Monday, June 29, 2009

Coffee Date and Bowling

Because of Ian's head wound, we couldn't go to the pool yesterday. After canceling swim lessons for this session, we were sitting in the car trying to decide where to go and Ian said,"You need a coffee and I need a croissant. Drive up the hill to Starbucks."

So, I did.

After he ate his croissant, he begged to go to the pool. Oh how I would have loved to go to the pool yesterday, but the doctor said to stay out for 24-48 hours. So, we went bowling instead.

We bowled 5 games. We had the bumpers up and Ian used the ramp. He got several spares! Eva slept in the carseat carrier and then watched us bowl from it until she got bored. Then, I bowled with her in the Beco. We got a strike!

Moving in Korea, Part III: Panic Room

The big reveal. Curt went to the new place and I stayed at the old place until they were done. When I got to the new place, the damage caused a slow panic. Exhaustion delayed the full panic reaction which came late that night. A sampling of what we are dealing with:

Moving in Korea, Part II: The Waiting

We spent a lot of time waiting around and watching the movers. We waited in the recliner until they wrapped it up and took it out:

My palm was itchy. Does this mean I was destined to come into money? No, we're in Korea. It means I had 4 mosquito bites on my palm:

Eva spent most of the day sleeping in the Beco.

The waiting was exhausting.

Moving in Korea, Part I: The Movers

The movers were an interesting bunch. There were 5 of them:

1. A skinny, older man with a voice like he'd been chain-smoking since the age of 5.

2. A buff, younger man (most movers that I've seen are either tiny and muscular in a wiry way or big and muscular, yet overweight, but this guy knew his way around a gym)

3. A gruff woman in platform sandals who was overly interested in Eva.

4. The boss had a perm.

5. Another guy who wasn't as much of a character as the others.

They showed up with one truck that looked like a big pickup truck with an open bed. I wondered how they were ever going to get our stuff loaded on. I wondered how they would transport the stuff on the hills without things falling out. I called Sarah who assured me that this was typical and not to worry.

Since the move was just across town, they packed things in crates and some reusable boxes. They wrapped the furniture and appliances in furniture blankets that looked like cheap Turkish-type carpet designs.

It took 4 trucks to get our stuff out. They were fully loaded as well. The female mover talked to and looked at Eva a long time. It was a little unnerving because she was sleeping most of that time. She asked me through gesture if I was breastfeeding and was very happy when I told her that I was. She said,"Bap" and was making eating gestures. I couldn't understand whether she was telling me to eat rice or offering rice to me. I didn't have any food. They ordered food and ate. She spoke no English and I spoke no Korean.

Baby Love

Eva and Kareem from a few weeks ago:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Real Estate Smackdown!

The damage is worse, oh so much worse than previously thought. There is evidence of water coming down the walls as well so it is not just a problem with leaks from the tub. There is black mold. I think the place may have to be gutted and our stuff is now inside. We are not sure what to do, but it isn't looking good. I think we may have to put stuff in temporary storage and find temporary housing until we either find another place or they fix that one.

On top of that, Curt lost one of the books from his class in the move. The last three assignments are from the book and there is no time to order another one. He tried to buy it online as a PDF, but because of our IP address, he wasn't able to buy it. Then, we went to pay for my yoga class and I realized that I brought the wrong envelope. I had my medical records instead of the cash. I filled out the form anyway and will get the cash to Magic Pond later. After that, we headed back to the new apartment to look for the book again. As we were getting Eva out of the car, Ian jumped up and hit his head on the door. He had quite a gash and though the bleeding wasn't uncontrollable and he didn't lose consciousness, I thought he should go to the ER. So Curt continued to look for the book and Eva, Ian and I headed to the ER.

The doctor cleaned it out and said he could have a staple or she could put glue on it and tie his hair together. We opted for treatment #2 since it would be less painful and there would be a scar either way. Ian freaked and the doctor brought in three helpers to hold him down, but they couldn't restrain him. Finally, I handed Eva to the nurse and said, "Ian, do you want some milk?"

He calmed instantly and I leaned over him to nurse him. He completely relaxed and the doctor tied and glue him and we were on our way. Breastmilk: liquid valium for the preschool set.

Curt finally found his book and though he couldn't complete his assignment on time, at least he'll be able to catch up.

Since Ian is supposed to keep his head dry for 24-48 hours, I am going to try to cancel swim lessons for this session. It will be one less thing to deal with during this craziness.

My sister comes on July 2 and Curt leaves on July 5. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow with the real estate agent and the owner.

I am really trying not to freak out, but to ride the wave. Things will work out one way or another. It may be expensive, but it will work out. The sad thing is that I was really excited to live there and to take advantage of being close to base.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Moby Wrap Korea Launches

Mommy Cha loved her Moby wrap so much that she brought Moby to Korea. The website is in Korean. The front page has English, but when you click on the links, all the relevant information is in Korean. They just launched so they may be working on an English version of the site later, but if you want to buy, now, you may need someone that reads Korean to help you.

If you want to see the Moby Wrap in person, Moby Wrap Korea got a last minute booth-entry in to the Coex Baby Fair (August 20-29, 2009).

The great thing about Moby Wrap Korea is that Sarah really knows how to use the wrap and can help you learn to use it well. In the babywearing circles, I've found that wrap lovers are diehards. They REALLY, REALLY love wraps. Everyone who loves them says they are so easy to use, but my eyes just glazed over when looking at the instructions. Since I had trouble getting my baby positioned in a ring sling and had no experienced babywearers around me, I went a soft-structured carrier.

However, at Moby Wrap Korea, they even have Moby Wrap Meetups where parents and babies get together for fun activities so you could get hands-on help. Once you learn how to use the wrap it becomes second nature. It still takes longer to put on and off than a soft structured carriers, but it folds up small and adjusts well to all kinds of body types.

