Friday, December 30, 2011

Weekend 92 of 52+

Jeju Island: Marine Park with Trick Eye Museum, Glass Museum, Chocolate Musuem, Circus World, Boat Cruise, Sunset at Jungmun Beach

We hired a Christmas pension (what I would call a magical Christmas cabin) with Korrine and two more of Dan's fellow teachers, Heather and Jessica, and went to Korea's southern island, Jeju, for the holiday. In so doing, we accomplished our first flights and our first vacation with our sweetest son. I keep saying that he behaves much more readily in public than he does at home, and this trip only further proved this observation. From the moment we woke up on Friday morning, he could tell something was amiss. He was distracted by our excitement and especially by our sorting and packing. So he fussed around for the morning, but the second we took him out in public, he was smiling and charming away. While we were gone, he ate wonderfully and without complaint, he was sleeping through until 6:30 most mornings, and he cheered his way through every overstimulating situation. Today, our first day at home, and he's back to labored eating, and last night, our first night at home, he woke up for an hour at 2:30 (and the next night at 1, 2, 3, and 4, practicing counting, I suppose). He's a silly guy.

He definitely loves the attention of all of his aunties, and Korrine is so good with him. One day Dan and I both accidentally fell asleep, and I woke up to see Korrine and Joah quietly chatting in the kitchen. She definitely taught him how to stick out his tongue last week, and he's been blowing raspberries with it since we got home.

It's not just aunties who puff up his ego. We were at a galbi-tang (beef rib stew) restaurant, and a waitress came and swooped him up off the floor and walked around with him. We even watched him shake hands with the chef. And on our last day, we took a boat ride that culminated in a mob of people taking his picture as we de-boated. It was completely insane, and he loved it.

Jeju was wonderful, and, of course, it's supposed to be a magical little island. I would liken it to the island baby of Florida and Kentucky. It is notched by jagged rock formations and carpeted in orange groves. Volcanoes were responsible for much of its existence, so porous lava rock is everywhere and celebrated. We set a relaxing pace for ourselves and got to pet dolphins and blow glass, sample chocolate and watch the sun set. Our only troubles were with grumpy taxi drivers, but that sort of thing happens everywhere.

My favorite part of all of it, though, was just how much it felt like a vacation. I guess I have never really needed a vacation before. Turning into the mom version of human is such a feat, though, that I was ready for a break from the driving beat of every day (weekends don't seem to exist for nursing infants). The fact that everyone else made meals and allowed me to just sit and take care of the baby was such a gift. On Christmas, we stayed home and baked cookies and ate cookies and watched Home Alones and did present exchanges, both proper and White Elephant. This year's Thanksgiving and Christmas have been the most authentic holidays since we left home for Seoul. Such a boon.

Speaking of cookies, though, I think Joash is going to have quite the adjustment period as his food slowly morphs back from spice and sugar into nutrients. So much cookie consumption.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Weekend 91 of 52+

Christmas Tree, Train, and Gingerbread House at the Millennium Hilton

So I just realized that I didn't post the extant pictures of Joah in his Santa hat. But now seems as good a time as any since we adorned him with that hat to go look at his first proper Christmas tree. We hiked up some treacherous alley inclines, scaling staircases inappropriately steep. But we otherwise arrived in the lobby of the Millennium Hilton without much difficulty. We immediately set to disrobing the child, discarding his snowsuit, and Dan set to waiting in line for our photo opportunity. Every event in Seoul is always excessively attended, but the holiday urgency did make this feel more fun and Christmasy.

We found two smaller Christmas trees outside of one of the hotel's restaurants, and that's actually where Joash got to engage. He could touch those trees, and he definitely liked exploring a new texture. It will be nice for him when he can sit somewhere and caress things to his heart's content, without being bound by the limited strength of his parents' arms. And I'm sure I'll cry because he doesn't need me anymore.

Even just now I watched him discover that he can lay his head down when he flips on his belly and so doesn't have to flail in desperation, unable to flip back over. Such an independent.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Our Halls, Decked

We actually have no halls at all in our apartment, but we decked our window wall and a corner anyway. Joah participated by watching me cut out snowflakes and later sitting on Dan's lap while we put foil on our plastic Christmas tree (sorry to both Radiohead and Joni Mitchell).

Dan's early Christmas present to me was showing me how to watch the Today Show on demand on the XBox. For whatever reason it isn't blocked in Korea. During tonight's 3.5 hour baby eats, I have been watching the latest episode. Ignoring background American TV has helped soothe the sting of my holiday-triggered homesickness.

Baby's new trick: chewing chins and with gusto.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Four Months Old

I just realized as I set out to type it that the nickname I readily call my son is unspellable. I often call him any variation of the word booger. This includes: boogie, boogity (prompting recitations of this), and boog. But when you just write boog, it looks like you have written boog (rhymes with boob) not boog (rhymes with book). I feel like this serves as a proof that something or someone doesn't exist.

But, that someone turned four months old today! Another time-space continuum conundrum is that his birthday is August 7th, but he won't be four months old in his home country until tomorrow. Once we move back to America, we will always celebrate his birthday a day late, and what if we were to fly to Korea on August 6th? He'd miss his birthday entirely! But if we flew to the states on August 7th, he'd get two birthdays. I think the tangential nature of this post has something to do with the chronic naplessness of the aforementioned booger and/or the coffee I drank earlier.

Moving on, four months. And I took some pictures of his new and seasonal morning ritual: the cuddling of the Christmas lights. Maybe that's why he can't sleep? Who knows (but the internet)!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Joash Lifts His Head

Even the fact that he is big enough to rest his head in my lap astounds me. And today I think he stood (assisted) more than he sat.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Weekend 88 of 52+

Expat Thanksgiving

Man, I said I was going to be in bed by 10, but that was when Joash went to sleep at 9. He went on to wake up at 9:30, so I said I'd go to bed at 10:30, and it is only 6 minutes shy of that goal. Five now. I lost a minute trying to think of a cleverer way to word the last sentence. Cleverness will have to wait until a morning edit.

