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July 4th is a little different this year

Our family on July 4th, 2020. Been thinking a lot about what this holiday, America’s birthday, means to us as Asian Americans who have never been fully accepted in the US. I wonder it will be like for our daughters’ generation or if they will still be perceived as the perpetual foreigner like we are (despite being fluent in English and growing up in the US).

Cadence is currently the only Asian in her daycare class. Her best buddy seen here is White. They love hanging out despite their race. I’ve been reading about how kids see race at a young age so we should start having conversations with her about it.
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COVID Diaries

I recently responded to a survey conducted by History Colorado. They are interested in documenting this historical moment in time, the days of COVID-19 and the stay at home order. Here were some questions they asked. Thought I would put them here at I can also look back on this years from now.

In 100 years, what do you want people to know about what is happening today?
I hope that in 100 years we can look back at this time and see that COVID-19 brought upon a turning point for us as Americans. I hope we can come together as humanity to change many of the wrongs that were happening prior to COVID-19, including racial injustices, health disparities, and systemic oppression. Not to mention, our lack of care for climate change issues and protecting the Earth.

What is happening right now is that many of us are staying at home. Essential workers and health care workers are sacrificing their safety for the rest of us. There are people directly suffering from contracting the disease and then there are people who are suffering from the effects of the disease. People have lost their jobs. They cannot pay rent. They cannot buy food. Not everyone is so lucky to have a job where they can work from home. COVID-19 has shown us many of the inequities that exist in our systems, such as how some families still do not have access to the internet. Children are expected to move to virtual learning while many of them do not have access to a tablet/computer. From a societal perspective, it is frustrating to watch these things unfold and feel like you are unable to help much. All I do is try to donate to different causes when I can. I would also add that leadership from the federal government has been infuriating, which I hope prompts people to vote in November 2020.

On a lighter note, my social media feeds are full of friends competing in push up challenges, cutting each others’ hair and creating delicious foods. I have participated in virtual happy hours and played games over Zoom. I am working full-time from home while trying to take care of a 5 month old baby and 2 year old toddler with our daycare closed. This has been one of the most challenging experienes of my life, trying to balance being a good mom and a good worker. My kids show up on my Zoom video calls every day, but my colleagues are understanding. This is the reality of our times. I have not done my hair or put on makeup in a month and I wear pajama pants everyday.

What is your home life right now? What activities are you doing to keep occupied? How are you coping with the change in social interaction?
As a mother of two little ones that is also expected to be working full-time, my life is chaotic. I squeeze in 20 minutes of work time throughout the day and then spend most of my time working when the kids are asleep (7pm-midnight). People keep asking me what I’m doing for ‘self-care’ which I find to be such a silly question when there is absolutely no time for ‘self-care’ let alone a moment all to myself. Aside from work, my days are spent trying to teach my toddler ABCs, potty training, nursing my baby, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, going for short walks around the neighborhood, playing in our yard, building snowmen (Colorado springs!), and going to the grocery store once a week.

Family dinners during COVID

I am coping fine without the physical social interaction. I identify as being an introvert so to some degree I am happy being at home and not having to be in social settings. I still feel like I am in touch with people outside of my home on a daily basis through ‘virtual world.’ Every time I feel stressed out with the kids and my husband (and wish I could by cooking fancy dishes or doing pushups), I do take a moment to be thankful that I am quarantined safely with them. I do know many people who are quarantining solo and I would find that very isolating and lonely.

What has changed the most for you? What is your greatest concern about the pandemic?
What has changed the most for me is that my husband is also home with me every day now. He is an optometrist and prior to COVID-19 he would go to work every day. I worked from home and took care of our baby, while our toddler was in daycare. Now that we are both home, we are having to adjust to this new way of life and trying to give each other patience and grace. We remind ourselves that we are a team and that we will get through this together.

I have several concerns about the pandemic:
1) That a vaccine won’t be created for a long time, if ever. And it appears we do not have immunity to the virus at the moment.
2) The people will start to ‘revolt’ or protest like they already have in some cities. They will not want to be stuck at home much longer. However, this may result in a further increases in cases.
3) That my parents or someone close to me will contract the disease and I may lose them forever without being able to give them a proper funeral/service.
4) That Asian Americans will continue to experience discrimination and hatred far after COVID-19 because people will continue to blame them for what has happened.

My thoughts on April 17, 2020.

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The SNOO Smart Bassinet

Many would say that the SNOO was our robo nanny who helped put our baby to sleep. This is true with its rocking and white noise features, but for the most part, our baby was quite stubborn and she could overpower the SNOO when she wanted to.