Yes, This is Another Post About Real Estate

I thought we were in the clear on this whole real estate deal, but we got a call today that the apartment failed inspection because there was a leak behind the walls from both of the bathrooms and major renovation needed to be done or the walls might collapse. Curt went over to look at it and talk about our options. We noticed that the wall paper was peeling back on one of the walls when we looked at the place. I am not sure if they found the problem when they were trying to repair it or if they did an actual inspection, but there are major problems.

After some discussion, we decided that we would moved our stuff to the apartment on Saturday, but move into a hotel until July 12 when the repairs are scheduled to be completed. The landlord will give us money to pay for the hotel. If we stay in the apartment while they try to do the repairs, it will take much longer, be messy, noisy and annoying. We'll be able to have access to our stuff while they are doing the repairs, but they don't want us to unpack. At least we will be able to assess our furniture needs for the new space.

My sister is coming on July 2 and Curt is leaving on July 5 so we are going get a second hotel room during the overlap because 5 people in one room will be a little tight. We are just going to stay at the Dragon Hill on Post since it will be close to the apartment, close to the hospital for Kate's shadowing and close to Ian's activities.

We will be losing some money on this deal because we'll have to eat out a lot, but with the hotel covered, it won't be that bad. I'm glad we won't have to figure out storage for our stuff. Small favors.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Moving on Outta Here!

The lease is signed. The government furniture has been picked up. The movers are scheduled to come Saturday morning. I wish we had more time to get ready for the move. Even though it is only across town, there is a lot of junk that I wish we had time to get rid of before the move, but as it is, we will just do the best we can.

Today, I got rid of Ian's letter mat. It is a foam mat that can be pieced together. The letters are cut out of the mat squares and can be put together like a puzzle. The ends come off as well. It sounded like a good idea, but it was so hard to keep clean. It grossed me out and I wanted to throw it out months ago, but Curt wanted to try to clean it and save it. He did one cleaning and then they sat in one of the bath tubs we never use for months. Finally, today I threw it out. Ian also has a toy that has never worked properly. He got it as a birthday gift last year and we can't get it to stay together so I got rid of it. He has lots of toys so we don't need to keep broken ones.

Here is a list of things I'd list to get done before the movers come:

1. Go through Ian's toys and pull out anything broken or not needed anymore. At the very least, I hope to group the toys together in bins so there are easier to keep put away.

2. Take all the food out of the refrigerator and put it in a friend's fridge until the fridge is moved. We have to do this one. I've been working the contents of the fridge/freezer down all week, but we'll still have a large cooler full at least to transfer the day before the move.

3. File/Shred/Throw out papers. If we could get this done that would be awesome. We need to Fly Lady it. Maybe a little each day before the move.

4. Put electronics and appliances in their original boxes. Things tend to survive the move better and even though it is only across town, we want to save those boxes for the eventual move back to the States. I know that the movers get paid to do these things, but a little prep work before they come can make things go faster and smoother.

5. Take down the satellite. Even though we can't use it in the next apartment, we might be able to use it in the future or sell it.

6. Get all the leftover dog things washed and put together so Katie can take them back to the States after her visit.

7. Get everything out of closets and cabinets so we don't accidentally leave anything.

8. Try to get a few pictures in front of the beautiful view that we are leaving.

9. Ask the real estate agent whether we are moving the water cooler, water jugs, transformers, cable box and anything else provided to us by the landlord (now a bank). I don't think they would take it back. They don't plan to rent to anyone else, only sell so I don't think they'd want the stuff back, but I'm wondering if they need to turn things back into the water and cable companies. Guess we'll find out.

10. Take our Egyptian tables apart to give them the best chance to survive.

11. Take the Bowflex apart because the movers asked us to.

12. Take pictures of the Bowflex so we can try to sell it.

I think that is it. It is more than enough. My sister comes next week so I'm glad we'll be moved in before she comes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Real Estate Resolution!

So, did we take the house that needed the garage renovation or the apartment in the new complex that won't be ready until July 15 (at the earliest)?

Answer: Neither.

Yesterday, real estate agent#1 showed us a place in a building by the post. We'd seen it before but didn't want to live there. Well, somewhere between desperation and panic we decided it was liveable.

In short, we ran out of time.

Neither of our best options were without risk and we weren't willing to take those risks, especially with Curt traveling for most of July. In comparison to our current place, the new place is smaller, the layout is stupid and the view is crap. However, the stove is nicer, the sauna in the building is nicer, it has a small indoor playroom and it is much closer to the post.

Two comments that helped us decide:

From my mom,"Curt travels a lot. Pick the place that is easiest to handle life with two kids by yourself."
From my sister,"Does it really matter that much?"

We can walk to Post and to the metro from the new place. It is a flat walk, so very doable. It is much easier to tell people how to get here. It will be much easier to get a teenage babysitter from Post. The building is full of Americans as is the other, newer complex next door. If Ian goes to the preschool I've been thinking about, the bus will pick him up at the Post gate near our new place.

It will be easier in a lot of ways and it is available NOW. The current residents are moving out 3 months early so it is good for us and the landlord.

Also, we've decided to make a point to use the sauna at least once a week. Curt may actually be able to use the gym now since we are closer to Post. The gyms around here seem to open at 6am and that is just a little too late when you add the commute time.

As for the layout, we will just have to deal with it. We may have to store the Bowflex on the balcony. Curt didn't use. I won't use it and it takes up a lot if room. Maybe we will sell it. I don't know. Ian will be farther away in his own room than I would like, but I think he is ready. We will probably buy a twin mattress set and put the bed rails on it and let him decide when to move.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Successful Version in Seoul!

My friend, Y, just had a successful ECV here in Seoul. She had an experienced midwife (Rosa) perform the version in a Dr. Chung's (her doctor) clinic with monitoring. It has been a week and baby is still head down. I hope her birthing is as beautiful and easy as mine was.