We were invited to an expat Thanksgiving by a guy we randomly met at a Quizno's who is mutual friends with three different groups of people Dan knows in three different places on the earth. Um, that's pretty weird. His name is Ben. I am glad for the serendipity that led us to him and his Thanksgiving gathering. We did Thanksgiving dinner last year, but we ate at Dan's school, and it seemed more like putting on a novelty for the Koreans on staff. This year it felt proper and American and homey and cozy and tasty. There was the perfect variety of perfect food. I guess I don't have much to say about it. Pictures, then.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Facing Out

My happiest boy, facing out in the Bjorn, sat near a glitter wall at the fancy mall.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thanksgiving Present

First of all, I'm going to say that Dan dressed our baby fully in girl's clothes today, a brand called EllePoupon, with wrist and shoulder ruffles. After that I will say that I made a jokey video of Joah playing with this snappy, rattly, rolly ball toy I just found in a box of donated stuff. (Bonus: the face on the inside kind of looks like the lisping snake from Robin Hood.) I'm pretty sure it uses/strengthens all of his current motor skills. Being here to witness the minute a human begins to move with purpose has been pretty incredible. I hope I always remember his helpless flailing.

Happy Thanksgiving to us! Even though we're celebrating on Saturday, which is really Friday, so our day ahead becomes our day behind. Whatever, there will be turkey, and that's all that matters.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On a Quest for Pants

I've mentioned our search for pants for our son. He's got plenty of onesies and several sleeping options but not very many pants. With the latest weekend ushering in the winter, his need for pants has become very real. For whatever reason, Dan and I have failed to find cheap and normal looking pants for an infant. I can walk down the street and buy for myself a $7 pair of pants and endless varieties of dollar socks, but infant clothes are either nowhere or exorbitantly priced (we saw a name brand shirt with a bow tie on it for $100+). We tried the Western fashion stores in Myeongdong. We've looked at various department stores. We even, this weekend, went back to Jamsil where we'd previously found his monster pants. We bought two pairs, one of which was this fascinatingly ridiculous sweatpants approximation of cowboy jeans:

I posted this on Facebook, and it prompted friends to offer to ship over hand-me-downs. I wasn't trying to act destitute or anything. I am not above charity, though. I'm not that kind of girl. Already Sally has come over and solved his immediate need for pants. So, fret not, good people of Facebook.

Want to have a funny conversation? Talk to my mom about Facebook. She doesn't have one, and she is definitively not a computer person.

Well, so anyway, on our way to Jamsil, we stopped at D-Cube City (a mall) to eat Japanese ramen at Mist, upon the suggestion on Japanese ramen is my favorite food discovered in Korea (we probably would have discovered it in Japan, but we had a cash and credit card problem there that necessitated frequent trips to Starbucks; the toilets have heated seats, but they can't be bothered with credit card machines). It's soy saucy and with the tenderest, yummiest sliced pork and a soft boiled egg. So good. So good.

D-Cube City is the fanciest mall we've yet been to. There are glitter walls everywhere, even on convenience store facades. And there was lots of good food, so we will probably go back.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Babies Aren't Good at Things

Joash is still figuring out his fingers. Here he tries to coerce his eye to accept his fist. Mostly he just ends up red-eyed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend 86 of 52+


A month or so ago Dan and Johnny attended a TEDxItaewon event, a locally organized session of the larger TED organization. I would almost liken TED Talks to Toastmasters, but maybe with less nerdy connotations (or maybe not). Different speakers deliver speeches on a set topic. People go (physically or just online) and listen to those speeches. Sometimes there are cupcakes. It's all exceptionally cerebral. Somehow both Dan and Johnny met the organizers and got involved. Johnny spearheaded filming, and Dan was asked to give a speech about what drives him and to incorporate a couple of our songs. He's been practicing all week- while the baby's sleeping, while the baby's playing, as part of the baby's bedtime story. Yesterday Dan delivered that speech to more than 100 people, representing upwards of 26 different countries.

You know how people talk about their hearts swelling when their kid does something great? While I do get that every time Joah smiles or dances to Jay-Z songs or poops in his diaper and not on my leg, watching Dan give his speech made my heart swell with pride for that kid I married. I remember him clunkily teaching a high school Sunday school class 6 years ago, and to watch him yesterday as if he did that sort of thing all the time, no big deal, was really amazing.

Obviously I will still brag about my offspring. Joash made it through 8 hours out, characterized by eating in public restrooms, diaper changes and brief periods of play on cold floors, being held by three different strangers (three to him, two to us) and once when we weren't even around. He did get scared when I plopped down on one of those retractable theater seats, which meant that I spent most of the time in the lobby watching from the fourth floor window a little world culture festival happening in the courtyard. I think he was also a little overwhelmed by all the people. What a good weekend, though, for these Johnson gentlemen!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Moose Encounter

I dug through the box holding Joah's toys and decided to give him free reign of the gamut, which is mercifully minor. In that box was his new favorite friend, an Alaskan moose given him, I think, by Dan's sister Lisa.

He liked it so much he needed to taste it.

And because we're such great parents, here we are trying to make him cry with various animal sounds. Spoiler Alert: he takes it like a champ.

And, as a bonus, Joash holds his head up for a long time. So, there!

