Verboten: Stupid and Hate
The kids have picked up that they should not say the words "stupid" and "hate" because they are bad words. Haneul and Iseul don't really say the words because a) they understand that they will get in trouble if they say them and b) they know what the words mean and more or less understand the appropriate contexts in which they are used. I have told the kids, "It's o.k. to say stupid if you are talking about a thing. Like, if you trip because there is a big bump in the sidewalk, you can say "Stupid sidewalk!" or "I hate this sidewalk!". So now when Haneul is upset about something, I sometimes hear her mutter, "Stupid sidewalk!" under her breath.
As for Taeyang, he says the words although he comprehends they are bad (actually, because he comprehends they are bad) and has become quite fixated with them. I try to just ignore it, but of course his sisters are ready to tattle every time, "He said hate! He said stupid!", and he loves getting a reaction out of them. I thought that Taeyang was saying these words without really understanding what they mean and just said them because they are forbidden words and he could get a rise out of people. Well, this morning I realized that I have been underestimating him.
I was on my way to school, and Iseul asked me, "Mommy, why do you have to go to work at school?" to which I replied, "I have to teach my students and make their heads smarter." and I grabbed her little head and gave her a kiss. Taeyang looked me right in the eye and said, as clear as day, "They STUPID!"
Oh no!!!!! We are in for it.
The kids and I went to a birthday party for my friend Holly's twins on Saturday. I told the girls it was a dress up party and that they were going to dress up as Korean princesses in their hanbok, because I am always looking for an opportunity for them to get more use out of their dresses. Haneul was excited to wear her hanbok, but Iseul wasn't so much. She said to me, "Mommy-- you were supposed to buy me a PEZ princess dress" in a very sassy voice. I thought I hadn't heard her correctly and asked her to repeat what she had said, "A PEZ princess dress!" Then I remembered that Haneul and Iseul received Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty candy dispensers from Santa Claus this Christmas (which, incidentally just have the heads of the Princesses, and no dresses). Iseul didn't associate the Princesses with Disney, but rather with the pez candy that came out of the princesses' necks. (Pez dispensers and pez candy are so weird to me!)
I am seriously potty training Taeyang because he has finally stopped thinking it is funny to pee on the carpet and is telling me when he needs to go. He loves wearing his Thomas the train undies and baby boxers (actually pyjama bottoms, but he thinks they are undies) and he looks so cute in them. He sits on his little potty and will hold a book and read it, or listen to me read a story and he gets the cutest little look of surprise on his face when he pees in the potty and then says, "Yay!" and asks for big boy jumps. (I've rewarded all of the kids by giving them floor to ceiling jumps after they successfully go on their potty. It tires me out, but it is better than having to mess with giving one child candy.) Sometimes Taeyang tells me "Need go potty" and trots over to the toilet and we sit him down, and then he sits on the potty waiting and says, "Not working!" when he doesn't immediately pee. This is one of those parenting moments when you really want to laugh, but you have to hold it back.
Little Miss Haneul has been very talkative and lovey lately and I've really been enjoying the change in her since she has always been a more introverted little soul, making it harder to figure out what is going on in her active little mind. She has a new bedtime routine where after she is tucked in, she says, "Mommy, I need to give you a kiss." She gets out of bed and gives me a kiss and then goes back over and lays down. Then, without fail 30 seconds later she will say, "I forgot to give you a hug!" and get out of bed and come over and get her hug. One night I said, "Let me give you a kiss AND a hug." and as I tried to catch her for a hug, she wriggled away so that she could still come back for her hug in a minute. She is great at selective hearing (like her Daddy) and very charming (also like her Daddy).
Kids say the Darndest Things!
We have indoctrinated our children well in the Asian way of removing shoes when you enter the house. Iseul, in particular is a fanatic about taking her shoes off. When we go to the downtown library there is a play area with plusher carpeting and when she sees it, she automatically takes her shoes off. (And then the library staff come over and tell us that kids HAVE to wear shoes in the library which really confuses her.) Anyway, we've had workmen come in to our house and they always wear their shoes. Iseul always says, in a really loud voice, "Why is he wearing his shoes in the house. They are dirty. Why doesn't he take his shoes off? He should take his shoes off. They are dirty." and so on... She just can't let it go. And, although I agree with her, I have to tell her something like "He knows to wipe his feet before entering, so it's o.k." Usually in these situations, Iseul gives me a skeptical or confused look (likely because Seungho and I have made it very clear that shoes are dirty). How soon kids learn that their parents are inconsistent (and perhaps even a bit hypocritical?)
Our kids' caregiver is named Amanda and she's great. The girls took to her right away and after the first time she came to help me take care of the kids and learn the ropes, I told the girls to say "goodbye to Amanda", to which Haneul replied, "Goodbye, Commanda!" I laughed--I couldn't help myself--and of course the girls noticed and started saying "Goodbye, Commanda!" again and again. I tried to get them to be serious about it, saying "No, say goodbye to AMANDA" and Haneul replied, "Goodbye, Demanda!" Then, I really laughed. I'm sure that I have used the words command and demand when reading to them, so they probably more or less know them, but at that point I had never heard them utter command or demand in a sentence themselves, so it was funny that Haneul put them together and were able to come up with that play on words on the spot. Amanda is not bossy in the least, so her nickname does not fit her, but it has stuck. I've told her that she must just have a commanding presence.
I showed the kids some scenes from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" the other day on youtube, and they loved it, so I checked it out from the library. As we were watching it, the car catches on fire and that just sent little Taeyang over the edge. He was so scared. I thought that by telling him that there was nothing to be scared of, he would get over it, and he did calm down as soon as the burning car was off the screen. But then Dick Van Dyke straps some fireworks to his back and is trying to fly, and that sent Taeyang right back over the edge. He was crying "Turn it off. I want TURN OFF!" (And of course the girls were upset that he was turning the TV off since they wanted to watch the movie.) We eventually got him calmed down and he watched parts of the movie happily after that. However, today when I got him up from his nap, the girls were watching a video. Taeyang freaked out and RAN back to his bed and said "I want go night night!" Even after the TV was off, he really didn't want to be in the same room with it. I guess I learned my lesson about continuing to show him a movie that was frightening him. He was up every half hour from 9:30-12 that night, possibly because he had a really itchy diaper rash, but possibly because of the trauma of watching "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". I hope that means that I've now paid for my mistake and I didn't cause any permanent damage.
Green onions rock!
Did you know how much fun you can have with green onions? Iseul hit upon the idea of using the cut-off root portion of the green onion as a pet jellyfish. It is the best pet ever! Totally low maintenance. All you need is some water and a clear glass, and the jellyfish entertain for...minutes. (These are young children after all.) They teach kids to re-use, be imaginative, are very clean and you don't even need to feed them. The only down side is the occasional over-turned glass of water.
I have my own fun with green onions. I use them to taunt my children...and teach them a little Korean in the process. The word in Korean for green onion is PAH. So one day, I asked the kids if they wanted a popsicle and Iseul started aggravating Haneul (or maybe it was the other way around). I told them that if they were naughty, they would get a PAH-sicle instead of a popsicle, and then just to make my point, gave a piece of frozen green onion to the offending party. I endured the cries of outrage for a few minutes and then gave everyone a popsicle and enjoyed 5 quiet minutes. I repeated this scenario a few times over the summer and got a kick out of it each time. Well, now that it is winter we have no popsicles in the fridge. Luckily, the kids have now developed a taste for PAH-sicles and all 3 were begging me for PAH-sicles as I made them miso soup today. And once again I looked at them and wondered if we share any genes.
And now to switch from green onions to Dora the Explorer. To preface this, I should tell you that on the program, there is a character called Swiper and he steals things from the other characters. They say "Swiper no swiping!" and he responds "Aww man!". I couldn't figure out what kind of animal Swiper was and was shocked when suddenly everytime Taeyang saw a picture or a drawing of a fox, or heard the word fox mentioned, that he said "Aw man!" I looked on wikipedia, and he is right. Swiper IS a fox. It is too funny and it amazes me that he can look at completely different illustrations of a fox: the fox, Honest John in Pinocchio, Eddie in Pororo (an animated Korean series) Swiper from Dora, and an actual picture of a fox, and see that they are all foxes and then realize that consequently, they must all say "Aw man!"
In conclusion, I have to say that kids are creative geniuses and a heck of a lot of fun.
I've been featured on my favorite Korean cooking website. One of the reasons I haven't been blogging is that cooking Korean food became a passion of mine over the summer. Take a look at my fan page at the website maangchi.com and while you are there, take a look at her recipes. I promise that if you try them, you'll love them!
It has been way too long since I've last written. Somehow life has just kept me way too busy (and maybe too unmotivated) these last months. Today is Lunar New Year and since I hadn't really made...or hadn't really kept any New Year's Resolutions, I've decided that now is as good of a time to start as any. So, in keeping with my resolutions, I am going to post here more often, although I am lowering my expectations about trying to write as much as I used to.
So...what is new with us? Some of our good news is that Seungho had his best Law School semester ever this last term. He really raised his grade point average and it made all of the hard work and living opposite schedules feel more worth it, although it still didn't make what we are doing feel easy. I will be very glad when my kids and I can once again see him on weekdays. Since one of my New Year's resolutions is to get more sleep, that is going to be hard for the next year or so. Because he takes classes in the evening, Seungho generally gets home around 11 or 11:30, but we are lucky that the kids get to spend several hours with him every morning before he goes to school or goes to the library to study. The end is in sight too--he will probably graduate in a year or a year and a half from now.
As for me, I have been having a pretty unrewarding year at work. I think a lot of people can relate to feeling like you put in so much time and effort to doing a good job, and the results (or lack of results) you see make you wonder if it is worth it. I have realized that many things that affect my job are out of my control, and while that is a very frustrating feeling, I guess that it also leaves me with someone else to blame if things don't work out. In the meantime, I am just doing my best to make my class as meaningful as possible and I am trying new things to make my teaching more effective and more fun for me.
And on a somewhat related note, I was in school myself from September-December. Korean school, that is. Haneul and Iseul started Korean school in September and since they had adult classes as well, I decided to sign up. It was nice to take time to do something for myself. For an hour and a half every Saturday, I put myself in one of those uncomfortable student desks and set my mind to improving my Korean skills. It was fun, but I decided not to join the class this semester. Mostly because I need to have time to study outside of class to really improve, and finding that time is just too challenging right now. The teacher very kindly told me that my level is so advanced that I really didn't need to be in the class--he is either extremely nice or I really had him fooled. Seungho is a person who is honest (sometimes to a fault) and he has definitely let me know that I have a very long way to go, which of course I already knew. In any case, I joined a group of people who want to practice Spanish this past Saturday morning, and I think this is definitely more in line with what I am looking for right now.
The girls are doing great at Korean school though. It is 3 hours long (from 10-1) every Saturday. It took them a while to adjust to being at a new place and doing a new thing without Mom and Appa, but they are well adjusted to it now. Iseul still sometimes protests about going, but she has been very motivated by wanting to share her new Korean books she received for Christmas with her classmates lately. The girls do a lot of art projects at school and they send the kids home with homework (worksheets to practice writing a new Korean letter every week). All in all, it has been a positive experience for them and I am glad that we pushed to have them start in September, even though they are supposed to be 4 years old before they enroll.
And in other kid news...
All 3 kids have been obsessed with Pinocchio as of late. Iseul was Pinocchio first and then she was, "Not Pinocchio Mommy--you know the name that Jiminy Cricket calls me." which I eventually figured out was "Pinoke". When Iseul says that she is Pinocchio, Taeyang says "NO! I'm NONOCCHIO!" since he can't quite pronounce Pinocchio yet. One day it came to the point where I had to designate the kids as Pinocchio wooden boy, Pinocchio donkey ears and Pinocchio real boy. After that, the Pinocchio game was pretty smooth sailing. Generally Taeyang is Pinocchio donkey ears and Iseul is Pinocchio real boy. Haneul has moved on and is now the Dutch, French, and Russian marionettes in the "I've Got No Strings" song. Quite often I am Stromboli, but sometime I am Gepetto. A stuffed baby seal that my friend, ChianWen, got for the girls is Monstro the whale. Sometimes they hit him with a stick and I have to say that it is quite weird to see my kids clubbing a baby seal, even if it is all in the name of playing make-believe.
I am usually the villain in the make-believe games (Miss Hannigan, Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother, The Wicked Queen from Snow White, etc. etc.). I like to think it is just because every story needs an antagonist, and not because my kids just think I am mean. It can be tricky playing the antagonist when you are trying to get everyday things done, but sometimes it works out well. Like if I don't want anyone to touch my coffee, I can say "Keep your hands off of my bathtub gin!" in a Miss Hannigan voice, or "Pick up these toys or I'll shut you in the broom closet." However, sometimes I am such a convincing actress that the girls get so into it and they try to stomp on my toes.
Iseul is very much the one who initiates make-believe games. She insists on being called by whoever is the character of the week. It started with Wendy from Peter Pan. In the fall, we were at the playground and another child's grandma was chatting with me about Taeyang and had just asked his name and then she asked me, "Are you Wendy's mother too?" and I said no, that my children all had Korean names. And then I remembered the Peter Pan obsession and had to tell her, "Actually, I am Wendy's mother." So, that would explain the girls' Halloween costumes this year (Blue Wendy and Pink Wendy). My mom made them beautiful nightgowns that they wore on Halloween and have been wearing since.
Haneul is more apt to start games where they take care of baby dolls or build something, but she is just as intense with her activities as Iseul is. She was the first one to decide that the babies should have a nice deep bass voice and that has really stuck. I believe she also was the one who named their dolls "Babyness". She told me the other day, "I'm going to have a baby." so I guess I will be a grandmother pretty soon. No word yet on exactly when she is due. :) She definitely has a sweet tooth and my Mom and Dad have remarked that she eats with her left hand except when it comes to dessert. I told them that it is because she is holding onto the dessert with her strong hand, the left one, so no one can take it away. Haneul continues to amaze me with her drawings. She really has the patience to work on a picture for a long stretch of time, adding more and more details to the people in her pictures, or whatever else she might be drawing. Although Iseul still tends to be the dominant child in our family, Haneul can hold her own. The girls have really been negotiating and compromising well lately. They even agreed with each other to switch beds and Haneul has been letting Iseul wear her pink clothes and Iseul has let Haneul wear her purple clothes.
Taeyang is my little puppy. He is adorable, lovable, and affectionate. He climbs all over and gets into everything. He's a little lunatic sometimes, but such a charmer with those dimples. Ahhh! The way he says "Mommy" and "Appa" in his sweet little voice and his cute little "Uh huh". Seungho and I just agree that he is just too cute for words. He has recently learned to climb out of his crib (and into it too), but I'm not quite ready to turn it into a toddler bed yet. He's still not quite with me on starting to potty train, but I'm ready to start trying any and all ideas because he is definitely physically ready. The hard thing is that he thinks it's pretty funny to get naked and then pee on the floor and run around the house like a little mad man. Or to pee in the clean bathtub water right after I've coaxed him to try and pee on the potty for 5 minutes. Taeyang has a cute little sense of humor and he loved to repeat things that have gotten a big reaction. One day back in December, I had taken Taeyang and the girls to McDonald's on the way home after their dance recital. Taeyang said, unsolicited, "Thank you Mommy, hamburger." It was SO cute. He still says it now, out of context, when he wants to say thank you for something or when he just wants attention. And this past Saturday when I was getting ready to take the girls to Korean school and go and meet up with my Spanish group he said "Don't leave me!" which he definitely got from a night time story I have told him and the girls about me being hospitalized as a baby. One of his newest skills is singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (I'm still trying to catch it on video.) He's definitely paying attention and taking it all in!
Well, I guess that is the update for now. More to follow about Taeyang turning 2 years old. We'll be having the official celebration on Sunday the 20th.
Haneul and Iseul's 3rd birthday and 3 year appointment
We celebrated the girls' birthday on March 20 in Battle Creek and then I took the 3 kids out for dinner to Applebee's on their actual birthday. They had a wonderful birthday party on the 20th. My mom made apple cake and yellow cake with chocolate frosting and of course they received all kinds of presents. Seungho and I bought them little prints of girls in hanbok (traditional Korean clothes) to go above their beds. My mom and dad bought them bikes with training wheels and helmets to go with them and more kitchen supplies, including a cute mixer. Aunt Kelly bought them dance leotards and tops and ballet slippers and Aunt Keri bought them growth charts and lace up cards and flower wall stick-ons. And of course they received beautiful clothes from my parents and grandparents.
The girls have been talking about their birthday for about half a year now. The only thing that stopped the birthday talk was Christmas talk. They often make each other "birthdays" to eat (i.e. birthday cake) and pretend to open presents. Before their birthday, we practiced singing "Happy Birthday" at home and talked about turning 3 while holding up 3 fingers. I told the girls that when they were 3 that I would take them to see a movie in a movie theater and go and play putt putt golf, so we'll have to do that soon. In any case, I think their birthday lived up to their expectations and more. They really made out with the presents and they were basking in the love and attention of their family. Iseul said to me today, "We had 2 birthdays. One with presents at Grandma and Grandpa's house and one at the restaurant with treats and singing." I think she is hoping for the same next year.
Some of Haneul's recent milestones and activities are that she started drawing people with faces and eyes and 2 sticks for legs. She also has a very good eye for color. The girls colored a picture for the local supermarket of the Easter Bunny and an egg. Her picture was just as detailed as kids aged 4 and 5. She is the sticker queen and she can peel a sticker off of anything (even if you don't want the sticker removed). Usually she'll stick it in a new, creative place (she gave one of our books a new 'cover' one day). She also peels grapes and eggs like you wouldn't believe. She has the patience to sit for this sort of activity, and to sit and flip through the pages of several books at a time. Another favorite activity with books is to lay them all out in a row on the floor, call them her 'bed' and lay on top of them. Haneul will also sit with her baby doll and diligently try to put on one of Taeyang's diapers for several minutes. The big diaper on a small baby doll was causing her so much frustration that I decided to buy the girls doll diapers for their babies for Easter. So now she sits with her baby doll and puts on and takes off the new diapers over and over.