This news makes me so happy!

In other good birthing news, friend C was being pressured for induction due to "suspected big baby", but her baby came on his own.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Impending Eviction!

We are to be out on June 27. The problem, we don't have a place to go. The place we wanted to go gave us the runaround. In order for the US Government to rent a place, the owner has to have the property document and because construction is still on-going, they won't have it until mid-July. The place hasn't been evaluated for fair market value, either so that will add more time. The real estate agent said we could move in sometime in September, but then said we couldn't afford it. The story keeps changing. Finally, we went to the housing office and they called the bank. The bank sold our unit and if they can't turn it over by the end of June, they have to pay substantial penalties so that is why they want us out so desperately.

Our choices:

1. Jump through some hoops to take the house in Hannam and hope he really does renovate the garage.

2. Take an apartment in the complex near our current one. It is large and pretty nice, but doesn't have nearly the view of our current places, lacks the amenities (which we really didn't use), and no one knows how to get here.

3. Move into temporary housing and put our stuff in storage and try to find something else.

4. Call other real estate agents like mad and try to get another place and moved by next week.

We also need the government to come take the government furniture back. hope that can be scheduled next week. Yikes! Trying not to freak. Yoga breaths. Remembering to be a light.

After talking it through calmly with my husband, we are going to try to make option #1 work. Tomorrow, we are going to the house to tell him which furniture we want him to leave and what we want him to take out. I think the fact that it is furnished is a good sign, because we don't have livingroom furniture. Also, he has a child's bed and night table that we will keep as Ian moves into his first room. The rest, he can take out.

The reasons I like the house:

1. It has enough space in the right places for our stuff.

2. It has livingroom furniture. It isn't what I would pick out, but it is nicer than the mauve government couch we have now and have to return.

3. It has a layout that will enable us to provide a gentle transition for Ian into his own room.

4. We can grill out. Curt really likes to grill and I know we will take advantage of this benefit of having a house.

5. If we have to bring the dogs (if we bring Roxxy back, we will probably take my sister's dog, Teddy as well) back from the States, we will have a little yard for them.

6. It is walking to distance to restaurants and cafes, Soonchunhyung Hospital (perhaps for baby #3 or backup hospital for homebirth of baby#3--not pregnant, just planning), Hannam Village and public transportation. I think the metro stop is a bit of a hike, but the bus goes right by there so it is accessible for visitors. It will be easy to tell people where we live.

7. It is very close to a complex where a group of my friends live so we can get together more often with them.

8. It is fairly close to the base. It took us 12 minutes drive to get from the house to the base during rush hour.

9. It is pretty from the outside. I'll post pictures once the deal is done.

The things I don't like:

1. Parking is tricky. If he fixes the garage, this will help, but I am still going to have to improve my driving skills and I will probably scrape some more paint of the 'ole Hyundai in the process of learning, but that is o.k. I know in advance.

2. The kitchen and bathroom aren't super spectacular, but they are nice. The kitchen is large at least.

3. The stone steps are treacherous, but you can enter the house from inside the garage.

4. The prospect of dealing with an individual landlord instead of a management company is a little scary, but could potentially be much better.

5. We are going to have to handle the trash by ourselves. Korea requires extensive separation and recycling. We just take our unsorted recycling down to the trash area of the parking garage and the building guys sort it. But, this is small. We can handle it.

6. I'm afraid about the cost of utilities. They are built into the the rental agreement so I hope things work out so it covers it all. They increased the amount for the utilities so we should be covered.

I really hope the house works out. After listing my likes and dislikes, my likes are much stronger. So, my plan for the next week:

1. Meet with new landlord to tell him which furniture we want to keep.

2. Arrange pick-up of government furniture and appliances.

3. File loose papers and try to get rid of some unnecessary items.

4. Buy grill.

5. Move.

My sister is coming for a month-long visit on July 2. So we'd really better get this done quickly and not end up on the street!

Shine Your Light

Yesterday, I went to my husband's office so I could meet the woman in charge of mail delivery. When we first arrived, the position was unfilled and the person assigned to cover it was bitter and let a lot of things slide (including returning packages addressed to me despite our filling the mail paperwork out 3 times). When this woman took over, everything changed. She did her job with efficiency, accuracy and JOY! I'm sure she didn't dream of processing and delivering mail when she was a little girl and the job probably doesn't pay all that much, but she does it with joy. She is a light in the world. You don't have to cure cancer to shine your light. You just have to shine. And she does, every time she brings the mail.

Unfortunately, she is leaving due to a painful personal situation, but she continues to shine. She cuddled Eva and told me that it had been her dream to have children, but she'd never been able to because her soon-to-be ex-husband changed his mind after they got married. Now it is too late. Even in her pain, she took joy in Eva. She has a beautiful faith that she says will see her through this.

I am grateful to have met her, to have her light shine on me in her darkest hour. She reminds me that you can't control everything, but you can control your reaction. This lesson couldn't have come at a better time as we are going to have to scramble to move next week (destination still unknown). I started to freak out today and then I thought of her. We'll get things worked out. It may not be pretty, but I don't have to contribute to the ugly.

Monday, June 15, 2009

More Tales of Pyeong Envy from the Soon-to-Be Homeless

Oh, how I love and appreciate you, large, well-laid out apartment. I didn't appreciate what a rare treasure you were until I started looking elsewhere. Why, oh why, do we have to leave you? I wish we could stay. It would take 6 months before they could throw us out on the street, but that would only be prolonging the inevitable and probably cause our real estate agent to REALLY hate us.