In other news, my kid rolled over today. All by himself.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Upon Grandma's Advice

My mom is trying to break my heart even faster. After watching Joah squirm around on his belly via Skype, she suggested that he might be ready to start scooting and I should put him on the floor. Boo, mom. So, anyway, when he had been alive for exactly 3 months, we did just that. And, ha! He can't scoot yet, but he sure seems to want to, and he almost flipped himself over onto his back, and, in between high energy motherly encouragement, I wept.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Infant

This is the last we'll ever see of Joah as a newborn. He's already an infant - a grabby, laughy, grubby (seriously, what's up with dirty baby palms?) little infant. We have diagnosed him as highly distractible, which often makes him incredibly difficult to feed. He won't finish until he's gotten all his chats in, and he's likely to pop off to stare at Dan after not seeing him all day. He likes to twist us up all across the bed, during which I fail to remain as calm as I should. It's pretty much the opposite of fun. Eating is his main disorder, though, and he's otherwise so well-tempered and sweet.

Here he is during one of his frequent breaks expressing his great dislike of cows and/or mooing sounds.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Weekend 84 of 52+

Seonyudo Park

Ah, yeah. We had a weekend again. Can you believe it? Pregnancy and newborns put such a boundary on weekend making. Heck, there've been solid weeks I haven't left the house. But Joash is officially an infant now, at 12 weeks (don't even ask how that makes me feel), and we revisited Seonyudo Park as a family. We talked about just recreating all of our old weekends with the baby. That probably won't happen entirely, but here we've begun the effort.

The fun thing about having a baby is the desperation to capitalize on the moments between feeds. Luckily Joah skipped his morning nap on Sunday, so we were out of the house by 11. We went to Pizza School and GS 25 (convenience store) to forage for picnic foods. Then we hiked over the river, laden with pizza box, snack pack, diaper bag, and babe. We dodged many a bicyclist, some rude, others polite, some in biking costumes, others in civvies. Dang if distances don't seem longer with so much gear.

We settled in at the park in a seemingly abandoned spot and set up our space. The very second Joash wanted to eat, of course it's suddenly the most popular place in the park. And the poor kid screaming his blanket-covered face off. But we survived, didn't we? We also survived Dan dumping two liquids (Mt. Dew and water) on the mat, the latter of which soaked my bottom. It is ironic that it happened as I was attending to Joah's own soaked little bottom. Dan kept remarking, "And you're still not doing the weirdest thing in the park today." We saw some cos-players. We saw a photo club taking selcas with their hands covering their faces. We saw a girl wearing a long teal wig while dressed in a kimono and geta sandals.

It was a fantastic weekend, and we started our collection of pictures of Joash in front of Seoul-specific landscapes. I like to think he'll thank us for it later.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Ways to Play

Joash has started to play with toys that aren't comprised entirely of my DNA. He has a crinkly basketball, a turtle named Sosipater, and a well formed fist that all hold his attention now (I guess that last one is half my DNA). And his mobile. He really can't get enough of his mobile. He's starting to like being tossed around, too. Dan was bouncing him between soft surfaces today (baby parkour), and the kid almost exploded from silent laughter. We keep saying that we're teaching him to suck his thumb, but, really, we're just guiding an activity that he initiates. The guiding is literal, as his aim often points his thumb into a cheek or an eye.

(I am typing this with one hand, two words at a time, while Joash engages in his nightly refusal to stay latched, which makes him fuss and gas and then fuss about the gas. He more than makes up for it with shouts of "oh!" and "erg..." intermittent with the grunts and groans about his dinner service.)

On with a video about thumb sucking:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Is 11 weeks too young to do a retrospective? (Also, how do you other parents keep track of your kid's week age? I have to count a calendar every time.) I just realized that I haven't been posting pictures from Dan's iPod here, which means my parents haven't seen most of them. So here is a low-resolution look back at the life of Joah.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Only Trouble Is, Gee Whiz...

We took Joash out for his most ambitious day trip so far. It required of him a degree of dietary flexibility as he had to dine and sup in a food court Johnny Rocket's, a family bathroom, and a Starbucks. He excelled. Honestly, sometimes I think he performs better in public. Maybe we should try sleeping for the night in a park or a convenience store. Maybe then he'd wake up less often than EVERY freaking hour. But I digress.

Maybe we seem lame for thinking this, but eating at Johnny Rocket's was an incredibly soothing and nostalgic experience for us. Easy American food (including "American fries" which I thought were French) and Oldies on the radio. It was like being in the car with anyone's dad.

All this adventuring we did so we could spend some gift certificates at the Shinsegae Department Store. We bought detergent. Boring. But also cookies. Not boring. We tried to buy me milkless tarts and desserts at the resident Sticky Fingers Bakery, but, alas, it was no more. Replaced by a rice cake shop. I guess this means I'll probably have to bake my own birthday cake.

Friday, October 21, 2011

On Sleep and Sweaters

He's not much of a morning napper, but he's kicking at his mobile for now anyhow. And, who could complain after the 6 hour miracle that happened between the hours of 10 and 4 last night? And then when he finished eating, he slept again until after 8. Strange wonder, this sleep.

I decided to dress him in the 1940s vest I knit him. It was a good decision. It was paired with some oddly cut Korean pants that were a gift to us. It's good because otherwise he has no pants.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

For My Mom

Joash has things to say. He just can't say them in English yet. And I can hear his bottom lip coming out right now, so I should go attend to that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Because the Afternoon Light was Perfect

I'm not trying to post nonstop pictures of my baby, but the sun came in through the windows and lit him up so wonderfully that it prompted a brief photo shoot.

In case anyone is keeping track, Joash took three whole naps today. And then he started faking me out around 4 and has been faking ever since. I will not be a chooser, though, and I will take what he gives me, which today meant making potato salad for Dan's students who've never heard of it and cooking down some condensed milk for tomorrow's ice cream attempt.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sleepy and Grumpy

What is America's immunization schedule like? Because it seems like we are just constantly re-drugging this poor kid here in Korea. By the time he gets over one, it's on to the next. So Joash has been interminably sleepy and grumpy today. He has feigned satiety four times (now five) and whimpered when I tried to switch sides for a refill. He knows what he wants and he wants it. All the time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Our baby is now 12 pounds and 23.6 inches long. And lo, do I feel it in my arms. He has learned to refuse to eat, and I have learned bouncing and coaxing strategies. He just really likes having a chat sometimes and forgets to get down to business. Last week was very challenging (a euphemism for terrible), but I think we've come through it okay. We went to the doctor yesterday (which is why I forgot to Skype you, parents), and he has no diseases and, so far, no adverse reactions to his latest vaccines. He's awesome.

