Category: Parenthood

March 7 2016

Baby, Don’t Cry: An Honest Photo Series of the Other Side of Parenthood

In addition to “Appa“, I’ve been working on another photo series that chronicles the life of my family. This time, I shined the spotlight on my two boys, Parker and Logan, but these aren’t the typical photos you’ll find on Facebook. Rather, I wanted to show the realities of parenthood, the other side if you will.

Here’s what I mean:


As parents we’re eager to share photos of our happy, smiling babies on Instagram or Facebook. But what’s the other side of parenthood like? For my husband and I, a large part of our time is spent consoling our children or reprimanding them. There’s that time Logan had a throat infection that was so bad, he screamed and cried when he had to take a sip of water and swallow a piece of food. Or when Logan wailed at the top of his lungs and bit and scratched Sam for a full 30 minutes while on the Wild Animal Park tram ride because he hated being in a confined space. (Sam still has the scars.) Or how can I forget the time Parker threw a toy truck at his brother and left him sobbing with a huge scar ripped across his face?

The meltdowns, the sicknesses, the time-outs, they’re the side of parenthood we just don’t talk about. These are the moments that take me to levels of frustration or sadness that I never knew existed. Just looking at these pictures reminds me of just how complicated parenthood is, how the love you have for your children is so deep that watching them cry in pain makes you wish you could trade places with them. These pictures also remind me of what a huge responsibility we have as parents, to raise our children with a sense of right and wrong, even when scolding them may cause them to break down and cry.













March 2 2016

Appa: Korean Dad Shows Unconditional Love to His Two Sons

For as long as I can remember, my two sons have been in love with their father. In fact, I know for sure that Logan’s first word wasn’t mom or mommy, it was appa. In Korean, appa means daddy, it’s an affectionate term that young kids use to call out for their father. Sam has been enamored with the boys from the moment he laid eyes on them, even to this day, he can’t wait to get back home so he can play with them or take them out.

In these photos you’ll see a common theme, our youngest Logan loves peeping over Sam’s left shoulder, it’s his favorite spot. From the moment he was born, Logan has never left Sam’s side. In some ways, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit jealous for the relationship that they have, as the mother I thought I’d be closer to my child than my husband, it’s like he’s taken over the role of “mother hen.” But then I remember what a solid and sweet man Sam is and I’m more than happy that he gets to experience that close of a relationship with our son.

Sam is a remarkable father. He’s the kind you wish you had when you grew up. Early on, he made a conscious decision to be a part of our children’s lives, especially during their younger years. He’s stern when he has to be and then, the next moment, he’s over-the-top fun. The boys scream like he’s a rock star when he comes home, they just can’t get enough of him.

My own relationship with my father is complicated. I never felt connected to him, he immigrated to America from Korea back in the ’70s and then worked as hard as he could just to make a living for me and my three siblings. Though I understand that he couldn’t be at our recitals or our swim meets because he was busy working, I still can’t help but feel a sense of sadness for the relationship that could have been.

My father didn’t grow up with his own father because he was killed when my father was young. Also, Korean culture calls for fathers to be respected and feared. My father never said “I love you” to us, he didn’t provide us with any emotional support. He was mostly just absent and when he was around he’d make us feel like we owed him something, that one day, when we had the means, we would pay him back. He was detached, unable to give his children the love and support they needed because of his own upbringing, because of our living circumstances, because of his culture and because he just didn’t know how.

I finally got around to listening to Kelly Clarkson’s song Piece by Piece, which she sang on American Idol. My older sister Grace told me not to watch it, unless I wanted to break down and cry. I tried to hold back the tears but they came streaming down my face anyway. “Watching my husband love on his daughter all the time, you know, go to her events and just be there and, like, be present is, like, hard to watch but beautiful to watch,” the singer said in an interview. “I know that my kids are going to have that.” I share that complicated feeling, that sentiment.

Like many people, I hate being in front of the camera, I feel much more comfortable behind it. For the past four years, I’ve been snapping photos of Sam with Parker and Logan as they do everything from rest together to play with each other in the backyard. Though in some ways, this photo series called “Appa” is new, it’s really been four years in the making. As I learn more about photography and as the boys grow, I hope to continue to share more photos of my two sons and the incredibly beautiful relationship they have with their father.

