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October 29, 2010

Thoughts on Being Home

{ last year's halloween }
It's hard to imagine these sweet boys can be the source of so much stress as well as incredible joy.

I had a very lucrative and comfortable full-time job in Manhattan as an Executive Assistant up until August 31st of this year.  I gave it up voluntarily (along with the incredible benefits) to spend more time at home with the boys.  I was fortunate to work out a 10 hour/week consulting position helping with the firm's marketing efforts.  It gives our family a little cushion but it's chump change compared to what I used to make.

Up until this point, my in-laws had been watching the kids.  I never had to worry if they were being loved or given enough attention; my concern was that they were being loved way too much and allowed to get away with murder!

{ cj enjoying a juicy plum.  just a
prime example of the mess i'm
cleaning up after. }
In the first month home with the boys, I thought I might have to check myself into an insane asylum!  My day consisted of constantly changing dirty diapers, cleaning the floor of their mealtime mess, washing the dishes, doing loads of laundry, dealing with toddler tantrums, and somehow trying to whip up a meal in between.  I was lucky if I could take a shower, use the bathroom uninterrupted, or even rememer to eat.  And though I even had help (the in-laws come for a few hours in the morning), I was still struggling to keep it all together.

Thoughts like:
"What have I done?" 
"This is ludicrous!"

"Women are crazy for doing this!"
"I wonder if it's too late to get my job back."

started stirring in my head.

It didn't help that my oldest was just starting to go through his terrible twos.  And you know that kid in the playgroup that every parent shakes their head at and secretly thanks the Lord is not their child - yeah, well that would be my son.  He was the one guaranteed to be pushing, shoving, stealing, yanking, and causing other children to cry.

{ boys making their usual mess }
On the weekends, James and I would try to address these issues with CJ and reinforce good behavior.  But on a daily, consistent basis, my son was lacking discipline, structure, and guidelines.  James and I knew it was important for us as his parents to provide that.  So we were prompted to consider our options and I vacillated back and forth on whether or not to leave my job.  I consulted other stay-home moms and how they managed on one income, and they all said it was feasible.  You make lifestyle changes and make it work.

Well, God has a way of working and directing our paths when we come to difficult crossroads.  James and I knew it would be a big financial sacrifice for our family, but God revealed to us our idol of security and comfort.  He started chipping away at it and laying on our hearts the greater investments in this world than a nice home, fancy cars, or the latest doo-dads.  It really came down to evaluating our priorities and then putting our faith and trust in the Lord, His provision, and His guidance.

{ cj is less of a terror at the
playground.  here he plays with
a few friend. }
I've now gotten into a routine with the kids, and in one month, can already see the benefits.  My mom, my best friend, and even my mother-in-law have all noted a difference in CJ's behavior.  He didn't push as much or throw as many tantrums.  He still has his off-days (oh believe me, there are still many days I just want to yank out all my hair!), but it's been a gradual transformation.

It wasn't some magical formula on my part.  In fact, I credit it to a lot of prayer (from hubby, friends, family)!  It does also require constantly reinforcing what is right and what is wrong, teaching him to be kind and obedient, over and over again (sounding much like a broken record).  I also highly recommend the book, Don't Make Me Count to Three.  It's an easy read with great biblical and practical insights on how to rear children.

In only two months that I've been home, I can already see the impact and benefits it's had for my children and my family.  I won't say it's easy because it's not, but I am trusting the Lord for much guidance, patience, wisdom, and grace.

God is good, and He gives us what we need and so much more!
1 comments

October 27, 2010

Personalized Prayer Prints

I so desire to be a woman of prayer (much like my grandmother) but have such a long way to go.

One day earlier this week as I sat and prayed for my boys, I was inspired to create something that would always remind me to be in prayer for them.   I hope this will be something Christian and Nathan carry with them each and every day of their lives.

{ prayers for my sons }
  
These are individual posters printed on 8.5 x 11 photo paper.  They were created in Photoshop but could just as easily be created in a Word document.  And it doesn't take much time to make!  I'll show the finished framed product in a future post.

I'd love to encourage you to make one for your children or anyone you may know!   
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October 26, 2010

Flower Power

Here are some highlights from CJ's dohl.  Although we had many more guests at his party, it was much more lowkey than Nathan's in terms of preparation because we held it at a local park (CJ is a June baby so we took advantage of the nice weather).  We kept decorations very simple and had subs, gimbap (Korean california rolls), pasta and other simple picnic fare for lunch. 