Here he is with one of his Korean aunties. He likes them a lot.

And here he is, first of all, filling out the clothes we brought him home in, and, secondly, having turned his frog hat into a dragon hat by squirming around in the Baby Bjorn.


Friday, October 7, 2011

On the Occasion of Two Months

Holy cow, you guys, parenthood is hard. So much crying happened today, most of it mine. Like, crying to the point that I really hope our neighbors weren't home at lunchtime to hear my uncontrollable, noisy sobbing. Let's not get into that, though. Babies are hard to have but hard to hate, am I right?

Joash is two months old today. He hates napping and loves eating. Some of his favorite foods are horchata and bananas. Korean food is not on that list, but it is growing on him. He started wearing clothes (as necessitated by the change in weather) and looks best in white. So far, his favorite author is Dickens, though he really enjoyed the Japanese Dan read to him last night. He likes staring at his mobile and being super sweet.

Closeups back when he was just a baby. A week ago.

Having some sort of gripping dream. He can't even fit into these soakers anymore.

Taken today. Wearing the billed cap I made him.

As worn previously.

Falling slowly.

Grumpy flailing. You try growing up so fast!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bad Night

Last night was arguably one of the worst of my life. I'd laid back in bed after a 1 am feeding, unable to fall immediately back to sleep. Then I started shaking violently and couldn't get warm. I have never had the chills before. It sucked. So I was still awake by the time Joash woke again, and all my rumbling in the bed had awakened Dan. I put on a hoodie, a baby, and a blanket, and I shook and dozed my way through a feed. I woke up hot and with a terrible headache.

I feel much better now, though, and resolving to do nothing, not even make the bed, has made this day (and the last 4 hours of Joah's munching) seem much easier than most days post-bad-night. It didn't hurt that Dan came home to make sure I hadn't died from what was most likely a breastfeeding related illness. Hopefully my hardy body will take care of it completely without antibiotics. We'll see.

Oh, but 4 hours of nursing and you know what that means: videos.

Finding his thumb with some outside assistance.

Twenty seconds of smiles.

Something else about this day is that our water is turned off until 5, and I have poop to wash out of things.


Monday, October 3, 2011

On Crying

The sharing of this sad video coincides nicely with the sharing of this sad tale, though the two are otherwise unrelated. On Saturday night, we took a grumpy baby out to dinner and thought we'd never make it home. We went for Chinese lamb skewers in Sinchon, which is 2 subway stops from ours. Joash had eaten for two hours, napped for half an hour, and we thought a walk in the Baby Bjorn would settle him further. We were wrong. He remained pretty awake until his hungry cries necessitated our early exit. We headed down to a subway more packed than ever we'd experienced before. There's no way to describe how packed it was because you'd never grasp the scope of the situation without having pushed through it yourself. I will note that I now understand how people are trampled to death in crowds.

So, but, we didn't just need to go through the turnstiles and board a train. Dan's transit card is broken, so he needed to buy a ticket. We couldn't make it to the ticket machines, didn't want, with a crying baby, to wait in a ticket line 50 persons deep. Back up out of the subway we went to try and hail a cab. We made our move. The heartless cab driver rejected us, even though Dan had a baby strapped to him. We made a desperate and ultimately vain attempt to figure out the bus system. Dan called Johnny for help. We tried for another cab, then headed back underground to see if it was less hectic. It wasn't. We decided Dan would just buy another card so we could get home. He bought a card but the vendor couldn't put money on it. Finally, Dan and Johnny swapped cards. We queued up at the turnstiles, and countless minutes later, we were, with our crying baby, on our way home.

It was our most stressful venture as parents yet and we survived and Joash survived and then we decided to spend the rest of the weekend at home.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Strong Arm, Wobbly Noggin

I didn't realize they start this head lifting business so early. Joash is already pretty good at heaving that third of his body weight into the air. It must be the constant breast milk drip he's hooked up to. Dan's is his favorite chest to practice on, likely because of its expanse.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Never Satisfied

Joash, for the first time since his first week, had solid naps all day long. It turns out that when we're not cuddled up all day having marathon feeds, I miss his sweaty little head. Now I've admitted it, he'll be up all night.

I only have three pictures since last time, so I will not even bother with a cut.

This one having nothing to do with baby but that it was given as a present upon visiting him. Korea excels at dessert decoration, which is strange given how foreign dessert is to them.

Joash is blessed with many Korean aunts. This one is Sally. She's probably his favorite. I love how she propped him up on a pillow. Way to make my kid even cuter.

Dan and I have started fighting over this coveted sleeping baby time. I guess it's only fair to give him some since I get it all day long. I can't believe I lived this long without it.

I couldn't decide which picture I liked best.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Really Ending in Tears This Time

Joah's tears came in (apparently babies are born with dry eyes), and he decided to exercise them in hungry frustration (and I later exercised some of my own in correlation).

And now I will take a break from posting so many videos of my awesome baby because I know everyone is getting jealous.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The More He Eats, the More I Video

I am starting to notice a direct correlation between the amount of time I spend feeding and the amount of time I spend filming the boy. On particularly growth spurty days, I guess I get bored and start trying to get him to perform his tricks, otherwise known as basic bodily functions.

First proof of a hungry day - truncated naps.

Second proof - waking up rooting.

And here I tried to coerce him into lifting his head, but he was not having it.

