I have a decision to make and I need your help. Because of circumstances beyond my control, I may need/want to drive down to LA with my two boys (2 and almost five) from the Bay Area. It's just for the weekend but I'd be going down by myself sans the hubby. I'd be driving by myself and then taking care of the kids all weekend mostly by myself. BY MYSELF. (As Aiden the two year old would say, "I DO IT! I DO MOMMY!")
It will be at least six hours. Probably driving down on Friday and coming back up on Sunday. (Not in the immediate future, in October.)
Recent conversations, FB status updates and varying degrees of parent status of fellow parent friends have me wondering about the great myth of “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
I don’t know what’s in the water, but I have what seems to be a lot girlfriends who are expecting in the upcoming months. All of them are looking for the light at the end of [their] tunnel. (*I apologize for the crude joke . . .) Some have spent a blissful 6, 7, 8, or 9 months of pregnancy; others have suffered swelling, nausea, and “tummy issues” for 4, 5, or 6 months; while others have had a combination of both the sweet and the sour.
Then there are my mother-in-arms who have infants and toddlers. The tantrums, sleepless nights, crying, screaming and disciplining. And those are just the parents… Their light at the end of the tunnel comes down to wanting a semi-regular schedule, a little person they can reason with without the tears (mom's or child's) and maybe getting into the shower before 2:30 in the afternoon or eating a hot meal that does not include partially chewed-on rice and ghim rolls.
There are my parent pals who have school-aged children. The light at the end of their tunnel is blocked by soccer/basketball/t-ball/baseball practice schedules, music lessons, language school, Sunday school/CCD, gymnastics, endless birthday parties/slumber parties and ensuring their well-roundedness as responsible, compassionate members of a global community on top of burgeoning school assignments and other academic pressures.
And of course there are the tween/teens. Changing bodies, changing voices . . . changing smells(?!). Hormones, tantrums, sleepless nights, crying, screaming and disciplining (it’s infants and toddlers re-do but super-sized!). New fears about sex[ting], drugs and rock and roll in the car while driving… Where has the child who used to fit in your lap gone? And who replaced him/her with this giant, taller-than-mom, locust eating his/her way through this week’s groceries in 3 day’s time? The light at the end of the tunnel is a well-rounded child who will take their place in our world and a fridge that’s no longer raided by marauding teenage school-band gangs . . .
But alas, then it’s onto young adulthood. You’d think watching your son/daughter get through college, medical an/or law school (Tiger Mom moment) and develop their place in our world would be the light at the end of the tunnel . . . Instead, it’s the time to see your offspring become the adult you always knew was in there, meet and fall in love with someone who makes them happy . . . and then observe as you watch them journey through their search for the light at the end of their tunnels.
--Angie in Texas knows not all tunnels are dark . . .
Yesterday my daughter and I went to a children's museum in Irvine, where we made "sushi" with construction paper. I thought it would be fun to adapt the project to make pretend gimbap. My daughter was able do most of the work by herself, and we already had everything we needed around the house.
a toilet paper tube
green, brown, yellow, and orange construction paper
Cut the tube into gimbap-sized lengths (about two inches.)
Cut a strip of green construction paper to wrap around the tube.
Cut green, brown, and yellow paper into small squares.
Glue the green paper around the tube.
Crumple toilet paper and stuff it in the tube. Glue rice on top.
Glue the tiny pieces of construction paper on top of the rice.
As many of you already know, I'm currently halfway through a year of living in one of the most densely Korean populated areas in the United States. Seriously. There are condo complexes around here that are occupied entirely by Koreans. That's 100%. I know this for a fact because someone I know just moved into a complex and she says she kicked out the last non-korean family who lived there.
The downside to this is that the McDonalds and Dennys in the area are filled with lots of loud Korean talk in the morning over coffee, I park my humble Camry in parking lots filled with luxury cars and since I'm usually dressed in non brand clothing and carrying a bag from Target, well let's just say that I get looks that say I need to do better.