In case you can't tell from this and previous descriptions, Haneul can be very intense. She continues to possess the patience and diligence that she demonstrated early on in even her first weeks. She has what I see as an artistic temperment. She will set her mind to do something, and if she is interrupted by Iseul or someone else, she will just flip out and you can't make out a word of what she is saying because she is just all emotion. Interestingly, Haneul is using her left hand more and more these days. Isn't that a sign of a tendency to be artistic? I've also read that it is very common in twins for one to be left handed. My sister, Kelly, says that Haneul has her own little world and when we can't seem to get her attention, we say that she is in "Haneul's world". So it seems that she was appropriately named, because she often has her head in the clouds.
Haneul has also been exerting her independence by choosing her own clothes. She really favors dresses, and for a while, she only wanted to wear a navy dress that had apples on it and she would get really upset if I wouldn't let her wear it to bed. She has been a little less picky lately, but she still tells me almost every morning "I want a dress".
Iseul's recent milestones include using her trainer chopsticks and riding her tricycle without help. Every time we eat lately, Iseul tells me, "Mommy, you forgot my chopsticks" and she often goes and gets them out of the kitchen herself. She is becoming pretty adept at picking up little pieces of kimchi and other vegetables with her chopsticks with all of her recent practice.
Iseul has been exerting her independence more and more lately. She is very choosy about the clothes she wears, down to her socks. She has always been very particular in her choices, and it is becoming more and more difficult to get her to compromise about them. I don't think that matching Haneul/Iseul outfits are in the cards for much longer. Iseul continues to be mommy's girl, but she has started to let go of that a little. Last month when we went to the library, she wanted to ride the elevator to the second floor and I told her that it would have to be with Appa because I was staying in the children's section with Taeyang. Without hesitation, she said "o.k." and off she went. That was a real change in her behavior (and a welcome one!).
And Iseul continues to be her sassy little self. She has a sassy walk and a sassy attitude, and she will let you know if you knudged her too hard or said something in an unacceptable tone of voice. ("Don't say like that Mommy. That's not nice!") Apparently, I've told her she is sassy more than once, because the other day I was playing the wolf to the kids' 3 little pigs and I was huffing and puffing. I told the pigs that I was going to eat them up and Iseul told me "The Easter Bunny is watching you. You'd better be nice." I told her that I might just eat the Easter Bunny and she responded, "You can't eat the Easter Bunny because she is SASSY!".
It has been wonderful being on break and seeing the kids at their liveliest and happiest in the morning. Both Haneul and Iseul are chatterboxes in the morning. They talk my arm off and talk non-stop to each other too. They carry around their baby dolls everywhere they go these days. A while back, Iseul's baby started to "talk". Curiously, the baby had a very deep voice. Then Haneul's baby started "talking" and she also had a deep voice. They also have a deep, throaty cry. Iseul's baby has had several names: Amy, Susie, and Jack Frost. Haneul's baby has also gone through several names: Taeyang, Susie, Mi-young. It will be interesting to see which name they finally settle on.
And now for the news from their doctor's appointment. Haneul and Iseul had their 3rd year physical today. They were tested in all sorts of interesting ways. The nurse practicioner had them draw circles. Haneul even drew her special face with stick legs. Iseul drew a circle and replicated a cross. They both identified their colors correctly. (Interesting since Haneul often says her colors incorrecly to me...I've often suspected that she did this on purpose. Little stinker.) Then they had to identify pictures at close range and look at them from far away to see how good their vision was. Iseul had 6 of the 7 pictures and Haneul 4 of the 7...just because she didn't feel like saying what they were. While the appointment was going on, the nurse said, "They are like night and day, aren't they?" Iseul was being her people-pleasing/attention-seeking self, and did everything she was asked to do without so much as a peep, and Haneul was crying "I don't want a poke!" every time the nurse looked in her direction. She did it for the weigh in on the scale, standing next to the height ruler, and then again with the blood pressure cuff. She finally settled down when the nurse practitioner asked her to draw and when she got to identify colors and pictures.
The girls are still tall for their age. Iseul is 38.8 inches tall (90th percentile) and weighs 34.5 pounds (75th percentile). Haneul is 38.3 inches tall (80th percentile) and 32 pounds (73rd percentile). The most interesting thing about their height is that the difference between the two of them has gotten a lot smaller. I have been noticing this week that the girls' clothes (Iseul, in particular) don't look that big on them, considering that they just turned 3 and all of their clothes are now size 3T. Well, I looked up Carters sizing charts for their clothes, and Iseul is right at the low end of the 4T size. So, if you plan to buy them any clothes in the near future, go with a 4T, or at least check the clothes for height and weight.
And that is the news about our 3 year old girls. They are growing and thriving and are well on their way to having the attitudes that you associate with 3 years olds trying to find their voices and their independence. It should be an interesting year...but along with the challenges, I know we will have lots of laughs too.
Taeyang's 12 month appointment and milestones
Taeyang had his 12 month appointment today. He weighed in at 20 pounds, 12 ounces and measured 30 inches. He is almost the same size as Haneul at his age, but smaller than Iseul.
Taeyang has been walking since he was 11 months old, but has really taken off lately. He can even walk in his snow boots and snow suit now--nothing slows him down! He has several words: mama (also omma) and appa, 'no' (while shaking his head) and 'bye bye'. He also says 'nigh nigh' when he wants to sleep and 'nyum nyum' when he wants to eat. And he must like bananas quite a bit, because he says something very like the word banana whenever he is offered one. He also says 'ah done' for all done and 'voom voom' for vroom vroom when he sees the vacuum. Seungho always thinks I am overestimating what the kids say, but I swear he also says "What's this" or " da dis?" when he points at things. And he waves goodbye, points at everything, turns light switches on and off, and just generally gets into everything. We have had to put latches on the cabinets, and we never had to do that with Haneul and Iseul. Taeyang has also mastered the 3 skills in a Korean motor skills game, jem jem, gonji gonji, dori dori. Jem jem is opening and closing the fist, gonji gonji is placing the index finger on the opposite hand's palm, dori dori is rotating the head from side to side.
Taeyang is eating table food very well. He loves kimchi and rice and is not interested in being spoon fed from a bowl anymore. He is happiest eating whatever the rest of us are eating, and very adept at picking things up with his fingers. He has started using a fork in the last week too, but is in the very beginning stages of mastering it.
He is quick to smile (and what a beautiful smile--it lights up his whole face and shows his adorable dimples--you can really see his dad in him). Taeyang is a joy to be around and he makes all of us smile everyday.
Highlights of Christmas and the New Year
We had a wonderful Christmas with friends and family, and it was very relaxing this year. We had no fires at the condominium complex and all of my food and projects turned out well. I made vanilla extract, kahlua, amaretto and limoncello for friends and family along with our family recipe summer sausage and sugar cookies to give as gifts.
We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Battle Creek with my family. Haneul, Iseul & Taeyang had a lot of fun playing with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Keri, Uncle Don, and cousins Kaitlyn and Hunter. We spent Christmas Eve with my Dad's side of the family and had dessert together. I think there were 8 different types of pie there thanks to my Mom and Aunt Susie! That evening we went to the Christmas Eve service at my parents' church and the kids were pretty quiet and well behaved for the duration. Haneul and Iseul really thought that the candles during "Silent Night" were neat. When we got home from church, the kids went to bed almost immediately. They had already had a busy day and it was a stretch to keep them out for the 7:00 p.m. service. So no early Christmas morning for us. I think we all got downstairs and ready to open gifts at 8:00 a.m. and no earlier. Lucky for us, my niece and nephew aren't the types to wake up at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning.
Of course Santa was extremely generous to the kids this year, but they all received wonderful gifts from family too. Aunt Kelly made Haneul and Iseul ballerina tutus with Aunt Keri's help and Aunt Keri made the girls aprons out of the cutest fabric. They just love them and have really enjoyed playing kitchen with their new pots and pans from Santa. The girls received lots of great clothes and toys, but besides the handmade gifts, my favorite items that they got were 3 books in English about Korean culture. One is "Bee Bim Bap" by Linda Sue Park, another is "New Clothes for New Year's Day" and the last is "Babies Can't Eat Kimchi". The Bibimbap book has an amazing rhyme scheme and even Taeyang loves it, and it would be good for any kid, not just Korean-American kids. Taeyang, of course, is not as aware of Christmas and receiving gifts, but he also received a lot of great presents. He got the cutest little Radio Flyer rocket ride-along and these days you can see him scooting around the house on it.
We just got the kids a new toy organizer for their room and stocking stuffers for all 3 of them. Their room has had a lot of changes in the past month because we moved our coffee table into it and my Mom made a gorgeous tablecloth in a pink butterfly print for it so it coordinates with the room (the girls and I even went to the fabric shop with Mom and helped pick it out). It's great for playing kitchen and Taeyang loves to walk around holding onto it again and again. (I think he takes after his grandparents, liking to go around in circles for short distances, wink wink!) Honestly though, I think that it has been a factor in him improving his walking skills so quickly. We also moved Taeyang into the room with the girls, and out of ours, so the crib wasn't sitting there idly anymore. And then Aunt Kelly and Grandma and Grandpa very generously bought him a new crib that sits lower to the ground and will convert into a toddler bed, which he received as an early birthday present. We are all happy with the new crib and move, although it took a little adjusting for Taeyang and myself. Some tears were shed, and I can't say that they were 100% Taeyang's tears. Seungho and I are very much enjoying having our room back so that we don't have to tiptoe around every time we need to use the bathroom or pay a bill. And of course it's just nice to have real alone time as a couple, since that time is so short anyway given our opposite schedules.
Some other highlights of Christmas were seeing my Grandma and Grandpa Belson, and my Aunt Merry and her family. We don't have the chance to see my cousins every year and last year was one of those years, so it was especially nice to see my cousins Christin and Lee and their families.
Haneul is really into dogs, and just loves Keri and Don's dog, Hammy. She freaked out a little at our family brunch at my Aunt's house because a new puppy nipped her finger, but she quickly got over it when she understood that the puppy was a baby like Taeyang (since Taeyang bites her too) and spent the rest of the time chasing after the dogs in the house, giggling the whole time. So it was fun to see that side of her, which was really unexpected given that we aren't around people and their pets all that often. Another unexpected side to Haneul is that she just takes to men quickly and loves to be teased by her grandpa, Uncle Don, and Seungho's law school friends. Her Uncle Don had her in stitches several times this Christmas. Iseul also had tons of fun with Uncle Don, but it was Haneul's shrieks of laughter that really reverberated through the house.
Iseul had a thoroughly wonderful time at Grandma and Grandpa's house and loves to remind me that she is "Grandma and Grandpa's girl" and not just Mommy's girl. I have to share. She really would have preferred that we stay at my Mom and Dad's house for the entirety of our vacation, and we heard that she wanted to go back to Battle Creek quite a few times. Whereas Haneul takes more to men, Iseul is more a Mommy and Grandma's girl. After Christmas she has been frequently asking about when we will see Aunt Keri, Aunt Kelly and Grandma next and she really pays attention to my responses, and will out of the blue say things like, "Aunt Kelly lives in Cincinatti and that is far away" in a forlorn voice.
Taeyang spent his Christmas charming the socks off of everyone. He takes after his cousin Hunter in that everything he does is so cute, even when he is climbing all over and getting in to everything, and generally giving you a heart attack. He developed the most dramatic cry over the last few months and it sounds like he is in severe pain or his heart is breaking (or both). That was part of what made moving him to his crib in the room with the girls so difficult. But his voice also developed in other ways, as he discovered singing. He was singing in the microphone of the karaoke machine at my parents' house and he also sang while my mom was holding him and singing hymns at church. He started refusing to sit down in his baby bath tub, so I decided to move him to the regular bath in the hope that he would be more into that and also so I could bathe all 3 kids at once. Well, he loves being in the bath with his sisters, but it is just another heart attack inducing experience for me as he stands up and tries to go to the front of the bath, then the back, and then the front again, in search of different toys and different things to bump his head on. Seungho calls him "changnam kerugi" which basically means playful one, or one constantly in search of play, and that describes him well. He definitely takes after his Dad in that area.
So that, in a nutshell was our Christmas. We didn't really ring in the New Year in any big way, but Seungho and I did get out for a date and had Japanese food and a trip to Target and Meijer without the kids. It was wonderful and we both got a pair of much needed new shoes. Mine, for example, were leaky and had been peed on.
Other highlights of our December and January were getting together with friends. My friend from college, Janet, came around with her family and we had a great evening hanging out with her and Brent and their kids Will and Sofia. Haneul and Iseul are still talking about that visit. We also had some of Seungho's law school friends over for an evening and Seungho made a bunch of delicious Korean dishes that we all enjoyed, in particular my favorite dish, kamja tang (spicy potato and pork stew). And finally, I was able to get together with friends from high school in Battle Creek over the MLK weekend and had a wonderful lunch catching up with them, feeling like it is impossible that 16 years have passed since we graduated from high school.
So, it was a wonderful holiday of reconnecting with friends and family, eating good food, and enjoying a slower paced lifestyle. Just what we all needed after a busy semester of work and school.
Wow, life is flying by these days! I can't believe it has almost been a month since Thanksgiving and it is almost Christmas. We've been very busy here since it was exam time for me around Thanksgiving and now it is exam time for Seungho. We are both really looking forward to the 2 week break so we can spend more time together since we've seen very little of each other over the last several weeks. I was really sick on Saturday and he had to come home early and it was a blessing and a curse because it was the most I have seen of Seungho in a long time!
The kids are keeping us on our toes as usual (of course!) Taeyang just turned 10 months old on the 11th and marked it by starting to stand on his own. Last Thursday he stood up for 30 seconds on his own unsupported and he's been doing it every day since. He is also babbling up a storm, the kind of babbling that really sounds like talking. And he has really gotten down both the 'omma' and 'mama' cry when he wants to make me feel guilty alternatively in Korean and English. Little stinker. He hasn't been sleeping well, probably because there is so much going on developmentally in his little life. He has also gotten his 7th tooth and may be getting more. I can't even believe how fast he is crawling now. It's like a run-crawl. It will be interesting to see when he starts to walk. Iseul walked at 11 months and Haneul at 12. I'm guessing that he will be somewhere in between. He thinks it is great fun to bite our shirts on the shoulder and gives us a wide grin every time we say 'No' in a stern voice. Uh-oh! But he also loves to be 'beeped' on the nose and to touch my nose with his finger and 'beep' me back. That can get him rolling on the floor laughing. And he also gets going laughing when I try to mimic the sounds of drums and other instruments. It's great to be so entertaining to someone. Taeyang also finds Haneul and Iseul to be hilarious, so they must have inherited my very funny personality.
Iseul has been her usual sassy self. She loves to be the boss and she will let me know when I
need to be in trouble for something I should not have done. I've heard "Mommy, that's not nice. Go to time out!" several times. I also hear Haneul and Iseul parrot things like, "I've told you MANY times not to do that." Well, I guess they are paying attention to me. And maybe Iseul is right...I'm sure I do need a time out sometimes. I should put a little mini fridge in my time-out spot and keep a nice bottle of wine chilled there.
Haneul has found her voice...to a degree. I've told her that she can tell Iseul "NO!" when Iseul takes something from her. I think I might regret that choice already. She does know how to use "NO!" in many different situations now. At least she is standing up for herself some more. She also cries when she is frustrated and can't get what she wants or express what she wants. Haneul's emotional nature just takes over sometimes, and although she has the words to express a lot of what she needs to say, she just isn't in the frame of mind to do it and needs a little coaching to get through those situations.
Iseul and Haneul have been interacting just beautifully with Taeyang these days. They are kind, compassionate sisters to him. When they hear him crying, they go over and say, "It's o.k. baby" and try to make him laugh. It just warms your heart to see it. And then in the next moment, they will turn around and push each other or shout at each other. Their days (and hours and minutes) go in cycles where they play together very nicely, giggle together, and then suddenly something goes wrong and one or the other gets pushed or shouted at and they both start crying. Of course, this sort of thing happens most when they are tired at the end of the day (which is when I see them the most) so it can seem to me like they are just constantly fighting, but then I hear good reports of how they played together nicely from Seungho and our babysitter. It is frustrating, but at the same time I try to remind myself that it is part of being in a family and learning how to work things out.
So I now completely understand why Santa Claus exists. He acts as the parents' tool to scare little children into behaving themselves.
It is no coincidence that Haneul and Iseul have learned all of the words to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" before they have learned simpler songs like Jingle Bells. I've found myself saying, "What do you think Santa Claus will think about you ripping that book up?" and "I think Santa just wrote down a naughty check. Do you think he might erase it if you clean this up?" and when I'm just exasperated, "Santa thinks you are being naughty." It will probably be a good thing when Christmas is over and I can't invoke Santa anymore...
Since Haneul and Iseul know all about Santa this year, Mom and I took them to the Mall so they could meet him and have their picture taken. I decided against taking Taeyang because I am not a fan of pictures of crying babies on Santa's lap and I remembered having an experience where Haneul completely lost it when a man with a white beard was just in the same room and looked at her.
Iseul had decided that she wanted to ask Santa for a Santa hat and Haneul wanted to ask him for a purse. And then Iseul wanted to ask him for a purse too and Haneul also changed her mind to something else. In the end, they didn't actually ask Santa for anything, but they did sit down for a picture with him although they wouldn't sit on his lap. I think it helped that they saw a little girl right before them talking to him and hugging him. At first Haneul was so enthusiastic that she jumped the gun and ran right up to Santa when it was another child's turn and we had to get her to come back and wait. When it was our turn, Iseul talked to Santa (i.e. repeated things I reminded her to say to him) and Haneul didn't say much. Both of them preferred to sit on the chair next to Santa rather than sit on his knees. I think they were a little bit in awe of him (after all, he is the guy who can see them when they're sleeping and knows when they're awake). And the candy and rubber duckie they took home after seeing Santa was definitely a highlight of the trip. When asked about Santa afterward Haneul said, "Santa gave me candy" and Iseul said "Santa gave me a rubbie duckie" and I think they would be satisfied with that and nothing else. In their little minds they probably already think that they are safe from being on the naughty list and getting "a dirty black rock" or a dirty diaper (I think I mentioned that one just once, but it keeps coming up).
Ah...maybe this should have been titled "The things you should NOT tell your kids about Santa". I will definitely have to re-work my Santa stories and strategy for next year.
