Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just Now

It took Willow 90 minutes to fall asleep. She is used to waking up every morning, nursing, playing like a pro, nursing for a second time, and then taking a nap out of pure exhaustion. Now that I'm trying to restrain from that mid-morning nursing session, nap time has been terrible. I know she's tired, she knows she's tired, but she refuses to cooperate. So, she plays in her crib. I hear her crawling around, playing with her sleep toys, standing at the railing screaming for me, playing some more, crying a little, laughing a little, jumping a lot. And  on and on it goes. This morning it was extending so long (this going to sleep process), so I went in a couple times to hold her and sing a song. That didn't help. So I destained the carpet. Something I've been meaning to do forever. I keep putting it off because I have to make my own remover, and somehow that seems like a lot of work. But it's not.

Homemade Stain Remover 
1 Tbsp of clear dish washing soap
1 Tbsp of vinegar
2 C. of warm water

Mix the solution and then use it to scrub out the carpet stains. Use a white cloth with the vinegar solution to blot out the stains, then use cold water to sponge out the solution.

I removed about fifty little stains while waiting for Willow to fall asleep. We get so many stains on our small 2x3 meter carpeting because when we have students or friends over we have to eat in the living room (our table only seats four, and it's usually where the food is set out). Plus, since Willow arrived, she stains have multiplied ten-fold. Her sippy cups spill on the carpet almost daily. I don't know WHY since they are supposed to be spill proof.

Anyway, does anyone have any tips for weaning a baby? I've read all there is to read. I know she's ready to start the process. She just resists her naps so much now. "If I don't need breastmilk, I don't need naps" is her new motto.

My Korean Grandmother used to tell the story of how she weaned my dad. It used to be that babies nursed for extended amounts of time in Korea. I'm not sure if they still do that, but I know that extended nursing is very popular across the world, and used to be more popular in America (once upon a time). Now, people are shocked if you're still nursing after 6 months, since all the popular baby books says that's when the 'nutrients' stop. Without getting into that issue and all that it implies, my dad nursed until he was around three years old (according to my Grandma). South Korea is a small country, and it was still recovering from war--so nursing as long as possible was practical. Cows, therefore milk, were just uncommon.

The only way she could get him to stop was by taping her nipples with red electrical tap. My dad, with his "little emperor's" complex that is so common in boys of Asian families, used to just walk up to my Grandma and lift her shirt when he wanted to nurse. When he saw the big red x's, he was so traumatized that he was instantly weaned.

Ok, maybe I've exaggerated parts, and my dad is thinking, "What in the heck?!"
But I promise, that's what Harmonee told me on several occasions.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Currently, we have one bag (8oz) of milk in the fridge, ten eggs, and a lot of condiments in the fridge. There is only ice cream in the freezer. No fruit, no veggies, and I just realized that the bread was moldy. We have garlic and sprite on the counter. What does this mean? I need to go grocery shopping! Usually this is Adam's job. He calls it, "hunting and gathering". But, he hasn't been feeling well all weekend, so it falls upon me.


Adam and I are still taking turns running throughout the week. One person watches Willow and the other person exercises. We say that our reward will be a trip to Thailand this Christmas.


The weaning process is beginning. Or, I should say that it already has begun. Willow is down to nursing four times a day--although sometimes she somehow manages 6 feedings. Except for early in the morning and right before she goes to sleep for the night, she is not nursing very much in quantity. Just a few minutes. So, I'm taking this as a sign to remove one more feeding. I'm going for the mid-morning pre-nap feeding because this is most convenient for me as far as pain goes. Weaning is painful! I have this subconscious fear that I will get mastitis again and experience another abscess. I catch myself thinking that avoiding the weaning process might be better, and then I wouldn't have to deal with Willow wanting to nurse and not being able to. But then I remind myself that that means nursing forever. Ok. So that's not going to happen. At the very latest, I would like her to be completely weaned by December. I look forward to it, but it's sad at the same time.