BUT, it also means great Korean food everywhere (omg the soondubu and dongchimi kooksoo rocks) not to mention lots of choice in Korean products and entertainment. Which we have been totally taking advantage of and is probably why suddenly the Little Einstein and Go Diego Go DVDs have slowly been pushed aside to make room for Pororo the Little Penguin. And what a relief it is. I actually like watching it.
Pororo is a cartoon about a cute little penguin who dreams of flying and lives in the arctic. He has several cute and warm hearted friends to keep him company. The creator, Choi Jong-Il, has actually been featured in Time Magazine for possibly changing the preschool cartoon world. The episodes share simple stories, usually with some social lesson. A big part of the success though, seems to be that unlike most Korean children shows, the lead character is not an adult. Pororo is 4, and acts like a 4 year old would. It's been translated into multiple languages and currently shown on cartoon networks in 80 different countries. Not in America though, I have no idea why.
There are DVDs with multiple episodes in either Korean or English. The English ones have much more simple dialogue because I think they're meant to teach Korean children English (judging by the occasional Konglish.) But, they're still really enjoyable.
At first I was disappointed a bit by how although the characters spoke Korean, very little of anything else was Korean. They ate with forks and knives, and none of the set looked Korean. I guess the makers might have done this on purpose so it wouldn't look out of place anywhere else. But as I kept watching, I realized I might have judged too quickly. The lessons taught through story are certainly more Korean than not. For instance, there's an episode all about keeping one's face and hands clean. That's a top priority as something to teach for parents in Korea. Even now my mom makes me and my kids wash our face and hands before going out anywhere, or coming home for anywhere. But it's not something American parents may feel the need to take a whole episode of a show to teach.
I've look online, and currently you can find DVD sets of Pororo at different sites that sell entertainment products from Korea, BUT make sure to check the region code of the DVD player it needs to be played in. We are region 1, but the DVDs on those sites state that they sell region 3. I have found though, that I can change the region code on my computer so it will play region 3 DVDs. They also sell them at Korean video and DVD stores here, which is where I've been getting ours. I find that I can play these on our regular DVD player attached to our TV.
I know not everyone is so lucky to live by so many Korean choices, so I'm willing to buy them and ship them to you Kimchi Mamas out there in what I have been calling "true America." Of course, because the cartoon is not yet on American TV, you can also find episodes of it on Youtube. But if you need them for a car trip or something,I could get one of those flat rate boxes and fill it with your favorite ramen and some choco pies too. ^^
Jeju Island is the honeymoon capital of Korea and therefore "kid-friendly" doesn't immediately come to mind, but my family and I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days there while my dad (who was turning 60) and his extended family golfed the days away. So the four of us (including our 5-year-old and 2-year-old), along with my sister and cousin, were given a guide and a tourbus, free to roam the island as we wished. We knew taking the kids to the typical folk villages and temples would result in mutiny, so we asked our guide to take us to kid-friendly destinations. We ended up having a fantastic time, and there is definitely more than enough to experience for me to wholeheartedly recommend Jeju Island as a family vacation spot. Here is a summary of where we went:
Psyche World Our first stop in Jeju was a butterfly and insect museum, and it turned out to be a real treat for the kids. The first wing we visited, Parody World, consisted of dozens of whimsical dioramas created from preserved insects, including scenes from famous movies and a self-explanatory rock band set-up simply titled, "The Beatles." The best part, however, was Live World, where visitors can hold and take pictures with a variety of cute, fuzzy, and not-so-fuzzy animals. The kids cuddled up with bunnies, hamsters, parakeets, cats, hedgehogs, and even a stag beetle. As you can imagine, there were plenty of Kodak moments, and even the adults couldn't resist oohing and ahhing over all the cuteness thrust into their hands. Apparently there's an actual butterfly house as well, but we missed it. I'm sure that's even more magical.
Sebin White Sand Beach This beach rivals any you can find in Hawaii. The sand is so white and fluffy, the sea a milky jade green, and during low tide the water forms a natural kiddie pool, never exceeding 2 feet in depth, perfect for our little ones. Our two-year-old, Emily, especially loved wading through the water and squealed with glee when tiny fish kissed her toes. There was also horseback riding available, and the horse lady brought with her a young foal who ran around the beach like an excited puppy.