This ongoing photo series is dedicated to Sam, the man who shows me, every day through his actions and his words to me and our children, that unconditional love is possible.





















February 19 2016

Couple Sells 90% of Their Possessions and Travels the World with Two Kids

Moms and dads out there, think you could do this? Last night, I came across the story of a married couple, Cindy Bailey and Pierre Giauque, who decided leave the comforts of their home (which was Silicon Valley), sell most of their stuff, and travel the world…with kids! Now, it’s not rare to hear about such stories. In fact, my brother and his wife did the same thing last year. There’s even a term for these individuals: digital nomads. However, my brother and his wife don’t have kids. To me, taking a 3-year-old and a 9-year-old out of their environment and home schooling them while traveling the world takes on a whole new level of responsibility.

The family first set off for Lausanne, Switzerland, where Pierre had relatives and then have stayed in spots throughout Europe, Canada, and Southeast Asia.

There’s a website called Live Family Travel that conducted a good interview with Cindy about how they seem to manage it all: their financing, schooling, and fears and logistics of traveling with kids. As for their finances, the couple saved for up to two years in order to travel. Pierre had to quit his job as a manufacturing engineer while Cindy works on the road as a content strategist and writer.

So the million dollar question is: how do they handle the kids’ education? The kids are now 10 and 4, which is a wide gap. Cindy did a lot of research on homeschooling before they left. For their 10-year-old son, they teach him through interactive computer programs and real-life excursions while their daughter uses and ST Math. They even offered up their own online resources list. They keep their kids busy with lots of activities: scooter rides into town, swimming in the ocean, boat rides, museum visits and street fair outings.

So what has she learned about herself and her family? (I like how this quote applies to life in general.)

“I think the main lesson we’ve learned (which on some level we already knew) is that change is hard, but once you have journeyed through it, the other side is as beautiful as you imagined it would be, and more than worth it! The experience of realizing a dream teaches you confidence and helps you grow: you’ll face other challenges with greater ease and assurance. And you get to skip regrets later.

Also, once you make the commitment to do something–and make it real by resigning from a job or announcing it to friends, for example–everything really does find a way to fall into place.”







You can follow this family’s adventures over at My Little Vagabonds.

February 10 2016

The Most Awesome Kids’ Keyboard

Though you’d be hard pressed to find it, when you do, make sure to scoop it up before it’s gone. There are not a lot of toys Parker and Logan consistently play with. They usually unwrap a toy, play with it for a few days and then throw it into the sad, “discarded toys” heap.

VTech’s KidiJamz Studio is not just any ordinary keyboard, it has a microphone and comes with five musical styles like Rock, Techno, Reggae and Jazz. (Techno’s my favorite.) Your kids can jam to one of 20 of their favorite nursery school tunes by pushing on the Melodies buttons, giving you hours of fun. (Have you ever heard the techno version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? It rocks!) There’s some cool digital voice effects, a scratching disc and even a detachable music player that records your kids’ songs.

Amazon is currently selling this new for about $68. We picked one up about two years ago and my kids haven’t stopped playing with it, I’m talking almost every single day. By mixing and matching the musical styles with the melodies, you get an almost endless array of song choices. Whether you’re looking for a toy the whole family can enjoy or just the perfect gift, you can’t go wrong with VTech’s KidiJamz Studio. (This is not a sponsorship or an affiliate link.)

February 2 2016

How to Raise a Creative Child

A few days ago, an article popped up on The New York Times titled How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off. Attention grabbing, isn’t it? My first son, Parker, will be turning four this March and I’m starting to think about which musical classes I should enroll him in. (For sports, he’s already playing soccer and swimming.) How can I make him a well-rounded individual? Then there’s the ever present question, “Is he in the right pre-school?” Or the one I think about daily,”How can I foster his creativity?” On that last question, psychologist Benjamin Bloom provides some insight.

When the psychologist Benjamin Bloom led a study of the early roots of world-class musicians, artists, athletes and scientists, he learned that their parents didn’t dream of raising superstar kids. They weren’t drill sergeants or slave drivers. They responded to the intrinsic motivation of their children. When their children showed interest and enthusiasm in a skill, the parents supported them.

