Monday, December 16, 2013

O Christmas Tree

+JMJ+

Last year was our first Christmas as a married couple. It was only a few months into our marriage (and a couple months into pregnancy!) and we weren't even in our Ann Arbor apartment on Christmas Day...so what I'm really getting at is that we didn't really do much in the way of decorations. We had a nice fireplace in that apartment so I meticulously placed all of the Christmas cards we received out on display which gave the living room a happy, festive feel. But we certainly didn't procure a Christmas tree.

This year we are still living simply when it comes to the decorations - but we did manage to find a small, table top tree (Target: $12) to (at least) display our collection of ornaments.

Did I mention that I love our growing, little collection of Christmas ornaments? Probably not, but that's actually the main reason I'm writing this post.

When we started going on adventures and taking weekend trips we were in search of some kind of souvenir that we could find almost anywhere we traveled. For example, I remembered that Kelley and her husband collect napkin rings (did I remember that right, Kelley?) and two of my college friends buy a new piece of artwork wherever they travel. I loved both of those ideas but we needed something that suited us (and was conducive to our current lifestyle of potentially packing up and moving around in the next few years). So what did we decide to collect? You guessed it - Christmas ornaments!

Ornaments are quite common in gift shops...although they were surprisingly difficult to find on some of our trips. However, we have managed to find something to commemorate all but two of the trips we took this past year.

About half of these were ornaments I acquired back when we were dating or
engaged or were gifts to us last year - the other half are from
our adventures together :)

Words cannot express how grateful I am that we decided to do this! Decking our little Christmas tree is officially a tradition that will grant us a happy trip down memory lane just as I could see it has always been for my family growing up. Don't get me wrong - I love those pretty, matchy matchy ornaments that follow a particular color scheme...but I also love an assorted collection of ornaments that have their own unique stories behind them. And one year later, for our second married Christmas, we have begun a humble collection of such shared memories. :)


What kinds of Advent or Christmas traditions do you follow in your family? How and when do you decorate your tree (if you decorate one at all)? This year we happened to decorate our tree just in time for Gaudete Sunday (which happened to fall on my birthday this year!) - but I'm not certain when we will decorate in the future.

"O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!"
-from "O Tannenbaum"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My (Half) Asian Baby

+JMJ+

It's not lost on me that two of the most common searches that bring people to my blog are "Asian babies" and "adorable Asian babies." The post I wrote that announced my pregnancy with Gabriel (entitled "Asian babies...for real!") is currently my second most popular blog entry of all time. I get it. I mean, long before I even met my husband I totally did frequent Google searches for Asian babies because...they are adorable! Then, once I married Michael and we knew we were expecting we had lots of fun searching online for photos of half-Asian children as we wondered what our baby might look like. One thing became obvious about our searches: we were not alone! There were tons of forums with people posting baby photos and sharing what kind of ethnic background their children were. Anyway - if you arrived at this blog in hopes of seeing pictures of an Asian (or half-Asian) baby, this post has been written specially for you! 

You search, I deliver. Or something like that. Just think of it as an early, virtual Christmas gift from me to you. ;)

First things first. I know you're dying to know so I'll tell you. My husband (who is American-born - 1st generation) is half Korean, half Chinese. Personally, I think my husband looks more Korean...and our son looks more similar to other babies I have seen that are half Caucasian, half Korean. But you can be the judge. Our son is half Caucasian, one quarter Korean, and one quarter Chinese.

First, I'll give you all a gratuitous photo of my husband and me:

No, my hair isn't actually naturally red and yes, yes, my
husband is really that handsome ;)
Oh, what's that? You need one more photo of us before I show you tons of photos of the beautiful son we have been blessed with? Okay, if you say so:

Now you can see our faces better. This is an oldie from the month before we got engaged. Aren't we cute?

Without further ado, here is a glance at our son throughout the first 4 months of his life thus far. I like to call this collection "The many faces of Gabriel."










