Saturday, April 22, 2023

Four Days in Hawaii

Yes, you read the title of this post right: we flew to Hawaii for just four days! We spent almost as much time transiting from Washington, DC to Honolulu and back as we did on the ground. We were visiting my grandmother, my last living grandparent, who retired there with my late grandfather ages ago. She had not had a chance to visit us and meet baby S, so we went to see her instead. It was so precious to see my grandmother with S, her only great-grandchild.

For the record, traveling with a one-year-old is a lot tougher than traveling with a five-month-old (as we did when we PCS'd from Seoul). Newborns and infants sleep most of the flight, but toddlers are squirmy and antsy and awake longer to cry. They also eat more food, so the logistics of feeding them are more complicated than making sure you have whatever you need for milk or formula.

All that being said, S handled the travel like a champ. I was especially scared about the damage to our sleep schedule given the long flights and time zone changes, but those were much less painful than I feared. We adjusted well and were able to visit my grandma every morning we were in Hawaii and hang out for hours before heading back to the hotel for a nap. It was a pretty intense language immersion for me, as my grandma speaks Korean and Japanese but not English. I did a lot of interpreting and translating while I visited, but it took intense focus and attention to keep up with my impressive grandma.

We stayed in a boutique hotel in Waikiki that was perfectly convenient. When we weren't hanging out with my grandma, we went for long walks together as a family and explored a few nearby restaurants. Our favorite was an all-you-can-eat Japanese barbecue restaurant, where we definitely got our money's worth. I also picked up a souvenir box of Honolulu Cookie Company cookies - my favorite treat from Hawaii that I personally like more than the Hawaiian Host chocolate-covered macadamia nuts others might find more classic.

Shockingly, I did not have a single minute to spend on the beach itself or in the ocean. The one day we had a little bit of time to go after visiting grandma - our last - it was pouring rain and I decided to pass. We barely made it to the edge of the sand in the gloomy weather before we had to run back, ducking under awnings to keep the stroller dry.

Not one to give up, I found a brunch spot we could visit early right before we had to leave for the airport that had a beautiful view of the ocean. Our breakfast was delightful, and I got to at least feel the ocean breeze and see the crashing waves before we had to say goodbye to Honolulu.

I hope that's not our last visit to Hawaii, because every time I go I fall in love with it again. It's easy for me to see why my grandparents chose to retire there. Although this trip was short, I'm so glad we made it.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

S’s One-Year Party and Doljanchi

I can’t believe our baby S is one year old! Taking him home from the postnatal luxury spa, going back to work after maternity leave, PCS-ing (Permanent Change of Station; i.e., moving for official duty) with him… All of those things don’t seem like they were that long ago. As I mentioned in my baby advice post, it’s so true that the days are long but the months are short.

We celebrated S turning one with a Korean doljanchi (돌잔치), also known as simply a dol (돌). At a dol celebration, the child participates in the doljabi (돌잡이), where parents place objects on a table in front of the child and whichever one the baby picks up first says something about that child’s future! Of course, all the items are good and the parents get to pick the options, so it’s a little bit rigged from the start.

We chose six objects that were a mix of traditional and modern: a braided thread for long life, a fortune pouch for wealth, a soccer ball for athleticism, a pen for an intellectual life, a stethoscope for a medical career, and a toy robot for technology. (For the record, I picked the pen at my own doljabi, which is pictured above.)

As our guests arrived, they took raffle tickets and voted for which object they thought S would pick. I wondered if it would be difficult to tell which object he picked if he went for multiple at once or didn’t show interest in any of them. It turns out, I didn’t have to wonder at all: he immediately and confidently went for the soccer ball. (In true S fashion, he also immediately started chomping on the soccer ball.)

I was thrilled to pass this beloved tradition down to S, putting him in an adorable baby hanbok (한복, Korean traditional clothing) and taking photos I can show him when he’s older. I also appreciated that so many of our loved ones could attend and support baby S’s milestone as well as let me share Korean culture right down to the food (including a 떡 tteok rice cake birthday cake) and drinks (including a themed dirty soda bar).

Our hearts (and fridge) were full long after we cleaned up and everyone went home. I am so honored to be S’s parent and am so grateful he made me a mom one year ago. There were incredibly hard, tearful, and painful moments that I don’t want to minimize because motherhood is no joke, but I gained so much more than I lost and I can’t imagine life anymore without my baby boy. I will treasure the memory of S’s dol forever.