before I give up.

Look at the worry lines as he strains to push up!

Cloth is a lot easier than people make it out to be, especially with all the new all-in-two designs and pocket styles.  If you buy used or clearance/discounted, they aren't even that much more expensive than a prefold/cover deal (the old-fashioned nappy pinning and plastic pants, but even that has been updated with plastic snaps and much trimmer covers).  I have enough where even with my frequently soaking 3 week old, I only have to do the diaper laundry every 3 or so days.  And they are easy enough to use that my parents have said they will try to use the cloth when they babysit, so score!

And now, more cute:

No, Daddy!  Don't eat my hand! 

Blue eyed Korean.

 For more overdose on cuteness, look at the full album:

Baby: Week Three

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baby J: Week Two

On Friday, Baby J had his two week check up.  He'd gained nearly a pound since birth and grown 1.5 inches in that time.  Considering how tiny he is, that's quite a feat.  He was declared healthy by the pediatrician, which is of course the important thing.

Min Gi relaxing with the baby.

The baby with his care package from Min Gi's sister-in-law, In Shil, from Korea (you may remember her as the photographer from this excursion)

And here we are, wearing the scarves she knit Min Gi and I as well as Jeongmin's new, handmade green vest.  Notice he's trying to hold up his fingers for the camera like a good Korean lad.

Auntie Sarah time.

Sporting a Christmas outfit from Sarah's good friend, Camille.  Straight Christmas thuggin' in his hoodie.  Oh yeah.  Baby life.

This is what I'm greeted with every morning.  I really am the luckiest person in the world.

Can't get enough?  There are more pictures in the album:


Baby: Week Two

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Baby J's first stroller adventure.

This morning, the umbilical stump fell off, so now he looks like a "normal" baby that you see in magazines and stuff.  Also, we went on baby's first adventure to tour the Christmas lights in the neighborhood.

He's stylin' in his little bumblebee hat knit by my good friend, Elinor.

Daddy's ready to go.  Baby may have his doubts...

I think I'm going to crash into something because he's just too cute not to stare at.

Daddy and the baby.

With the Christmas lights in the neighborhood.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Baby J: Week One

Baby J's been growing now for seven days--a whole week!  He's beginning to be a lot more alert and active.  I'm recovering, too.  Here are some photo updates of our adventures so far:
I don't know if you can quite tell he has blue eyes here, but he does have a very expressive face.

Bonding with Min Gi (taken at night with no lights with his iPod Touch, so sorry for the quality).

Mommy is proud of the little man!

He really loves a good, tight swaddle for sleeping.

Getting ready for breakfast!

I discover the joys of the Moby wrap.  Baby on, no hands!

Sleeping burrito.

He is learning to self-soothe.  Besides... you can never have enough sleeping baby photos.

We're all trying to figure out a routine that works for us.  Since he seems to want to eat every two hours or so, mostly this routine involves me tethered to the kid for all but a few hours here and there of grandpa or grandma or auntie time (all life-savers for a new mom).  I'm learning how to rest/bathe/eat/etc. while he rests, but it's kind of a juggling act since the baby is the little booby dictator.  (As in, when he wants the booby, he loudly demands it and so he receives).

I've managed to disappear 19 lbs in the last seven days.  But that's not really an accomplishment when you consider that I had packed on 50ish in the last nine months... whoops.  Having a waist again is pretty cool.  Not as cool as having a baby, but I do like it.

I've started him on cloth diapers.  It's nowhere near as hard as everyone acts like it is.  However, they are massive on a tiny newborn (more bulky layers to absorb baby excretions), so that's kind of funny.  More updates when I can.  The little Booby Dictator has just woken up.

Monday, December 5, 2011

J.P. Sung

Right now, my four day old son, J, is napping.  Thanks to my mother (super-grandma), I am caught up on enough rest to actually post some info here about what has been the most incredible event of my life.  Unfortunately, my brain is too addled to reflect properly on the events that have occurred and recount them faithfully and entertainingly for you here at this time.  I will try to do so soon.  For now, basic stats:
Born 12/2/2011 at 4:47am. I had a very short first labor, dilating from 4cm to ready to push in just 1.5 hours. The nurse and doctor actually made me wait another 45 min because they hadn't set anything up. Even with the epidural, it was a lot of pain to hold back. 20 min of pushing, and then he was out!

He weighed 7lbs, 10oz (3.465 kg), had an immediate Apgar score of 9. He has curly dark blond hair (surprising!) and deep blue eyes that are rapidly turning brown. First hints of a smile here.

