Start of summer: Sophia’s first flight

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Memorable last night of the trip: Sunset at Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak on Jeju-do in South Korea, a UNESCO World Heritage site

Summertime in Seoul is sticky and rainy.

In this concrete jungle, monsoon season often sequesters me indoors with Sophia in order to avoid sweaty crowds, pesky mosquitoes and seemingly unceasing storms and humidity. Not how I am used to spending my summer days.

Summer always meant a time of freedom to me – both physically and mentally.

Growing up, summer officially started when the school year ended and I was on my way to a sunny beach vacation, whether it was a short road trip to nearby Lake Michigan, or a flight to the Hundred Islands in the Philippines.

When I was teaching, summer similarly started when I closed my grade book and walked out of the classroom with an empty bag in hand, heading back to familiar spots but on the other side of the lake in Chicago, or jet setting to tropical paradise in other parts of the world with Michal, like Thailand or Costa Rica.

So when my in-laws set their travel itinerary for Seoul in July, just after Sophia turned two months old, Michal and I thought it would be perfect timing to get away from the city life and make our first flight with our little one.


I thought “let’s start small with our tiny traveler.” Based on recommendations from our Korean friends, we chose Jeju Island because it is only a one-hour flight away from Seoul and it has the country’s best beaches as it is dubbed the “Hawaii of Korea.”


We rented a beautiful house through Airbnb, just a five-minute walk away from scenic Hyeopjae Beach, as well as rented a car for exploring the rest of the island. Both the house and the car made it a lot easier to accommodate our little one with all her belongings and needs.

Highlight of the trip: Aquarmarine water, almost cloudless sky and black volcanic rock on Hyeopjae Beach

My favorite season of summer finally felt real with the ocean breeze, blue sky, fresh air and clear water. (Thankfully, it only rained on the day we returned to Seoul.)

Combination of tranquil nature and spiritual peace: Temple on top of Sanbangsan Mountain


Gone are the days of carefree beach vacations with no responsibilities and obligations, as I now have Sophia my side. But I am grateful for the opportunity to relax in a place reminiscent of my favorite past beach getaways and to share that sweet taste of summer with Sophia.



Two-Month Update: The Hard-Earned Smile

Smiling Sophia: She loves her Treetop Friends Activity Gym play mat.

I tend to smile and laugh too much.

It’s a habit I can’t seem to break even when I’m focusing my “stern teacher glare”on an off-task student. I smile when I’m angry. I laugh when I’m nervous. When passing a stranger on the street, my natural inclination is to greet the person with a smile. When reuniting with a close friend for the first time in months since I’ve lived abroad, I used that same smile.

On the other hand, Sophia’s first smile was hard-earned.

The first month of her life went by in a blur of sleeplessness and hormonal fluctuations for me, so I was surprised when everything suddenly seemed to start to stabilize. Post-partum recovery, paired with adjusting to new parenthood, ended just when Sophia began to sleep longer stretches at night.

In this first month, I encountered unexpected bursts of weepinesslochia and healing stitches, along with oftentimes frustrating and sometimes comedic oversupply issues. (ie. When supply finally equaled demand, milk issuing from an overactive letdown no longer sprayed all over Sophia and/or across the room like a broken kitchen faucet.)

First Father’s Day: Brunch with craft meats from Salt House

And then her six-week growth spurt hit us.

With little preparation other than pediatricians nonchalantly telling us we could give her an infant massage if she has some additional fussiness due to growing pains, we were a bit alarmed that our usually calm baby began crying longer and with higher frequency and seemed to need much more holding and attention. In addition, she was eating a lot more – consuming almost double the amount of pumped milk and nursing for longer.

In that week, Michal and I felt an intense helplessness as it seemed we tried everything we read in Happiest Baby on the Block (highly suggested by a friend with three kids), constantly wearing her in a wrap and offering a pacifier. I brought her to two different pediatricians, along with an osteopath, in search of more recommendations on how to manage the growth spurts and the resulting seemingly inconsolable crying.

In the midst of her extreme change of behavior and temperament, I felt such a sense of desperation and dejection that I started to think ‘What did we do wrong? How did she stop liking us?’

And then that week ended as abruptly and suddenly as it started.

At the end of six weeks, Sophia was even more calm than before, sleeping easily and soundly. And she then showed one of the first signs of communication human beings express at any age – a smile. We celebrated the end of the growth spurt as she demonstrated her developmental milestone of “the Social Smile.”

Now, as Sophia approaches her third month of life, she has begun to make noises that sound like happy cooing. The week after that six-week growth spurt was definitely the rainbow after the storm.

First Road Trip: Nami Island and Garden of Morning Calm

In a recent email conversation we were having about motherhood, my friend Clare eloquently summed up these difficult first few weeks:

Some days are better than others. It sometimes seems like they push you to the breaking point, and then they do something wonderful and all is forgiven.

Now that we’ve experienced the wrath of the growth spurt, we can go through the next ones at three months, six months and onward with more confidence and less apprehension.

Cheers to your two-months, sweet Sophia, and looking forward to more milestones!