I've been watching "Alias" lately and loving it! I'm already on the second season and am totally hooked. I've seen the occasional episode before, but never watched them in order before. I love Jennifer Garner! We still like our go-to shows like "Myth Busters", "White Collar", and "Family Matters". I think "White Collar" is influencing Adam, since he just had a custom pin-striped suit made and he asked if he could wear a fedora with it.


I read a book last week. Reading books shouldn't happen too much around here. When I read, I have to go all out. That means reading every spare minute, and reading from 7pm-2am. Which means, getting only a few hours of sleep. Anyway, I read an excellent book, "Shanghai Girls" and totally recommend it. There are some graphic and traumatic scenes, so read with discretion.


Adam finished his first full week of teaching, this past week. He seems to be doing well with everything, and enjoying the experience of this being his fourth year. He wore his new pin stripe suit to the school's Open House on Friday night. He and Willow are as crazy as ever when they play together. Willow is so happy every day when Adam gets home.


Willow is doing extremely well. Right now she has quite a few mosquito bites, but she still hasn't figured out that she can itch them. She understands quite a lot of English now, and I can't even create a list of phrases she comprehends anymore. It's quite a lot! We've had to start spelling words like "out", "cookie", and other keywords that she is obsessed with. She can now meow like a cat, and her new word is 'cookie'. She says it deep in her throat, like she is clearing it or gargling. It's pretty funny. I'm finding that a lot of her baby-talk is starting to develop into a Willow-Language. If you listen closely, it's not just a steady stream of phonemes, but sometimes there are 'words' mixed in there that she mispronounces. She has also started nodding her head 'yes' to answer questions. Yesterday, I asked her if she wanted to take a nap, and she nodded 'yes'. Sure enough, she was happy to take her nap. Right now, however, she is yelling in her crib as she tries to settle down. She's probably thinking, "you forgot to nurse me! Crazy lady"

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Three Years

Time flies.

This post is very late in coming, since we celebrated our third anniversary on August 1. It was also a milestone, as far as anniversaries go, because it was our first anniversary together. Last year, we were in two different countries and the year before that we were in two different provinces. Our first anniversary had me so mad at Adam, I didn't talk to him for a while. He was sent on a student development retreat by our school, but he didn't tell me about it until a few days before. Not the 'ideal' first anniversary scenario. Our second anniversary, Adam was getting ready to teach in China, and I was in America trying to sort out Willow's legal document issues so that we could take her to China with us. That was a MESS to say the least and not one my best memories in life. 

So, finally, FINALLY, we were together. 
And, bonus points, we had live-in babysitters.

Tommy and Emma were in the midst of their China visit, so they watched Willow while Adam and I rode our bikes to a Japanese spa to get 59 kuai back massages. Yes, that's right, it's $9.25 for thirty minutes of sheer bliss mixed with a lot of pain as the stress and tension is beat out of you. Kind of like marriage. The massage began comically, since we didn't know what time they opened (we usually go in the evening), we just assumed they would be open by 10. But they weren't. So we were standing outside, thinking about what we should do (correction, I actually walked in the closed spa--before I realized that it was closed) when one of the workers comes biking towards us. She lets us in, asks what we want, and sends us upstairs. We waited for a bit, and then a room was prepared. Some massage therapists who arrived early, started killing the knots in our backs. Probably the best part of this particular massage was that they had the Olympics playing on the tv in our room. We don't pay for tv channels at our house, so hadn't watched any of the Olympic Games yet--it was all in Chinese, but since it was gymnastics it was pretty fun to watch. This started a debate about whether or not gymnastics is a sport. Adam says "no, it's a competition". I disagree. What do you think? This is not a time for wikipedia---

After our cheap, painful, glorious massages, we biked another mile or so to eat at a Japanese restaurant. Accidental theme here. The food was delicious, but we almost didn't have enough cash to pay. Adam hadn't brought his debit card, but he had quite a bit of cash. China is a cash society, and so you have to get used to carrying hundreds or thousands of kuai with you at all times. Anyway, the waitress wrongfully charged us. She handed me a receipt for almost 400 kuai! Even though I couldn't read the characters on the receipt, I went over each item with her and said that it should cost less than 200 kuai. In the end, we only had to pay 150 kuai--which was amazing since I thought they were going to make us wash dishes or hand over our other valuables. She had charged us the all-you-can eat price which is set at nearly 200 kuai per person. Oops. 