One proud daddy!  Min Gi has been amazing.  He was totally supportive during labor and has turned into an expert diaperer overnight.  Plus, he remains super-organized with all our stuff and caring for the kitties and basic needs while I recover.  I love him all over again.
Ready to eat!  This is my favorite picture, since it's what I see every 2-3 hours when I'm feeding the little dude.  He's so much fun!
Baby's first mohawk. Post-bath.
Yes, I just delivered a baby. Of course I look like crap and need to stuff my face. This is the only one of me Min Gi took in the hospital that doesn't have a boob hanging out. Sorry.

Grandpa! So happy.
We're home now.  At my follow up appointment today, the baby is already gaining weight and is perfectly healthy and happy.  We had a small bumpy start to breast-feeding, but with the help of the lactation consultant at the hospital, that has been resolved and all is well.

Having a baby is totally exhausting, but it's also a LOT more fun than I thought.  I hope you enjoy the update!  I will try to keep up a bit here in between all the lovin'.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I've been crabby and impatient the last few days dealing with the end-of-pregnancy body blahs, but I'm still very thankful for many things in my life.  This list is not really in order, but here we are:

1.  Always and forever, I am thankful to Min Gi, who continues to surprise me with his patience, concern, love, and growth. He's about to be the best damn dad in the whole world to our little one--I can tell.
2.  I am thankful for the closeness I've had with my family this year.  My family is not always easy to get along with up close, but the last year has been one of a surprising increase in the depth and quality of my relationships with each of my immediate family members.  Most especially my mother, who at one time I believed I could never have the kind of close relationship I desired.  Do they still drive me nuts?  Sure.  But we are all in a very good place these days.  It was unexpected.
3.  I am very thankful for my mental health recovery.  Being depressed sucks (so y'all know).
4.  Despite the discomforts of the last few weeks, I'm thankful that my first time ever being pregnant has been so healthy and successful.  I know not everyone gets that, so even though I have griped and dealt with negative hormonal surges, I've been pretty darn lucky overall.
5.  I am thankful that I found a job I love and believe in and feel valued and competent.  This probably has contributed to #3 more than anything else.  I am thankful to my co-workers and for the opportunity that came about at such a fortuitous moment in my life.  And extremely thankful about how supportive they have been of my transition to motherhood.
6.  I am very thankful for friends near and far who have been patient with my funk earlier in 2011 and, despite largely electing to be childless themselves (so far for some), tolerant of my increasing baby-brain-ness.  I am thankful for the new friends I've made who are already moms (and some old friends who have grown close again because of this) and have been helping me through a lot of this.
7.  I am thankful for Min Gi's family who support us immeasurably from Korea.  I know he misses them a ton and I *will* find a way for us to visit them next spring or summer.
8.  I am thankful for the strides we have made this year financially as a family unit.  Compared to this time last year, we are in a much better place as far as working together to accomplish monetary goals.  We still have a long way to go, and I promise I'll start blogging about this again, but for now, Min Gi and I are just a lot more supportive of each other and a lot more comfortable expressing our true needs than we were.  It's pretty awesome.
9. I am thankful for the health of our other two family members--Saja and Princess--who have been through 5 moves in the last two years (one of which was international) and have adjusted stunningly each time.  Dear, dear kitties.
10.  Everyday, I am more and more thankful for the choices my privileged life allows.  I become more aware of them as I grow older, and sometimes it's hard to think about how lucky I am because of the difficulties I see, but overall, I'm a very lucky, lucky person.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flashback Travel: Overnight Sailing Trip to Rock Hall, MD

  Sunset on the Chesapeake Bay.

 In August 2010, when I first came to America from Korea, Dad was eager to show off his newly acquired sailboat.  My brother Brian and I served as his crew on an overnight trip across the Chesapeake Bay to Rock Hall, MD. 
She's a beautiful 32-foot delight.  We are docking her in Rock Hall, MD.

Crab pots in Rock Hall, MD.

Cormorants.  Can you tell from the poop stains that this is a regular hangout for them?

The trip was a great success.  We had some bonding time and some peace.  Except that August has crap for wind in this area, but we didn't really mind.  Check out the full album below:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ultrasound Image

Ultrasound images are now all fancy and 3-D awesome, but I'm still not one who really would regularly expose the innards of her uterus for mass consumption.  However, when I went for my second one at 24 weeks, the little one showed his Korean roots by flipping the Korean "V" for victory sign in an early picture, so I felt the need to share:




My friend, Jim, insists that he's actually throwing a gang sign, but I'm pretty sure that's the Korean "look at the camera" thing.  What do you think?