Because Gabriel is so young we are still waiting to see when his eyes turn brown (or if they will settle on hazel. Right now they are a brilliant blue!). We are also waiting to see what color his hair becomes - because currently the back is light brown and the top is practically blonde...and in the sunshine it looks almost red. So many fun things to discover with time!

"I love Asian babies!"
-me

Update in September 2014: As I type this Gabriel is now 13 months old. His eyes are unquestionably hazel (the only two options for us, genetically speaking, would be hazel or brown). His hair is strawberry blonde, although it's quite possible that it will get darker (I was light blonde until I was 4, at which point my hair naturally became light brown). Want to see some more current photos??? Head on over to Gabriel's 12-month update. :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

So Thankful

+JMJ+

I know, I know, Thanksgiving was a couple of weeks ago already. But after an unintended blogging hiatus I'm finally getting around to writing about some of the goodness and the life that we have lived this past month or so.

The week of Thanksgiving entailed lots of travel for us - namely because we opted to drive to see some family members (rather than flying). The details about why we drove are long and boring because they have to do with license plate renewals and all those boring things to be done at a BMV...so we will just leave it at that.

The pros of this course of action? Keeping my vehicle legal is a good one. Plus, we saved lots of money! It probably would have cost at least 3 times what we spent had we gone the airplane route. We even got to experience legitimate "Southern hospitality" along the way. And, I finally felt as if I had some inkling of a geographic understanding of what we had traveled through when I was 38 weeks pregnant (what a blur) and we made the move to Florida. Cons? Honestly, not too many - other than the usual things that go with road trips (long hours, getting tired of driving, etc.) plus the bonus of trying to keep a teething infant happy. But seriously - it wasn't that bad! The first 2 hours leaving Florida were the worst and after that (probably thanks to the prayers I frantically sent up to heaven) it was relatively smooth sailing. I definitely believe that God was watching out for us because everything with Gabriel could have been much more difficult than it was.

So where did we go? We'll be spending lots of quality time with Michael's entire family for Christmas, so this quick visit was dedicated to a few of my family members.

One of our main goals of the trip was to visit my Grammie (my dad's mom) in Cincinnati. This autumn she had some bad falls, broke her collar bone, and has been in a couple of rehab facilities ever since. Prior to these past few months she was still living at home in the house my grandpa built and my dad and his siblings grew up in. While we're on the topic, please pray for her! She is 89 years old and is one tough cookie but I have never seen her look older or more frail than when we saw her a couple weeks ago. Please pray also for my Uncle Jim - who is her main caretaker (outside of the employees at the facility where she currently resides) and has spent countless hours visiting her. He is already very busy with his job as a social worker so it's bound to be wearing him thin.

Anyway. All of these medical concerns with my grandmother have taken a toll on my family (especially my dad, my aunt, and two uncles) and have had us very concerned for her health as of late. She was unable to travel to my wedding so she had only met Michael once (when we visited her a couple months after getting married) and we wanted to make sure she met her newest great-grandson...so obviously seeing her was a priority.

Currently my mom is staying with her step-mother (Grandma Rita) to help her recover from the heart surgery she had back in August (to be clear: Grandma Rita had surgery - not my mom). Grandma Rita lives in Lexington, Kentucky and so does my Dear Ma (my mom's mom)...and Lexington is on the way to Cincinnati...so you can probably see where this is going.

We left Florida on that Tuesday afternoon, arrived in Lexington Wednesday night, and spent Thanksgiving Day in Lexington with my mom, Grandma Rita, Dear Ma, and my younger sister who was on break from grad school. Grandma Rita graciously allowed us to stay in her beautiful home and you'd better believe Gabriel had a grand time receiving all the loving he got from his extended family members!

Gabriel with his Great Dear Ma

That Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) we drove to Cincinnati with my sister to take care of my car stuff, share a meal with my dad and some extended family, then headed to the nursing home with my dad to visit Grammie.