{ sugar cookies made with lots of love }
The most work went into prepping the favors - homemade sugar cookies.  I thought these would make great centerpieces.  So I cut the cookies into flower shapes, stuck them on a lollipop stick, decorated each one, put them in a clear treat bag, tied a ribbon, and then placed a few in several pots (sticks were held secure by styrofoam).  Then guests took one home as a favor.

Decorating was easy.  All it required was some Betty Crocker cookie icing (in white and then you can add food coloring to make any color you want), candied sprinkles, and lots of love.

* * * * *

Here's the recipe I used (from AllRecipes.com):

SUGAR COOKIES

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.
* * * * *
These were a hit. 

{ a very manly cake }
I also contemplated making the cake for CJ's birthday but decided it would be too much work in addition to the cookies.  So we ordered from a local bakery in Tenafly called Cafe Savoy.  We've had their cakes in the past, and they are delicious!  We flipped through their cake catalog and chose a large white cake with strawberries featuring a monkey.

We had no idea it would be pink!  [This is probably why I decided to make Nathan's cupcakes for his party.  :)]

But the birthday boy didn't care.  He was as happy as could be.

{ We had similar items out for CJ's dohljabi as we did Nathan's.  CJ chose the yarn (which represents long life) and then the stethoscope.  By the way, Nathan chose the stethoscope and then the Bible.  I'm not sure how I feel about both of them being in the medical field.   And the pic of CJ and daddy is my absolute favorite.  Melts my heart each time. }
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October 25, 2010

Dohl Celebration!

{ traditional korean rice cake }
We celebrated Nathan's one-year birthday on September 26.  In Korean tradition, the one-year birthday (called "dohl") is a big celebratory event because long ago, many children didn't make it to their first birthday. 

It seems like the current trend is to throw incredibly elaborate dohls which could easily end up costing a couple grand (if not more).  I always thought this was absurd considering the baby wouldn't even remember the birthday!  But tradition is important and every birthday is worth celebrating, so we have been elaborate while trying to keep the costs affordable.  For each of my sons' dohl, we incorporated the traditional elements such as the hanbok (Korean outfit), duk (rice cake), dohljabi (selecting an item to foretell future), and colorful decorations.

Since we were working within a tight budget, we hosted a small, intimate party for Nathan at our home and invited family and our church growth group.  I also had to be creative but economical with the decorations.  I think the end results came out nicely.  So here are some ideas for those working on a budget.

Decoration, Food, and Favors
1)  Make your own decorations.  The "Happy Birthday" banner above the fireplace served as the main decoration.  I got the idea for the tissue fans from Martha Stewart and found them for a really great price at Devra Party (twelve 18" fans for $10).  Cutting the fans into various sizes and hanging them was probably the most time consuming part of decorating but so worth it.  I simply printed out the "Happy Birthday" letters on white cardstock paper, cut them out, and then taped them onto the fans.  The dohljabi items (bottom center) were gathered from around the house.

2)  When you're serving more than 15 guests, it's sometimes easier to order food than prepare it but you can do both.  Order a few main dishes (li.e. gimbap, fried shrimp, chicken wings, bulgogi) and make a few side dishes (i.e. pasta, salad, and noodles).  We also ordered the rice cake from a caterer in Palisade Park; they also supplied the plastic fruit display for free. 

3)  When it comes to favors, I've learned from past experience to keep it simple.  I found some simple and adorable mini pinball games at Michael's in their clearance section for $.49 each (top left) and decorated it with ribbon.    

4)  For additional personal touches, I printed out photos of the birthday boy and placed them in various places.  The train photo piece (upper righthand corner) came from Michael's as well.  You can purchase the wooden cd case, train decal, wheels, and frames separately.  The photo frames come painted, so I just had to handpaint the train and wheels with acrylic paint.  I then put in flower pots and inserted these colorful pinwheels from Pier 1 Imports (set of 16 for $2).  the cute 1st birthday photo frame (bottom left) was a gift from our cousins.  The white photo tree (bottom center) was also a fabulous Pier 1 Import find (in the clearance section for $7). 
 Dohljabi Game
5)  Keep the dohljabi game simple.  I've seen people spend lots of money to make posters for this game, but it's so simple to create your own.  I simply printed out photos of the different items and placed them on the kids' easel (courtesy of Ikea).  Then I glued the same photos on little brown bags from AC Moore ($1 each).  Guests wrote their names on little sheets of paper and dropped it into the bags.  Winner got a small gift card to Starbucks.