With our now left over money, we headed to subway to get some subs for dinner later that day. And then we went to Starbucks where we ordered tasty drinks and dessert. We were so full, but still had to bike home. On the way home, I asked if we should stop at the grocery store to pick up some more wipes (which we were dangerously low on at home). Sign of the times, I guess. Such a romantic way to end a lovely date together. 

The word "date". While we're on the subject. When we were dating, I wouldn't say that we went on dates all the time, but we did go on quite a few. And even when we were just hanging out, it felt special. I hope that as we get old together, that special factor doesn't wear away. I have to remind myself what a privilege it is to be married to my best friend and how it doesn't matter what we do together as long as we with one another. I don't need fabulous dates, or consistent date nights--I just need quality time with my favorite guy. Things like riding bikes together or grabbing coffee seem ordinary to me now. But there was a time when getting coffee with Adam was exhilarating. It makes me smile to remember those days, and how quickly my life has changed in the six years since we met each other. But I don't miss those exhilarating days. I'm glad we had them, but I'm excited about growing into a more harmonious and hopefully more mature couple. We still love each other, still 100% committed to one another, and that is a lovely thing. 

I'm so glad that you asked me to be your wife, Adam Johnson. I'm thankful for you every day, and amazed by how our Father has been faithful through all the valleys He has brought us through. It's been a crazy three years, and you've been worth every good, bad, and ugly minute we've shared together. I love you! If I could marry you again, I would in a heart beat! Especially if I could have a pinterest wedding. ;) 

My heart sings with gratitude to the All Powerful Creator--for bringing us together, protecting us through terrible storms, upholding us through major transitions, and causing us to learn more about true love, sacrifice and unconditional respect. Thank you, Father for bringing us this far. Help us to bring glory to your name--and bless the future years to come.

I would also like to submit the following picture as evidence. Because three years is obviously not long enough to forget that Adam left me at the church after our ceremony and went to the reception without me. I will always give you a hard time about that, Adam. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

American Bucket List

I love lists. America needed a list. With less than three weeks to split between two families, and Willow's first birthday--we needed to make sure that we did as much as possible with the time we had. 

Naturally, we have a few categories. 

People to visit
Food to eat
Stuff to buy 
Things to do

We wanted to spend time with our families, of course. We got to eat lunch (at Panang! Oh! How I missed that place and their delicious noodles) with Victoria and Daniel, as they prepared to make the move from Germany to Africa. We got to see Lylli's baby bump and laugh at Wil's funny stories. We got to visit with Katie after work. I got to hang out with Kristin, Denise, Chelsey, Emily, Mary, Nicole, and many others too! Adam wanted to hang out with his life long pal, Mike. They headed out to Buffalo Wild Wings--which was like killing two birds with one stone!

Daniel, Victoria, and us at Panang! 
Now it's the end-ish of August, so it's hard to remember the beginning of July, but here are some things we did. Short-hand style.