Unfortunately, Grammie has been experiencing some dementia since one of her falls so she didn't know who we were the entire time - even though she knew that we were family. All in all it didn't matter, though, because despite the fact that she probably couldn't place our faces with our names most of the time and she was frustrated with the staff she was filled with joy when I presented Gabriel to her. Every time she got upset or there was a lull in the conversation I showed her Gabriel again, told her it was her newest great-grandson, and she smiled and motioned that she wanted him as I handed him over to her. It made me so so happy that even though I couldn't directly bring her happiness that day I was able to provide her with joy by sharing my son with her.

Gabriel and his Great-Grammie

That night we drove back to Lexington to share one last meal with family before we hit the road.

I honestly don't know what to say about Thanksgiving other than the cliche that I am so thankful. But I am. We were blessed with safe travels with our baby (who was probably about as happy as a 16-week old could be when traveling nearly 40 hours in a few days), quality time with family, happy memories, delicious food, and took care of my car's license plate situation to boot.

Words cannot express the gratitude I have for all that God has blessed us with. If everyone in the world were to experience the kind of love we had showered upon us and our son the world would surely be a much happier place. May we pray for all those who are not quite so fortunate to share in the same blessings of love, family, warm shelter, and good food to eat during the upcoming holidays. And may all of you be blessed with the love, peace, and joy we experience as we anticipate celebrating the birth of our Lord!

P.S. My Dear Ma is currently ill with bronchitis...so please pray for her speedy recovery as well!

"'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding."
-Alice Walker

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gabriel: 4 Months

+JMJ+

Wow, time flies! Apparently I have taken a month-long hiatus from the blog. This is mainly due to the week of Thanksgiving (during which we traveled nearly 40 hours with a 16-week old baby - maybe I'll get around to posting about that someday), procuring Christmas gifts for family members, getting Christmas cards ready, and simply trying to be "present" to my family and my relationship with God during this Advent season. I'm very thankful that Michael and I already have all the gifts done so that we can now focus on preparing our hearts for the birth of our Lord...and some very exciting upcoming time spent with family and friends!

Anyway. This post is supposed to be all about our growing little man. :)

Gabriel is in his 18th week (EIGHTEEN! Seriously, time flies) and as of the 5th is "officially" 4 months old. I waited to post about his 4th month until he had his appointment with the pediatrician for his vaccinations and physical exam. That way I would have all his updated measurements. :)

The day before he turned 4 months old :)
Nursing

  • He is finally settling into another pattern that is more spaced out than his "every hour on the hour" nursing sessions from his newborn days. Currently he tends to eat every 2 or 2.5 hours throughout the day (sometimes going 3 hours!). This makes it much easier to get out and do things without always having to stop and nurse everywhere we go.
  • Bottle shmottle. Gabriel still prefers the real deal...but we are working on it. His Aunt Christina has already offered to let me leave him at home with her and take my nieces somewhere fun when they visit next week. Either he will take a bottle or get really hungry until I return. His choice. ;)

Nap Time
  • Gabriel used to just...fall asleep for naps. If he was tired, he slept. Easy peasy. This changed somewhere around the time he turned 3 months old and now he needs to be soothed to sleep (which consists of me bouncing, rocking, and singing or talking softly to him for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes). When all else fails I bust out our Baby Bjorn and walk around until he conks out. This isn't too surprising, though, considering all of the cognitive developments happening around this age.
  • He takes 3-4 naps a day (3 during the daytime, one in the evening) that range from 30-60 minutes. If he is really tired he will take a long nap of 1.5 or 2 hours and only need one other nap during the day.

