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!

Panda Mom

A Mom’s First Birthday

I recently celebrated my first birthday as a mom. And I have to admit, I wasn’t gushing with warm feelings of motherhood and turning another year older. In fact, I cried! Tears of exhaustion and self-pity. Not the happy tears of enjoying sweet birthday bliss with my husband and new baby. Was that not a perk that came with being a new mom? Hah!

Leading up: My mother-in-law had gone on a 10-day cruise, so I had been home with Cadence for 5 days straight… alone. And by Friday, when my husband suggested going to a nice restaurant to celebrate the big 3-3, my mind must have been mush. For in that moment, it seemed like a good idea.

With the 9-month-old in tow, we set off for a romantic dinner at a fancy schmancy restaurant along La Jolla Cove. Our first mistake was to go here at night, since it was too dark to enjoy the views (you are paying for). Secondly, we could not find a babysitter, so we brought the only baby in the entire restaurant. You know it’s not baby friendly when there are no changing stations in the restrooms. And lastly, we were about to spend over $100 on a meal that we could hardly enjoy.

Now to Baby Cadence’s credit, she actually did pretty well. She sat curiously on her booster chair and ate her Puffs cereal awaiting the restaurant food. We ordered two beers (it was a special occasion), then perused the menu for food items appropriate for a baby.

For appetizers, we started with pita/hummus and bruschetta. Unfortunately, they were so flavorful, she spit out the food immediately.

Fancy schmancy restaurants make fancy schmancy dishes

For the main course, we ordered a salmon dish and beef steak. Again, the flavors were so strong. The salmon dish was garnished with many ‘toppings’ (including pomegranates – what?!) leaving only a small sliver of fish which I mostly fed to the baby. We boxed up the steak largely due to the guilt that it cost $35. (My husband did microwave it and eat it the next day though and said it tasted better oddly enough.)

By the end of the meal, Cadence was getting antsy to leave. So we chugged our beers and asked for the check. In record time, we had arrived at the restaurant and left in less than 40 minutes. This was less time than it had taken me to curl my hair for the birthday dinner. We took a quick photo and rushed to the car. Aw yes, of course later, I would see I was wearing the diaper bag in the photo. #momlife

As we drove home, I sat in the back seat with baby girl. I could feel the tears coming. Is this what it’s like to have birthdays now? Rushed and hectic and guilt ridden. Always thinking about the baby, feeding the baby, entertaining the baby. Hurrying out of restaurants with no time for birthday dessert.

Suddenly from the driver seat, I hear ‘are you crying?’

‘No…’ as I tried to hide the sniffles. My husband Danny continued to inquire, ‘why are you crying?’

I felt so embarrassed because I couldn’t quite put into words what I was feeling. Because I know I am lucky. I am lucky to have this super caring husband and this sweet baby girl. And while I have such beauty in my life, I can’t help but feel I’ve lost a part of me too. So yes, birthdays won’t be like they once were. And romantic dinners aren’t a thing if the baby is joining. And all of that is ok. I am slowly learning I need to change my expectations and adapt to the new me. Still trying to figure out who that is.

Turned 33 this year and my life is pretty damn good. But next year, I’m thinking we just go to Red Robin for the free birthday burger and kid friendly ambiance.


Denver to San Diego and Back

Antelope Canyon Lovin’

Two years ago, we packed up our cars in Denver to set off into the San Diego sun. Friends joined us for the 3-day drive, as we hit the obligatory Instagram spots–Antelope Canyon, Moab and Las Vegas–before arriving at our new home. Well, new-old home. New for me. Old for my husband. We moved into the house where Danny spent his high school, college and ‘don’t know where my life is going’ years before optometry school. Although Danny had not lived in San Diego for the past seven years, this was where he called home.

Here, we live with Danny’s mom, brother, his girlfriend and two other roommates. While seven adults living together is certainly a ‘full house,’ it isn’t uncommon for Californians, where the housing market is brutal. Rent and mortgages eat into monthly incomes and families struggle to save.