So, our last search took us to two houses, both really far away from the base. One was a new house designed by an architecht with a mountain view. It was beautiful and despite the mini-oven (yes, even smaller than our current oven), bathrooms where the showers just spray all over the floor, and steep hill to reach it, it was hard to pass up. The house had a two car garage that would have been fairly easy to get into, little gardens, clean air. The downstairs consisted of a master suite (too small for us, but would have been a good guest bedroom or workout room), another full bath (with shower, no tub), another small bedroom, kitchen, laundry room, and livingroom. The second floor had another living area, full bath (with shower, no tub) and several other small bedrooms. The 2nd floor living area opened out onto a small deck with little garden. We would have put our bed in the living area and put Ian into one of the bedrooms right next to us. Did I say that it would have been awesome? I am almost convincing myself to take it. There was also a third floor attic space that was unfinished, but it was new and so not gross. It could have been used for storage or perhaps we could have negotiated that they finish the attic area. Though, the layout/design wasn't perfect from a foreigner perspective (could have used more countertop space in the kitchen and I would have done the bathrooms differently), you could tell it was designed by an architect because there was flow.

So what was the fatal flaw: distance from the Post. It is really far and there is nothing much in the way of restaurants or neighborhood around within walking distance. I think public transportation would be very difficult. We have a hard enough time explaining where our current place is, let alone being so far out. I am planning to take a Yoga teacher training course in Yeouido starting in August and I do not want to be that far, especially if Curt is out of town and I need a babysitter.

The other place we saw was in Sungbokdong, but not close to the action. It was up a very steep hill. It was very large, but had older kitchen and bathrooms and though we liked it, we didn't love it enough to deal with the distance from Post. Curt works long days as it is, so the distance is important to consider.

The third place we saw was a large apartment in a new complex right by the metro with lots of shopping and things around. The layout was workable. Flaws include: smallish dining area off the kitchen with the light fixture in the wrong place for a western dining table (wasn't designed for Western so it is only a flaw for us), inefficient closet design, but there was a good amount of closet space, one of the master suites was designed in a way that you couldn't get a large bed in there because of the balcony, door to the bathroom, closets and door to the outside, blue wall paper (it was light blue, but neutral is better for a rental), long vanities in the bathroom with only a single sink instead of two sinks and higher than I really prefer to be. Despite all that, there was room for our furniture and through Ian's crib couldn't fit in the other master suite where our bed would go, there was a room right across the hall so it would be a good transition for him. There was room for our American refrigerator, washer and dryer. I don't know if we can have our AFN satellite, but at this point, that is a sacrifice I am willing to make. The things I liked best about this place were: size, decent layout, location (close to Post and public transportation).

So what is the problem with that place you ask?

Well, the landlord has decided to completely renovate it (put in marble and rip up the newly installed wood floors) so it will not be ready until September. Also, he wants more money than the government will allow so he kept going back and forth on whether to rent to us or not. Our agent is going to call other owners. There are also some slightly smaller units that could work depending on the layout.

Curt also saw a very fancy apartment that had lots of pyeong, but the way it was laid out made it so that there was a lot of wasted space. There was a circular center hall and all the rooms were wedges off it.

As of today, we do have a back-up plan if we can't get into the new complex. There is a unit in the complex next to our current one that is available. A friend is translating with the agent and landlord for us. It is large, well plaid-out, has double sinks in the kitchen, room for our fridge, washer and dryer and room for our furniture. We still have a river view, though it isn't as good as our current view. There is only one unit per floor so we wouldn't bother anyone. Not sure if the building has any amenities like sauna or pool, but we hardly ever use those anyway. The main problem with this place is that our current location is up a very steep hill from the metro. It is not bad for driving, but bad for walking. There is a bus, but it is just barrier and adds time for people to get to us or for us to go anywhere on public transportation. We don't want to keep moving so we want to make a good choice this time.

So, as it stands, our first choice is trying to get into the new complex and our back-up is the place next door. I wish that guy had been able to work out a parking place for us for the Hannam house we saw earlier, but so far he hasn't been able to. Though, I suppose if he did, he could rent it for more money to someone else.

The beautiful house in the mountains got us thinking that we might want to do a more targeted house search, but I think it is just as well. Real estate is all about priorities and not panicking. Hope we have a resolution update soon!

Eva's Baek-Il: She's Delightful!

Today marks Eva's 100 Days. It is a very important day in Korea. I read that you are supposed to give rice cakes to 100 people for her long life. I think maybe I will bring cookies or chocolate to the office tomorrow instead. The "sweet" rice cakes aren't our thing, but chocolate definitely is! We did not do a party for her, but it has caused me to reflect on these past three months and that I am now a mother of two. My daughter is delightful! Getting to know a new little person brings an all-encompassing joy to my life. There have been a few things bringing me down and freaking me out (real estate deals or lack thereof), but today we went in the pool for Ian's swim lesson (she was strapped to me in the carrier) and she did better than Ian and it is making the other stuff fade into the background (at least temporarily). When she sticks out her wrinkly, little neck like a turtle and smiles, I smile back and hope that the image of my smiling face imprints on her heart to carry her through when I can no longer fix her problems as I can right now.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Product Reviews: Fuzzi Bunz and Bum Genius One Size 2.0 Cloth Diapers

Update: 6/15/09 I really like the one size diapers. If they had snaps they'd be perfect. I definitely recommend one-size pocket diapers to save money and get a really easy system. My daughter was 7 lbs 11 oz when she was born and at 3 months she is a pretty average size baby and not too chunky. I don't think the Fuzzi Bunz small diapers will last much longer. I was able to put the Fuzzi Bunz mediums into the rotation at 2 months (and probably could have done so earlier if I had tried). This has really convinced me that one-size diapers are the way to go if you want a pocket system. The Bum Genius one-size have been great from newborn (I started at 2 weeks old) through over 2 years old. I did need to buy some large diapers to get us through to potty training, but if you potty train earlier than I did or have a smaller child, you might not need to. In any case, the one-size diapers work extremely well in a wide size range. I do prefer snaps because the look is cleaner and the child can't get the diaper open like they can with velcro/aplix.