Mommy, we need PRIVATE-SEE!
Tonight after their bath, I asked the girls to use the bathroom while I fed Taeyang. Iseul went in the bathroom and closed the door, and I asked her, "Do you need some privacy?". Iseul replied, 'I DO need privacy." and Haneul thought it was just hilarious. She started looking under the bathroom door and asking, "Iseul, you need PRIVATE-SEE? Iseul, Iseul, Iseul, do you want PRIVATE-SEE?" Iseul told her, "Yes I do need privacy."
This conversation went on through the closed bathroom door for a while, and both girls got giddier and goofier as it went on. I sat there with Taeyang and wondered about why they think the concept of privacy is so funny. Because they rarely have any privacy in general in our small house? Because even though they drive each other nuts sometimes, they rarely seek out private time from each other?
After a bit, Haneul decided that she needed to join Iseul to have some privacy too. So, she popped in the bathroom and yelled, "Mommy, we need PRIVATE-SEE. O.K.?" I told her it was o.k. and heard the girls jabbering away through the closed door, "Mommy says it's O.K. privacy." Then they emerged shuffling from the bathroom, pants down with their naked little behinds and said, "Mommy, we need privacy, O.K.?" and shuffled back into the bathroom.
So, it appear that for now we are to expect that privacy will be just a game in our house and requests for privacy will be met with giggles. They are probably thinking, "You really think you're going to get any privacy with 3 little kids?! Good luck!"
Taeyang's 9 month stats
Taeyang had his 9 month appointment on Wednesday. He is now 29 inches long (90th percentile) and 19 pounds and 4 ounces (30th percentile). His head circumference is 17.5 inches (25th percentile).
He is crawling so quickly that we can hardly keep up with him and is pulling up to a standing position, and moving from one place to another while holding on to furniture. He has great fine motor skills and feeds himself green peas, tubu (tofu), banana, cheerios, clumps of sticky rice, pieces of toast, and lots of other finger foods. He also feeds himself pieces of paper he finds on the floor and other random things that his sisters leave lying around.
Taeyang is very quick to smile and laugh and loves to be kissed on the cheeks and to get 'zerberts' on his belly. He and his sisters really get each other laughing big belly laughs these days. Iseul loves to cuddle Taeyang and Haneul loves to feed him. Both of the girls have to have their kisses from brother when they are tucked in a ready to go to sleep. They might not have been so eager to get his kisses on Tuesday night if they had seen him splashing around in one of their potties like I had just minutes earlier. Like I said, he's a fast crawler and into everything right now (and in my defense, I was really sick).
He is really babbling these days. We hear Appababa and Ommamama and about some guy named Bob. In the last few days he's started speaking gibberish that really cannot be written out on a computer keyboard. He's really trying to tell me something though, because he's even talked in his sleep a few times.
Taeyang's babysitter said that he has charisma, and that really sums it up. You just can't help but be drawn to him when you are in the room with him. He has a delightfully easygoing personality, the cutest little dimpled face and of course we all think he is the perfect little baby brother to complete our family of five.
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade...
This week has just been one of those rough weeks where it has been sometimes difficult to see the positive. It's lucky that Haneul and Iseul insist on listening to the Annie soundtrack so much, because I am constantly reminded that the sun will come out tomorrow. But Annie did have it right, the sun always does come out and tomorrow is always a new day, and life is much better if you look for the positive in everything that life throws at you. It's an important lesson for me to remember and for me to teach my children because I really believe that an optimistic outlook on life is the greatest gift I can give them.
The most difficult part of the week was the confirmation by an allergy test that Iseul has a peanut allergy. About 2 weeks ago, I gave Haneul and Iseul a butterfinger candy bar from a little treat cup they received at our local grocery store. Iseul had a scary reaction where she developed hives all over her face and started rubbing her eyes and saying that they itched. I called our pediatrician's office and was about to pack up all 3 kids to take her to the emergency room when the nurse told me to try some Benadryl. Luckily, that seemed to do the trick for that particular occasion. Unfortunately, peanut reactions can become more severe after each exposure, so it was recommended that we get her tested by an allergist and get some EpiPens in case she had an anaphylactic reaction. So I took all 3 kids to the allergist on Monday for the test. We arrived 40 minutes late to the appointment (I got lost and had left my cell phone at home), but everyone was in a great mood except for me. At the allergy clinic about 4 nurses came out, one at a time, to admire Taeyang and the girls, and they charmed with their exceedingly good behavior and bright smiles that they like to bring out on such occassions. We were able to see the doctor, despite our lateness, because another patient had arrived about 40 minutes early. I really liked the doctor and he was great with all of the kids and very impressed with Iseul as a patient. And Iseul was ecstatic to be the patient and the center of attention. She was happy as a lark to throw off her shirt and lay down on her tummy and have her scratch tests done and just ate up all the little remarks about what a good patient and what a big girl she was. (Haneul was very happy to NOT be the patient because she equates all doctor visits with getting shots. Maybe she has memories of starting off her life in the NICU.) So, although it was confirmed that Iseul has a peanut allergy as I was expecting, we also found out that she has no issues with any other nuts. Because I am dairy-free right now, we have already been eating at home a lot more and I have been cooking and baking a lot of things from scratch. So, I think the silver lining in all of this is that we will continue to eat less processed food, and really all be the better for it. And Seungho is always happy for me to have opportunities to improve my cooking skills (which he would tell you were severely lacking when we were first married).
I think that the stress of Monday, sleep deprivation, and being exposed to sick kids at school made for the perfect storm, and I woke up in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday with a horrible stomach virus. I can't even remember the last time I was so sick. It made me so delusional, that as I was quietly cleaning up after myself in the bathroom at 4:30 a.m., I was hoping to get an hour or so more of sleep before I headed into work. Those were the types of crazy thoughts reminiscent of my thoughts of heading into work just to wrap a few things up when I was in labor with Taeyang in the wee hours of the morning. I obviously do not operate at full mental capacity at 4 in the morning. After about 30 minutes, it was clear that there was no way I was going into work and I put in a request for a substitute teacher. And that was pretty much the end of me being in a vertical position for the rest of the day. Seungho had classes, so I called our babysitter and asked her to pick me up some Vernor's ginger ale on her way to the house and to come over and watch the kids even though I was going to be at home. She walked in the door armed with Vernor's, chamomile tea and mandarin oranges. I had 4 hours of rest (and one bottle of Vernor's) while she was here, and I could at least stand up when she left in the afternoon. Somehow I made it through the rest of the afternoon (time to pop a DVD into the player!) and dinner with the kids (cheerios for everyone!) and our bedtime routine (all 3 kids even had a bath) all on my own. I put myself to bed at 8:30 and made it to work on Wednesday. That is the most sleep I've had for at least 3 years and did I ever need it!
After a long day of work on Wednesday, I packed up all 3 kids and we headed to Taeyang's 9 month appointment. Taeyang is meeting his milestones and everything seems good, except he may be a bit thin according to the weight charts and his previous weights. Hearing that did worry me a little, but when I look at him, he is just the picture of health and happiness, so my gut feeling is that he is just fine. Still, I won't be trying to have him cry it out when he wakes up in the middle of the night, so I guess I'm destined to be sleep deprived for a while longer.
At the appointment, we found out that all 3 kids could get the seasonal flu vaccine and Taeyang could get the H1N1 vaccine as well (they were only giving it to kids under 2 at our pediatrician's office). I was relieved that we could finally get the vaccines. About 2 weeks ago, I packed all 3 kids up for a 7 p.m. appointment to get the seasonal flu shot, only to find that there was an hour wait. We went straight back home and I was pretty annoyed to have gone to all that trouble just to find out that making an appointment didn't seem to mean anything.
The kids' reactions to getting the shot are very different from each other. Iseul was fine because she focuses on the end reward of a sticker and a lollipop and hardly even flinches and doesn't make a peep. Taeyang gets really mad and screams like a wild man while getting the shots, but as soon as he is drinking his milk, he stops crying. Haneul, however, freaks out at the mere mention of a shot. It was so funny this time that I can't help but giggle as I write this down. Haneul saw Taeyang get his shot, and when the nurse's aide came to help me and hold Taeyang, Haneul thought that it was her turn to get the shot and she started screaming at her. She screamed a short warning scream again and again, with about a 5-second break between each scream. I was a little embarassed by her behavior for a second, but it was just too funny to find it rude. It really made me wonder where she picked it up...or it it is just an instinctive behavior. We did eventually get her to sit on my lap and stop screaming her 'I'm warning you to stay away from me scream!'. She did cry during the shot, but some hugs and her lollipop settled her down in no time. In the meantime, Iseul sat on the examination table by herself and let the nurse give her a shot like it was no big deal. Iseul is very rational and will repeat things I've said like, "It's just a little poke so we don't get sick." Haneul is much more emotional and when she is in fight or flight mode she cannot hear reason or say anything rational herself. She just screams.
There were times that I felt like screaming in the past week too, but you can't really get away with that as an adult, so I had to tap into my rational side and remind myself that everything will work out in the end and that working through difficulties makes us appreciate what we have and makes us stronger.
This month has been flying by. It seems hard to believe that Halloween is already here this weekend. This year the girls are going to be candy corn and Taeyang will be a little pumpkin.
We've been staying busy on the weekends (and of course during the week too). Haneul, Iseul and I have had our 'Mommy and me' dance class, we've been to the apple orchard a second time, Taeyang was baptised on the 16th and we spent that weekend with family in Battle Creek. This past weekend we carved our first pumpkin together.
The girls are very excited about Halloween and all things pumpkin (and all things candy) right now. Haneul, Iseul, Taeyang and I went for a drive through some of the neighborhoods near downtown Ann Arbor yesterday to look at the fall colors and Halloween decorations and the girls were spotting the jack o' lanterns on all of the doorsteps. They each colored a pumpkin picture from our local grocery store, Busch's, and when they turned it in yesterday they each got a little pumpkin cup filled with candy, so that has been the highlight of their week so far. They very happily ate just one piece of candy each yesterday, but insisted on holding the cup filled with treats. Prying it out of their little hands to put it up in a cupboard was no small task.
Taeyang has been busy crawling and standing. He is a little speed crawler now. You can turn your head for 5 seconds and he is already in a different room and he takes every opportunity he can get to stand up. He thinks everything and everyone is a good support to pull himself into a standing position. He has taken off eating solids too. He loves clumps of sticky rice, green peas, tofu, egg (yolk), pieces of banana, and basically anything that he can pick up and feed himself. He will still eat all of the pureed foods that he loves, but he loves to be an independent, messy eater. And he has added 'Mama mamamama' to his vocabulary. His other words are 'Baba bababa' and a guttural 'goong' (which is funny because that is how Iseul used to say spoon. It was like deja vu yesterday when he kept making that sound while holding his spoon). This past Sunday was the first day I heard 'Mamamama' over and over again and on Monday morning he decided to practice it again at 6:30 as I had to leave for work. At first he said it playfully, but it soon became a lament as he saw I was headed out the door. How can you not feel guilty for leaving a little 8 month old baby as he cries for you by name?
On Friday the 15th Kelly came to visit before we all headed to Battle Creek for Taeyang's baptism weekend. We had a nice time with her and I really appreciated the extra set of hands on Friday night because Haneul and Iseul were completing 5 days of no naps and were they ever crabby! Aunt Kelly to the rescue! Taeyang and the girls enjoyed their visit with Aunt Kelly so much that they talked about her all last week. On Thursday, when my parents came, Iseul said at the dinner table, "Aunt Kelly will be here at this time tomorrow." I was shocked to hear her say this. And she was right, Kelly came right around that time the previous week. Maybe I just underestimated a 2 and a half year-olds perception of time and verbal ability, or maybe I am right and she is a little genius.
Haneul has really taken off verbally lately as well and has been communicating a lot more. Her speech has always been a bit more difficult to understand, but lately it has become clearer and it has opened a whole new window into her little world. Haneul loves books and will sit with a book and 'read' it by herself and then move on to another, and another. The other day I was telling the girls, "Let's go brush our teeth with Thomas toothpaste" because their toothpaste has Thomas the train on it. Haneul immediately replied, "Thomas and the Jet Engine" which is a title to one of the books they have. And on another occasion when I handed her a purple crayon, she said "Harold and the Purple Crayon" which is the title to another book we have. She also loves to talk about the characters in our books, like Ferdinand the bull. I can see her becoming the serious, bookish type, but she loves to giggle too much to ever take herself too seriously.
And the girls still love all things Annie. The other day, Iseul said to me, "I'm Annie." and she wanted me to be Grace Farrell and was very upset at any suggestion that I might try to pretend to be Miss Hannigan. I asked Haneul who she wanted to be. Annie? No. Molly? No. Pepper? No. Tessie? No. Mr Warbucks? Sandy? Grace Farrell? Miss Hannigan? No, no, no and no. Punjab? YES! And I was awarded with a grin. Who would have thought?
(This is my disappearing post. I wrote a long post yesterday and all but the title disappeared. So here is my 2nd attempt. :)
On Saturday Haneul, Iseul and I attended the second session of our 'Mommy and me' dance class. We even got there right on time at 9:15. This was a vast improvement over the previous weekend when I totally forgot that we were supposed to go to the dance class until the day after. (Since having kids I have become much more forgetful and scatterbrained. Once I even showed up 2 weeks late for an appointment at the pediatrician's office. Luckily they had some kind of unwritten policy to go easy on tired, pregnant moms of twins, so I wasn't charged a penalty fee.) So anyway, I was really anticipating the class by the time Saturday rolled around and I had talked it up a lot with Haneul and Iseul and we had even had some practice classes at home.
The class was great. I had a good feeling right from the beginning when Kelly, the instructor, pronounced Haneul and Iseul's names correctly after just hearing them once. Haneul and Iseul were a little hesitant to join in at first, but that is to be expected since this was the first time they had ever participated in any sort of structured activity. There were all kinds of neat toys to play and dance with. We danced around with bubbles, scarves, feather boas, and played with rhythm sticks and a parachute. By the end of class Haneul and Iseul were hopping and twirling around with glee. They really enjoy dancing at home, so I think this will be a great place for them to interact with other kids and learn new things. I'm already looking forward to the next session...that parachute is really neat!
Last Sunday Iseul said to me, "I want to travel. I want to go to Grandma and Grandpa's house." so I decided that after dance class all 5 of us would head to Battle Creek to visit family. We went to my parents' house and spent the day with them. My Grandma and Grandpa Belson came over to see us. Taeyang really took to his 'Grandma Mary' and even slept in her arms for quite a while. Haneul and Iseul were napping when my grandparents arrived, but when they woke up groggy from their nap, they perked right up as soon as I said, "Grandma Mary and Grandpa Carl are here" and rushed downstairs to see them. The girls put on a show for their great-grandparents and sang 'Annie' songs and did their versions of a tap dance from the movie. (Note: You can see some videos of the girls singing Annie songs at the bottom of the site now. The video of Haneul really shows how intensely she gets into her performance.)
We also visited my Grandma Shaffer later on in the afternoon. Taeyang was his usual charming self with his 'Grandma Bea' and decided that this was his time to hone his jumping skills. I guess he figured that he had worn the rest of us out and Grandma Bea was a fresh person to jump up and down on. That little guy has so much energy! It is a huge challenge to change his diapers these days because he is constantly squirming and twisting his little body. And he has learned to sit up and is in the process of giving up on the army crawl in favor of a regular crawl--and he made all of these leaps and bounds in the course of a few days!
Haneul and Iseul found the old treehouse toy that my sisters and I used to play with at my Grandma's house and were happily entertained with that. They gave another 'Annie' performance for Grandma Bea and played a few notes for her on the piano too. They had such a good time that when it was time to go, Iseul wasn't ready and wanted to stay and talk with her Great-Grandma some more.
On Sunday, we were back in Ann Arbor and went to the service at our Korean church here. This weekend was a big Korean holiday, Chuseok.
We went to church thinking that they would be celebrating and even had the girls dress up in their hanbok.
Seungho and I were both surprised to see that no one else was wearing hanbok and no mention was made of the holiday in the sermon. I'm guessing that they will celebrate during our American Thanksgiving, but I can't help but feel a little disappointed and that it waters down the holiday a bit. I was looking forward to a real Korean cultural experience for the girls, but as Seungho says, we really have no right to judge how they do things because we don't contribute much in terms of time or money to the church. In any case, we had a nice time at church. Haneul, Iseul and Taeyang and I have moved up from the nursery and we go to Sunday school with the older kids now. The girls enjoy it if I am there, but aren't quite ready for me to leave them on their own downstairs. Apparently a lof of the other kids/parents are in the same boat, because there were so many adults in Sunday school this week that one of the kids asked, "Why are there so many moms here today?"
So it was a great weekend packed with lots of activities. The only thing that could have made it better would have been another trip to an apple orchard. I'm hoping that the weather will cooperate and we will be able to do that this upcoming weekend.
The things we made this weekend...teeth, food and art.
I uploaded some videos yesterday and today. In one video I tried to get a shot of Taeyang's new 2 top teeth. Then we looked at Taeyang's teeth again today and noticed that he has 3 new teeth instead of 2! That is a grand total of 5 teeth at 7 months. No wonder he was so fussy and wakeful last night---I'm sure that tooth popped through overnight.
In a video from today you can see Seungho making kimbap (California rolls) for us. Seungho is a great cook and his kimbap is delicious. The girls were really eating it today, although you can't necessarily tell that from the video (Iseul actually spits out a piece). I always love it when he is in the mood to make kimbap because it is so delicious. It was actually the present I requested for this last Mother's Day.
I also caught some 'Haneul' moments today. I spotted her playing with puzzle pieces. Instead of putting the puzzle pieces in the board, she turned the board over and started making a circle and other designs with the pieces. She has always loved making circles. I remember watching her at 18 months sit with her paper and crayon and seeing her draw circle after circle. Her fine motor skills were amazing then and still are.