Hanbok & Cupcakes
6)  Rent or borrow a hanbok.  Here's our sweet birthday boy!  He was rather uncomfortable in the hanbok (traditional Korean attire) so it was hard to get a good photo of him.  We ordered the hanbok from ebay, but you might be able to rent one or borrow from family or friends.  

7)  Make your own cake or cupcake.  Despite being uncomfortable, he had a great time especially when it came time to eat cake!  Instead of purchasing a cake, I decided to bake simple vanilla and chocolate cupcakes instead.  These were super easy to make and piping the swirls on top was really simple.  Here's a great website for learning how to pipe swirls and great cake ideas in general.

Though we were able to save costs, it did take a lot of work and preparation on my part (lucky for me I had just quit my full-time job).  It was a splendid affair for our little guy and worth every effort.
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October 21, 2010

Hard Work

My two-year-old likes to gloat about how much "hod wuk" he does at home (he helps tend the garden, mow the lawn, pull out weeds, etc.).  So Uncle Sun decided to take advantage and put CJ to good use in his own front yard.

[CJ found the straw hat in the garage and insisted on wearing it while he worked.]

{ how does this electrical wiring stuff work? }
{ i sure hope i don't get shocked. }
{ this is just so wrong.  aren't there child labor laws? }

*Disclaimer:  Just to be sure no one notifies the authority on us, CJ gladly volunteered his services.  And there was no electrical wiring involved.  Just a lantern you stake into the ground which he enjoyed using as a shovel.
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October 18, 2010

Tribute to Grandma Kim

Bong Ha Kim
July 15, 1930 - October 16, 2010

Tonight we celebrated my grandmother's life and legacy.  Over 300 guests came to pay their respects and say their final "See you soon".  I paid tribute to her in a letter I shared:

{ with her third great-grandchild;
photo taken by sun yun }
Dear Grandma,

As the eldest of your grandchildren, I had the privilege and honor of bestowing you with the title “Grandmother” for the first time on the day I was born. And 10 grandchildren later, it became a role you embodied and embraced with so much love, pride, and care. You spoiled each and every one of us rotten – not with material things (for you knew these things mean nothing in the end) – but with the power of your prayers and by demonstrating God’s love to us on a daily basis.

None of your children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren have known a day that you, our mighty prayer warrior, were not interceding on our behalf. Every day, you and Grandfather knelt before the King of kings lifting up the many petitions, concerns, and praises for our family.

One petition that I knew had grown heavy on your heart several years ago concerned the prospect of me ever getting married.  I was pretty adamant about staying single and stubbornly declared I didn’t need a husband or children.  Maybe I’d just get a dog one day.  When I was 26, I specifically remember Christmas at Uncle’s house that year.  You and I were sitting on the sofa, and you had asked me again if I was dating or if there was a man of interest in my life.  I told you “No” and reminded you that I was never going to get married.

And then you leaned in towards me.  And very quietly, you asked me in Korean, “You like men, right?”  And I laughed!  And then you laughed, but I think you were somewhat serious!

Well, I saw the delight on your face the day I got married to James and knew God had answered your prayers.

It was hard to see you suffer the past few months.  It was difficult to see the color and life of the light of our family slowly start to dim.  Why had God allowed you to suffer in such a way?

But even in the midst of suffering, you continued to praise God.  What a testimony to us!  I remember an instance when I came to visit you earlier in September.  You had just been released from the hospital and were in hospice care at Uncle’s house.  You were so weak, tired, and in pain.  Your mouth was extremely dry so I rinsed it out with some water.  You lifted up your frail arms and thanked God even for spit because it gave you the ability to speak, even if just a whisper.

That was the testimony of your faith – being able to bless His name even when the circumstances were difficult.  And then I began to realize why it was you suffered in such a way:  It was because your faith was so much greater and stronger than ours.  You were ready to go home to your greatest treasure, Jesus, but we weren’t ready to let you.