Living in Mira Mesa, a San Diego suburb

Our first year in San Diego was whimsical. We were riding the engagement wave and planning the wedding of a lifetime. We were busy spray painting centerpieces and practicing our first dance.

Shortly after our wedding, we found out we were pregnant, which started the next chapter of San Diego life. No more wine and sushi for me. And as an act of camaraderie (and his disinterest in raw fish), none for Danny either. We continued plugging along with our jobs but decided it was best to wait on buying a home in America’s Finest City with baby on the way. We were optimistic, happy and in love.

Baby Updates

7 months and so cute

Winter is coming and Cadence received her two-part flu shot from Kaiser. Luckily Danny can take her because I hate seeing her getting poked!

Here she is holding her own bottle now like a pro! She’s drinking about 6oz per feed (every 3-4 hours). She is so stinkin’ cute! But still wakes up once or twice a night for a bottle. We can’t seem to ween her off it.

We were contacted on Instagram by a teething toy company to have Cadence do a photoshoot for the product. Of course after 100 photos and 30 minutes, zero smiles. I don’t know what it is about having a camera in her face that immediately makes her stoic. She just stares. Luckily, her face is cute. Haha! This is an awesome silicone teether that babies can get fruit and veggies from called Moss & Fawn.

After the photo shoot, we stopped by the San Diego Public Library and visited the children’s section. Danny and I have been seriously talking about writing a children’s book. We are thinking a book for Asian American kids. Been doing some research and I’ve found quite a few already! Going to order them for Cadence! Also love the books highlighting girls in a positive light!

Baby Updates

6 months… super late

Falling behind in posting but during Cadence’s 6 month mark, she spent 10 days in Denver. She is starting to crawl now, specifically if you put a cell phone, laptop or her penguin stuffed animal in front of her. She’ll army crawl for it!

Teething has been rough. We got her an amber necklace but not sure if it’s working. In Denver, she stopped eating for a few days and also got a cold. She was refusing milk and food, unless it was cold. So we had to make sure milk and food went in the fridge first. She cried a lot at night — to the point where I had to drive her around one night at 2am so she wouldn’t wake up the whole house. Poor babe. Definitely not feeling well on this trip.

Flying back to San Diego with her was quite an adventure. Our 8 p.m. flight was delayed 30 minutes, just long enough for her to become overtired and cranky. Shortly after takeoff, Cadence had a blowout diaper with poo all over her back. Following, she threw up all her milk on me… Twice. We basically landed in San Diego with Cadence wearing a hoodie and diapers. No other clothes were spared in her vomit attack. Luckily, I sat by a mom, Debra, who helped me out the entire flight. Forever grateful.

Cadence continues to bounce a lot in her bouncer. Her legs are very strong now and she cracks up every time she is in it. Ba Noi helps take care of her twice a week and she gets lots of giggles from Cadence. Halfway to 1 year and we are loving her determined and social personality.

Baby Updates

5 months with our happy girl

August was a hot month with an extra big electricity bill for all the A/C we’ve been blasting here in San Diego. Baby turned 5 months and we got an annual pass to the San Diego Zoo. It’s been a nice family activity to push Cadence around the zoo when the days cool down.

Cadence loves blowing raspberries, giggling and rolling over

Cadence is rolling like a pro now! She’s also doing great eating solids! She began with sweet potatoes, avocados, apples and carrots. So far, no allergies! We tried to give her pieces of avocado to eat herself (baby led weaning) but she had no idea what to do with it. So looks like we’ll keep spoon feeding her for now!

Daddy feeding Cadence avocados at 5 months

On August 11, Cadence went swimming again with her friend Hailey (who is 2 weeks younger than her). We met up our friends at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay pool. She did a great job in the water again. We’re planning to enroll her in swim lessons soon (or have a friend teach all the babies).

Swimming at the Hyatt Mission Bay Pool – Haha! Love her face.