You can see her fine motor skills in action in another video. Haneul took some of the leftover imitation crabmeat and pulled it into fine shreds and started lining it up in rows. This is pretty typical of her. She likes to draw lines and circles and arrange shapes in very neat patterns. When she draws with crayons she likes to stick with one color (it used to be green and lately it has been yellow). Iseul came over and joined in the arranging of the crabmeat and I found it really interesting to see the contrast in what they were making. Iseul couldn't pull the crabmeat apart so easily, which made me realize the difference in their fine motor skills. Iseul ended up with much smaller pieces and she arranged them in a much more haphazard, modern art fashion. When she colors, she usually uses a lot of colors and a very varied design scheme, so things look less orderly. Because the girls have these differences, I can look through our notepads and coloring books and guess with decent accuracy who colored which picture. I wouldn't say that one of them is more artistic than the other...they both seem to love to create things to the same extent, but they express themselves differently.
I'm sure someday I'll reflect on the items they created in the past and realize that there were clues as to what they would become and what they would excel in.
My days have been so busy after going back to work that, inevitably, there are times when I get stressed out and lose my patience. Luckily, the kids are quick to put a smile back on my face with the funny things they say.
The other night I was tucking Iseul in again
. As I was tucking her in, she looked up at me and said, "Mommy, there was a fly in my room making his honey on my floor. Get him out please." I told her that I would shoo him out, answering her with a straight face, but I couldn't stop smiling as I waved my arms around shooing away the imaginary bee-fly and walked out of the room.
Last night I looked out at the sunset and said to the girls, "The sun is going down. It's almost night night time." Iseul looked at me, and then at Taeyang and said, "Poor Taeyang-ee is going down."
I love how she takes their names literally. When someone asks her what her name is, she'll often answer, "I'm dew, pretty drops of water." and she often refers to Taeyang as "sun boy".
Haneul, on the other hand, has gone through a bit of an identity crisis. About a month ago, whenever she would hear Iseul proclaim, "I'm dew!", Haneul would say, "No, I'm
dew!" and cry if you corrected her. When we were outside I would point at the beautiful blue sky and tell her that I loved her name and that she was my beautiful little sky, but day after day, she would still reply, "No, I'm
dew!". Then, realizing that no one was giving in on dew, she started saying, "I'm sun.", of course to no avail. Well, finally on a beautiful blue sky day, she decided to embrace her name and pointing upward, loudly proclaimed, "Mommy, I'm sky!"
When the girls are eating their food with gusto, I tease them and say, "You're really going to town! Look at you eat!". The other day, Haneul looked at me with a twinkle in her eye, and deliberately started eating more quickly and said, "Mommy, I go to town!", which of course made me laugh out loud. Iseul noted my reaction and said the same words when Mom remarked that she was really eating well.
As for Taeyang, he will "Bababa" with you in the most expressive and enthusiastic voice. Who knew that "Bababa" could mean so many things?
And that little guy is really getting around with his army crawl. I think that it's working so well for him that he isn't in any hurry to get his tummy off of the floor. He does like to be on his hands and knees and do a little rock though, so maybe he'll decide to try the more conventional crawl soon. You can't keep him still for a second though. If he's not doing his army crawl, he wants you to hold him and help him jump. Or he wants to bounce on your knee. Good luck trying to get a diaper on him as he twists and contorts his body in every direction, trying to take in everything around him. And he just lights up when you smile at him and flashes you a dimply smile. He eats up attention from his sisters and they get him to giggle uncontrollably, sometimes just by looking in his direction.
And in other Taeyang news, he cut 2 more front teeth (on the top). That would help to explain the fussiness. I found out that I had better be careful when I feel his teeth. Can he ever bite hard! And he leaves scratches and bruises on me from time to time too. He is one strong little kid.
Sure, sometimes our kids cry in turn...or all at once, but they are quick to find humor in everything and share their joy with you. Of course, that is the way that young children live their lives, enthusiastically and with purpose. The busyness of life can sometimes be so tiring that I forget to have that same enthusiasm and purpose in my daily activities. Seeing life through the eyes of a child can be so refreshing and rejuvenating. Even as they give us gray hairs, they are helping us to return to the simple pleasures of our own childhood.
Weekend fun at the apple orchard
This past Saturday we went to a nearby apple orchard and picked apples with the kids. The girls mostly ate apples and Taeyang mostly slept in the carrier while Seungho picked apples and I rounded up the kids from place to place. To be fair, I did contribute some and picked a few apples, and so did the girls, but a fair number of them were thrown in the reject pile for being too small, not ripe enough, or otherwise just not up to Seungho's standards. (He has a complex set of criteria that we have to meet and I'm not always sure what it is.) In the end we had a huge bag of gala and macintosh apples.
We used the same strategy as last year and brought the double stroller with us. You might think it was to push around the girls, but that was not the case. It was to push around the apples. Before heading out to pick apples, I noticed that they had a new sign for the customers that asked us not to fill the bag to overflowing and stated that we should be able to carry the bag's handles with one hand, rather than sharing the weight with 2 people and scooping up the apples that fall out. I pointed it out to Seungho and watched as it went in one ear and out the other. And later we marched up to the check-out with our bag of donuts, a bag of pears and the stroller with the apples was off to the side. I claimed all 3 and got out my money to pay for them and watched as the cashier sized up our huge bag of apples and debated whether to say something about how over-stuffed it was. Ultimately he decided not to say anything and we walked away with our huge bag of apples and our 3 eager little apple eaters. (Yes, three! Taeyang has been whining when he sees his sisters eat their apples and I have been giving him big pieces to gnaw on. Don't worry--he's supervised at all times.)
So a good time was had by all at the apple orchard. So good that I'm pretty sure we'll be heading out there at least one more time this year after we eat up this bunch of apples.
Back to school!
It's that time of year and I went back to work this past Wednesday and Thursday. I never look forward to the end of summer vacation, but getting back to work does allow me to have a little bit more time for myself. Of course I also get less sleep!
We decided on a new child care provider for the kids and she came over to learn the ropes this past Tuesday. We are sad that our previous caregiver, Tabitha, can't be the one to care for our little ones this year. However, we are really happy for her because she has just started cosmetology school. Our new child care provider is Korean, so I hope that the girls will continue to be inspired to speak and learn Korean. I can only do so much in that area and I think it won't be too long before they won't want to listen to my imperfect reading of some of their books.
On Monday and Tuesday I told the girls that I would be going back to work and it brought out a few anxious comments from Iseul. She said, "Mommy, you go to work and you'll come back?" They were clingy at bedtime, but slept well until at about 6:50 a.m. on Wednesday they woke up earlier than usual. I was doing a few last minute things and had to quickly sneak out because I knew it would be harder on all of us if I saw them in the morning. I was already concerned about Taeyang taking his bottle and naps because he had been having problems with both. Rushing out the door, I wasn't feeling very confident that things would go well for Seungho and the kids. Luckily, I was wrong. Haneul and Iseul did cry for a while when they found out I wasn't at home, but they perked up when they got to watch a video. Taeyang took his bottle well and was happy. And he cried for a few minutes when Seungho put him down for a nap, but quickly fell asleep. (It went much better than my attempts to have him put himself to sleep the previous few days. I guess that he knew that he couldn't throw too much at Seungho on his first day of taking care of all 3 kids alone in a while.)
Wednesday night wasn't as easy. Taeyang and Iseul decided to wake up in turn. I got everyone back to sleep and happy, but my sleep was interrupted and shortened considerably. Taeyang finally slept for a long stretch until 6 a.m. in the morning when my alarm went off and he was ready to play. He enjoyed the alarm and started blowing raspberries and whimpering to be picked up and fed. After I fed him I took my shower, hoping that he wouldn't cry and wake everyone up. He didn't...apparently he spent those 10 minutes blowing raspberries to himself because that was what he was doing when I got out.
Haneul, Iseul and Taeyang had a very good day with Mom and Dad on Thursday. I came home to a little baby who was grinning ear to ear and 2 little girls peacefully taking their naps. Apparently Taeyang had been blowing raspberries all day. He has also been honing his jumping skills and bouncing on your knee skills and likes to rock himself back and forth. I told my parents that it seemed like he almost seemed to be in a manic state because he was so happy and animated. Later that night he was really inching his way across the floor like a little inchworm and seems to be on the verge of crawling. I think all of this movement is the root of the sleep issues I have been having with him. He is too busy rolling around, grasping at things, pivoting and inching across the floor to be bothered with sleep. And he knows that he just has to put a few more things together and he will be crawling, so why waste time sleeping when he could practice? And then at the same time we've thrown other new things at him like solid foods and the bottle. His little head must be spinning!
Haneul spent much of Thursday singing songs from the musical, "Annie" in homage to Aunt Kelly. It's pretty common to hear the girls singing "Maybe" or "Dumb Dog" to each other in their room at naptime and bedtime. They more or less know the lyrics to 5 songs from the movie and have started to sing pitches more clearly. They have developed a bit of an obsession to the movie and every day, several times a day...sometimes several times a minute, Iseul asks me to tell her a "Mean lady story". I have told the same stories about Miss Hannigan to the girls so many times that they can fill in the blanks when I pause. Their little obsession with Annie began before we went to Korea and I showed them some of the songs on my computer. One day, right before Kelly had to leave Korea to go back to the U.S., we were in a Dunkin' Donuts sitting down to eat and Iseul pointed at a woman in the booth next to us and said, "That's the mean lady. Miss Hannigan". I quickly corrected her and hoped that the woman next to us hadn't heard my precocious daughter's comment.
Maybe it is a little early for them to be watching a movie where one of the characters is making bathtub gin ("The mean lady's drinking the bad water!") and tearing heads off of baby dolls, but I think that a lot of the unsavory parts go over kids' heads...and regardless you can't keep that sort of thing from them forever. And when I hear Haneul singing "Dumb Dog" at the top of her little lungs, or see Iseul scampering around, trying to tap dance "like Annie does" it is just too cute to think there is anything wrong with it.
Just a quick note...
Wanted to update our site to announce that Seungho has transferred from Cooley Law School in Lansing to the University of Toledo. I am so proud that his transfer application was approved and that his hard work in law school has paid off. Seungho started classes this past Monday the 24th.
Things have been busy here at our house. We have been looking for a new child care provider for the kids and I've been interviewing several people. Taeyang is teething (as far as I can tell) and has been a little out of sorts, but out of sorts for him is still a pretty good day for Mr. Smiley.
I added a new photo book of our travels to Korea down at the bottom of our page. And our professional family picture is now in the "Korea" album. Enjoy!
Taeyang is 6 months old!
Taeyang turned 6 months old today. It seems hard to believe! We had his 6 month well check-up at the doctor's office today and he can officially start solid foods now.
Here are Taeyang's 6 month stats: He now weighs 18 pounds and 8 ounces (75th percentile) and measures 28 inches in length (92nd percentile). His head cirumference is in the 40th percentile. So he definitely slimmed down in Korea, just as my mom and dad told us when we got back. All that rolling around is good exercise!
(When we were in Korea, we all slept on the floor. Taeyang started waking himself up at night because he was rolling around all over the room. One morning I woke up to hear him crying and when I looked up I saw that he had rolled and rolled until he ended up in the kitchen!)
Taeyang's 2 bottom teeth have poked through too. The first one poked through right before we left Korea and then I noticed the 2nd one the following week. I knew from his behavior that he must be teething while we were in Korea. He was knawing on our fingers, his hands and basically anything he could grab.
And speaking of grabbing, he has been grabbing and reaching to get everything in his vicinity. We often hold Taeyang in our laps while we are eating dinner and nowadays we really have to be careful because he will grab our silverware and our food. He can reach a lot with those arms!
Lately Taeyang has been enjoying standing and jumping. He loves being in his new exersaucer (Thanks Janet!) and his Johnny Jump-up. He loves jumping so much that he tries to do it in his sleep! When I'm feeding him at night he will be kicking his leg repeatedly as if he were jumping even when he is half asleep. He still likes to lie under his floor gym once in a while, but he would really rather be sitting up or standing up and often cries if you leave him on the floor for long.
Well, I've got a fussy little baby and have to sign off. Between his teething and the shots he had today, he is not napping well and doesn't have the patience for me to write down all of his recent accomplishments.
Korea, Reflections on our trip
We had a wonderful trip to Korea, but it certainly is a very different experience from living in Korea when I was single or from when I was a newlywed. Seungho and I went to Korea thinking of all the foods we wanted to eat, people and places we wanted to visit and things we wanted to do. I think we ended up accomplishing most (after lowering our expectations a bit). It's hard to get around with 3 kids...especially when you have no car.
We survived the challenges I was anticipating and the ones I didn't expect too. We lived without car seats for 5 weeks. We navigated the busy and crowded streets usually just walking hand-in-hand with the girls and carrying Taeyang in a carrier. We became efficient at getting our 3 young kids into a taxi quickly. We dealt with the constant attention and answered the constant barrage of questions about our family (Are they twins? Is their father Korean? Where are you from? Do the girls speak Korean? etc., etc.).
I discovered that older Korean women are very opinionated about how you dress your children, when they should be outside, what they should eat, etc. I also discovered that it is o.k. for the neighborhood women to ask to hold your baby and then take him for a walk down the street, out of your sight. (And for relatives to take off with your baby for an hour without telling you where they are going, when they are coming back and leaving without their cell phone so you have no way to contact them.) I have a few more gray hairs now, but I survived and so did my kids.
After the first week, we stayed at my Mother-in-law's condominium. Her place is about 500 square feet, so we didn't have a lot of space or privacy. And my Mother-in-law put up with us squeezing all of our things into her limited space. Not only that, but she cooked delicious food for us and did our laundry too. I worried about us being a burden on her (both in terms of all the work she did to keep us clothed and fed and the extra food, electricity and gas we consumed). When I mentioned my worries to her, she just brushed them off and told me it is boring living alone.
I know that she really enjoyed having her grandchildren with her and getting to know all of their personalities. She and Taeyang formed a special bond...he would stop whatever he was doing and turn her way when he heard her call his name. His face broke into a big grin whenever his halmoni was talking and playing with him. When she teased Iseul, Iseul would tease her right back with her sassy little attitude. And she was amazed at how Iseul picked up words and phrases and at her good pronunciation. She loved how Haneul ate her cooking, especially her mi-yuk gook (seaweed soup), down to the last bite with gusto. And Haneul wasn't left out of the teasing either, and she loved deliberately mispronouncing Korean words and phrases to tease her halmoni, with a mischievious little grin on her face.
As I expected, Haneul and Iseul are quite a bit behind in their Korean language development, especially compared to their verbal ability in English. It was kind of sad to see the language barrier that existed between them and their halmoni, but of course they got around it and were able to communicate and express their love for each other anyway. And the girls picked up a lot of Korean while we were there and have a real excitement for all things Korean now that we are home too. Iseul has even stopped saying, "Mommy, don't speak Korean." and now coaxes me, "Mommy, please read Korean." when I tell her that some of her new books are too hard for me. It makes sense that the girls see Korean in a new way now. Before all the Korean speakers they knew (Daddy and people at church) all spoke at least passable English. Now they have a real reason to learn Korean--and it is an important one--to be able to speak to all of their Korean relatives that they love and look up to. (And because they love Pororo
the little penguin too.)
When I think back on our trip, I don't feel disappointed about anything we missed out on doing. I realize that we accomplished the most important thing that we had set out to do, which was to give our kids the chance to get to know and love their Korean family. As we set off to visit Seungho's family, I said to the girls, "Your aunts, uncles, cousins and grandma all love you and they haven't even met you yet. They can't wait to see you!" The greatest joy of the trip was seeing Seungho's mom, sisters, and nieces talking and playing with our children with big smiles on their faces. And the saddest part of the trip was hearing my Mother-in-law say to Haneul and Iseul that they would be big girls the next time she saw them. It was so hard to hear because I knew it was the truth. It was hard to know that by introducing our children to their Korea family, we would be showing them a part of their life that they hadn't known was missing yet, and would now feel the absence of that closeness and love. But before I feel too sad, I have to remember what Seungho always said about our 'international' relationship. Yes, it's harder to be in love with someone on the other side of the world, but it is also more fun and interesting.
So the next time that Iseul is in the car and says to me, "Halmoni says, 'Iseul, WHERE ARE YOU? ODI SO YO?'" or Haneul watches one of our videos from Korea and exlaims excitedly, "That's halmoni!" I'm going to remember how lucky our kids are to have an international family and how much richer their lives will be because of it.
Korea, Lunch with my former homestay family
If you look through the Korea album now, you will see that all of the pictures have captions. While I was in Korea, I didn't have time to write about all of our experiences, and one of the most important was meeting up for lunch with my former homestay family.
I first went to Korea in 2000 as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. I was placed to teach at Yeong Heung Middle School in Mokpo, and the school placed me to live with Mr. Cho (or Cho Jae Young sunsaengnim) and his family. Mr. Cho is an English teacher and, at the time, he had 2 young kids--now they are all grown up!. His son, Soo-hyun, was 8 years old. His daughter, Soo-gyung, was 6 years old. He and his wife (Kyung-sook) accepted me into their house and helped me navigate life at the middle school where I taught and life in Mokpo. Most of all, they accepted me into their family and looked after me and worried about my safety and happiness in Korea. They are a wonderful family and I appreciate all they did for me, while caring for their own young children, with fresh eyes now.
Thinking back, I can remember times when it seemed really difficult to have to deal with the cultural differences that come up when people from different countries and backgrounds come together. At the time I remember being irritated and confused by our different attitudes, but looking back now, the situations just seems funny and I can see how kind and thoughtful they were with me. One particular occasion happened the first week I was living with them. I wanted to make a phone call to my sister, Keri, and was going to use the pay phone outside of the apartment building at 8 at night. Mr. Cho was worried about me going alone to the phone (I guess he thought I would get lost or that someone might harass me), so he sent his 6 year-old daughter, Soo-gyung, with me. He even gave her a flashlight to carry! I talked to Keri on the phone for about 15 minutes and then headed back to the apartment. When we walked in the door, Mr. Cho asked, "Why were you gone so long?! I was worried!" At the time I thought he was being really overprotective, but knowing what I know now, I can see where he was coming from. Americans (and foreigners in general) are really out of place in Korea, and most Koreans don't speak English very well, so I could have really come across some difficult situations while living there. Fortunately, I never did.
I can't say that I was always at my best with Mr. Cho's family. I was 24, and sometimes I just wanted my independence and privacy. Somehow they still liked me, in spite of my grumpy moments and the inconvenience of my vegetarian diet. Soo-gyung, their daughter, really took to me and she always wanted to sleep in my room. She even called me 'Kristi onni'. That really means a lot to me now, even though I didn't get it or appreciate it when I first lived in Korea. 'Onni' means older sister, and it is a term you use with good friends and family.