Bed Time
  • He is still amazing at falling asleep for the night when he is tired. We change him into PJs between 9 and 10pm (whenever he needs a diaper change during that hour or right after his bath on bath nights), he eats one more time - usually between 10 and 10:30pm and falls asleep in my arms once he is full. Then I lay him down and he stays asleep or falls back asleep on his own if he happens to wake up.
  • He "slept through the night" (baby speak translation: slept 5-7 hours in one stretch) at 7 weeks, but he definitely had that 3-month "regression." The very night I wrote his 3-month update he began waking up again during the night. For the next 3 weeks or so I readjusted to getting up 2-3 times a night.
  • A couple weeks ago he had some bad nights where he woke up 5 or 6 times, newborn style. Eventually we figured out he had begun teething (silly parents) and since then (because we got him some natural Orajel) he has started sleeping better again.
  • Currently he is back down to waking up only once...so here's to hoping he will get back to sleeping through the night again soon. :)

Bath Time
  • Still no issues here! Although we did figure out that we greatly prefer the Baby Magic Calming Baby Bath to the Baby Magic Original Baby Scent wash. The original scent makes it smell like you've smothered your child in gobs of baby powder...so if you like that kind of smell, go for it. If not, stick to the calming Lavender and Chamomile (which smells heavenly). 
  • I also just learned that it's a good thing we stopped using our Johnson's head-to-toe baby shampoo (we switched because we really like the smell of the Baby Magic calming wash) because it contains 2 potentially cancer-causing chemicals. Did you all know this?! Dioxane and Quaternium-15 release formaldehyde. You'd better believe I'll be boycotting this product until they remove them (for the record, they do make some products without these chemicals now. But not all).

Play Time
  • This is just the best. He can now aim, grab, clasp, etc. very well.
  • "Oh Mr. Sun" is still his favorite play-time song. It almost never fails to make him smile.
  • He loves having raspberries blown on his tummy, having his chest tickled, and more. He can even blow raspberries with his lips on his own now, too. Adorable! 
  • He is fascinated by any weird noise I can create with my mouth - loud kissing sounds, raspberries, tongue clicking, trilling, etc. You name it, he loves it. In fact, that's how I managed to calm him down several times on our epic Thanksgiving road trip.
  • Current favorite toys include his soccer ball rattle, monkey blanket rattle, and some plastic rings that have varying textures (especially because they are easy to grab and place in his teething mouth).
  • Tummy time is no longer his least favorite thing in the world!!! I have no idea what his least favorite thing could be now, actually. He is so happy in general.
  • He loves loves loves mirrors. Show him his reflection and he will adore himself with smiles and giggles.
  • He likes books a lot more...and even sat through me reading The Story of Ferdinand (which is quite long for a baby his age!).

Growth/Development

    • He can roll over from front to back!!! Which means all of a sudden (as of that first roll on December 3rd) he has no issues with tummy time and can happily look around/stare at himself in the mirror from that position for at least 5 minutes before he gets tired and whimpers a little bit.
    • He has outgrown all of his 0-3 month clothing except for his "3 month" onesies that are made by Carter's (which is quickly becoming my favorite baby clothing brand) and some shorts and pants.
    • We bumped him up to size 2 diapers (we use Pampers Swaddlers) a couple of weeks ago.
    • As of yesterday he weighs 13 lbs. 9 oz.!
    • He is now 25.5 inches long (over 2 feet)! This currently places him in the 60th percentile so he continues to be a "tall baby."
    • His head circumference is 16.5 inches. At yesterday's appointment his doctor commented on how pronounced and visible the blood vessels going to his brain are; I always assumed it's just because I have fair skin - which means you can easily see several of my veins. Instead, she said that his brain is obviously growing a lot and those blood vessels are working hard to keep up with feeding that growth. I don't know why, but the way she said it made me chuckle.
    • He began teething a couple weeks ago...but we didn't really figure it out until last week (right around the time he turned 4 months old). 
    • He is still amazingly vocal and often sounds like he is saying certain words like mama, mom, hey, etc. So fun.
    Needless to say, it's been a great 4 months and this is a very fun age - especially since he still likes strangers but will now always smile at and prefer his mommy and daddy. One of my favorite things every single day is when I walk into his room in the morning (once he is awake); Gabriel greets me with the biggest, happiest smiles I have ever seen. If that isn't enough to melt a mother's heart (even on those sleep-deprived mornings) I seriously don't know what is.

    "Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments."
    -Rose Kennedy