We’ve officially transitioned our baby into a crib at 5 months old so I’m writing this to share our experience with the SNOO. This is not a review of the $1200 product (which I read dozens of when we first got it in search of tips). Luckily for us, a sweet mommy friend saw our struggle for sleep with Everly and let us borrow her SNOO. So we can’t really weigh in on if it’s worth the cost, but can share that many parents resell the SNOO once they are done using it so you could likely find a cheaper, used one! Or go for the rental!

We picked up the SNOO on Christmas Day 2019. Everly was 7 weeks at the time which the company says it takes longer for an older baby to adjust to it versus a newborn who started in the SNOO at birth. This picture shows the very first time she slept in it. Note: the swaddle should be pulled down a lot more so that it can be zipped up all the way. We weren’t placing her high enough in the bassinet.

Everly’s first night in the SNOO at 7 weeks

At 7 weeks, she was waking every 3 hours to feed (sometimes 2.5 hours). I was nursing and my husband would help feed a bottle here and there. Prior to the SNOO, we swaddled her every night and then placed her in a Snuggle Nest on the bed with us. She didn’t love it! So sometimes we let her sleep on the bed and one of us would sleep on the floor. It was a struggle those first weeks trying to get a routine going. Every night (and every day) was different.

The SNOO provided us not only a routine but a consistent place to put her for naps and bedtime. Eventually she got very used to it and could fall asleep right away. The SNOO really does help parents get some extra time to themselves as there were many times the rocking could comfort/soothe her back to sleep. Sometimes it wouldn’t last long but you could get an additional 20 minutes!

As she hit four months though, she was always breaking out of the swaddle. We even bought a new swaddle in hopes that the Velcro would stay on better. But no, her arms would break free of the swaddle no matter what we tried. By 4.5 months, we knew it was time to transition her out of the SNOO. She was starting to fuss as soon as she knew she was getting placed it and also slam her legs down (which I found out later that other SNOO moms called this the whale tail). She was also waking up several times a night which could also have been attributed to the 4 month sleep regression but we’re not sure.

Weaning by starting with one arm free

Weaning was hard! It took probably two weeks for us to get a routine down for her to sleep in her crib. We started by letting one of her arms out of the swaddle but she would still startle herself awake and often run her face (which was extra bad because she had ezcema on her cheeks that got worse because of her free hands). We eventually let both arms out and turned off the motion of the SNOO. Then finally moved her into her crib. She is 5.5 months old now and officially sleeping better in her crib.

One of her last night’s in the SNOO at 5 months

Overall, Everly slept in the SNOO for 16 weeks. It doesn’t seem like a long time but you really do appreciate the extra sleep it provides. It also gave us more time to spend with our two year old. And most importantly, we really do have a happy baby!!! Learn more at http://www.happiestbaby.com.

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Where are you sleep?

The newborn sleep deprivation is real. But we are almost out of the newborn stage as Everly just turned three months old.

The first week after her birth, I was on my own with her every night. We were staying at my sister’s house so I was in my sister’s room with the baby, Danny was in the basement with the toddler, and my sister was sleeping in my nephews’ room. We made it work. At the time, I didn’t realize how sleep deprived I was as I went through the motions of waking up every two hours to breastfeed. Everly would be wide awake at night as she hadn’t adjusted to understanding day versus night. After rocking her and singing to her for 15 minutes, I would look down and see her big eyes were wide open. It was exhausting!

On November 17, 2019, we officially moved into our new house. Danny started helping me with the baby with one bottle feed each night, which allowed me more sleep!

We are looking forward to all the memories we will make here as both girls grow.

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Everly’s Birth Story

On November 5, 2019, we welcomed our sweet second daughter to this world. Everly was born at 1:50pm, weighing 7lbs 3oz. and measuring 19 inches long. We gave birth at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Denver and overall had a good experience there.

Everly came 10 days early. My contractions began around 3am the morning she was born. At the time, we were living with my sister and parents while we waited to move into our new house. I labored at home and at 7am, I woke up Danny and said “it was time to go.” He literally said, “Go where?” Oh husbands… Don’t you love how they can be so clueless?

An hour before baby arrived… And then 15 min after baby was out. Welcome Everly!

My mom helped stay with Cadence and took her to daycare that day. Luckily we were all living together so we had childcare.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was 5cm dilated; and by 6cm dilated, I received an epidural… then it was time to take a nap. Unfortunately, Tuesday was the one day my OB was off work so another doctor delivered for us.

Around 1:30pm, I was 10 cm dilated and it was time to push but the doctor was no where to be found. The contractions were coming and the nurse instructed me to start practicing to push. When the doctor arrived, I gave two big pushes and baby was out. It was so different than my first delivery where Cadence was posterior (face down) and essentially stuck in my pelvis. All my pushing would not move her down.