All right, back to feeding.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Joah Learns to Smile and Makes a Friend

But he doesn't learn to sleep apparently. He got his Hepatitis B vaccination yesterday, and he has had such a rough day today. He forgot how to eat, how to sleep in his bed, how to poop in his diaper and not on my lap. But I trust he'll relearn quickly. I just have to figure out a way to trick him down long enough for a shower.

But at least he learned how to smile.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

In Between Sleeps

Sometimes Joash is awake. Usually he's not. Here are some pictures of both of those occasions.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Video Backlog

Since so much of my day is spent stationary, muscles atrophying into the bed, watching a teeny person eat and grow, I have been taking many short videos to entertain my solitary self. Because I don't want to overwhelm anyone but grandparents with baby videos (I myself have a strict policy of watching no more than 45 seconds at a time of anyone else's baby), I will upload them more promptly in the future, but, for now, I have a little collection. Feel free to watch only the videos that sound the cutest to you, but do be sure to watch the one in which my baby pulls his own hair. It is completely pitiful, and I hope I never forget how dear it was.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How Joash Came to Life

Now that Joash is in his fourth week of life, I figured I'd get on with it and post his birth story. I was able to write a piece on natural birth and our personal experience for our wonderful, wonderful birth center, Medi Flower. If anyone reading this is pregnant and living in Korea, do yourself a favor and choose Medi Flower. We loved everything about our care there.

The morning after with Dr. Chung.

My husband, Dan, and I had been married for 5 years when we decided we should have a baby. That’s probably around the normal marital age for people to start planning pregnancies. Our fifth anniversary, though, just happened to happen while we were living in Seoul, South Korea. Still, we decided we’d try for a baby, and 5 months after that anniversary, we found ourselves in need of prenatal care. I wanted a natural birth without the aid of any medically unnecessary intervention, and I wanted to be able to trust my body (and my doctor) to provide me with one.

I had found Medi Flower online before I’d gotten pregnant and tucked it away in my bookmarks as the only place my heart would let me deliver. That was made most obvious on the day Dan told me he wasn’t sure we’d have enough money saved to cover the delivery costs. American through and through, we are used to payment plans and buying things before we can afford them. I cried and yelled and had a hormone-fueled tantrum. At our next appointment, Stella Han and Dr. Chung helped us work out the financial aspect of our natural birth. More than that, though, Dr. Chung intimated how important it was to him for us and for our baby to be able to have the birth experience we wanted.

It was Ina May Gaskin who made me want to give birth without medication. I read her Guide to Childbirth and couldn’t, by the end of it, fathom a birth characterized by scheduled induction and the numbing of contractions, by forceps and a routine episiotomy, by a preemptive C-Section. I spent the time leading up to my due date practicing breathing patterns every time I needed pain management. If I stubbed my toe, I’d breathe through it. If I bit my tongue, I’d breathe through it. I breathed through several all night migraines. I kept going back to those nights as proof that I could make it through a day of labor. On top of that, I practiced pre-natal yoga four times a week. I truly believe that that is what prepared my body for delivery. Squats and stretching and focused attention.

So, my mind and body were prepared, and I needed a prepared partner. Dan read The Birth Partner and learned more about delivery than I even knew. He learned the signs and positions of labor and how to talk me through transition. Even still, we spent the month of July nursing nervous energy.

Then, on August 7th, 2011, a Sunday and my due date, I woke up at 3 AM in a puddle. Everything I had read assured me my water wouldn’t break like it does in the movies, but there I was with my water broken before I’d had a single contraction. Dan was sure I was dreaming, but I had evidence, and he jumped out of bed and made phone calls while pacing the apartment. We were told to wait for strong contractions, so back to bed we went. I started feeling my first contractions around 4 AM. I did my breathing exercises just to see how that would go. I laid in bed wide awake for another hour and a half, then decided to move to the couch and time contractions. It felt better to sit than it did to lay down. I watched the sun rise up blue through our bathroom window.

I timed my own contractions until 7 AM when I woke Dan up to help. I was doing my breathing and rocking back and forth, imagining a status bar loading from right to left as the contraction passed. I had meant to imagine waves in caves, but all I kept seeing every time was that status bar. For someone so interested in natural birth, I could not have conjured a less natural coping visualization.

So, once Dan was up and timing contractions, he decided we needed to go to the hospital. The contractions were plenty painful, and I had been thinking I might be in hard labor, but I knew I’d become overwhelmed later if I was wrong. I knew that I had to anticipate that they could get much worse in order to be able to manage what they were. I just kept my eyes closed, breathing deep, half-standing half-kneeling over the bed, and rocking from side to side.

The ambulance came, and I was on a gurney for the first time in my life. I was laying on my left side on the floor with my eyes closed. The contractions felt much less manageable laying down, but the jostling of the ambulance through traffic was helpful. We were at the Medi Flower Birth Center by 8:30. We got settled into our room. Our midwife Anne came to check my progress, and I had to lay down on my back. Those were definitely the worst of the contractions. While she was checking, I felt nauseous, so I thought I might be in transition. We were all shocked to find that I was and that it was time to have the baby. Suddenly I was on a birthing stool and being told to start pushing.

Because I’d had my eyes closed for most of the morning, I remember all of this in very distinct image flashes, like a storyboard of the morning. A flash of the ambulance, then the elevator, the bathroom, then a stool in the middle of the room, my hands gripping the seat, then Dan pacing behind the midwife and doctor, the doctor looking in my eyes and telling me to push longer, then a nubby purple head, next thing a splash and out with a slick, curled up body. I collapsed into shakes and shuddered laughter.

For me, the pushing hurt the most. It was hard to juggle pushing with breathing. I had gotten used to dealing with the earlier wave-type contractions, but they start to feel like convulsions by then, and the stinging was new and hard to get used to. The pushing part, though, is mercifully brief, and I had baby Joash Ames on my chest at 9:31, only an hour after arriving at the birth center, not enough time, even, to have considered getting medicated. It was intense from start to finish, and it is a huge effort marked with definite pain, but it’s true, and it’s all you can think about, after labor is love.