  • Panang with the Meade's 
  • Applebee's with the Kangs 
  • Panera with Katie and Emma 
  • Pizza Hut with Denise 

  • Hair cut at my Aunt's salon 
  • Willow's 1 year vaccinations at the county clinic ($10 per shot) 
  • Willow's first pool experience 
  • Ate at some delicious Mexican restaurants 
  • Went out with Erica, Tim, and Katie 
  • Lincoln Park Zoo with friends and family 
  • Watched Little Women recording with the Kangs 

Emma and Willow at the 4th of July party 
Last day with Harabogee 

Visit with Luke who was working at a Wisconsin camp

  • Traditional dinner at the Minnie Monese Golf Course with the Johnsons + Hannah 
  • Chipotle Date 
  • Toys r Us for Willow 
  • Ate lots of favorite foods like sweet corn, salmon, homemade pizza, and steak
  • Gained ten pounds 
  • Willow's first tractor and atv rides 
  • Lots of Starbucks runs for white chocolate mochas 
  • Visited with Erica who flew in from out of town 
  • Visited with my dad who flew in from out of town 

Lincoln Park Zoo, family photo

  • Olive Garden Date
  • Many Breakfast's at Grandma V's during jet lag 
  • Target shopping for needed supplies 
  • Shopping at a few malls for clothes and shoes
  • Adam got to mow the sod field (first time in three years) 

Dressed up for dinner at the Golf Course
  • Bought an iHome for our home 
  • Bought a new iPod for Adam 
  • Fed Willow lots of avocados, sweet corn, blueberries and raspberries 
  • Red Lobster with the Johnsons
  • Buffalo Wild Wings (Adam and Mike) 
  • Heinz's 4th of July party 
  • Willow's birthday breakfast
  • Willow's birthday party at the Johnsons 
  • Chinese buffet with Hannah, Erica, and Grandma and Grandpa Johnson

Husking sweet corn 

Eating sweet corn 
Mostly, it was a wonderful break from school and work. We loved seeing everyone that we did, eating too much great food/dessert, and celebrating Willow's first birthday in her birth country. It was an amazing trip--thank you all who hosted us, fed us, cleaned up after us, and gave us a break! Willow was spoiled beyond belief by all her doting family members, and we appreciated all the free child care! Thank you!

Here's to life back on the other side.


In one year [since Willow was born], I've lost 42 pounds. That's all the baby weight, plus some. I've gone down one dress/top size, and three pants sizes from my pre-pregnancy size. Shedding nearly a pound-a-week on average without trying is amazing.

Thank you breastfeeding.

Yesterday and today were landmarks. I went running. While I was running, I was surprised at how easy it was. Maybe because it's been so long, or because the last time I ran I was heavier, but I remembered running to be more unpleasant. After Willow was born, the last thing I felt like doing was running. But it wasn't that bad.

Mind you, I'm not in shape, so I expected to die.

Because the truth is, I haven't exercised in two years.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Great Wall

This is another heavy picture post. If you knew how many pictures I could have posted, but didn't, you would be proud of me. 

Okay--to continue with our Shanhaiguan trip.
The hotel where we stayed was constructed in a hutong style, which means all the rooms were built centered around courtyards. There are only two hotels in this small city that foreigners can stay in. This was the nicer of the two. Our friends helped us to check in and got us a really good price. Only 100 kuai per room! That's about $15. 

Tom and Emma had their own room, and survived on their own. The Chinese style bathrooms threw them for a loop. At least there were western style toilets---but the showers were a different story. Just a drain in the floor, and a shower head in the corner. We had to buy our own toilet paper, and the towels were ratty and frayed. Tommy and Emma's shower drain didn't work...unfortunately. Emma opted to forgo the shower until we got back to Shenyang. But hey, a bed is a bed, and a shower is a shower. . 

Sleeping with a toddler is an interesting experience. You have to go to sleep when she does, you give up your rights to even move, not to mention the right to any space of your own. It was equally hard for Willow because she was confused and it took her a long time to settle down and fall asleep. She didn't cry, almost surprisingly, but she did a lot of tossing/turning/flopping-around. Finally, she fell asleep, and then despite the humidity, we fell asleep too. 

In the morning, all that humidity turned into a steady rain fall that lasted the entire day. Since we only had one day to spend in Shanhaiguan, we made the most of it and set out on our journey to see the great wall. 