Original post:
I used Fuzzi Bunz Size Medium and Bum Genius One Size 2.0 diapers from the time my son was 7 months old through 2 years for Fuzzi Bunz Medium and through the present (2.5 years old) with Bum Genius One Size 2.0. In addition, I am using Bum Genius One Size 2.0 diapers on my newborn. I also bought some Fuzzi Bunz Size Small to use on my newborn.

Both diapers are working great. I was worried BG One Size would be too bulky on the smallest setting, but it is not. I still like Fuzzi Bunz better because they are softer and they have snaps (snaps look better and kids can't open them as easily), but the Bum Genius One Size are working well for both my newborn and my toddler. I no longer use them for naps or bedtime with my toddler because he tends to open up the velcro. Also, they don't fit anymore with a doubler inside for my 2.5 year old.

Fuzzi Bunz has a One Size diaper as well. I do not own it, but I do like Fuzzi Bunz so if you are researching diapers to buy, I would check that out. However, I have heard some quality/customer service concerns recently so maybe check out brands that are one-size and have snaps. Bum Genius has an organic one-size option with snaps as well.

My children are wearing the Bum Genius One Size diapers in the picture.

3 Months of Eva

I'm finally able to change my song from,"Wake up, Little Eva (or Little Mama)! Wake up!" to "Hello, Little Eva, Hello!" Eva is finally starting to be awake a lot more and showing us her personality. She scoots herself along the floor during tummy time. She loves to smile and still loves to eat. She likes to listen to me read and sing. Ian did not at her age. We took her to the pool and she didn't like it at first, but I got her in up to her shoulders. Ian starts swim lesson tomorrow. It is parent-child swim so I am planning to have Eva in the baby carrier while I help Ian swim. Hope they let me do it. I do not have a back-up plan. Maybe I could put her in the carseat carrier, but I don't think she will tolerate that for the whole class.

She is very calm as long as she is changed immediately (she does not like to wet), fed immediately and held. When she is in the carrier, she falls asleep and is so quiet sometimes I forget that she is there for a moment. It is like still being pregnant. She has decided that she hates riding in the car. She was fine when we took a trip on the subway and the train because I could hold her, but she does not like the carseat. Ian holds her hand so she knows she is not alone. Sometimes holding her hand helps. Sometimes singing to her helps. But, often, the only thing that helps is to get out of the car.

Also, she has waved seemingly in response to being waved at. It is probably just a coincidental involuntary reflex, but it looks cool.

Fall Down 7 Times, Get up 8

Tomorrow, I am going to make my third attempt at regular post-partum exercise. Haven't been successful so far, but I am trying again.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Pognae Baby Carrier (Ergo-like Baby Carrier)

********Update: Sarah has said that now that she has used the Pognae for awhile, that she has noticed it is shorter than the Ergo and she thinks Grace will outgrow it faster. Still, she is happy with it.
Sarah has a review of the Pognae Baby Carrier, available on GMarket here in Korea. It is cheaper than the Ergo and has some extra features and cuter designs.

I have the Beco (4th Generation) and Ergo. I like this style of carrier because it is easy to use, secure, quick to get on and off and it is comfortable to carry baby for a long time.

If I needed another carrier, I would try the Pognae.

Street Food Korea

Ian eating a hotdog covered in batter and french fries. Koreans have infinite variations of hotdog experiences.

Mosquitos in Korea

They are bad.

Ian's eye was even more swollen when it first happened. It didn't seem to bother him so we just waited for the swelling to go down on its own and didn't take him to the doctor. The mosquitos are biting their faces because the pajamas cover the rest of their bodies. Ian has a few others on his face as well that really swelled up. Eva doesn't seem to react as badly. We have something that plugs into the wall, but I think we need some mosquito nets.

We saw a little electrified racket for killing mosquitos. Supposedly you can picked them up for 7,000 won.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Transformation: Expat Parents Club Forum is Up

What started as a few people getting together to talk about pregnancy in Korea turned into a small e-mail list and then a private blog for us to share and stay connected. Over the past few months, we out grew the format (over 80 members). We recently moved to a forum and it is up and running. It is still a work in progress and we will adapt it as necessary.

Expat Parents Forum

The Scoop on Poop

As potty training continues, Ian has almost total control over pee. He can hold it. He knows when he has to go. He "pees like a big boy" now which is easier when we are out in public. He doesn't wet himself during naps and wakes up dry most mornings.

Poop is another story. Everyone I meet says that poop takes longer to master. Ian's first week of potty training involved lots of pooping on the potty and lots of pee accidents. By the end the first week, he was doing great with pee and regressed on poop. We've just held fast to the plan and had him help clean up. Lately it has been like a see saw with one day great like yesterday (3 times on the potty) and the next day rough (several times in the underwear). However, I still believe we are making progress. Today, he went to a playdate and pooped in his underwear. I got him on the potty and he pooped more in the potty. I thought I was safe, but before we left, he had pooped in his underwear again. He skipped his nap so he asleep in the chair after dinner. When I went to carry him to bed, ugh! More poop in the underwear! I woke him up and we got him cleaned up. Then I asked him if he had more poop in there. He said,"no", but after a few minutes he went and sat on the potty,"I made an 'e' poop. The letter 'e'!"

My first reaction,"It does kind of look like the letter 'e'".

And then, to myself, I thought,"This is truly a shitload! Thank you, watermelon."

And finally, out loud,"Thank you, Ian, for putting it in the potty."

Ian has been potty training for 7 weeks and for the most part, he is pretty reliable in public. He even pooped on the potty at hourly day care last week. I'm glad we have the rest of the summer to work on it before I have to deal with heavier clothes. I'm glad pee was so easy and will just try to be patient until he gets the poop.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Doula Momma Talks Brewer Diet

Amy, one of our local doulas here in Korea has started a blog called Doula Momma. In today's post she is talking about pregnancy nutrition. So often, the focus is on weight gain instead of nutrition, but different bodies will gain different amounts. I, myself gained 45lbs with each pregnancy. Though my diet wasn't perfect, I wasn't pigging out all the time, either, it was just what I needed, though.