Goldenhill Herb Farm This little farm and restaurant really reminded me of Berkeley with its laid-back naturalism. Their specialty is a huge hamburger about a foot in diameter. The bun is made in-house, an herb-laced sponge dough that reminded me of slightly-sweet focaccia, and stuffed with a Korean-style patty and lettuce, tomato, sweet pickle, onion, and even thinly-sliced apples, all doused in this herby goo that was absolutely delicious. While they cook this masterpiece for you, you are treated to some fresh herb tea while the kids can wander the garden, fully visible from the windows.
Elephant Land I have always wanted to ride an elephant, I never thought my wish would come true in Jeju of all places! Since they're not indigenous to Korea, these Asian elephants and their mahouts were brought over from Laos. My husband, who rode elephants in Thailand, warned me that I might not enjoy seeing these wonderful creatures being whipped into compliance, but I was happy to report back that these men at least did not use whips, but rather nudged behind the ear of the direction they wanted the elephant to go with their knees. They also hold a few shows a day with the elephants and a variety of other animals. During the ride, I also got to see "backstage" a bit and the elephants seemed relaxed and well cared-for, fooling around with water and snacking on dandelions.
Go-Kart Racing There are Go-Kart tracks sprouting up all over the island, and the one we went to had no problem with our small kids going along for the ride, although they did request that the 2-year-old not drive her own car. What a bunch of fuddy-duddies, right? Gotta love Korean safety standards. They did, however, provide helmets and a brief safety demonstration. We decided to have the kids ride with a parent, and although both had a great time, something about the racing brought out the Steve McQueen in Emily. She set her jaw tight the whole time, squinting at the track, speaking only to bark at me to go faster. Who knew this little girl had such a need for speed?
Horse Riding Jeju is famous for their breed of wild horses, some of which still roam free to this day. However, there are many opportunities to go horseback riding on some very well-trained domesticated horses all around the island. A word of warning, though: there is definitely a wide range of animal husbandry standards, and if you're at all concerned at how the horses are disciplined, make sure to ask around. At the first place we went to, the horses cowered whenever they saw their trainer, and with good reason: once he got the pack into the woods, my husband reported that he whipped the horses quite heavily. The second place we went to did no such thing, so hopefully this guy was an exception.
Pork Belly Jeju is famous for its unique varieties of fish and shellfish as well as its tropical produce, but if you eat pork at all, the pork belly (sam gyup sal) is second-to-none! Our guide took us to this unmarked building that looked like a house, and inside there was a Korean grandma and 3 tables with grills installed. Right as we sat down, she presented us with the most gorgeous strips of pork belly I had ever seen, apparently from Berkshire (sometimes known as kurobuta or simply "black") pigs from the next town over. She also had homemade kimchis, ssam jang, and home-grown lettuce to accompany the sizzling meat, and I seriously thought I was going to die from the yumminess of it all. She even made some noodle soup for the kids, and showered them with kisses.
If you would like to see pictures, our Jeju vacation albums can be seen here and here.
When I was a kid, whatever Mom made for meals - we ate. And because for a significant portion of my childhood we were “financially challenged”, that food wasn’t always something I wanted to eat. But nonetheless it was eaten.
When given the choice between food or no food, rice and kimchi for the 2,524th day in a row was fine by me!
When I became a parent to not just one toddler but two, I struggled with the idea of “kid friendly” food versus . . . food. So many of my friends would make special meals for their little ones in addition to the meals they shared with their SOs or older children. (One mom would actually make a meal for the family and then heat up chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese for the little one. When I asked her why, she stated it was because “that’s what little kids eat.” Or another mom who said “my child will only eat foods that are white, yellow or orange-y” but none of the foods she listed were actual oranges . . . WTH?)
Lately I've felt like anything but attractive. A bloated, waddling whale perhaps. Attractive? No. But yesterday, as I was stopped in the shadow of the Wiltern at the front of the line waiting for the light to turn, a young man crossing the street stopped, walked to the side of my car, and tapped on my window. I considered trying to ignore him because, you know, random man tapping on my window and all, but instead I opened it a half inch and raised my eyebrow at him quizzically.