Courtyard outside the rooms where we slept. 
Adam and Tommy locking up the hotel rooms where we stayed. Forgot to take pictures of the actual rooms. 

Our friends, Dave and Lauren, were amazing translators. We've been in China the same amount of time, but they have retained a lot more Mandarin than us. Honestly, we probably wouldn't have gone if they hadn't mentioned they were also going--I think we might have invited ourselves along--just because trying to figure out what to do, where to go, who to talk to, what to pay is all very overwhelming when you have a baby whose needs are nearly incessant. As we were checking out, they were able to bargain for someone to drive us to the sites we wanted to see. They got a good price considering the rain, and the fact that we would be those driver's only business that day. Somehow, Lauren understood from their Chinese that main Great Wall site she had been to before was closed. There was another site that the drivers knew of though. So, we piled into two vehicles and set off.

The roads grew less like a city and more rural very quickly. We were cruising along mountain roads, whipping around corners, crossing bridges that were flooded over, and speeding over sections of road that had mud/rocks sliding down them from the mountainside. The rain made it all a little freaky. They were the kinds of roads that two cars could barely squeeze past when meeting around a bend--so it's scary when it's a truck that's coming at you.

We finally arrived and purchased our tickets. There were lots of vendors out selling fruit, umbrellas, ponchos, and hats made out of rubber leaves.

On the way to get onto the great wall, we were passing this dam. Apparently, according to the sign, this was called the "water park". Lots of people were wading in the water, and picking up different shell fish to eat.

Starting to climb the great wall. Willow is a trooper! It was humid, it was raining, she couldn't really move around. She had just experienced a long car ride---and now we're just walking up stairs. Not exactly Willow's idea of a fun day, but she did well despite it all.

Willow was extremely pleased to discover that she could scale the wall herself. She walked up a few steps with Adam's help. Sometimes I can barely believe the life that Willow leads. Climbing the Great Wall at 12 months old.

You can sort of see how the Wall just disappears into the mountain, since it just became too steep. It is amazing how they made it despite the odds. Lots of people died during its construction and they are said to be buried in the wall itself since there was no time to stop and bury them properly.  Also, the name of this Great Wall site has been painted on the cliff wall. I don't know HOW they did that. 

After a certain point, it was futile trying to stay dry. Forget the hats and umbrellas. 

There are more pictures too! We took some fun jumping pictures that I'll have to post either here or on facebook. We ate lunch after we finished looking around this section of the wall at a Chinese restaurant. Because Willow was exhausted beyond belief, I stayed in the taxi with her. It was pounding rain outside at this point, and it was hard to stay awake. I dozed off once or twice. Once, I woke up and looked down at Willow who was sleeping in my lap. She had several drops of water on her head. I looked up at the ceiling thinking that we had sprung a leak before I realized that she was sweating. This girl sweats like her dad! Eventually, Adam came out to relieve me so that I could eat some lunch too.

Then we headed for the Dragon's Head which is where the Great Wall meets the sea. Perhaps it was the weather, the post lunch satisfaction, or the fact that we had been walking for a few hours already, but when we arrived at the Dragon's Head everyone agreed they were too tired to site see. We headed back to the hotel since that's where we had left most of our luggage. But once we got there, we didn't really know what to do next because of the rain. If it hadn't been raining, it would have been more enjoyable to walk up and down the streets and experience the hutongs. But, we needed something to do since our train wouldn't arrive for another four hours.

With less of a foreign influence, there wasn't going to be a coffee shop somewhere where we could camp out. And since we just ate lunch, we weren't going to sit in another restaurant. Our friend, Dave was able to convince the hotel manager to let us all pay for a room to hang out in for a few hours. So, for a fairly good price considering the unusual situation, we played games together in a hotel room, and Willow was able to expend some energy. When the time came, we packed up our stuff and headed to the train station, boarded the train, endured the ride with a toddler, exited the Shenyang rail station, walked a ways to find a cab....got home, ate dinner, and went to bed. What a day!