Everyone at Medi Flower showed us such kindness on that day. Because of the speed of our labor, we didn’t know our midwife or our attending doctor, we couldn’t communicate fully because of our limited Korean, but everyone presented a calming presence and cared for us so well. They genuinely shared in our joy over our son and intuited our needs for meeting his needs. We honestly don’t know how the stateside births of our next children will be able to compare. We are only half-jokingly considering medical tourism when the time comes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baby Hiccups and Bonus Sneezes

Well, hey, I took a video of our kid while we were sitting around. He is already starting to have more awake time, and he is occupying it with extreme cuteness. Here he is sneezing and hiccuping. He is a chronic hiccuper for now. He is going to have to learn to eat better.

Hiccups and a Bonus Sneeze from serenity johnson on Vimeo.

I also have some pictures, including our attempts at baby's first passport photos. Hope America accepts them.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Newborn for Posterity

Here lie the spoils of having stripped our kid naked and put cute knitwear on him. He has been having a furious growth spurt for the last four days. As in, feeding for 8 hour blocks of time. He's a slow eater, and he keeps eating himself hungry again, and I lay around like an invalid with very special needs. It seems to be subsiding, though. Just in time to go get his passport. Hopefully. Be merciful, American government.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Having a Thing for Baby Feet

So far, we've had our first all night cry (baby hates red pepper paste) and our first diaper blowout, followed immediately by our first bath in the kitchen sink. I'd say things are progressing quite nicely.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Birth Story to Follow, Here are Pictures

He came quickly, just like my mother's first born son.

Today he learned what hungry is, and it is blowing his mind. A hungry baby is probably the world's most pitiful creature.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Joash Ames, "Joah", 7lbs 10 oz, 20.4 inches long - August 7, 2011

I had a baby. On his due date. What are the odds? Here are the pictures so far.

After they de-gunked his hair.

In a knitted cap.


Now someone come wake him up so I can hang out with him.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Weekday Lunch

Dan and I don't usually get to eat lunch together, but he's been on vacation, so we've gone out for a couple of lunchtime deals. We went to Otsal Indian restaurant after our doctor visit last week. I discovered my affinity for Dahl Fry (the food kind, not the writing kind). Since then, we've had our final scheduled doctor visit. The idea is that the baby will come before another checkup. I don't anticipate that happening, though, because everything feels the same it has for the last several months. I do have a sprained left ankle that won't heal. Is that one of the signs of labor?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Korean Baby Shower

So, now we've showered our baby from the disparate corners of the earth. We had our American baby shower when we were home in America in March, when he was barely even exerting much of a physical presence. And over the weekend we had our Korean baby shower now that he is technically full-term. One of Dan's co-teachers and friends, Teresa, threw a very sweet, very classy baby shower for us and another teacher from the school who is also due in August. We had a private room at Thai Orchid, and we played a word scramble game, some trivia games, the taboo word game (in this instance: Never say baby!) that Bonnie always tries really hard to win, a belly girth guessing game, and one game that involved frantic left and right passing of gifts. There was a variation on the dirty diaper game, but it was more like drawing straws than guessing poop ingredients. The best part was that, for our Korean friends, it was a first time baby shower experience. America, represent.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Explosives for the Fourth of July

This year, we even almost celebrated the Fourth of July. We had our American meal the Wednesday before, and Dan bought sparklers that we lit on this hemisphere's observation of the day. It was a little awkward because we were in the small shared outdoor concrete space for our building, wearing pajamas and lighting fires right in front of our basement neighbor's open window (behind which she was sat watching tv). But we soldiered on in the name of liberty.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Midnight Activity

Dan and I played our last pre-baby show at Soul Underground last Friday. Once we got home, we celebrated the unusually cool and dry weather by walking down to the river after midnight. The river is now just minutes from our house. Walking is good for you. And late night activities prove how cool and free from responsibility we are. Homebound responsibility is imminent.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Recording Pregnancy

We're having a baby. We've been having one for quite some time now. Soon we will finish having the baby and just have him. Right now he is fist pumping. I think that means he likes chocolate cake balls.

When we were at Lake Park a couple of weeks ago, we took some pictures to record the preliminary having part.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

New Apartment House.

We moved. It's awesome. What's there to say really about an apartment, right? So I have some pictures.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Proper Weekend Again.

Lake Park in Ilsan

Monday was Korea's Memorial Day. We're in a bit of a season of holidays, and I like it. Since Dan's day was free, we decided to go visit Lake Park in Ilsan, a suburb of Seoul. We rode the Orange Line nearly to its end. We ate an exciting lunch in the Lotte Department Store basement food court after an exciting perusal of the samples (loads of fruit!) and the international foods aisles (clearance sale on candies and Dijon mustard for a dollar!). Then we made our way to Lake Park, a park rife with absolute bicycle and pedestrian traffic mayhem. We witnessed some grumpy grown male cyclists and some young boys well on their way. Bike bells making our heads spin. There were also cute kids doing cute things on various sets of wheels and several sets of badminton games. Overall, it was a mass of people gathered around a physically inaccessible man-made lake. I really wanted to put my feet in the water. Also, sadly, the Sanitation Museum was closed. True story about there being a museum for toilets.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sixth Wedding Anniversary, Second in Seoul.

I just re-read what we did for our anniversary last year because I was going to post the link for reference here, but now it's made me want to go do those things again. We have talked about and attempted returning to Seonyudo, and we will have to make certain that it happens. I know we're in a different way this year than we were last year, but I don't want to leave this country any sadder about leaving than I'll already be.

The sixth anniversary is for gifts of candy. Because I am just a house lady with no job or children to speak of (yet), I made for Dan some peanut butter joke taffies. I'd asked him his favorite candy, and, though I'll never understand why, his savor favor rests on Laffy Taffies. The first batch I attempted crystallized, and I was so sad and considered giving up, but I read some tips, tried again two days later, and, boom, old fashioned American taffy pull right here in my South Korean Billa.