Family of four begins

This time, Everly came so fast that they actually told me not to push so hard to avoid tearing but alas, Everly came out with her fist in the air which caused me to have a second degree tear again. Unfortunately this hospital did not let us take any video footage, but we did buy professional photos of our little babe.

Everyone was feeling well so we were actually able to go home the next day on November 6. This also happened to be the first day we could move in to our new house so Danny spent much of the day there waiting for deliveries (couch, fridge, washing machine). We were ready to go home especially since we had our toddler as well.

My mom and sister came to visit… Cadence’s first time meeting Everly

My mom actually spent that first night with me in the hospital so Danny could be home with Cadence. Cadence’s first days as a big sister went well, she was constantly saying ‘baby’ and trying to give the baby blankets and toys.

The only health issue with Everly was her high levels of billirubin (the cause of jaundice). We had to go the pediatrician’s office four days in a row to get her heel pricked for blood draws. Finally the pediatrician told me to switch to formula for 24 hours and that worked! She couldn’t really explain it but she just said that the formula would reset baby’s body to drop the billirubin. It was a stressful few days but then Everly was as great as can be.

Breastfeeding was still hard in the beginning but this time I had a better idea of what I was doing. Even though Everly most likely also has tongue and lip tie, I’m able to latch her better and she transfers milk well. She is waking up every three hours to feed so not a lot of sleep going on but we are loving the newest addition to the VanDans.

6 was the first day we were able to move in.

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Starting Daycare

At 15 months, Cadence started daycare. Both my nephews had started after they turned one and I saw the many positive aspects — interacting with peers, learning in a classroom environment, and gaining some independence from parents. Even still, I was anxious and a bit reluctant to have Cadence start so early.

Unfortunately, I was no longer able to keep working with her at home. She is a needy toddler, who needs constant attention (don’t they all)! So even though I was working from home, it was pretty much impossible to get anything done! We initially started her in a daycare part time for only two days a week. This daycare (which I should really write a review for) was a very low budget center. At the time, Danny and I thought this was fine. But we soon realized that everything about this place was just sad. Sad teachers who didn’t care to be there. Sad parents who couldn’t find a better daycare (that didn’t have waitlists). And most of all, a sad Cadence every time we would drop her off and pick her up. So much tears! Even for mama! I remember dropping her off one time and just weeping in my car, feeling so guilty leaving my baby at this place!

Only three weeks here, we decided to pull her out. I researched a dozen daycares and all of them had waitlists. Unexpectedly, an opportunity opened up for her to enroll at a Primrose. These are franchised daycare centers with incredible, well-researched curriculums and pediatrician-approved meal plans. The best part was that my nephew would attend this daycare as well!

The downfall was that Primrose only offered full time schedules, so we had to make the decision to start taking her Monday-Friday, which also was significantly more expensive. The cost overall was higher and also the distance was further from our home. But… It was the best decision we could have made. The teachers here are so attentive and give so much love to Cadence. They take photos and send us updates throughout the day. And we can see Cadence genuinely learning from her experiences there — painting, reading, singing, bubbles, she loves it all. After about two weeks, no more crying at dropoffs.

And now I’m feeling much more productive as a mom who works from home (MWWFH).

Baby Updates

My breastfeeding journey

A year ago, I read a poem that another mom wrote about her breastfeeding experience. It was so eloquent and spoke to me. I took parts of it and rewrote it to describe my own journey breastfeeding my first daughter. It was such an emotional ride! Here’s hoping my second baby and I can find our groove.

“In the hospital bed, when you were two hours old, I breastfed you.
Our first day together, as we both struggled to figure out something that was supposed to be so natural, I breastfed you.
When I could only express a single drop of colostrum, I breastfed you.
With the help of your dad, we supplemented with formula through a syringe, but still I breastfed you.
As I’d cry and curl my toes up from the painful latch, I breastfed you around the clock.
And although I didn’t know why you were falling asleep while nursing, I breastfed you until later learning you were overexerting yourself to eat.
And likewise, when you continued to get a lip blister, I breastfed you until I later learned of your lip tie.
Then finally the lactation consultant identified your lip AND tongue ties and we had them released. I cried as you bled in my arms and I breastfed you.
When I found out you still couldn’t transfer milk during feedings, I worked harder to pump, so I could breastfeed you.
And before long, I was exclusively pumping, which meant never sleeping longer than five hours.
And though I lived with exhaustion for six and a half months, I was proud to be able to breastfeed you, my daughter, until my body could not do it anymore.”

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Life in Denver

Things have picked back up in Denver and quite quickly. Danny started his new optometrist position a week ago and I’ve already had tons of meetings.