Lazy Mom's Note:  This image is from way back in August.  The baby is now at least five times the size he was, but I finally got around to scanning this image in so that you can see.  Yes, yes I am that lazy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November Already?

How did it get to be the end of 2011 already?  And how is it that the most important event of my 2011 (in case you can't figure that one out, it's the birth of my first child sometime in the next month or so) has not even happened yet?

I'm feeling very transitional these days, and I'm becoming more comfortable with it.  I usually like to have a set plan for the next six months, year, and five years mapped out.  I've always remained flexible with these plans, allowing them to change as new life stuff comes up, but I feel a lot more comfortable when I know where I'm going next.

However, I've come to terms over the last three months that I cannot possibly predict what my life will be like after the birth of my son.  (Three months ago, with hormones raging, I was utterly despondent over the loss of control becoming a parent represented.  Although I chose not to blog about my misery, rest assured there was much fighting with Min Gi and fear of insanity...).  I can imagine and hope and daydream about the kind of parent I'd like to be, but if I'm honest with myself, I cannot possibly know what my priorities will be after our family grows by 50 percent, other than to assume that my child will be in my top five, likely vying for the top two, along with my marriage. 

This makes things like planning a career path, health and financial goals, travel adventures, or writing projects somewhat up in the air.  I'm guessing these things will still be very important to me, but the way I approach them and the shapes they take may alter dramatically.  And that's ok.

Today, at 36 weeks and change, I had another ultrasound to determine the position of the baby (he's head down, which is grand) and the approximate size of the beast at the moment (around 6lbs 5oz, though my doctor cautions that 3rd trimester scans are not very accurate and it could be a pound up or down from there).  All is healthy and well.  On Friday, he will officially be "term" meaning that they won't try to stop labor if it starts, although we're still hoping he goes to 39+ weeks, since that's best for his development.

I'm about ready to have my body back to myself, although it will ironically signal a much more profound movement away from independence than pregnancy.  I'll let you know how that goes.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Last Photos from the August 2010 Jeju Trip

Well over a year ago, Min Gi and I took a second honeymoon to Jeju Island in Korea to bid goodbye to the country and because we wouldn't see each other for about a month after I went back to the U.S.  Back when I was still a good blogger (not dealing with job stress, depression, or pregnancy), I blogged about one piece of the trip.  I am just now getting around to putting up some pictures from the rest of our adventures on our 4.5 days on the island.

We had a fantastic time.  We made new friends, visited some ones we knew from before, and fell in love with a place.  We have decided that when we return to Korea to settle there, we want to live here.  For now, enjoy the photos!


Dragon Rock in Jeju
Manjanggul Cave (Lava Tube) in Jeju

Folk Village in Jeju

Other Jeju Photos

Friday, September 30, 2011

End of September? Reading List, Part One

Where on earth has this year gone?  We're already well into fall, and I feel like I haven't been able to catch up with where I want to be from a blogging perspective.

I had a health scare this month when I tested high for the first round of gestational diabetes testing, but that proved to be a fluke since the 3 hour glucose tolerance test was not even borderline.  It freaked me out a lot.  When I get freaked out these days, I obsess in my head, but don't write about it much.  I think I need to work on this.

I've been reading a lot.  I would like to write some reviews of a few of the books I've been devouring lately, but I don't think I'll ever get around to writing seperate reviews of each, so here's some (we'll call it Part One) of my top summer reads (in no particular order, except perhaps vaguely in the order I read/can recall them):

1.  Apologize, Apologize by Elizabeth Kelly--I got this at one of the Border's closing sales to read on Martha's Vineyard since the story takes place there.  It was surprisingly tragic (the description makes it sound like a coming-of-age comedy).  A fascinating character study of truly bizarre people.  And the main character even has a brief stint as a suicide hotline counselor...

2.  Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua--A book that was all over the media because it claimed that Asian parenting was somehow superior to Western parenting.  I feel like this may have been what even Chua herself believed she was trying to write, but I think her editors did her a disservice in promoting the book this way.  The tale that unfolds in the narrative is one that is much more humble and honest than the way it came off in the news articles.  First of all, she is trying to recreate in her (incredibly priveledged) upper-middle class American daughters the character building lessons she learned as the daughter of working-class Chinese immigrants by being absolutely nuts about music education.  I don't think it accomplished what she thinks it did.