One of the best memories I have of playing with Soo-gyung and Soo-hyun is of rolling them up in blankets and telling them that they were kim-bap (rice rolled up in seaweed) and then pretending to cut them up into delicious pieces of kim-bap and eat them. It sounds like a weird game when I write it down, but it would make us all laugh hysterically. I also remember playing card games, like 'Go Fish' to practice English with them. They picked up a lot of English with me, and I really picked up a lot of Korean from them and from Kyung-sook onni (their mother).
I also remember that when Seungho picked me up in front of their apartment to take me to the airport to go back to America, that they gave me a very warm send-off and Kyung-sook onni cried as we were saying goodbye. Little did we know then that I would be back in Korea teaching at the same middle school after just one year or that I would marry Seungho and made periodic trips back to Korea.
We saw Mr. Cho and his family in the summer of 2006 when Seungho and I and my parents visited Korea. We all had lunch with them and exchanged gifts and stories. Seungho and I had been married about 2.5 years then, and I remember them asking, "When are you going to have children?" (That was a very common question we heard during that trip.)
So when we saw them this summer, one of the first things I said was, "Everyone asked when we would have children, so we hurried up and had three kids!" They were all smiles and so excited to meet the our children and Kyung-sook even knew which of our girls was Haneul and Iseul before I told her. That was impressive because she has only seen pictures sent with e-mails or Christmas cards.
Soo-gyung really took to the girls and sat down and played with them immediately, speaking English like it was no big deal. (Actually, she is very unique among Korean girls her age. Very few are bold enough or proficient enough to speak English as she does.) She had prepared little presents for them: barettes, Pororo (very popular Korean character) stickers, a Korean puzzle, and even a little card she had written for us in English. Kyung-sook onni gave the girls slippers that she had made on her sewing machine and a little shirt for Taeyang. I felt bad that I only had pictures to give them, but they were really excited to receive them.
It was good to see and hear that they are all doing well. Soo-hyun is very busy and stressed-out these days because he is in his last year of high school and will soon take the college entrance exam. Soo-gyung is now a first year high school student (she would be a sophomore here) and boards at her high school, which is in a different city. She decided to go to a school outside of Mokpo, and live away from her family, because her school has a better reputation and a better college placement rate. The kids told me that they used to fight all the time, but now that they don't live together, they don't really fight anymore. (So even though I was kind of sad to hear that Soo-gyung doesn't live with her family now, I guess there is a silver lining.)
We all apologized for not keeping in touch better, and said that we would try to write more e-mails in the future. I asked Soo-hyun if he knew about facebook or myspace, wanting to suggest that we could keep in touch that way. He said that he had just heard about those sites because he had read about them on a practice reading for his college entrance exam. That alternatively makes me want to laugh and cry. It just goes to show you how high-pressured student life is in Korea and how important it is to him to do well on that test.
Mr. Cho and Seungho talked a lot during our lunch--I'm still not sure of all they talked about an maybe I will be filled on more of their family's news later. Kyung-sook onni held Taeyang for most of our meal, rather than eating her lunch, and he fell asleep in her arms.
It was wonderful to see them and catch up (as much as you can with 3 young children!). I can't believe that 9 years have passed since I first landed in Korea and lived in their house. Of course, so much has happened since then, but I had the feeling that it had not been so long since we've seen each other, as one always does with good friends and family.
First time on a train
We decided to take Haneul, Iseul and Taeyang on their first train ride today and planned a short trip, just 30 minutes from Mokpo, to Hampyeong. Hampyeong is the home of the butterfly festival, but other than that I don't think there is much there beyond rice fields. Since the butterfly festival is in the spring, we were really just going for the train experience.
The first exciting portion of the day was walking to the bus terminal. On the way there we stopped at a dollar store and Seungho bought Haneul and Iseul some little straw hats. (You can see them in the pictures below.) They started flying off their heads almost the second after we paid for them, but the girls were happy as clams to have them.
Then we went to the bus terminal to take a bus downtown to get to the train station. This is the first city bus we have taken this trip--everything else has been taxis. I found out that the bus is really only cost effective for us for long trips. It is 1,000 won a person (or about $0.80 a person) and we only have to pay for the adults, but taxis only cost 2,300 won for short trips (not even $2) and they are much more convenient for getting 5 people around. Still, it was fun for the girls to ride the bus and see people press the stop button, and of course they got free candy. (Sidenote: It amazes me how they love any free candy they get. We have had some weird flavors here. Today it was green tea, which was not really weird, but they have also had ginseng candy, burnt rice soup candy, coffee candy and some other weird ones that escape me now. They love them all!) When we got on the bus, I said to the girls, "We are riding a city bus" and for the rest of the trip, Iseul looked over at me and smiled and said, "Where am I?" just so she could hear me tell her she was on the city bus. I think we could have called it a day with everyone happy after the bus, but we continued on to the train station.
I had told Seungho before leaving that it didn't really matter where we went and that we should just take about a 30 minute train ride. So Hampyeong it was. We didn't call for the train schedule before and so we found out that the next train didn't leave for an hour and 15 minutes and we would have to wait. We hung out around the train station and bought some kimbap and some huge fresh figs in the street while we waited, and the time went by very quickly.
Just when Haneul and Iseul could hardly wait to ride the train anymore, they opened the doors and we were able to board the train. We got to our seats and swiveled the chairs around so we could all sit together and put Haneul and Iseul next to the windows so they could see out. At this point, Taeyang fell asleep as if boarding the train were his cue to zone out. He reminds me so much of his dad, who falls asleep on public transportation as quick as can be. However, Seungho stayed awake today (it might have had something to do with the constant chattering of the 2 little girls next to him.)
Haneul and Iseul were very excited about the tunnels and kept exclaiming, "I can't see ANYTHING!" as we went through them. (See video below.) You would think that they would be more excited about the views of the countryside as we rode by, but instead it was "I want another tunnel". While we were on the train, we got more free junk food from strangers (this time cookies and crackers) and just enjoyed a nice peaceful ride, looking at the scenery.
We got everyone off in Hampyeong and decided to try and take a short walk to a restaurant to get some lunch. The walk was supposed to take 5 minutes, but after about 10 minutes of trying to walk with 2 excited little girls who didn't want to hold hands on the sidewalk and carrying around a sleeping baby, Seungho was ready to turn back to the train station and take the next train back. As he pointed out to me, the trip was about taking the train and not about seeing Hampyeong, so we headed back (right after Iseul fell and skinned up her knee...again) after seeing some nice flowers and weeds in Hampyeong.
We only waited about 20 minutes in the train station before the train to go back to Mokpo arrived, but it was enough time for the girls to acquire more junk food from strangers (cookies again). Taeyang woke up to be fed, apparently deciding that he wanted to be awake for this train trip and then we hopped on our 2nd train of the day. For this trip, Haneul and Iseul decided that the train WAS Thomas the Tank Engine, and were very excited about that. This train was a faster, slightly more expensive train, so the ride home was about 20 minutes instead of 30 minutes. This was a good thing because the girls were already past their naptime, I was hungry, and Seungho was hot, tired, and a little stressed. We arrived back in Mokpo and quickly ate lunch before heading back in a taxi to Halmoni's (Grandma's) house for naps.
So I deem the day a success. Somehow, it seemed easier than spending another day at home despite all the toting around the children on different methods of transportation and up and down stairs. The kids were happy, interested and learning something and Seungho and I got some exercise. I know Seungho was a little stressed and very tired, but he perked up when we got back to his mom's house and she was making fresh kimchi and had bought some Korean peaches. So a good day for us all!
The Family Picture
Yesterday we decided it was the day to get 'The Family Picture' taken here. My mom and Seungho's dad all wanted us to get a picture taken while we are in Korea. My mom really wanted us to get a picture of the kids in traditional Korean clothes (hanbok) and Seungho's dad wanted a picture of all 5 of us together in a typical Korean studio setting.
Seungho had asked around and heard about a place where you could rent hanbok for 15,000 won a day (about $12) so although we had inquired at local photo studios, we decided to just head over to the other part of town and find a studio over there and try and keep things simple. We took a taxi with all of the kids to the hanbok rental shop and we were off.
After Seungho explained that we wanted hankbok for the three children, the female shop employee quickly began trying to fit the girls in hanbok. She tried 2 different outfits on Haneul and the 2nd one fit perfectly and looked adorable. She even gave her a little headband to complete the outfit and Haneul was looking very fetching. (In the meantime, Iseul was getting antsy to try on her dress and mostly she really wanted a headband of her own.) Then the employee started looking for dresses for Iseul and had a harder time finding something that would fit, but after about 3 outfits she found a dress for Iseul with slightly long sleeves and we finally had headbands for both of the girls and everyone seemed pretty happy. Then Seungho mentioned that the girls are twins and suddenly she took Haneul out of her cute hanbok to try and put her in one that matches Iseul's exactly. Haneul decided that she had had enough and started crying and refusing to try on clothes. I'm holding Taeyang and can't do much to help, but Seungho coaxed her into a few more outfits. Finally I said to Seungho, "Why are we trying other hanbok on Haneul? Is there a reason that they have to match perfectly? Is there something culturally inappropriate about the fact that they are wearing two different styles and colors of hanbok?", which was what I had assumed when they started all over from scratch again. The answer was 'No.' They were just trying to make them match because they are twins. I nixed that and had them put Haneul back in the first outfit that fit her and everything started looking good again. The employee told us that they didn't have hanbok to fit Taeyang since the smallest size they make is for a one-year old baby. That was almost a relief! The male shop employee asked us for just 20,000 won rental fee instead of the 30,000 won we were expecting and then we happily set off to a photo studio they recommended, happy to have saved a little money although slightly sweaty and stressed from the fitting experience.
We had to take a taxi to the photo studio because it wasn't within walking distance for our traveling circus show. Unfortunately we ended up with the wrong photo studio name, so our taxi driver was unable to drop us off right at the door and we had to call the studio and walk a bit to find it. Seungho and I were getting sweatier and more stressed out, but we were still holding it together. As we were walking a woman on the street yelled over at us "Little princesses. So pretty, but so hot wearing hanbok." Then I felt bad for making my little princesses walk in their hot hanbok because I was plenty hot myself, toting around my 18+ pound 5 month old baby and trying to keep everyone on the sidewalk and safe while Seungho called to find out the exact location of the studio.
After a hot and sweaty 5 minute walk (it would have taken a minute without kids) we found the studio. We sat down to tell them what we wanted in our picture and Seungho tells me that he thinks that the studio is too expensive. I tell him that I don't care and I'm not going anywhere else. We are here and we are just going to do it and the girls need to use the bathroom because I don't want them to pee in the rented hanbok. (I had asked him to call the hanbok store in advance and find out the prices at nearby studios, but to make a long story short, he is not really the planner in the family, so we did it his way since he is the native Korean speaker.)
Then Seungho tells me, "O.K., let's go up to the 3rd floor." Apparently the camera is not on the 1st floor where the entrance is, it is on the 3rd floor. Normally, this would not be such a big deal, but when you have 3 kids who need help up stairs, it is a whole different experience. So we took a sweaty, stressful trip up 3 flights of stairs with a baby and 2 little girls. Seungho carried Taeyang and the backpack and I had the unenviable task of getting Haneul and Iseul up the stairs in their long hanbok that they kept tripping over, dodging obstacles, such as slip-on shoes that were placed on the stairs and photo props placed on the landings.
We made it up the stairs (Seungho and Taeyang long before me and the girls). Seungho then tells me that they don't have a little tux for Taeyang or a suit for him (most studios have clothes you can borrow), but I am bound and determined to get this picture taken anyway, even though the boys are not as formally dressed as the rest of us. The cameraman placed Taeyang in a little chair surrounded by pink and white balloons on a platform that is up 2 steps and then directed us all over to have our picture taken there. Haneul rushed over and promptly popped a balloon (accidentally). Iseul made it up without popping a balloon and stood next to Taeyang and her dad. I tried to quickly arrange the girls' headbands so that they will look decent in the picture and the cameraman told me to hurry up as Haneul was moving around, ready to pop another balloon. All thoughts of quickly combing my hair and wiping off the sweat disappeared and I tried to get in place for the picture. Then Iseul freaked out because she wanted to be next to me and not next to her dad, so I tell Seungho, "Let's just switch places" in a not so nice voice. Then the cameraman quickly snapped about 5 photos and moved us to our next location.
The next location was just a white backdrop, with Seungho sitting in a chair with Taeyang in his lap. Seungho was wearing shorts, so I was wondering what this was going to turn out like, but forgot about it and set to trying to get the girls and myself in our places. We quickly settled in and the cameraman snapped about 5 more photos.
Then it was back down the stairs to actually view the photos. All I am interested in at this point is getting the girls to the bathroom again and feeding Taeyang. I was not interested in the fact that the photo studio employees could not get the computer to work to show us the photos. And when they finally did get the computer to work, I was comfortably settled in, feeding the baby and when Seungho asked me to pick out a photo I liked from across the room, I glanced at them enough to see that I looked all sweaty in the pics and told him, "Just pick it out yourself!". He is annoyed as me at the whole situation, and tells the photo shop employees to pick out the best one themselves.
Then they brought us all orange juice in cups and I am angrily thinking that they could have maybe helped us up the stairs earlier instead of serving the girls orange juice while they are wearing rented hanbok. But somehow the girls drank the orange juice without making a mess. In the meantime, Haneul has decided that she has had enough of her shoes, crying that they are 'Uncontable!" (that would be uncomfortable, for those of you not fluent in Haneul-ese). She then proceeded to freak out all the way out the door to the taxi and managed to get them off her feet so we had to carry her.
We took off back to the hanbok studio in a taxi and returned the rented dresses (Haneul crying all the while). We had to cross the street with the kids several times because the taxi didn't drop us off right at the door (I'm still not sure how that happened--maybe Seungho couldn't remember the exact location or name of the place?) We were even more hot and miserable then, and rushed out of there with just a quick thank you.
We hopped in a taxi to go home then, Haneul still crying although she wasn't wearing the offending shoes (she's nothing if she is not persistent). Somehow we made it back into my mother-in-law's apartment all in one piece, carrying crying children with our blood pressure rising.
And somehow my mother-in-law and I got the kids fed and happily settled in for their naps while Seungho took a break away from the insanity.
So if the family picture doesn't look very good, please just lie and tell us how much you like it anyway.
Going to the playgrounds near my Mother-in-Law's apartment has turned out to be a real adventure in Korea. When Kelly was here we spotted 2 playgrounds right by her place. One was just 2 slides and monkey bars. The monkey bars were being used to dry laundry and the stairs to the slides had broken glass all over them, so that was a bust. The other playground had a lot of trash in the sand and it was too big and dangerous for the girls, so I went searching for others with Seungho after the kids went to sleep one night.
Imagine my excitement when just another building over I spotted a big playground that was perfect for Haneul and Iseul. It had a smaller play structure placed on recycled rubber tires with tunnel slides, and right next to it was a big playground with see-saws, swings, a merry-go-round, monkey bars (sans wet laundry). It was all that I had been looking for...and at 9 p.m. it looked really clean too. I was not going to go insane with two 2 year olds whining to get outside every day after all!
I took Haneul and Iseul to the playground that next day. Our first trip there was great. We stopped by and talked to the little grandmas and grandpas at not one, not two, but three! different resting spots (these are just covered, raised platforms where people gather and meet their friends). Haneul and Iseul were practicing their little Korean phrases, "anyung haseyo. anyung hi keseyo!" It was so cute. And then we went to the playground and the girls were SO excited to see the 'swings and slides'. They went nuts and had a ball sliding and then we went all over the new playground and tried every attraction. It was a good day.
The next day we went to the playground again. The walk there was good again. We talked to everyone again and I started to hear them go over who we are in Korean ('They are from the U.S. The girls are twins! There is a baby too! Their dad is from here.' etc. etc.) The girls started to understand questions and answer how old they are in Korean and say their greetings and goodbyes with more ease. It was shaping up to be another good day.
We arrived at the 'tunnel slides' and the place was trashed. There was garbage nearby the covered resting spot and about 5 people sleeping on the platform that had been there all night. I decided to just head over to the playground structure anyway and ignore it, but quickly spotted another drunk guy sleeping at the bottom of a slide. And then one of the drunks on the platform woke up and beckoned to Haneul and Iseul. Iseul walked right over, all ready to practice her new Korean skills. Meanwhile, I walk over and I'm trying to be polite and answer all of their questions in Korean, but also keep the girls away from these strangers who want to hold the girls and give them food. Finally I just said to Haneul and Iseul in English, "These people drank something bad and it makes them too sleepy. Mommy wants you to go away from them now." and I led the girls over to the swings on the opposite side of the playground. We played away from the tunnel slide structure that day and it was no big deal. I figured that it would be the first and last time we would see something like that.
Alas, no it was not. Nearly every day we walk to the playground, and at least half of the time, the same group of drunks and misfits are hanging out at the covered platform next to the play structure. They always want to talk to us and more often than not want to hold the girls or offer them some food. We've even been offered half-eaten fruit. Several times we have seen people sleeping at the bottom of the tunnel slides. The other day I was so fed up with it that I said to Haneul and Iseul, "We can't play here today because there's a drunk in your slide!" and quickly took them over to the other part of the playground even though it was all muddy from the rain.
Today when we were going out to the playground we rushed past all of the grandmas and grandpas. Nowadays Haneul, Iseul, and I are a little tired of talking to all of them when we just want to go and play rather than sit with each group and answer the same questions again, but we still give them our greetings politely and then go our own way. We arrived at the tunnel slide structure and I saw some of the regular drunks and sighed a little to myself. In the meantime, Haneul and Iseul had spotted a truck with a claw on it picking up stacks of broken-down boxes for recycling. We ignored the beckoning drunks and took off and happily watched that for about 5 minutes. When we returned to the tunnel slide structure, the drunks had taken off (leaving their trash and blankets). We all rushed over to the play structure and Iseul said excitedly, "Mommy---there's no drunk in my slide!"
It was a good day at the playground.