Dan bought me a decadent box of truffles (i.e. real candy) from the chocolatier down the street. There really is a little Paris-trained chocolate maker right on our street, and she is so cute and accidentally talks to us in French sometimes. She threw in a free macaroon since it was our anniversary. For real, you guys, Koreans are always trying to give stuff away. The best thing I ever did in this country was get pregnant. Friends bring you fruit, buy you ice cream makers. Coffee shop owners bring you free orange juice. Sample vendors give you whole chicken nuggets instead of thirds. Greek restaurant chefs make you your own gyros. It is blissful (and will end now so soon).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mixtape Advice.

All I have for you from our easy weekend (Dan was in training for school all day Saturday, and all we did on Sunday was take some street food (twigim to be specific, which is basically tempura fried vegetables and sundries) to Starbucks and complete Salsa Sundays by eating dinner at Taco Bell) is one picture, then supplemented by a picture I took from our window today. So, before I show both of those pictures, I am going to make a blog recommendation. Though we could never get Dan to write much here, something (this baby in my belly) inspired him to start a blog elsewhere. It is called Ultrasounds: A Mixtape, and he writes it to our baby. Let all your awws out because it is very sweet. Every day, he thinks about a song to share, and then we pop the headphones on my stomach and wait for the kid to start kicking.

And now for the pictures.

We ate Greek Food and played portable board games and had ice cream with our friend Esther. All on Friday night. Baskin Robbins made claim that their color is good. I don't know what color or why it's better than other ice cream's colors, maybe they've recently recovered from the flu, but they were very braggy about it.

An across the street neighbor was moving in today. I spied at them from inside my home. This is how they do it on the fifth or so floor. We are also about to move. Hurray! Sometime early next week we'll be moving closer to Dan's school into a nicer apartment. We've had some mold/smell/door/plumbing problems here. It means we'll have to change markets, though, and I am quite sad about it. I'm a loyalist when it comes to consumerism, and our market has the nicest people. We'll have to decide if they are worth hoofing it for when there will be another shop only minutes away. I suppose whoever has the cheapest watermelons will win.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Buddha's Birthday, Our Picnic.

Korea celebrated Buddha's Birthday on Tuesday. He was kind enough to provide a day off for Dan, and we'd planned a picnic at Seonyudo Park. It's an island. It's a park. It's great. But rain was forecast for the whole of the day, so we had to brainstorm other picnic venues. We decided to take advantage of our Lotte World year passes and lunch in luxury. I made some snacks, and we packed up some portable games and spent the afternoon walking around Lotte World and hanging out in Jamsil.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Another Birthday.

I am now 28, still 32 years from the age at which I determined it is appropriate to start feeling old. I spent my second birthday in Korea in almost identical fashion to the first. Maybe one day I will have some sort of life crisis and start doing outlandish things to celebrate the passing of time, but, for now, I am happy to have dinner with my husband and, while we're in Korea, to eat a cake from Sticky Fingers Bakery. We had that dinner at Suji's Deli in Itaewon, in search of tasty sandwiches. They were out of turkey, so I tried pastrami for the first time. It was very meaty, but a good experience for me. And the Russian coleslaw proved an unexpected delight.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Passover Weekend.

We recently joined a small house church who we meet with every Saturday afternoon, mostly Koreans, three Americans, but the conversations happen in English. We decided to observe a Seder service with our church as part of our Passover/Easter celebrations. Rachel brought us all Korean style baked eggs (baked in the shell on a hot stone). Jini brought some oranges. Dan led the service, and we all got sugar high on grape juice. I think my blood sugar has just now returned to normal.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Orchestrating Our Own Cherry Blossom Festival

Last year, we went to Yeouido's Cherry Blossom Festival. In fact, we went twice because nothing much had bloomed during our first attempt. This year, we just walked a couple blocks of our neighborhood for an easier, arguably prettier festival of our own. And then we walked to Taco Bell. Yeouido ain't got no Taco Bell.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


See who has awakened from her month long slumber and finally remembered to take her camera out into the Eastern world. It's me! For weeks I have burdened Dan to remind me to bring my camera when we go places-- for weeks to no avail. But we went down to Itaewon for some half priced Tuesday fish and chips with Korrine, and there I was with my camera triumphantly strapped across my person.

Another hindrance to regular blogging is that our life here has just become our life. We have normal weekend activities that take up the whole of each Saturday. We eat at home on weekdays. Dan has regular language and friend appointments two nights of the week, during which I watch Britain's Next Top Model and knit baby clothes. Lovely things all, but not terribly exciting.

2 for 1 fish and chips, though. That is exciting.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dan's Birthday Dinner at Greek Joy.

Dan's been 27 for weeks now, and I keep forgetting to put up his birthday pictures. We went out for Greek food at Greek Joy in Hongdae. The owner goes to Greece regularly, makes his own feta cheese (and refuses to substitute with store-bought), tailored my meal to be dairy-free, and gave the three pregnant ladies present extra portions. What a dude! Our 4 course meal included a salad, pastitsio, souvlaki and rice, and gyros. If you live in or near Hongdae, you should obviously go there. It's across from the playground.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Weekends 50-52 of 52.

America and all of its yummy foods

Part of taking up temporary residence in a foreign country includes going back to visit your sending country. For us that meant a two-week trip to Ohio to see parents and friends, nephews and cousins, dogs. It also meant eating American food and eating a lot of it, because what else do you do on vacation but actively ward off potential hunger with lots of communal eating. It was a wonderful, wonderful trip.

Korea made the return a welcome one by offering two weekends of amazing weather. Turns out, I'm one of those people who get (and remain) grumpy during the winter. At least while living in a city that requires a minimum ten minutes of frozen walking time for any activity outside the apartment. Last Saturday, though, I could have walked around Dongdaemun for hours, so that is promising for the future of this blog.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Weekend 49 of 52.