It ends, as all parenting narratives really should, in uncertainty and doubt.  Ultimately, the reason Chua's parenting works is because she cares so very much about her girls and they know that, not because of any particular techniques she claims. 

3.  Little Bee by Chris Cleave--This is the second book from the highly acclaimed British author.  It's unusual and powerful because it is written in two voices--that of an African refugee nicknamed Little Bee and a British woman whose life becomes inextricably entwined with Little Bee's under the worst of circumstances.  It is exquisite.  It's the most humanizing and heartwrenching tale of what globalization means that I have ever read.

I don't know what else I can say about this book except this:  Read it.

...to be continued.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Baby Fever/Spoiling Myself

This morning I found myself immersed in a deep conversation with the contents of my uterus.

It's not like I haven't held conversations before with beings that cannot possibly actually respond in a common language--I talk to my cats most days.  I have been known to heckle a tree or two in my day.  I've even cooed at my various pieces of technology that just needed a bit of coaxing to function.  But speaking to my own body is new.

It's happened.  I finally caught the baby fever.  Maybe I just read enough books to feel like I may actually have a clue how to care for a human creature under the age of two.  Maybe I was swept away by the awesomeness of cottonbabies, a company that makes cloth diapering systems that humans who are not super-adept supermoms can actually use.  Maybe feeling the little one squirming around on a regular basis makes the whole thing more real.  Maybe it's just third trimester hormones kicking in.

Whatever it is...  I'm finally at that gross, gooey-eyed, baby-obsessed stage where everything on my to-do list, every thought that forms in my brain, nearly every piece of media I absorb is centered around all things baby.  Preparing for baby, shopping for baby, talking about baby.  Baby, baby, baby.  I make myself sick when I think about it from an objective point of view.  But I can't be objective here.  Baby is too damned important.  Dudes, I'm responsible for the care, formation, and rearing of another human.  It's like I'm Dr. Frankenstein here--IT'S ALIVE!!!  And we all know where that story ended...

At the same time, a powerful need to indulge and appreciate these final months of me-focused Diana life has taken over.  Whenever I find those baby fever urges taking over the animal cortex of my brain, I suddenly find myself in a car, driving to a cafe or restaurant to sit for a few hours over some yummy indulgent drink or food and read a novel.  I have to cling to this last quiet resistance of solitude and peace and adult independence.  I nap whenever I can, precisely because I can do so right now.  I'm making plans with people I haven't seen in months/years.

It's like storing up for winter.  I'm the ant of young adult self-obsession.

Most of my blog readers (that I know of) don't have kids.  I don't really want Going Places to turn into something that resembles the blog version of the people mocked for the their facebook status updates on STFU, Parents, but it does seem likely I'm going to need a place to obsessively recount my (mis) adventures in booby feeding, poo obsession, and indulgent bragging about the wonder of my perfect infant.  I don't plan to subsume my identity on the almighty alter of motherhood, but let's be honest here--from the time the kid finally arrives, mommy brain will likely take over.

To that end, I'm working on a blogging solution that should enable me to balance the two competing lizard brains of my soul--the independent woman who started this blog, and the woman who's about to become a mom.  (There are hints of it in a blog I started on wordpress about a year ago.)  For now, I will just say that most of the reason for my failure to post here is an inability to self-regulate the conflicting nature of my interests, and my desire to spare my loyal readers the indecencies of pregnancy.

For those of you who've been craving the nasty oh-my-god-my-boobs-are-now-eclipsed-by-the-massiveness-of- my-belly and middle-of-the-night-gross-bodily-function updates, I promise that I'll have a separate place for that so that you may sympathize with (or mock) me to your hearts' contents in the upcoming weeks.

I will be posting such Mama Drama and Baby Obsessive posts at my new blog, The Parentally Challenged.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Flashback Travel: Haeinsa Temple, July 2010

Temple art detail.  I would love to know which Buddhist story this comes from...

During the rainy season in Korea last year, I ventured to Haeinsa Temple with my friend Paul. The miserable rainy weather here reminded me of this trip. Despite the cloudy skies and constant, unpleasant drizzle, it was a pleasant trip to one of my favorite temples.

The Tripitaka Koreana and the reason for this temple's fame.  It's the print panels for a really old and awesome Buddhist text, preserved in traditional wood structures.

I had an epiphany walking this maze back in March 2008 when I came here with another friend.

Check out the full album with lots of cool temple art details:

Haeinsa, 2010

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