Korea, part 3
Hello from Korea again! I just stepped out of the hair salon with my $4.70 haircut. And that included a wash and blow dry. It seems like prices have actually gone down for haircuts since I lived here...is it possible? Food prices have gone up some, but the exchange rate is better for us now, so it all evens out.
We have been having a lot of rain and humidity. UGH! Haneul and Iseul are not very pleasant little 2 year olds when they are stuck inside their grandma's apartment all day long. Imagine lots of whining, throw in some tantrums, a little pushing, a little bit of pinning the other twin down by sitting on her, and lots of tears. Sometimes Taeyang just can't take it anymore and joins in--who can blame him?! I feel like doing the same, but I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to do that in front of your mother-in-law when you are a guest in her house.
We had a visit from Seungho's nieces, Bo-ra and Bo-ryung, on Saturday. They are 23 and 21 now and both live in Suwon, as I mentioned before. It was so nice to see them. They are beautiful girls inside and out. In Korea, it is kind of common to compare the beauty of one sibling to another--and this seems especially true with twins. When Bo-ra and Bo-ryung were asked who is prettier, they very diplomatically replied that both Haneul and Iseul are equally beautiful although they are different. Just what a mom thinks herself and wants to hear from others! (What I do find interesting about this informal ongoing 'poll' is that Haneul and Iseul are even in terms of who is 'prettier'. I didn't necessarily expect that since Haneul probably looks the least Korean of our 3 children, something that could have been an advantage or disadvantage here. It just goes to show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and both of them will always have their admirers.) Bo-ra and Bo-ryung bought the girls little coordinating outfits, one in red stripes and one in blue. I love coordinating, but not exactly matching outfits for the girls. How did they know? We put Bo-ra and Bo-ryung to work and took them to the boardwalk and rented tricycles with handles for the girls so that their cousins could push them. Haneul and Iseul had a fantastic time lapping up all the attention, pedaling around. I think a good (and tiring) time was had by all. We finished off the night by going bowling with Seungho's friends. Several of them brought their kids, so Haneul and Iseul had some friends to play with. They were very excited to see Mommy and Daddy bowling too and got very into mimicking the bowling motion and clapped for us even on the gutter balls.
And now for the latest on what all the kids are doing these days...
Haneul has been really into pretending to talk on the phone lately. She'll hold a brush in her hand and say, 'Hi. How are you. Bye bye!' super fast and then hang up. She has started having Korean conversations too, 'Yoboseyo. Nuguseyo? Bye bye!' She likes to keep it short. It has been really interesting watching her here. She really attaches herself to Seungho's male friends and relatives. And she really likes to mimic people when they speak to her in Korean. You can often get her to say something in Korean, but not in English. It's as if she just likes the sounds of it better. But she is quite quiet when she speaks, which isn't necessarily what I would have expected since she is generally the more outgoing one around new people.
Iseul has definitely been an opinionated little miss lately. If something smells the least bit strange or musty, she will let you know with an "It's stinky in here!" and fingers plugging her nose. The other day we went to a bathroom that must have looked kind of humble to her and she remarked incredilously, "It's NOT stinky in here!". And then she sat on the toilet. Let me preface this by telling you that this toilet had one of those special seats that is heated and has a lot of fancy functions (a bidet, etc.). She let out a little sigh of happiness as she sat on the seat and said,
"the new potty is nice and warm!" And then she started to get interested in the buttons and wanted to push them and I nipped that in the bud by asking her if she wanted the toilet to spray water all over her bottom (that was answered with an emphatic 'NO!').
I barely step outside with Haneul and Iseul and there is someone offering them pieces of candy, an ear of corn on the cob, or a bag of plums. It has been like this since we arrived here. It has been the rare day that they didn't get some kind of free treat when we are out and about. It has been wonderful that people are so generous with them and take to them so much, but they are becoming little fiends for candies and treats. I think it's good that we are only here for about a month.
Taeyang knows his (Korean) name now thanks to halmoni! His grandma says his name so often that he just figured it out. He just lights up when he sees her and gives her the biggest, toothless grins. He is rolling all over the place too. You put him on one side of the room and look back, and in 30 seconds he has made it across the room. He has a lot of fans in the neighborhood thanks to his charming smile and easygoing personality. Everyone asks to take him out of my front carrier and holds him, and he never cries or fusses, instead he smiles and laughs at them. (It's very common in Korea for strangers to ask to hold your baby, which takes a bit of getting used to.)
And now for our little mishaps...
I took the girls out to the nearby playground and then we went to the local mart for some banana milk (for them) and a coffee (for me). We were sitting at the little plastic table and chair set outside the mart and, unfortunately I had Iseul in a chair that was on uneven ground and it fell over as she turned around backwards. She took quite a tumble onto the dirty, muddy ground, but settled down very quickly and wanted me to get the mud off of her, which I did, thanks to the trusty wet tissues that Mom gave me to stash in my purse. The next day I saw that she had scratches all around her elbows and she must have really been hurt, but you wouldn't have known it from her reaction. She cries a lot longer over not getting a cup of juice when she wants it. Go figure!
I fell on a flight of stairs with Taeyang, facing forwards, in the front carrier the other day when I was going to meet Seungho at the place where he was playing 'screen golf' (you hit the golf ball at a computer animated screen--really interesting actually.) The poor little guy screamed and cried and I rushed up the rest of the stairs to have Seungho take a look at him. We didn't see any marks on him at the time and he settled down immediately when I fed him. Later on we found a little bruise on his arm and his chin, so it must have really hurt, but at least there was no blood.
So I guess if my kids weren't already tough little cookies, they will be after this trip!
I think that's all the news for now. I will post more pictures and video soon!
After Aunt Kelly left, we gave up our rental car and traveled back to Kwangju by bus with the whole family. We met Seungho's friend, Hyun-oo, in Kwangju and he drove us back to Mokpo in his car. Seungho went out with his friends and Seungho's mom and I got all of the kids (and myself) to bed. We were all exhausted after the long day traveling on the bus with minimal sleep.
(Taeyang has gotten a little bit spoiled on this trip because he has been held so much. First on the airplanes he was held ALL THE TIME. We could not get the bulkhead seat to have a bassinet, so Kelly, Seungho and I took turns holding him. It was hard to get him to sleep on the plane because he is used to going to sleep on his own in his little co-sleeper, without being held. But finally he was able to get a decent amount of sleep. Then, the night we arrived in Korea and the next day, he was so difficult to get to sleep because he was a) over-tired, b) over-stimulated after getting so much love from Seungho's friend and his wife and c) wanting to be held. I really hope we get the bulkhead on the way back...especially since we won't have Aunt Kelly to assist in the holding of the baby.)
In Mokpo we have met up with Seungho's elder brother (Il-seung) and his family. He and his wife have two children, a boy Eul-suk (23) and a girl Ha-eun (13). Eul-suk is completing his mandatory military service, so we won't see him this visit. The girls have really enjoyed spending time with their 'onni' Ha-eun though and were very excited about the new clothes that Seung-ho's sister-in-law bought them. (Especially Iseul since they are purple and according to her 'Iseul is purple, Haneul is pink') Haneul really took to Seungho's brother and he and his family actually whisked her away to E-mart to buy some groceries before I could say no. She was only in her underwear and a shirt because I didn't even have time to tell them that they might have a melt-down on their hands. They tried to take Iseul too, but didn't get very far with her before she started crying and screaming, 'Mommy! Mommy!'. Apparently Haneul was o.k., but clung for dear life to her uncle the whole time and she did follow me around and cried when she couldn't see me later on that afternoon.
We also saw Seungho's father and his father's girlfriend and had dinner with them on Monday night. I had only met his father once before at our wedding, so I really don't know him. The visit went well though, and the girls warmed up to him fairly quickly, as did Taeyang. Haneul surprised us by sitting with him and playing with him. It was nice to see that he has pictures of the girls hung up in his house and also our wedding picture. He was very happy to receive the pictures of all of the kids that we brought for him too. We had to get going before they really wanted us to since it was 7:00 p.m. and close to the girls' bedtime. They gave Haneul some 'spending money' in an envelope as we left--a very tricky thing that Koreans do because they know the parents won't accept it. Haneul and Iseul also got a bunch of 'spending money' from Seungho's eldest sister. It goes both ways though because Haneul and Iseul have given their older cousins some spending money too with a little help from Mommy and Daddy.
Yesterday was a rainy day and the girls were in fine form. On days like that I think about the rhyme "There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid!". Haneul and Iseul can be very very good...and I wouldn't usually choose the word horrid for them on their bad days, but yesterday was definitely very trying. In desperation, I took them out in the rain and we sat on a covered platform and just people-watched for a while and waited for Seungho's mom. Then we took them to get their hair cut. Yes, I now have two little girls with cute little bobs. I would have kept their long hair if it were up to me, but I know that Seungho's mom (and most of the women in his family) really thought they should have their hair cut. Who can blame them? They have looked like little ragamuffins with all the rolling around/running around and general shenanigans. And it is just too much work for me to fix their hair several times a day to keep it looking nice, so even though it wouldn't have been my preference for them to have short hair, I have to admit that I am happy with it. And I thought it was important for Seungho's mom to be able to do this with them since she hasn't had the chance until now to do this sort of thing for them.
So, that is most of our news thus far. I will update as I can with pictures and news. I have limited time to write since I can really only sneak out at naptimes to have computer access and I haven't figured out how I will manage the uploading of pictures yet.
Korea with Aunt Kelly
Well, here we are in Korea. It has been busy times traveling with 3 young kids, but we have eventually made it back to our normal-ish schedule and everyone is doing well.
My sister, Kelly, came with us and spent a week in Korea and we saw her off on the morning of the 27th. While Kelly was here we first spent time with Seungho's good friend, Sung-ok and went to Suwon to the Korean folk village. Then we drove on to Cheonnam where Seungho's sister, Eun-hee lives. Seungho's mom also went there to meet us and see the kids for the first time. Eun-hee is 4 years older than Seungho and she and her husband have 2 children, Min-gyung (11) and Choong-won (7). Kelly and I were able to go out with Seungho and his brother-in-law and see a Buddhist Temple while the girls took a really long nap, and then we all went out to dinner. There was a little play place in the restaurant with a slide and that was a huge hit with Choong-won and the girls. We could hardly get them to come out and eat. I think Choong-won had about 5 ice cream cones and didn't even eat his dinner. We also went to the seaside towns of Boryung/Taechon, where Seungho's eldest sister, Eun-gyung, and her youngest daughter live. (She also has two older daughters, Bo-ra and Bo-ryung, who live together in Suwon now.) Her husband is the captain of a ferry, so we went on a ride to some nearby islands and hung out with them. Her daughter, Bo-ram (18), was working the concession stand and the girls went between the inside area and outside area countless times to see their 'onni', Bo-ram, and to feed the seagulls shrimp chips with their grandma and daddy. Finally we came to Mokpo and arrived at Seungho's mom's house late on last Wednesday night. We stayed in Mokpo just for a day and took Kelly out for Kal-gook-soo (a noodle soup) and we all went to the boarwalk where we rented tricycles with steering handles for the girls. They had a wonderful time with those as Kelly and I pushed them around. Finally, we drove back up to Seoul with Kelly on Friday and spent a long time in traffic to go and see Insa-dong (a street in Seoul where artisans show/sell their traditional Korean crafts) and we had dinner there.
Kelly's week in Korea went by so quickly! It sure is different traveling with young kids and having to deal with naps and potties. But we did it, albeit with some tears and frustration. We are so thankful to Kelly for helping us make it over here and giving up precious sleep to travel on the cramped airplanes with us. As far as I am concerned, she can apply for her sainthood any time!
Let's hold hands
Sometimes I think back to the day of my 20 week ultrasound when I found out that I was having twins and how I was so worried and all I could say was "Oh no!". And then I reflect upon what a wonderful experience it has been--an experience I wouldn't trade for anything. Not every moment is fun and I can't say that raising twins is easy, but there really is something wonderful about being a twin and being a mom to twins.
Today Haneul, Iseul and I were walking to the park from our condo. The girls were ahead of me and were walking with a little skip in their step to go 'swing and slide'. Then Iseul looked over to Haneul and said, 'Haneul, let's hold hands.' and held out her little hand. Haneul looked back at her and put her hand in Iseul's palm. It was so unexpected and so sweet and it just warmed my heart. They walked hand in hand for about a minute and then they each let their hands drop and Haneul started hopping and Iseul running, and that moment of being perfectly in sync faded away as they went back to being two independent little 2-year-old girls.
Those few moments exemplified the kind of relationship I want them to have. A relationship where they ask each other for love and support, and give it wholeheartedly. And a relationship where they come together as twins, but go their own way as individuals.
Taeyang's 4 month stats
Taeyang had his 4 month well visit today and had his weight/length/head circumference checked and also had his 4 month vaccinations. Taeyang and I headed over to the pediatrician's office when the girls were napping for our appointment. When we were signing in at the doctor's office I had Taeyang in the front carrier and one of the receptionists was admiring him. In typical Taeyang fashion, he flashed her his toothless grin and started laughing and charming her. Then several of the office staff came out and were all admiring him. I told Seungho when I came home that I know I am his mom and I am biased, but obviously there is something special about this little guy because even people that can look at babies all day are enamored with him.
Taeyang is holding steady and staying on his growth curve as he should. He weighs 17 pounds 14 ounces (95th percentile), measures 26 and 3/4 inches (97th percentile), and has a head circumference of 16 and 3/4 inches (75th percentile). I had been a little concerned that he might drop off of his curve since he had only been taking 6 ounces of milk in his bottle when I am at work, but apparently he was making up for it when I was home since he is still growing so well. Dr. Kim said that he is doing great and meeting or surpassing all of his milestones. She admired his beautiful complexion and fat rolls and said that he is "perfect".
Then the poor little guy had to get his shots. He didn't handle them so well at 2 months, so I asked that they give him some baby Tylenol this time. He screamed and turn as red as a beet during the shots. Then I quickly started feeding him to calm him down and he did settle, but he kept grumbling and moaning for the first 2 minutes while he was eating, just to let me know he was mad at getting poked. And then he promptly fell asleep. He slept more than usual this afternoon and wasn't fussy, so he definitely handled the 4 month shots better than he handled the 2 month shots.
I told Dr. Kim today that we talk about her often at our house and that she is partially responsible for the girls' good eating habits because when I tell them, "Dr. Kim says that you should eat protein so that you have energy to run around" they will start eating their chicken or egg with gusto. It's really hilarious to watch. Sometimes Iseul will even look at me when she pushes aside a piece of food that she knows she should eat and she says, with a twinkle in her eye, "Dr. Kim upset!" Dr. Kim said laughed and said that it is great that it helps, and told me that she doesn't mind being the bad guy if it ever comes up too. Apparently she has parents say things like, "Let's call Dr. Kim and tell her that you won't eat your vegetables." and then she'll talk to the kids. She is a seriously wonderful doctor to do that and I'm so glad we found her.
In other news, I am officially done with school for the summer and officially preparing for our trip to Korea. Of course there seems like we have a lot to do before we leave, but it will all get done--because it has to!
Taeyang rolled over!
It happened today...the event we have all been waiting for! We've been expecting Taeyang to roll over for the past week or so, and he did it today. He loves his little mat with the dangling toys, and was hanging out there cooing happily, and then we looked over and he was on his belly with his left arm stuck under him. I remember from Haneul and Iseul that this is how rolling over starts. It's like they have this instinct to roll over and get on their belly even though they don't necessarily like the end result. Especially not when they have an arm stuck beneath them! But I picked our little guy up and gave him lots of hugs and kisses and told him how proud I was of him for rolling over and he cheered right up. And Iseul happily demonstrated rolling over (and over and over) for him so he would could figure out a few new maneuvers.
Later on in the day the girls were outside playing on our balcony with Seungho. I was inside finishing up the vacuuming and Iseul came in and looked up at me and said 'Mommy I pretend raining' and held her little palm upward as if to catch the rain. She just amazes me with her verbal ability and the way her mind works. Both Haneul and Iseul have pretended with me for a while now, but it seems incredible to me that she realizes what 'pretending' is and can verbalize it.
And when I joined everyone out on the patio, I sat down and Haneul came up behind me and put her little arms around my neck and gave me a hug. It was so sweet! And then she said 'ghost!' and tried to scare me, to which I responded, 'Oh no! I hope you are a friendly ghost!' and then she came next to me again and put her head on my right shoulder and said 'Burp' in a voice that sounded very much like a baby's burp.
Sometimes it's all I can do to keep from bursting out laughing. These kids are just too much!
Keep on keeping on
What a week! Sometimes keeping up with life at such a fast pace seems like an insurmountable task, but in the end you just get it done. It definitely helps that the end is in sight and summer vacation is just around the corner.
Even though this has been an especially tiring week for me, it has been a very good one too. Mom and Dad came and helped us out on Tuesday this week and both the kids and us had a good time with them. Seungho received the good news that he earned his first A in law school during the past semester and did well in his writing class as well, so he will be on the Dean's list and can apply to Law Review. I am so proud of him for doing so well in law school--and in his second language. And I'm pretty proud of both of us for coming out of this busy school year so well when we have a new baby at home. Of course, coming home to 3 cute, charming kids after a long day at work can help you get through it all.
Speaking of charm, I was able to take Taeyang to school in the afternoon last Friday because we had a professional day. He turned on the charm in full force and was cooing, smiling and laughing for several of the female staff members. One of my colleagues asked me, "Is he always like that?!" and I could proudly reply that he is almost always like that.
Haneul and Iseul know how to turn on the charm too, although their charm takes on a slightly different, usually mischievous, form. Haneul has been very fixated on mechanical things lately; specifically the 'shark vacuum' and the lawnmowers from the landscaping service that come and mow lawns for our condo complex. She gets a little twinkle in her eye and says "SARK BAKOOM!" when she is coloring with her crayons, followed by "NANMOOER!". Both Haneul and Iseul like the vacuums...at least they like to perch on the sofa and watch me pick up the entire house and then vacuum the floor after they pick up a token piece of clothing to "help" me. Seungho and I have teased them a little with the vacuums, so they half believe that the vacuums are their friends and will say "SARK BAKOOM upset. Messy." when they drop something on the floor. And they say "Bakoom hard time. Thank you." when we put them away in the closet. I'm sure that I've read somewhere that you shouldn't personify your household fans and vacuum cleaners, but I don't care. I get a kick out of it.