I’m feeling the mom guilt as I’m trying to find that work-life balance. (What does that even mean?) Always reminding myself to be present because work can wait. I pause and soak her in. I take that moment to remember my baby: her smile, her smell, her little toes. I hold her a little longer, sing to her and watch as she drifts to sleep. She won’t be this small forever, but she will always be our baby.

Baby Updates

4 Months and This is How We Roll

At 4 months, we got a new baby! Cadence is super responsive now. She interacts with us a lot more when we are making faces at her. All that tummy time practice has paid off and she is rolling now–from her back to her tummy. We’ve upgraded her to a Pack N Play next to our bed and retired her snuggle nest and bassinet. I find myself constantly rotating out her clothes. She is growing fast and we’re already putting her in 6-12 month outfits.

Cadence is rolling from her back to tummy now!

Danny and I finally went on a date without Cadence. On June 24, 2018, our cousin Tony and his 10-year-old daughter Meagan came over to babysit. For two hours during lunch, Danny and I feasted at Gen Korean BBQ. They tell you not to talk about your baby when you go on dates… for us, we just didn’t talk at all. This is usually the case when we our stuffing our faces at all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ.

A week later, we celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary (July 1, 2018) in Colorado Springs. We were spending the July 4th holiday with my family at the Great Wolf Lodge. The hotel is a water park resort for kids. My nephews had a blast! And we took Cadence into the swimming pool for the first time. She didn’t cry, so we assumed she enjoyed herself. After 30 minutes in the pool, she immediately fell asleep. She was so exhausted!

Cadence’s first time swimming, just a few days shy of 4 months old!

While my parents helped watch Cadence, Danny and I went to the Broadmoor Hotel, where we went on one of our first dates. I can say it was romantic to retrace our footsteps and fall in love with each other all over again. Four years really isn’t that long ago so all the memories are still with us. We’ll have to do it again in four-ty years.

Celebrating 1 year of wedded bliss, 4 years of dating and 4 months of being parents

Continue reading “4 Months and This is How We Roll”

Baby Updates

3 months and growing fast

I have to say, it’s cute that I ever thought I’d have time to keep up with a family blog. I’m soooo tired. Kudos to the moms that are able to find time to write, take beautiful photos and edit videos. But at this point, this blog will just be to help us remember Cadence’s milestones.

At three months now, Cadence is smiling, cooing and giggling. Her neck is fairly strong and she pushes herself up during tummy time. She looks as though she will roll over very soon! The issues she had with gas and colic seem to have gone away and now we are experiencing sunny days with Cadence. Besides her inability to have a normal poopy diaper (only blowouts), we love where she’s at right now!

Cadence at three months – starting to smile and coo

She is starting to use the Mama & Papa seat to sit at the table with us during meals. No solid food for her just yet though. She’s just drinking pumped milk every day and one bottle of formula at night. I question how long my pumping journey will go but telling myself to go one day at a time. Continue reading “3 months and growing fast”

Baby Updates

2 Month Baby Update

This post originally began as Cadence’s one month update but time flew by and I wasn’t able to finish the post in time. Now Cadence is two months! And just like that I’m back to work. I was only able to take 8 weeks for maternity leave! Wah! Here’s the little babe:


The first night we took Cadence home, she slept great! We have her in a cosleeper next to our bed. We were supposed to wake her up every 3 hours to feed but generally, she would wake up on her own for feedings. After the first night, sleep was a little rough for the coming weeks. At around 7 weeks, Cadence started sleeping longer, waking up only once around 1am – 2am to feed. Because my milk didn’t come in until day 5 or so, we were already having to feed her formula and she was taking a bottle from the very beginning. So Danny and I would take turns with the night feedings. I so appreciate him for helping with these especially after hearing that other dads didn’t have to when mothers were exclusively breastfeeding. Also, Danny only took one week off in the beginning and immediately went back to work so I knew he was often exhausted in the middle of the night too. Continue reading “2 Month Baby Update”