Lotte World Talent Show with Foreign Friends

This pretty much concludes our first installment of weekends in Korea. The upcoming weekend we'll spend flying to America, defying gravity and time zones, and then we'll spend what would have been our final two weekends doing American weekend things (like eating BBQ made with pulled pork instead of grilled and hanging out with our parents). Luckily, we did something hilarious like entering ourselves into a talent contest... and winning!

It was probably the strangest thing we've experienced in Korea so far. We signed up to sing Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" with Dan playing guitar. For some reason, the Korean host thought we wrote the song. I hope that's not why we won. We got to the park at 2. We were ushered into a picnicking section to the right of the main stage, where we sat practicing (we played Scrabble Slam) and primping (I brushed my hair) until 5:20 or so. Then we single-filed it to the backstage area and took our turns. There were 7 or 8 acts and 2 non-competing Russian dance performances. Only two of us sang songs. Everything else involved cultural dance. Not at all what we were expecting, but it was fun to watch, fun to hang out, and everyone was super, super nice.

We were sat next to the young group of kids who'll you'll see next to us in the photos. We took turns watching each other as Dan strummed his guitar and the girls and boys got various makeup applications, including glittery eyelashes. The boys, as is seemingly a common theme in Korean entertainment wore dresses and wigs. We tried to get their youngest sister to speak to us, using our limited Korean children's vocabulary. She preferred to keep staring, though she did eventually high-five us after we won. Victory in so many ways!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Weekend 48 of 52.

Lunch at Loving Hut, Bake Sale to benefit Asan Animal Shelter, Soul Underground Session with Film Star

Some promising weather news: it has reached above 30 for the last two days, which means one layer of pants and only a coat instead of a coat stuffed with hoodies and lighter jackets. What happy news. Our weekend could not actually have happened without this most brutal Seoul winter, as we spent Saturday at a bake sale raising funds for dog houses and medical care for the little frozen pups at the Asan Animal Shelter. We pre-ordered a box of cookies, brownies, muffins, bread, which secured the donation of a dog house. It also secured for us our only chance of buying anything. By the time we got to the cafe after eating lunch, every last item for sale had been purchased, and I think people were eyeing my box hoping I wouldn't show up.

Lunch we had at the Loving Hut Buffet, the delightfully militant vegan restaurant with its 24/7 propaganda TV that we went to for the first time so long ago. I'm pretty sure everyone who takes the time to read the subtitles on the propaganda TV thinks it's hilarious. We saw some Koreans chuckling to themselves, while we were openly cackling. At the time, we were learning how to delete memories of bad past lives with our computer souls, while clinging to the hope of one day owning our very own UFOs. I don't know what that has to do with veganism, but somehow both will save the planet.

And we ended our Saturday back at Soul Underground to play another show. Our final Korean show before our journey to the New World is this Saturday, and then Dan is letting me rest for a while. Thanks, Dan.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weekend 47 of 52.

Soul Underground Session: Acoustic Night, Dunkin Donuts, Snow

I left the house this weekend. In fact, from Thursday through Sunday, I left the house every day. And it was cold, but I survived. The weather still isn't great for doing Weekend Things, but our hankering to do them lingers on. They may have to wait until our second round of 52 weeks commences (sorry, Tiffany).

This weekend, though, we played a show at Soul Underground, we had Doughnut Saturday at Dunkin Donuts (usually Dan just goes and picks them up), and I took pictures of the endlessly replenishing snow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekend 46 of 52.

I'm not even going to fake it, friends. It is too cold to go outside.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Weekend 45 of 52.

High Street Market

I have been lazy about this post, because I took nary a single picture last weekend. I honestly meant to bring my camera to Itaewon when we went to check out the High Street Market, but by the time I realized I'd left it on the bed, I already had my boots on, and I didn't feel like taking them off to walk back into our room. Boots are labor intensive! But we went to High Street Market to check out some Western foods and deli meats, and we sampled jerkies and breads and we bought a huge jar of pickles, some turkey, ham, and ground beef, and Dan had a cookie. The prices were the lowest we've seen, even when it was just by a couple hundred won.

Another thing about last weekend was that it was Dan's last before going back to work, and all you want to do on your last free weekend is nothing, so that's what we did.

Oh, and now I will post something so old, by now, and so topical that it is pretty much irrelevant, but this is us singing "O Holy Night" at our Christmas show so many weeks ago.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Weekends 43 and 44 of 52.

Lotte World, Lotte World Folk Museum

Bonnie is here! We've tried to brave the ridiculous cold and go show her things. So far we've had most of the good foods: Korean Pizza with sweet potato ring around the crust, Dalk Galbi, Bibimbap, Jjim Dalk, Korean fried chicken, Donkatsu, Paris Baguette, Pho, and right now she is off having an authentic Korean dining experience at the home of one of her Korean friends.

On Sunday we took her to Lotte World, the world's largest indoor amusement park. It was still decked out for Christmas, complete with constant Christmas caroling, live and canned. We couldn't believe how much they were able to pack into an indoor stadium type space: some quality coasters, a parade, fireworks, so many snack booths, food courts, even video game arcades and traditional arcades. Our favorite ride was the boating adventure through jungle rapids. We sort of bookended our day with it, staying completely dry the first time despite warnings that we'd get wet and then with Dan and me getting soaked right before heading back home in the 10 degrees. That part was not awesome.

By now, our 2010 is over, and we rounded it out in concert at a local coffee shop, playing the show pretty much especially for Bonnie. Our first activity of 2011 was eating Korean Bugles and finishing up an episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey. So much scandal! Right now I am ringing in America's New Year by watching some sort of unidentifiable livestream of Times Square. I have never heard of any of the people they have performing, but I appreciate the festive background noise, so Happy New Year!