So God prolonged your agony and your suffering for our sake.  For the sake of your husband, your children, and your grandchildren.  So we could prepare ourselves to say our goodbyes.  So we could have time to process you not being here on earth with us anymore.

And then it made me think of how Jesus died and how God had allowed his perfect son to suffer for your sake and mine.  How great is that love!  Thank you for that sacrifice, Father.

Grandma, when I heard that you went home to be with the Lord, a very selfish part of me thought, “we’ve lost our mighty prayer warrior for this family.”

And the Lord, ever lovingly, said “No. Your prayer warrior is here with me, right by my side, and continues to intercede on your behalf.”

{ four generations }
I pray you find rest and peace in heaven, Grandma.  Although I imagine with your new body, your bad leg finally healed after all these years, your spirit and mind restored, you’re probably too busy singing, jumping, and dancing with Jesus to rest.  And I praise God for that.

We love you with all our hearts. 


Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
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October 14, 2010

Package for Grandma

Need a break.  Shipping the kids to grandma's. 

{ mama, you did pay extra to send us via overnight delivery, right? }

{ mama, are you sure this is the right address? }

{ surprise, grandma! }
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October 13, 2010

First Steps

Someone took his first steps today!

video

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October 12, 2010

The Breakout

{ nate:  come on, people.  it's my birthday.  let me out of this joint. }

{ ava:  don't worry, cuz.  i got your back.  i have some mad negotiation skills and am able to get whatever i want. you just let me do all the talking. }

{ hey, you!  yeah, you with the fancy camera and crazy lookin' hair.  i demand that you get over here and release us at this very minute or else!   i know my constitutional rights and according to the fourth amendment, you can't keep us here without probable cause!  so drop the camera, bend over, put your arms out, and pick us up RIGHT THIS INSTANT!! }

{ hey, did you hear a word i said?  i said get us out of here RIGHT NOW! }

{ oh man, we're never breakin' out of this place. }

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October 9, 2010

In My Footsteps

Being home with the boys has quickly reminded me how sinful and selfish my heart is.  The past month has been a truly humbling experience.  I catch myself raising my voice and getting frustrated because CJ insists on getting his way, but I insist on getting mine.  And just like CJ, I pout and fume inside when I don't get it.  He is a reflection of my very self.

Don't Make Me Count to Three: a Mom's Look at Heart-Oriented DisciplineAnd I've also noticed how quick he is to imitate me.  Even simple things like when Jazz (our sharpei shepherd mix) is hanging around and sometimes in the way, I'll say "Go away, Jazz!"  And then I immediately hear those same exact words echoed in a similar unkind tone from the small, squeaky voice of my two-year-old son.  Ugh.

I've been reading Don't Make Me Count to Three! by Ginger Plowman, and in Chapter 6, she talks about the parent's responsibility.  This excerpt humbled me:

"Someone is following in your footsteps.  Your child learns the most not by what he hears but by what he sees you do.  He will follow many of the examples that you set before him.  In following your example, will he be a doer of the Word of God or only a hearer?  Will he be faithful or hypocritical?  Perhaps one of the most sobering verses as far as our responsibility in training our children is found in Luke 6:40:  'A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.'"
I immediately saw the sin of my own heart and how my desire for control and order have led to less than godly examples for my children.  After reading this, I resolved to be a better example for CJ and Nathan.  Instead of reacting quickly and tersely out of frustration, I am trying very hard to be patient, gracious, soft-spoken but firm, and to act as I would want them to act.

After waking from his afternoon nap yesterday, CJ was in a foul mood.  I prepared dinner and then put Nathan in his high chair and asked very kindly for CJ to join us (he was hanging out in the playroom).  He then fell to the floor and started to throw a tantrum.  I asked him what was wrong but he just continued to cry.  I again said in a soft-spoken manner, "Please, come join us at the table for dinner."

He continued to cry, and then I just quietly responded by saying, "Whenever you're ready, you can join us."  I proceeded to feed Nathan, and CJ continued to throw his tantrum for another minute or so.  And then all of the sudden, he stopped, got up off the floor, climbed into his chair at the dinner table, and started eating his food.