Amy has links to the Brewer Diet check list, and explains the philosophy behind the protein-focused diet developed by Dr. Tom Brewer. There are also other versions for lacto-ovo vegetarians, vegans and moms-to-be of multiples. Check out Amy's post and the links to the Brewer Diet for more information.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I Won a Prize in the Blacktating Blogiversary Celebration!

One of my favorite breastfeeding-related bloggers, Elita of Blacktating just celebrated her Blogiversary with a contest and I won the $50 gift card to One Hot Mama. Because this was unexpected, I decided to treat myself and buy whatever I liked instead of trying to buy the most practical thing. I picked this nursing top from Japanese Weekend.

I've heard great reviews of Japanese Weekend, but have never ordered anything due to the cost. However, I figured that now is my chance to try it out and judge for myself whether the pieces are worth the cost. They had size XS, which is often hard to find. Even size S (in maternity/nursing) is often too big for me. I am not that small (34C) but the way my body is shaped or something makes it hard to fit. In fact, I am giving away some nursing pjs that I got in size S and some in size M because that was what the size chart showed I should order, but they never really fit right. Anyway, I've learned to size down when I am on the borderline. It doesn't always work, I am a size M in the Bravado Body Silk (also carried by One Hot Mama) but I was fortunate enough to try that on in person while I was still in Erie at the St. Vincent Nursing Boutique.

While I was checking out the nursing wear at One Hot Mama, I found Roxanne's One Hot Mama Blog. Roxanne is an actress, wife and mother of four as well as running the One Hot Mama store (in LA) with her husband Bob. The blog has great posts about maternity/nursing fashion, breastfeeding questions/advice, attachment parenting, and her acting gigs. It is a great read!

But, I won't keep the winning to myself, One Hot Mama has provided a discount code to Blacktating readers for 10% off your order. Check here for that code and a few others.

I do need to take a little time to plug the Blacktating Blog. The tagline to her blog is "breastfeeding news and views from a mom of color". The information she posts is relevant to all nursing moms, but she actively promotes images of black women nursing (something very often lacking on other sites) and tackles issues specific to nursing moms of color. One great features of her blog is the Friday 5 that contains links to five breastfeeding-related studies, quotes or news items of the week. So, if you are nursing, or thinking about it, check out the Blacktating blog.

Thanks, Elita, for the wonderful surprise. It helped to brighten an otherwise downer of a day, yesterday.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

There's a Fine Line Between Encouragement and Bullying

Good intensions are not enough. The method of delivery determines how information is received. Sometimes, in our quest to promote alternatives to the mainstream like breastfeeding (especially extended breastfeeding or nursing in public) or natural childbirth we can come off so strongly to the person we are trying to help/inform that they are turned off and tune out. That is when the backlash comments like "lactation nazis" and ideas of "us and them" gain momentum. It reinforces the idea that there are only two choices instead of a spectrum: breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, c-section or homebirth, etc.

Every time I hear someone refer to a lactation consultant as a "lactation nazi" I cringe. I cringe for many reasons, not the least of which is the trivialization of "nazi", but mainly because that LC missed the boat with the person they were trying to help. Why did they come off as bullying or so ultra gung-ho that the woman didn't feel supported, but felt attacked? I think part of the problem is that LCs have to deal with the misinformation being spread from all sources, but most notoriously, doctors, and they are angry and so fail to meet the woman where she is and deliver the assistance and information in a way that they can receive it.

On the other hand, you want to make sure that you give enough information in a direct enough fashion that a woman can make a proper choice. You don't want to be wishy-washy and downplay your advice/recommendations to the point that the person doesn't take it seriously, but you can't overplay it, either so that you scare or scold or humiliate the person.

My recent post about planning your "best birth" the first time around got me thinking. Though, I thought I was prepared and making the only choices that I could at the time, I did have other options that might have allowed me to avoid my c-section. As I said in that post, some people tried to tell me, but I didn't listen for a few reasons: my doctors said all the right things and I believed them and I didn't feel like I had any concrete, practical alternatives.

After my c-section, my wiser self started thinking about what they could have said to me that would have possibly changed the outcome? I don't think hysterical anti-c-section rants would have gotten through to me. However, positive experiences with ECV or recommendations of providers who had done breech births who were nearby would have helped. The problem was that they didn't know of alternatives and they wanted to support me. I had a great c-section experience because I was supported. But, I wanted to change the outcomes for others. Maybe that is why my baby#2 was breech so I could experience a successful, easy ECV and spread the word so people would be willing to try it before giving up and scheduling a c-section.

Though I had a good c-section and recovery, I still had some processing to do about it because I felt like I really didn't have a choice. The more I learned about what my choices were and what the risks really were, the more strongly I felt the need to save people from my fate. At a playgroup event, a woman (36 weeks along with her 2nd baby) said she just moved to the area and was going to the OB practice that did my c-section. I immediately launched into a very strong speech about their reputation for being very surgical and their high induction rate (an L&D nurse said it was about 90%, could that possibly be true?) and that she should switch immediately!

"It's not too late to switch,"I said.

I said this to a woman who was new to the area and very near the end of her pregnancy. I said it to with urgency and fear and after I'd done it, I knew I was wrong, that I hadn't helped her and might have hurt her, by scaring her. I didn't have a great alternative to offer, either, because all the practices in that area were very conservative. I was definitely working my own issues out on her and don't think I helped. I never saw her again and don't know what happened or how she took what I said to her, maybe it didn't bother at all, but I do know that is not how I want to communicate. It is not how I would have liked to recieve the message, if I were in her shoes.