Today I took all 3 kids out after I got home from work, to give Seungho a little break. While we were out I found that I had misplaced my keys and was getting upset about it. Iseul came over and was watching me intently while I looked through the diaper bag and I told her, "Mommy can't find her keys and I'll be in trouble if I can't find them." She suddenly had a mischievous look on her face and said, "Pahk Mommy Huh Huh! Mommy trouble time out!". Iseul can tell me all of our full names when asked (both Korean and American), but I guess she has decided that I need a Korean name too and it is Pahk (Park) Mommy! And what kid wouldn't love that their parents can get in trouble just like them.
Well, those are my family stories for now. I'm looking forward to being done with work next Wednesday and then traveling to Korea on June 20th with our family and Aunt Kelly. It's going to be a fun and busy summer!
Ticks deserve to burn!, an example of parental teamwork
I HATE ticks. I don't know much about them, but they are just nasty bugs. If I never see one again, it will be too soon...and I really mean that.
On Tuesday afternoon I saw what I thought was a small spider in Iseul's ear (right next to her ear canal). I don't like spiders either, but I thought I would just calmly brush it off with my finger and not alarm her. Unfortunately, that didn't work because it was a TICK and it was stuck to her. I realized what it was then and told Seungho to help me by getting some tweezers. In the meantime, both Haneul and Iseul had started crying even though I was trying very hard to appear calm. They are both very in tune with people's emotions, so it doesn't take much to set them off.
I lied to Iseul and told her that her ear was dirty and daddy had to clean it out and she immediately calmed down, as did Haneul. I went and got vaseline and a cotton ball. The vaseline because I remembered hearing that if you put vaseline on a tick then it can't breathe and will detach itself. I got the cotton ball because I wanted to put it in Iseul's ear canal because I was having bad thoughts about it crawling down in. Yuck!
It ended up that we really just needed the tweezers (you're actually not supposed to use vaseline on a tick as I found out later). Thank goodness Seungho was there to help out. He detached the nasty critter and promptly took it outside and burned it to death because it was 'kind of a disgusting bug'.
I then called the pediatrician's office and they told me that the ladybug-sized tick I was describing is harmless and doesn't carry disease, which was a relief.
So, I guess no harm was done. However, we won't be walking the back way to the park anymore. It's a bummer because it is a shorter, prettier walk, but I can't handle the thought of ticks as I walk through the tall grasses.
Sometimes Seungho and I are not in sync, and not on the same page, but sometimes we work so well as a team. This was definitely one of those times and I sure was glad to have him on my team!
Updates on the kids
Tonight Seungho and I took the kids downtown and we had a picnic Korean dinner (kimchi chigae and bibimbap). It was delicious, but the girls were more interested in playing than eating. And they were interested in walking to the undergrad library to use the bathroom. (We did that twice during the picnic, but we are slow eaters, partly because of all of the interruptions!)
We walked around the campus with the girls a bit. They were running like wild women. I tried to get them to play hide and go seek with me, but they just count with me and then move right next to me to 'hide'. Probably because they like getting caught. We saw several squirrels which caused the girls to hop around. Maybe they think squirrels hop like rabbits?
At one point, we were calling for Haneul to catch up with us and then both Seungho and I realized it was Iseul and not Haneul. Iseul said "No. THAT'S Haneul. THIS is Iseul." pointing to her sister and then herself.
And when we were driving back home in the car Haneul saw the water fountain in the condos across the street from us and said "Water, water." to which Iseul replied, "No, Haneul. It's NOT water. WaterFALL." And she said it like a little teacher. I wonder who she gets that from?
Seungho told me that Iseul was showing Haneul a scratch on her hand today and said "Boo boo. Seh seh." (seh seh is a word that is used in Korean to soothe or console someone). After she said that, Haneul kissed Iseul's boo boo sweetly.
Haneul is really into trying to button up and undo buttons on one of my nightgowns lately. It's partly because she is into that sort of thing right now, and partly because she likes having mommy's undivided attention while I show her how to do the buttons. Yesterday when she was sitting on my lap and unbuttoning one button, I saw her grinning and I heard her say under her breath, "NO, Iseul. Haneul buttons." I think she's finding her voice to stand up for herself a bit more, which is good because Iseul tends to be the more dominant one.
And Taeyang continues to be his laid-back self. He is so quick to smile and laugh and is just a chubby, happy little guy. Today he fell asleep eating and was laughing in his sleep. Taeyang, Iseul and I have had colds and it is both sad and funny to listen to Taeyang. He gets so congested that he actually snorts like a little pig when he starts to eat. And he snorts angrily when I use the saline spray and booger sucker on him--he does NOT like those. He could give the little boy in "A Christmas Story" a run for his money.
Taeyang and the bottle
Well, I have officially been back at work for 3 days now. The first day was a rough one for all of us, but mostly for Seungho and Taeyang. Our little one cried for an hour, refusing the bottle. Finally he took it from Seungho around 11:00 a.m. He must have been pretty hungry because he hadn't eaten since 6:30 a.m. when I fed him right before leaving for work. Poor little guy!
But he is doing a bit better now. He really doesn't eat much while I am away...only about 6 ounces. I pump more than twice that much at work, so it looks like I won't have trouble keeping up with him like I did with the girls. Thank goodness for that, because I wouldn't want to repeat that stress. I think he is altering his eating patterns to eat more when I am at home, which is fine. However, it does mean that I am kind of stuck sitting down and feeding him a lot when I get home and that is hard in terms of playing with the girls. He did get up to eat in the middle of the night for 2 of the 3 nights, so maybe those wonderful days of sleeping through the night are over now too.
But the important thing is that he is happy and enjoying his time with Daddy (and Grandma and Grandpa too). My parents came to watch all of the kids on Thursday as they always do and my mom told me that Seungho looked quite happy to get out and have a break. I know that feeling! My parents have been incredibly generous with their time in looking after our kids and that has really helped us out, both financially and emotionally.
There is a new video of Taeyang posted so you can see him laughing up a storm. You can watch other videos of the kids too if you go to the upper left hand corner of the photobucket site and click on different videos.
My 'adopted' children
Over the course of the last 2 years, I have been asked several times where Haneul and Iseul were adopted from. Sometimes people even think I am not even their adoptive mother and I am their nanny. Usually people ask after hearing their names, and since we also have different surnames, I figured that was why people made those assumptions.
However, the other day something happened that made me realize just how strong their Asian genes are. I was in the local bread shop and an older man and his wife were admiring Haneul and Iseul and also glanced at Taeyang, who was strapped in a baby carrier, facing me. The man suddenly said to me, "So you adopted the twins and then had this baby?". I was surprised at his conclusion and told him no, that all 3 kids were mine and their dad is Korean. And then I told him that actually, Haneul looks quite a bit like I did as a child. (He didn't look too convinced.)
But people all have their own ideas. One day my mom and dad were out with the girls and when my mom mentioned that the girls are half Korean to a woman who was admiring them, she said "Well, they don't look Korean!".
I have mixed feelings about having 'adopted' children. On one hand, I love that they look Asian because of course I think their dad is pretty cute and am happy that they look like him. On the other hand, I was the one who carried all 3 kids full term and did all the hard work delivering them, so I want the credit for it!
Back to work!
My 13 weeks of maternity are up and I have to return to work tomorrow. I am so sorry to have to go back, but happy that Seungho will be home with the kids and they will all have plenty of daddy time.
We just started introducing a bottle to Taeyang last week and he was not liking it. Yesterday we found a bottle/nipple combination that he likes, so that was a very big relief for me. I was envisioning Seungho at home with a hungry, screaming baby and 2 crying toddlers all wanting his attention. When we were trying out bottles with Taeyang, he was giving us quite an earful. Check out the videos at the bottom of the page to see Seungho feeding Taeyang.
I had Taeyang laughing his little head off over the weekend too. It was SO cute and the best mother's day present I could have received. I just smiled at him and laughed myself and I had him going for about 2 minutes, just laughing and laughing. It was so sweet that it brought tears to my eyes. We didn't get it on video because we were enjoying it too much to interrupt it, but I did catch one laugh that you can see in the videos below. In the past week Taeyang has really taken to babbling and laughing. I think he is going to be quite the chatterbox. And he is still going for the 'Best Baby Ever' award. I seriously can't think of anything that he could improve upon. He sleeps through the night, eats well, smiles, coos and giggles and just generally charms anyone who meets him. And he is even polite with his diapers, hardly ever having a blowout. The only problem with Taeyang is that he is SO good that he can be overlooked at times, but now that he is babbling at us, I don't even think that is so likely.
Wish me luck with my transition back to work. I will only be there for about 4 weeks and then it is summer break. Also, I will have a very light schedule after the 29th because 2 of my classes are all seniors and they will be out of school early. I think that all 3 kids are going to have a bit of a rough time at first because the girls are going through a stage where they only want mommy and of course I am Taeyang's food source, but we will manage. You should probably wish Seungho luck too since he will probably have some difficult times with little ones asking for their mom, but I know that they will cheer up once they are having fun with daddy. And it will be great for them to get back on track with their Korean before our trip to Korea this summer.
We're in trouble now!
We've all heard about 'the terrible twos'. Well, they have arrived at our house. We had very few tantrums when the girls were younger, but we have definitely seen some stubborn and naughty behavior lately.
Iseul has been going through a biting phase. (Haneul went through hers 6 months or so ago--it is supposedly really common with twins which makes me feel a little better...I guess.) Yesterday during their nap she bit Haneul 3 times, and unfortunately we didn't see them until long after it happened which makes it hard to effectively punish her since the punishment is coming so long after the behavior happened. We ended up keeping her inside while Haneul was allowed to go outside and play on her trike while telling her that riding her tricycle is a privilege that will be taken away if she bites. She was still talking about it today, so we are hoping it made an impression. At least she did not bite at all today.
Haneul has been showing her stubborn side. She is not quite as verbal as Iseul, so she quite often whines when she wants something, rather than 'using her words'. When I ask her to say 'shoe, please' or something similar, she will stubbornly refuse to say it. She will clench up her little fists and her little body will shake with rage, or she will jump up and down when I refuse to help her. Sometimes it is hard not to laugh, because she looks cute despite the misbehavior.
This morning we had two very unhappy little girls. First, Iseul went on a crying jag because I could not read her mind to know that she wanted apple juice in a particular cup (after she had thrown me off by asking for milk in the first place). After I wouldn't cater to her every whim, she went in her room and cried for about 30 minutes. Eventually she came out and drank her apple juice even though it wasn't in the cup she had wanted. And of course she talked about why she was upset very matter-of-factly later in the day. I'm pretty sure there is no permanent damage!
Around lunch time, Seungho and I decided to take the whole family out to a Korean restaurant for lunch. Everyone was pretty much ready and I just needed to get the girls to use their potties. Haneul decided that she was having none of that and refused to use the toilet and--you guessed it-- she started crying. I decided that we couldn't go out and had Seungho go and pick up some food for us and I stayed home and listened to Haneul cry for the next 30 minutes. Ugh! And then she calmed down and ate lunch with us like nothing had happened. And of course later in the day she talked about 'Haneul crying...potty' like it was no big deal. Apparently it was harder on me than it was on her to go through all this drama.
When Haneul and Iseul misbehave Seungho and I often call them by their full Korean names, 'Pak Haneul' and then we add the warning 'huh huh'. It would be the equivalent of saying Haneul Ann Park--no no'. I started saying it in Korean after I found out that they really stopped and paid attention when their names were said in Korean rather than English--it even got to the point that Haneul would automatically cry when I said her full name in Korean in even a friendly tone of voice. Then Iseul picked up on this and started saying it to Haneul because she figured out she could make her sister cry just by doing it. I've had to get after Iseul for it and tell her that she is not Haneul's mommy or daddy and she can't tell her this. And then Haneul decided she would get in on the action and she has started saying 'Pak Iseul huh huh!'. Tonight things got even more interesting at dinner when Iseul suddenly said 'Pak DADDY huh huh!' out of nowhere. I couldn't believe it and had to laugh. It was too cute. (For the record, Seungho was NOT misbehaving in any way.)
It looks like we're the ones who are in trouble now!
I never thought I would do this as a parent...
I feel like I am a responsible parent, but I guess that we are all bound to have lapses in judgment from time to time. So that must be what happened today when Seungho and I drove up to Lansing and took the kids to a picnic with a group of his Korean law student friends.
As we were approaching the park, I noticed that the skies were getting increasingly cloudy and asked Seungho if he had checked the weather forecast. Of course neither of us had. We arrived and it was already sprinkling, but the picnic was still a go and the park was quite full, with families playing and other people barbecuing. I was wary as soon as I felt the air upon getting myself and the kids out of the car, but I thought that I was just overreacting since everyone else seemed to be going about their business.
About 5 minutes after we were all out of the car and were still greeting everyone, the heavens opened and a huge downpour ensued. Just 30 seconds before I told Seungho that maybe we should sit in the car for a while because I thought it might get ugly. Well, I should have gone with my instinct. Seungho ended up holding Haneul and Iseul close to him in his lap and I had Taeyang in mine (covered with a blanket) and we were getting pounded with wind and rain on our backs. You could also hear thunder and see lightning in the distance. I looked at Seungho and said 'I feel like a bad parent!' And I felt even worse when one of the students asked me if I had jackets for the girls (I didn't).
We decided that we might as well make a run for the car and very quickly got everyone inside. Haneul and Iseul had wet hair and their clothes were slightly wet so I decided to change their clothes (I did at least bring a change of clothes for all of the kids). Taeyang was totally dry. I don't think I let a drop of rain even touch his body. Seungho and I, on the other hand, were soaked.
In the car the girls were very excited to talk about what happened and what was happening. 'Raining outside. Daddy running Haneul. Haneul wet.' and 'Mommy wet. Yes she is.' (They picked up that 'yes she is' from me. They also do a 'yes, that's right' and 'yes he did'.) Haneul and Iseul went on and on about the rain and their exciting time, and Taeyang just sat looking on at us smiling, happy as a clam.
Maybe Seungho is right about kids not being bothered by this sort of thing and actually enjoying it. I guess I am agreeing with him about it being a good story to tell someday in the future since I am writing it down here for posterity.
So as much as I learned that I always need to check the weather forecast before a picnic and always bring jacket, I guess I also learned that I can lighten up a bit and that kids survive and thrive in spite of any lack of planning.
It has been a busy week. Last weekend I drove all 3 kids to Battle Creek by myself. I was worried about how everyone would handle the ride there and what I would do if we had any synchronized crying sessions. Luckily my plan to leave at their bedtime on Friday worked pretty well. Taeyang surprised me by immediately falling asleep as we left at 8 (his normal bed time is 9:00) and the girls surprised me by staying up until 8:45 and 9:15 (their normal bedtime is 8:00) but no one cried at all which was a big relief, because it would have been a very stressful trip.
We had a big family weekend at my parents' house. Keri, Don, Kaitlyn and Hunter were there and so was Kelly. The only person missing was Seungho because he had to study for his law school exams. We missed him, but knew that he would be able to get more study time in with a little break from 3 kids who want a lot of daddy's attention.
Last Saturday was beautiful, so we spent a lot of time outside. The girls played with their aunts, uncle and cousins. My friend, Jennifer, came over and met Taeyang. And my mom's parents came over to visit too. Uncle Don taught Haneul and Iseul to say 'hot toddy' and they've been talking about it with enthusiasm ever since. 'Unca Don funny. HOT TODDY!' No...they have no idea what it means. Keri's dog Hammy was also a big hit--we've heard a lot about him this week. The girls have been talking about 'gamma and gampa's' house and all the people we saw and what we did all week long and requesting 'when they were little' stories about everyone too.
We went to my parents' church on Sunday with Mom and Dad and the girls have been talking about that as well. They didn't do so well without me in the nursery--in fact they were crying their heads off. They've talked a lot about that as well. 'Church. Mommy singing. Haneul crying.' Sometimes I think they cry just so they can talk about it later--they always smile when they recount their crying stories.
It was such a nice visit with everyone that we hated for it to end, but we all headed back home on Sunday. I strategically timed our return to coincide with nap time for the girls and that worked out well and I was relieved again.
This past week has been busy for me because Seungho was off studying pretty much all day every day until midnight or later. I was so glad to see my parents yesterday when they came here to help me out. Usually they take the girls out for a few hours and I stay home with Taeyang, but I was pretty desperate to get out of the house after not having ventured out for days, and I went out with them to our nearby park and out to lunch. We haven't ventured out because I was on my own, but also because Haneul, Iseul, and Taeyang all have colds. Taeyang was really stuffed up a week ago Thursday and I had taken him in to the doctor, so at first I thought that he had given a cold to the girls. But Haneul and Iseul started showing symptoms on Wednesday and then Taeyang started showing them yesterday (Thursday), so it's apparently a new cold. I think the girls might have picked it up at church last Sunday. The girls have had terribly runny noses and Iseul has had hives. Taeyang can't get rid of all the snot, so the poor little guy has vomited all over once yesterday and again today. Despite all of this, the girls have been their happy-go-lucky selves and have had great appetites. Colds are miserable, but much less so when the sick kid is not grumpy. Taeyang hasn't been eating very well, but I figure maybe he'll just gain a normal 7 ounces this week instead of his usually higher than average 11 ounces a week.
So hopefully this cold will be done and over with soon (and hopefully this headache doesn't mean I've caught it!). Seungho is done with his exams as of this morning and it looks like the nice spring weather might be here to stay. It will be really nice for both of us to be on vacation together for a few weeks before I have to go back to teaching. We might even go out on a date. Maybe even at night since Taeyang is such a good sleeper.
Today I made Seungho take the day off from studying and we all got ready and went to Gallup Park for a family outing. On the way there, I remembered that we hadn't been out to the park as a family since September or October. Last winter we went several times, in spite of the cold. This year the stress of a condo fire and clean-up, working and being pregnant just made it too difficult I guess. So it was really nice to go back to one of our favorite places.