Whatever profession my two boys end up taking, I want my children to find happiness in what they’re doing. I want them to feel like they’re capable of changing the world, that the sky is the limit for them, that no obstacle is too difficult to overcome. Am I a dreamer? Maybe. But what is our role as parents if we can’t provide a supportive, nurturing environment?

Why is creativity so important you may ask? I think in any profession, whether your son or daughter becomes a lawyer, doctor, or artist, you want to give them the encouragement they need to excel. Also, in this global economy, it’s the creative minds that will become the leaders in this world, the ones that will not just accept the status quo but will challenge it to make the world a better place.

Here are a few more paragraphs I liked from the article:

So what does it take to raise a creative child? One study compared the families of children who were rated among the most creative 5 percent in their school system with those who were not unusually creative. The parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule.

Creativity may be hard to nurture, but it’s easy to thwart. By limiting rules, parents encouraged their children to think for themselves. They tended to “place emphasis on moral values, rather than on specific rules,” the Harvard psychologist Teresa Amabile reports.

Even then, though, parents didn’t shove their values down their children’s throats. When psychologists compared America’s most creative architects with a group of highly skilled but unoriginal peers, there was something unique about the parents of the creative architects: “Emphasis was placed on the development of one’s own ethical code.”

Yes, parents encouraged their children to pursue excellence and success — but they also encouraged them to find “joy in work.” Their children had freedom to sort out their own values and discover their own interests. And that set them up to flourish as creative adults.

On a side note, months ago, my mother-in-law told me about how Albert Einstein credits playing violin in helping him come up with ideas on relativity. It’s a great lesson as to why we should support our children’s creative endeavors.

No one is forcing these luminary scientists to get involved in artistic hobbies. It’s a reflection of their curiosity. And sometimes, that curiosity leads them to flashes of insight. “The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition,” Albert Einstein reflected. His mother enrolled him in violin lessons starting at age 5, but he wasn’t intrigued. His love of music only blossomed as a teenager, after he stopped taking lessons and stumbled upon Mozart’s sonatas. “Love is a better teacher than a sense of duty,” he said.

Now to foster love.

Art, called “He Gave Me The Brightest Star,” by Adrian Borda.

December 11 2015

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset in Parenting

I just finished reading this book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck and I can’t say enough good things about it. The book explains that we either approach life with a fixed or growth mindset. In the fixed mindset, our abilities and talents are carved in stone, we only have a certain amount of intelligence. In the growth mindset, our intelligence is cultivated through effort. Everyone has the ability to change and grow through their own experience. In the fixed mindset we believe we can learn new things but we can’t change our overall intelligence whereas in the growth mindset we can always substantially change how intelligent we are.

Let’s talk about this. How many of us have had self-defeating thoughts that we aren’t smart enough to take on a challenge? In the fixed mindset we start doubting our abilities but in the growth mindset we get excited about learning something new.

Now let’s apply this to parenting. My son Parker is three-years-old and he gets told he’s smart all the time. (Yes, I’ve even said it.) I know from basic parenting books that we’re not suppose to say “You’re smart!,” we’re suppose to say, “Wow, good job for trying so hard.” But why? What is so wrong about praising a kid’s intelligence? Well, it makes children doubt themselves when they face something hard or when something goes wrong. The minute they hit a speed bump, their confidence and motivation tumble. This leads kids to want to take on less challenging tasks, so that they can appear smart and perfect.

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”

So what can we say? We’re suppose to praise their efforts and strategies they used. “You really studied for your test and your improvement shows it. You read the material over several times, you outlined it, and you tested yourself on it. It really worked!” There’s also, “I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies on that math problem until you finally got it. You thought of a lot of different ways to do it and found the one that worked!” I like, “That homework was so long and involved. I really admire the way you concentrated and finished it.” Finally, when things aren’t going quite right there’s “Everyone learns in a different way. Let’s keep trying to find the way that works for you.”

I hope I can instill, in my kids, a love of learning.

The photo above, by Kilian Schonberger, reminds me of the beautiful twists and turns of life.

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