On any other day, my response to his behavior would have been to pick CJ up immediately, place him in the chair, and firmly say to him, "Now stop crying.  You have to eat your dinner."  And he would have pouted and continued to be upset for a while. 

That evening, I saw the difference my reaction made.   In the same, calm manner I responded to him, he responded likewise.

One can always talk the talk, but your walk will always speak louder.
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October 6, 2010

Poster Child

{ nathan modeling his DOC band }
Nathan didn't get a lot of tummy time in his early months (ramifications of being a second child; sorry babe!).  We noticed the back of his head was starting to get flat.   Around five months at the pediatrician's suggestion, we took him in for a consultation at the local Cranial Technologies office.

After taking some images and measurements, they determined he had somewhere between a moderate to severe form of Brachycephaly (sounds so serious).  They recommended a DOC band for our little guy.  We were already familiar with the band because several of our friends had to get it for their children.  We decided to go ahead with it, and there was no excuse since the entire thing was covered by our insurance company.

I have to say Nathan looked super adorable in his helmet.  He quickly adapted to it.  The only issue we encountered was the stench from the sweat.  So we had to clean it daily with rubbing alcohol.  Otherwise, we found the whole process very seamless and the folks at Cranial Tech very helpful.

{ here is a pic of nathan getting digital images of his head to create his DOC band.  the stocking over the head is a little creepy but kind of cute, too.  and who can resist those rolls? }
  
{ looking dapper in his new helmet }
    
{ our little guy sporting his newly decorated helment.  hubby printed out "Nathan's" hot dog logo and glued it on with mod podge.  impressive }
  
And here is our absolute proudest moment as a parent: 
having your son featured topless in a calendar!
Click here to see the 2011 calendar 
and all the other cuties looking dapper in their DOC bands.
    
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October 5, 2010

Food that Soars & Roars

{ this morning's breakfast:
airplane pancakes w/ strawberries, blueberries & bananas }
Mealtimes are inevitably the most difficult part of the day.  Not because the boys are picky eaters (they eat pretty much everything) but trying to get them both to sit down long enough to finish a meal is the real challenge (and not to mention cleaning up the mess they're sure to leave)!  CJ particularly has a very short attention span and we often find ourselves having to entertain him at the dining room table during mealtimes with stories or coloring or playing with cars.  I'm sure this is a bad habit to instill, but some days you gotta do what you gotta do.

I've also learned to be creative with the food.  Pancakes are a huge hit especially when they come in the shape of airplanes and dinosaurs (thanks courtesy to good ol' Wilton cookie cutters).  What's better than food that soars and roars?!
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October 2, 2010

Cupcakes Galore!

{ cupcakes for mother's day bake sale }
I discovered my love of baking cupcakes when I was pregnant with my firstborn.  I attribute it to the effects of "nesting".  I had never baked a thing in my life before - not even pre-battered cookies you just roll out on a sheet!

So my first cupcake project was initiated by a Mother's Day bake sale at church.  I figured I would give it a go and see how they turned out.  I researched endlessly online for recipes and decorating ideas.  The picture shows the end result.  Truth be told, I think they turned out more pleasing to the eye than the taste palette.  But over time and with practice, I'm hoping to make cupcakes that both look and taste great!

* * * * * *

{ nathan's birthday cupcakes }
For Nathan's 1-year birthday party, I baked white and chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  I was originally going to make a coconut cupcake but ended up improvising on a simpler recipe.  This is the recipe I used (which actually turned out quite nicely):

WHITE/CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

INGREDIENTS:
1 box white/chocolate cake mix (used Duncan Hines moist mix)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 1/3 cups water
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp pure almond extract
1 cup sour cream
4 large egg whites

RECIPE:
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pans (you’ll need approx. 36).

2. In a large bowl, whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar and salt. Add remaining ingredients and beat with hand mixer for 2 minutes, or until well blended.

3. Use ice cream scoop to fill prepared cupcake tins- fill about 3/4 full. Bake about 18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Yield: 36 cupcakes

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
2 cups of powdered sugar (I only use about 1 go 1.5 cup)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of almond extract

RECIPE:
1. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

2. Add the vanilla and almond extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding until you get to desired sweetness and thickness.

3. Either spread on with a blunt knife or spatula, or spoon into a piping bag to decorate your cake or cupcake.
 

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