Haneul and Iseul have become great walkers now so we went stroller free and I carried Taeyang in a ring sling carrier. His stroller isn't assembled yet and I think he's too little for the one I got for him anway. He was very cozy and slept for the whole visit except for a short snack. There is something about that park that makes babies sleep because Haneul and Iseul could never keep their eyes open there at that age either.
Those of us who were awake did some duck, geese, and swan watching and walked around. It was a busy day at the park with lots of people barbecuing and making us wish that we had brought our own food to barbecue (well, until I remembered how much work it is to grill food while watching kids anyway.) Luckily, we went with full stomachs and cups of milk for the girls.
Haneul and Iseul were able to get a turn on the toddler swings and Seungho pushed them while I fed Taeyang. It was very relaxing--sitting on a bench with my chubby little guy while watching the ducks swimming in the river with a wonderful breeze on my face.
We went out for ice cream at McDonalds after leaving the park to the sounds of 'more swinging!' and crying (courtesy of Haneul). The girls split a vanilla shake there. Of course it was in separate cups because I didn't want to get kicked out of McDonalds. We left to the sounds of 'more ice cream' and crying (courtesy of Haneul again).
On the drive home it suddenly became quiet. I looked back and saw that all 3 kids were sleeping peacefully. And now back at home the whole family is asleep except for me. So I celebrated by doing laundry without any interruptions and having a coffee all by myself.
Taeyang at 2 months
Taeyang had his two month doctor's appointment today. As expected, he is a BIG baby. He weighs 14 pounds 3 ounces (97th percentile) and measures 24 inches in length (90th percentile). I think they told me his head circumference is 15.75 inches (I know it was 70th percentile). I plugged in his information from birth for height and weight and found out that he is growing quite a bit faster than the average breastfed baby. He has been gaining about 11 ounces a week (the average is 7 ounces) and growing about 1.5 inches a month (average is 1 inch). I guess he and I make a good team!
(Funny story...I just had Seungho guess Taeyang's weight and height in kilograms and centimeters. He guessed that Taeyang weighs 5 kilograms, but he is actually about 6.5 kilograms. He guessed 45 centimeters and Taeyang is about 61 centimeters. I told him how far he was off and he said 'Wow!'. )
I looked at the girls' baby books just to compare...Iseul weighed 7 pounds 15 ounces at birth, and Taeyang was 8 pounds 5 ounces. At 2 months, Iseul weighed 12 pounds 14 ounces. Haneul was 6 pounds 5 ounces at birth and then 11 pounds 2 ounces at 2 months. Boys and girls have different growth charts, but Taeyang is still the biggest on the charts of all our children. Somehow my 5'8" husband and my 5'3" self grow big babies!
Dr. Kim commented on how good Taeyang is and how cute and smiley. And she said it is great that he has so many fat rolls already--she doesn't usually see so many in a 2 month old. (Wouldn't it be great to hear that sort of thing as an adult?!) I asked her about the fact that he has already slept through the night about 6 times and if I should let him do this. She said that I shouldn't worry about it and to go ahead and let him sleep rather than waking him and feeding him. She even told me that if he is just fussing a bit, that I could try and let him fuss and not feed him since he is so big and we know from experience that he can make it 8 hours without eating. I know that I will probably get up and feed him anyway when he fusses, but it is really nice to know that I don't have to worry about him sleeping through the night because if he isn't fussing I am generally too tired to wake up. I also asked about his sniffling and snorting (normal) and the flat spot on his head (we can try having him lay on his side during the day).
Taeyang also had his shots today. He was smiling the whole time with the rotovirus oral vaccine. Little did he know what was to come. He screamed and cried for the shots--he sure was mad! But he settled down pretty quickly when I started to feed him. I thought that things went pretty well, but after he woke up this afternoon from a nap he was more upset and inconsolable than I have almost ever seen him. I had to pop in a video for the girls and just take care of him. He didn't even want to eat. I almost wasn't able to get them dinner. Luckily, the children's tylenol kicked in enough for us to get through the evening and eventually get the girls to bed. He's having a bit of a rough time now though, so I'll have to end this here. We've almost heard him cry more today than we have in the past 2 months combined!
Haneul and Iseul's first haircuts
Haneul, Iseul and I had a girls' day out today (or an hour at least!) and we all had our hair cut by my friend, Holly. Holly also has 2 year old twins, so she is great with the girls. There were some tears at the salon, but they were gone quickly and the girls were interested in seeing themselves in the mirror and watching their hair get cut. They even had little toys to hold and play with while we were there. And a special seat addition for kids as well as a special smock for the girls to wear. And of course there was another new potty for them to try while we were at the salon. And at the end, the girls got a lollipop and were really excited about that.
When we came home tonight after getting their hair cut, they were chattering on about their experience. Their big thing recently is to talk about when and why they cried. "Haneul cried hair cut." "Iseul cried helicopter fall down." It's a bit comical just how cooly then can talk about it an hour later when they were completely freaking out about it earlier. And of course, the highlight of the experience, "Holly give sucker."
I forgot to bring envelopes to save the girls' hair, but Holly is so wonderful and creative. She has the cutest little cards at her station with little envelopes inside to hold their hair that said 'My first haircut' and had a place for the date.
P.S. Check the video links at the bottom of this page to see video of Haneul and Iseul's haircuts.
Talking up a storm!
Iseul is our big talker and has been for a long time, but in the past month Haneul has become more and more chatty each week. It used to be that I couldn't get through a page of a story without Iseul talking about 5 different things happening on the page, but now it is Haneul who is the talker during story time and Iseul who is the listener. It's interesting how they seem to take turns with this sort of thing.
Just this week when the girls get up in the morning, I will go in to their room and I am greeted by a cheerful 'Good morning!' from both of them. I was shocked the first time they said this to me. I usually feel so exhausted in the morning that I am surprised that they picked up this happy greeting from me, but it is a nice affirmation to hear it and realize that they don't think I'm a grumpy bear in the morning even if I feel like one.
After Iseul says 'Good morning!' she will usually look at me and say, 'play time?!' and rush out of the room to go and find her latest favorite toy and Haneul will take off after her. And then they start chattering away with each other while I get their breakfast food and drink ready.
A while back my mom and dad asked me what 'GAHSA!!' meant--Haneul apparently said it in the car with great exuberance and they couldn't figure it out. Well, I'm still not entirely sure but it is something that I keep hearing when they are closed in their room together for nap time and playing on their own or sometimes when their grandparents are due for a visit. From when the word pops up, I thought maybe it was an affectionate nickname for Grandpa and most recently I've wondered if it is Haneul's imaginary friend. Today I heard her talking on her own in her room and suddenly there it was, 'GAHSA! GAHSA!' and I asked her, 'Where is Gahsa?' and she pointed right next to her, smiling her mischievous grin the whole time. And then 'What is Gahsa doing?' and she replied 'sitting.' Interesting. I will have to ask more questions the next time Gahsa returns.
Iseul amazes me at how communcative she is and how well she listens and remembers. Lately it has been really great because it really helps to figure out why she or Haneul is upset. About 2 weeks ago she was crying in the bathtub and I asked her what had happened. She said 'water...nose!'. I comforted her and then pulled out the 'when I was young, I got water in my nose in the swimming pool...' story, remembering how much I loved to hear stories about my parents' childhood. She ate it up and calmed right down. Well, tonight she got water in her nose in the bathtub and when I picked her up and was comforting her, she looked at me with wide eyes and said 'Mommy water nose swimming pool?' and when I agreed and told her the story again, she immediately stopped crying. I love this growing verbal ability--it really makes life easier!
As for our other little talker, Taeyang is really communicating with his smiles and coos lately. Today I was sitting and talking with him and I marveled at how a baby can sit and smile at you for 5 minutes straight just because you are talking and smiling at him. How wonderful to be so happy with so little! He was cooing away while Haneul and Iseul were watching a Baby Einstein video, so much that Iseul stopped watching the video and started talking with him and trying to make him smile. 'Mile Taeyang-ee!' she said in the higher pitched voice she uses when talking to him. And he did too.
A pretty good day for a snowy day in April. Sometimes being stuck in the house isn't all that bad.
Haneul and Iseul's 2 year appointments
Haneul and Iseul had their 2 year well check-ups today, so we took the whole family to the pediatrician's office to see our doctor, Dr. Kim. The main purpose of the visit is just to make sure that they are meeting their developmental milestones and are growing well, and I'm happy to say it was good news all around.
We got to the doctor's office and I needed to feed Taeyang. I had just started feeding him when Haneul and Iseul were called back, so I told Seungho to take the girls on his own. Well, about 30 seconds later I heard a child screaming 'MOMMY!', so I told Taeyang he would have to wait a bit and rushed back to meet everyone. I tried following the cries, but it is a bit like a maze back there. I heard a nurse laughing and saying to a co-worker that a child was crying for her mommy and as soon as her daddy had set her down in the room that she had run out of the room like a bolt and had to be scooped back into the room and they had to quickly close the door. I quickly walked up to her and told her 'That's my daughter. Where is she?' So she directed me to the room and I found Haneul freaking out and Iseul as cool as a cucumber. I was really surprised that Haneul had reacted that way because both girls have always been fine at the doctor's office, with the exception of the brief moment they would get upset after getting a shot. Seungho told me that the one time he took Haneul by himself that she freaked out too. I guess that her long-term memory is getting better and she remembers what goes on at the doctor's office and that she wants mommy in those types of situations.
So I stepped in and handed Taeyang to Seungho and got the girls ready for their check-up. Haneul calmed down some, but wanted me to hold her for a while. Iseul was kind of looking at her like 'what it the big deal?' and just remained calm. So, it wasn't without a little stress (on Haneul's part) but we got everything in place and got their measurements and here they are...
Haneul measured 35 inches and weighed 26 pounds, 5 ounces. She is 85th percentile for height and 45th percentile for weight. Her head circumference is 30th percentile. Most importantly, she is right on track following her growth chart curves for all 3 measurements.
Iseul measured 35.75 inches and weighed in at 28 pounds even. She is 95th percentile for height and 65th percentile for weight. Her head circumference is 75th percentile (she has daddy's head). She is also right on track and has been following her growth curves for all 3 measurements.
Dr. Kim talked came in then and talked to us about the girls' language and social development, etc. She didn't know that we had a new addition to our family so we talked about Taeyang a bit too and, like most people, she told us he is a big baby (yay for eating well and growing well!).
She told us that Haneul and Iseul had done very well to be potty trained by this age and we talked about the potty set-backs we have had after switching them to toddler beds (totally normal) and she gave me some ideas that she used with her own children to get through the set-backs. And then she told Haneul and Iseul directly that she is proud of them for being potty trained--so nice of her! They are both doing very well in terms of language development. It sounds like both of them are ahead of what would be expected at this age, with Iseul being well ahead.
And then it was time for their 2nd and final Hepatitis A shot. Haneul and Iseul were both totally calm at this point, but I knew the tears would be coming, so I prepared my distraction items (milk cups and mandarin oranges). The nurse told Haneul that she would feel a poke and asked me to hold her arms. Haneul did cry and freak out a bit, but I got her distracted by asking her to peel her mandarin orange because 'Daddy is hungry and wants you to share with him'. It worked! And then it was Iseul's turn for her shot. The nurse also told her that she would feel a poke. Iseul did not make a peep, grimace, or even react to the shot. I was shocked! She was just interested in her cute band-aid and the fact that she was going to get a sticker in a moment.
We got the girls ready and they tried out the 'new potty' which is a child's toilet at the doctor's office. Iseul refused to wear her leggings under her dress (her stubborn 2 year old side has really emerged recently) and then we took off. On the way home, Seungho mentioned going to lunch and we decided to go to Seoul Garden. We had a great lunch there--the wait staff is always wonderful with the girls. If we go out to eat, it is the place we go, so they know us and know our kids' names (I think we are pretty memorable as a bi-racial couple with twins!). They always take good care of us there. The girls were great today and everyone was able to eat with minimal interruptions (only a couple of trips to the potty). I will admit that they had 2 peppermint candies after their meal though--the first was to pacify them so we could finish our meals and the second because the manager gave it to them and I couldn't very well take it away after it was in their hands. :)
So, all in all, a successful trip out and the good visit to the pediatrician's office and our nice family lunch put me in a good mood for this whole, rainy day.
And then tonight Haneul got back on track and pooped in her potty right before bedtime, so that was just the icing on the cake. I guess that maybe something sunk in when she heard me talking about our issues with Dr. Kim or maybe the timing was just right. In any case, I am just happy that things are back on track. Sorry to mention poop. I was trying not to, but I have to admit that it is just a part of my daily concerns now and that is the life of a mom with young kids!
Haneul and Iseul are 2 years old!
Haneul and Iseul turned 2 on Sunday the 29th. We went to Battle Creek for the birthday party that my parents very generously prepared for them. It was great to see my grandparents and aunts and uncles...and everyone was able to meet Taeyang for the first time too.
My mom made a cake for each of the girls and a larger cake for everyone to eat. They were so excited about their cakes. You could see that they each just wanted to dive right into it and try to eat it all themselves. I posted pictures on this site. You can see one picture where Haneul put her head all the way down on her tray to try and gobble up her cake. They were cute last year with their cake and ice cream, but this year you can tell that they were REALLY excited about it and couldn't wait to eat it all up.
Haneul and Iseul received a lot of great books, toys, and clothes. They've been having a ball playing with their new toys. On Monday morning I was thinking to myself that they were so quiet and playing togther especially well, and I realized it was because they had received so many new fun gifts that were keeping them interested. I was actually able to prepare a decent breakfast for the whole family both yesterday and today because I didn't have a hundred interruptions like I usually would have.
But don't think that they are just interested in toys. I don't think I've ever seen other children as excited about new clothes as these girls. They love their new clothes and I had to stash them in the master bedroom (where I keep everything I don't want them to get into) so I can actually go through them and wash them before the girls insist on wearing them.
Our present to the girls are tricycles. I purchased one at a local secondhand store a week or so ago, but hadn't found a second one until today. So now they each have their own tricycle and all that remains is for them to grow a bit so they can pedal them on their own. For now they are happy to just sit on them and move them around with their feet.
Taeyang also had a great time at the birthday party. He enjoyed being held by everyone and even had his first major diaper blow-out while his great uncle was holding him. (Note to self: Don't even think to yourself 'Wow---this kid hasn't had explosive bowel movements like my other 2 kids'. That is just asking for the inevitable to happen. I think I also made the mistake of saying it out loud. Not again!) Diaper blow-outs or not, Taeyang charmed everyone with his easygoing personality and smiles. He really is a joy to be around, even at this tender age.
We missed Aunt Kelly and Aunt Keri, Uncle Don and Kaitlyn and Hunter at the party, but look forward to seeing all of them soon. The birthday girls and the rest of us send hugs and kisses to all of you.
Getting out with 3 kids by myself
I decided to take the kids out by myself today. Seung-ho has a class on Saturday morning, so I was on my own even to get them down our treacherous stairs (they have no carpet and there are tacks and nails exposed). I've developed a system to getting the kids out. It consists of wearing Taeyang in a front carrier and carrying the girls down the stairs one by one. Once I carry Iseul down the stairs, I quickly run back up and get Haneul. I take Iseul down first, because she responds better to verbal directions and I know that she isn't as apt to touch the carpet tack strips or nails. Haneul usually stands at the door crying until I get back up there to take her down the steps. So I know to anyone it would seem a funny picture--I'm calling down to Iseul 'don't touch anything!' and calling up to Haneul 'mommy's coming!'. It's chaotic, but it is worth the moment of stress and difficulty to get out of our little condo and get some fresh air.
We went to the mall because I decided that I would have the girls pick out a necklace with some of their birthday money. I gave them two options and they both chose the same one right away (it's neon and beautifully tacky!) and then surprised me by refusing to wear it around their neck and just wanting to hold it. I hope they won't get broken! We also went to the play area and the girls ran around while I sat with Taeyang. I was a little worried that it might be difficult keeping an eye on them, but they just stuck around me and mostly were just interested in people watching and playing with their new necklaces. Then we headed to try out a 'new potty' and discovered that they have a child's toilet at the mall by Macy's. Nice.
And we headed to the central area to go to the Starbucks and get a treat (one with caffeine for me!) and there were baby rabbits, goats, ducks and a lamb there that kids could see and even touch. What a fun surprise! The girls were really excited to see the animals up close and afterwards we had a piece of coffee cake that we shared together.
We ran into three people I know at the mall today and talked with several others who just wanted to admire the girls and Taeyang. I realized that even with a baby brother, Haneul and Iseul will still not lack for attention. I also realized that we are quite the spectacle with our double stroller and Taeyang in the carrier--we had a lot of people staring and smiling at us. And I realized I am very lucky that Haneul and Iseul are happy to sit in their stroller and stick close to me, because I would never be able to take a trip like that on my own otherwise!
Welcome to our picture site/blog
Welcome to our site! Hopefully I will be able to keep up with this and post news and pictures about our family to share with all of you (and it will help me keep a record for baby books, etc.)
The latest news is that Haneul and Iseul are now in toddler beds. You can see them at the top of the page, with big smiles, in their new beds. They love them and love their newly found independence. They have been creating destruction in their room. On Saturday I found Haneul IN the garbage can (she had climbed up on it to get a container of diaper wipes and the lid collapsed on her, so she fell in). Iseul was trying to change her own poopy diaper that day. Yesterday I went in and found that Haneul had completely destroyed one of the wicker storage baskets in their room. There were little wicker 'sticks' covering every inch of the carpet in their room. Haneul looked at me with wide eyes and said 'vacuum'. I should have taken a picture right then and there, but I wasn't exactly in that frame of mind.
Taeyang is doing so well. He is really smiling these days--not just one or twice, but several times during a 'conversation' with him. And he is vocalizing now too. His hair is all falling out, but he has cute little peach fuzz on the top of his head. Haneul and Iseul lost their hair at this age too, but it was like male pattern baldness with them. With Taeyang it looks like he is going to lose his entire head of hair. He sure is a good sleeper and will play on his own in his bouncy seat or little gym for quite a while...until Haneul and Iseul bother him anyway. I would call him and exceptionally good baby based on his sleeping habits and easygoing personality. He rarely cries...it's wonderful!
Well, that is the first update. This weekend is Haneul and Iseul's 2nd birthday and we will be going to their 2 year check-ups soon, so I will have news about their current weights/heights, etc.