Another example is that of a close friend who has several medical problems (migraines and a blood disorder). As soon as she said she was pregnant and was talking about her high risk OB and all the specialists I said,"Your going to have a c-section for sure!"

I wanting to slap myself right after I blurted it out especially because she said,"I hope not." I was able to back track a little with her because it was a longer, continuous phone conversation instead of a chat between chasing toddlers at a playgroup, but again, not how I want to communicate. Then, I sent her a book and some links to resources, which I think was a positive step, but, my initial comment caused me to compensate and leave out some factual information that might have made a difference. I got an e-mail from her after her 39 week visit saying,"I wasn't dilated or effaced at all and the baby is going to be huge so they are scheduling me for an induction The doctor even joked that the baby was just too comfortable in there (how many times have I heard that one leading up to an induction)".

I wanted to scream,"No! Not the "Big Baby Card", don't let them induce you with an unfavorable cervix for that! You'll end up with a c-section!"

But, I didn't. I wrote the e-mail a few times and deleted it a few times. It seemed as if she had made up her mind and was happy with the decision. I wanted to say something, though, so I just wrote,"You know, the sonograms can be wrong, and often are, by a few pounds." I started to go into Bishop's Score, but I deleted that and just sent the one comment.

When she wrote back that they told her,"she was just so huge that it couldn't possibly be wrong in the negative, that the baby might be even bigger", I just left it at that and knew she was going to have a c-section, but did not say so.

She was induced on her due date and..........drumroll........

c-section 8lbs 5 oz baby 10 days after the sonogram

Now, it is important to point out that she is happy with the birth and feels it was the right decision. Even afterwards, I said, gently,"I should have told you about Bishops Score". She said she still thinks it was the right decision. I have to let it go. Even if I had told her, she was not in a place that she would be comfortable going against her doctors' recommendation. I can't say that she was wrong due to her other medical factors and comfort level.

That story was playing out while I was desperately trying to get Eva to go vertex so I could VBAC. I was trying not to impose my desires on my friend. I do wish I would have sent a calm, factual e-mail about Bishop Score and links on "suspected big baby". I don't think it would have changed her mind due to other factors involved in her decision, but it is the way that I want to communicate with people, especially in the areas of lactation and birthing. I want women to have factual information and practical alternatives so that they can make the best decision for themselves and their babies. Not what I think is the best decision, but what they think. I do wish the birthing culture in the US (and many places in the world) were different, but that won't change overnight.

Instead, my goal is to get the word out in a respectful way. I have done that for many people. I am still enthusiastic in talking about breastfeeding, my VBAC, Hypnobabies, etc., but I try to be positive about the alternatives I'd like people to be aware of and consider instead of negative about the conventional options they may choose to take.

Recently, this was put to the test when, after I'd gone half way around the world plus a two hour drive to have a VBAC, a friend chose to have a repeat c-section in a hospital with some policies that were not mother and baby-friendly such as no husband's in the OR for c-section and baby has to stay in the nursery overnight. She said she was not happy with these policies, but didn't want to change doctors, and I strongly (maybe a little too strongly) encouraged her to change providers because the c-section rate is so high in Korea that all the doctors are very experienced. In the end, she decided to stay with her doctor. Her doctor found her an English-speaking helper to take her to the nursery overnight to breastfeed and she negotiated some other things so that she felt more comfortable accepting the hospital policies and staying with her doctor rather than changing.

She was very happy for my VBAC even though she is making a different choice. She just doesn't feel comfortable doing it in a foreign country where it isn't commonly done. She does not have the option of going to her home country for a variety of reasons. She is a very intelligent woman and she has thought things through. She is doing what she is comfortable with and I made sure to tell her that I supported her, because I want her to feel supported, not judged or criticized.

I may not always be successful, but here is how I try to find the balance:

1. Positive enthusiasm, not negative hysteria
2. Present facts and resources so that if people are interested, they can pursue the topic further and make up their own minds.
3. Present practical, alternative solutions (for example, Holland has a great system for birthing, but it is not practical to tell someone who isn't Dutch or is not living there to "go to Holland". Expense-wise most people can't do that. Even for me, when I was in PA and some suggested going to TN to the Farm. It was too far away for me to go by myself with a 2 year old to wait to go into labor. So start with local alternatives, there may be some people in a position to drive 10 hours to another state or fly to another country, but for most, it will just seem unattainable and make them feel even more pressured and trapped into settling for the induction/section their doctor is advocating.
4. Meet people where they are. Some people are more open to learning about natural childbirth and breastfeeding than others who may not be interested at all. You shouldn't give up on talking to someone who is afraid of natural childbirth, you just have to be aware and approach them differently. My own interest in natural childbirth happened accidentally because when I got pregnant, for some reason, I remembered Ricki Lake talking about doulas. This was years and years ago (before BOBB) when I was very far from having my own children. For some reason, it stuck. I hired a doula for my first pregnancy who introduced me to Ina May Gaskin and Birthing from Within which took away my fear of labor. Though, I didn't experience labor with my first, that educational foundation gave me the confidence to pursue VBAC with my second.
5. Finally, remember that these are not your choices. Respect and accept choices that are different from your own.