We arrived on April 7, three weeks ago, and spent the first two weeks helping my sister and parents move. My sister closed on a beautiful new build home just 20 minutes from us. Cadence has enjoyed exploring all the space and playing with her cousins. My nephews seem to have adjusted very well, although they don’t play with their toys much anymore… Because they’ve all been stored in the basement where they don’t want to go.

We have experienced at least three (April) snowstorms since we’ve been back… Oh, Denver! I’m getting used to the cold weather again, but this time with a baby, which is a little more difficult having to pack more and put on several layers before baby can go anywhere.

And of course, with my own pregnant belly as we anticipate baby #2 this November.

Baby Updates

A Look Back on Year One

Danny and I took a walk down memory lane putting together this video of Cadence’s first year of life. We’ve learned a lot as new parents, and yet we know we’ve barely scratched the surface.

We really experienced such heartfelt love and support from our family and friends this year, from welcoming Cadence in her first days of life to all the gifts we’ve received. But most of all, it was always so sweet to see how hard everyone would try to make her laugh and give her love.

Cadence is walking now, but her favorite thing to do is still bouncing — in her crib, on people’s laps, by herself. She is so energetic and can’t sit still.

You may lose your mind as new parents, but boy do you gain your soul.

DIY

A Penguin First Birthday

When my daughter was born, we wanted her to have a ‘spirit animal,’ for two reasons: (1) we wanted to choose an animal that had traits we thought would represent our baby and (2) so that if friends/family wanted to get her any gifts, it would be easy for them to find things that were her animal. We chose the penguin for their loyalty stick with family and for their overall awkwardness. Our baby’s first year of life, we have received many penguin related gifts and clothes. So what better way to celebrate her first birthday than with a penguin theme? Here’s some ideas and what I did to decorate (found most of these ideas on Pinterest).

First Birthday Penguin Dessert Display Table

Penguin Dessert Table: I wanted to keep a baby blue and white look for a winter wonderland feel with the addition of penguins. I used two white drapes and the light blue sheet is actually just a bed sheet. We hung everything with thumbtacks. For the baby’s name “Cadence,” we used a wood cutout we already had and spray painted it the baby blue color. The balloon arch was done by blowing up the balloons, then connecting them by using a needle and thread. After hanging them arch on the wall, I took extra balloons and taped them to cover up any holes.

I had white frames (from work) to display the baby’s 12 month photos. My husband drew and cut penguin faces, wings and feet for the two jars holding Hershey’s kisses. To add more penguin fun, we used print outs and our baby’s penguin stuffed animals. The desserts were white Krispy Kreme donuts, chocolate cupcakes, fruit, Flipz (white chocolate pretzels), and popcorn (more like a snack).

Penguin Cupcakes: These were so fun to make! I didn’t have time to bake the cupcakes myself so I ordered from Vons (we are in San Diego) after doing research on which grocer made the best cupcakes. These are chocolate cupcakes with white butter cream frosting (delicious!). For a dozen, it only cost $9.99 so it was a great deal! I purchased Oreo cookies, black round sprinkles (for the eyes) and orange sprinkles (for the beak). After separating the Oreo in half, add the sprinkles to the side with the filling. To the Oreo cookie only side, break in half (or thirds) to use as the penguin wings.

Penguin Balloons for Birthday Party

Penguin Balloons: I found this exact balloon template on Hostess with the Mostess. They were perfect! All you have to do is print, cut and tape onto black balloons. We already had strung lights in our home so we tied the balloons from the lights (instead of using helium and having them go the other direction). Our guests loved the balloons and all the kids wanted to take them home!

Penguin Costume for First Birthday Smash Cake

Penguin Smashcake: Well, the smash cake wasn’t a penguin theme (raspberry mousse cake from Whole Foods), but we continued the theme by dressing up baby in a penguin costume (which she wore for Halloween). Here’s a photo when she was less messy and the cake was still standing. The “One” banner was lent by a friend (and purchased on Etsy).

Penguin Wall reads Happy Oneversary to celebrate the penguin’s first birthday

Penguin Wall: Our backyard has a white wall that we’ve previously decorated for our wedding and gender reveal. For the first birthday party, our friend painted and spray painted the “Happy Oneversary” wall to add to the overall penguin theme. He used a projector (at night) so he could trace over the lettering with spray paint. He’s super talented — and I would never be able to do this!

Hope you find some of these ideas helpful for your birthday party festivities! Our baby had a great time, especially eating her cake! Up until a month before her first birthday, I was advocating not throwing her a party at all. It just seemed so silly! But as her birthday drew near and we had family flying in to town to celebrate, we decided to host a party afterall. It ended up being really fun and I’m so glad we did it!