Instead of answering my questioning stare, however, he looked suddenly horrified. "Oh!" he began, clearly startled, "I was going to ask for your number. But you're preg..." But having then caught sight of the toddler strapped in behind me, he didn't even bother to finish his sentence and hightailed it across the street.
My friend Jenny, Caius and I had lunch at a kal gooksu restaurant off Wilshire in K-town. I'd had the dish (a sort of noodle-y version of dduk gook) the last time Charlie and I went to Korea, but had completely forgotten about it since I assumed I wouldn't be able to get it here. Charlie's mom had told us that this dish was all the rage there despite it's modest origins as a poor man's dish. The line at the restaurant we went to in Korea can stretch down the block. We managed to beat the lunch rush yesterday, nabbing a table before the waiting area filled up with what seemed like a never ending supply of hungry patrons. We ordered two bowls of kalgooksu and shared a plate of piping hot steamed pork dumplings. I avoided the bright red kimchi and instead finished a plate of white pickled cabbage - perfectly crunchy and sour with none of the indigestion-inducing spice. I can't wait to take my mom and Charlie there. Since Charlie has today off for Cesar Chavez Day (yay!), maybe we'll go today.
Jenny and I had agreed to meet at ABC Koreatown Plaza, near the fountain on the first floor. Caius and I arrived some 20 minutes early so I decided to make a quick run of the market. I picked up frozen mandu, instant Pulmuone brand jajangmyun and nengmyun, some Clementines, and a bag of bungduigi, a large, round popped rice cracker that I used to eat as a child and that Caius absolutely loves. Still needing to kill some time, we sat next to the fountain near some halmonis (who also seemed to be simply killing time) and nibbled on our bung duigi.
Soon another halmoni approached us, pushing an orange bugaboo stroller with a one-year-old girl inside. She sat next to us and started chatting with me in her limited English. She was friendly and good-natured and seemed excited to have her granddaughter be able to look at another child her age. I offered to share our bung duigi with the little girl, and the girl promptly threw down her stuffed dog to concentrate her full attention on this amazing snack. Still, the halmoni seemed a little confused by Caius and I.
"Where is he from?" she asks, indicating Caius with her finger.
"Here?" I answer, a little confused. Maybe, I think, she doesn't know how to say what she really means to say.
And then later on in the conversation:
"His hair is black. He's eating Korean snack." She points from Caius to me and then back again. Suddenly, it dawns on me. We don't look related to her.
"Oh! My husband is Korean and I am half Korean." I slash one of my hands in front of me to illustrate "half," but I don't think she gets this last part.
Turning to another halmoni sitting behind me who has edged over and is listening to our conversation she explains in Korean (and somehow I am able to understand but my translation is probably not accurate), "His daddy is Korean. That is why his hair is black and he likes Korean snack!" They seem excited to have solved the mystery.
It is not until much later in the day that I realize that her original question assumed that I was Caius's adoptive and not biological mother.
The Lunar New Year brought in the year of the Rat, and also a new addition to the world of multicutural kids tv. I know that Kai-Lan speaks Mandarin, and that she's Chinese American, but she can also be a good role model for Asian American kids in general. (And here's a hint - the show is free to download in iTunes.)
It seems like a cute show, the kind that aims to be a little educational. They throw in Mandarin here and there, and leave space to engage kids (or grown-ups) that may be watching. Kai-Lan's friends are cute bubbly animals. She also spends time with her Ye-Ye (grandfather in Mandarin).
For me, it's kind of nice to see a kids show that incorporates Mandarin. I'm still on the fence about whether I'd let my daughter watch this show. She's learning Mandarin from other videos that she watches at my parents' house, but she hasn't seen too many tv shows in her life. Partly, I'm resistant to the idea of watching shows from Nick Jr. because I don't want to have to fight her when she wants Kai-Lan fruit gummies or Dora underwear. I don't want my daughter to watch tv that reinforces stereotypes, especially about family composition, gender, race, and sexual orientation. We are currently a no-tv household, though I still watch a couple shows on the computer and on DVD. If I watch some tv, shouldn't she be able to?
What are the tv rules in your house? Do you seek out tv with specific kinds of role models?