This is getting really long. i should stop now. Do you have any stories where you blew it by being too forceful with someone? Any stories where something you said made a difference and someone had a completely different (and positive) experience than they otherwise would have had because of something you said? I love it when that happens, especially when you don't realize you've helped at the time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Moving Sale in Seoul

Trish Cumming, Seoul's first Hypnobirthing instructor, is leaving Korea and looking to sell some furniture. E-mail her if you are interested:


B & Q Kitchen Table & 6 collapsable chairs 30,000KRW
Outdoor Swing Set
60,000 KW

Outdoor Table Setting
incl 4 chairs, umbrella & stand

Handcrafted Italian Design Bedroom Set
1 x 6 drawer Chest with hidden drawers 100,000KRW
2 x Side Tables 80,000KRW
1 x Extra King Size Bed (200cm x 200cm) 200,000KRW
2 x Bedside Lamps 20,000KRW

Children’s bedroom furniture
Casa Mia Bunk Bed 350,000KRW
Includes mattresses (bought new for over 1million won)
Casa Mia Chest of Drawers and Mirror 200,000KRW (almost as new)

Trish Cumming
+82 2 749 1752 (home)
+82 (0)10 6820 0701

Monday, June 1, 2009

Planning Your First Birth: Planning Your Best Birth

Just finished a chat with my friend, Aja in Mexico. Aja had her beautiful baby girl at home in the water on Friday with her husband, mom, sister and midwife in attendance. It was magical and everything she hoped for and in her words, the baby is perfect. Of course, all parents feel that their babies are perfect but not all moms feel that great about the birth experience.

Aja really did her homework. She found a homebirth midwife in a foreign country, but researched options in the US as well in case she couldn't find what she wanted in Mexico. She kept the responsibility for her birthing and did not leave it up to fate or turn it over to a medical professional. She was attended by a midwife and a Physician's Assistant (her sister) so she had medical help available of she needed it, but they were back up. She birthed her baby. She did it. That is how I feel about Eva's birth, even though I was in the hospital, I birthed her. My midwife attended us.

Now, things happen and c-sections are sometimes necessary. Medical interventions can sometimes help. You can't prevent all bad things from happening. You can't prevent all complications.

But you can prevent a lot of them.

How? How to you "get it right the first time"?

Well, maybe, "get it best" is more accurate. Keep in mind, that I had a scheduled c-section due to breech for my first birth. Though, it was a great experience: easy process, easy recovery (well, easy for major surgery), it was not what I wanted and I didn't try to have an External Cephalic Version. I was talked out of trying. Looking at my records, I had an anterior placenta and a placental hematoma (earlier in pregnancy) and an ECV might not have worked, but I didn't try. I did the best I could with the information I had and no one could tell me who in town (or reasonably out of town) would do it confidently. I didn't realize how a c-section would limit my options for subsequent births. With VBAC bans in hospitals, restrictions for labor or when you have to go into labor by, or whether doctors will perform versions on a scarred uterus, I didn't realize it would be so difficult to have a VBAC.

Right now, I need to publicly thank my friend, Maggie. It was her experience in a VBAC attempt, which ultimately resulted in a repeat c-section, that caused me to work so hard to find a truly supportive VBAC provider and not just settle for the convenience of others. She thought her doctor was pro-VBAC. He said he was, until she got towards the end when his true colors came out and he was pressuring for a repeat c-section if she went over her due date. He would not even try to induce her. (Induction should be avoided for VBAC, if possible, and treated differently than other inductions, but there are methods that can be used for VBAC).

During my first pregnancy, my doula and my childbirth educator both tried to tell me that the practice I had chosen (in retrospect, based on many recommendations from people that saw the doctors for GYN issues, not OB) was very "medical" in their approach and not known for being supportive of natural childbirth. However, my doctor seemed so nice and said all the right things so I just thought that they didn't know my doctor and were mistaken. Also, they couldn't really offer up an alternative that was really better. Now there are more homebirth midwives in the area and as a SAHM, I was able to drive out-of-town for care, but back then (just three years ago), the homebirth option was much more mysterious in that area.

On to my general point:

1. Educate yourself: Read books like Henci Goer's Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth to find out the true cost of interventions an the true benefits of natural childbirth so that when you are making your decisions, you are informed.

2. Write a Birth Plan: A lot of people think this is unnecessary or even setting yourself up for failure because you can't control labor, however, a birth plan should cover your wishes for everything from the ideal natural birth to your wishes in the event that a c-section becomes necessary. On Momversations about birth plans, Nancy O'Dell, author of the book, Full of Life: Mom Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Pregnant, dismissed the need for a birth plan saying that she had a verbal birth plan with her doctor that was,"I was a vaginal birth with drugs asap and a c-section if medically necessary."

Women out there, that is not enough. That is not enough research on the drugs, and there are so many things to decide between vaginal birth and c-section. You have options, even with a c-section. Don't assume that because "most doctors/midwives do it this way" that yours will. Don't assume that because you have a certain type of provider who seems a certain way that you are on the same page. Write it out before the birth and discuss things. Discuss them while there is still time to change providers or negotiate or do more research. You are not in the best position to negotiate when you are in labor.

Even if you are having a homebirth, you should write a birth plan that covers your expectations for homebirth and your wishes in case of transfer.

3. Get a second opinion: "Medically necessary" is a gray area. Providers are often very conservative due to legal fears. Find someone who will support you in what you want. There is a woman that I know who had two vaginal births and with her third, the doctors wanted to do a c-section because the fetus had tumors on her kidney. She didn't want a c-section and she pushed the issue. She contacted a neonatal specialist who said that the baby would not need immediate surgery and could be born vaginally. After the the baby was born vaginally, she underwent further evaluation and it turns out that she will most likely not need ANY surgery, that the one affected kidney will probably be reabsorbed into the body and the other kidney is working fine. Some people thought she was reckless to challenge the doctors. I think she was both smart and brave to get more information and another opinion.

4. Take a Childbirth Education/Labor Prep class and Practice! I did Hypnobabies, but whatever method you choose, you should practice, especially if you want a natural birth.

You don't have to choose a home water birth to have "your best birth", you just have to choose and prepare. Understand your options and make your choices. Understand that complications may occur and though you might not have your ideal birth, if you've made your choices and vetted your provider so that you can be reasonable sure your provider will be supportive, you can have the best birth possible for you and your baby.

If you are reading this and did not have the birth you wanted the first time, you can have a next birth. It may be harder, especially if you want to VBAC, but it is possible and definitely worth going the extra mile(s) to make it happen.