Children and Food

I consider myself a reasonable and generally mild mannered person, most of the time. I love my kids and I love being a mother, but there are moments in the day that make me question everything I think I know about myself. The major pitfalls are bath time and every meal.

Before I was a parent I thought I would be real hard core when it came to meals. You don't want to eat it?? WELL TOUGH!!! STARVE!!!!!... yea right. I'm so emotionally drained from the tug and war of it, I'm the complete opposite. Everyday I try to plan my meals based on foods I think they'll like. I try to incorporate some type of vegetable, a starch, and protein each time. Usually I'll comprise my list based on foods I've seen them eat and like in the past, but that by no means means they'll like it and eat it today. Why do kids change their food preferences like the wind? This gets especially tricky when it comes to vegetables. I try to put veggies in every meal but the veggies they'll eat are limited and whether they'll like it on that particular day is a toss up. And when I say "they" I actually mean my son, my daughter usually will eat anything.

The Meal Routine

With each meal my son will quickly eat whatever is on the plate that he likes. If it's shrimp and noodles, he'll eat all the shrimp first. If it's Tofu fried rice, he'll gobble up all the tofu etc. The first 10 minutes goes by and in this phase I start singing hymns and reciting verses to prepare myself.

Udon, broccoli and shrimp... I know it doesn't make sense but I thought he would eat it.

Udon, broccoli and shrimp... I know it doesn't make sense but I thought he would eat it.

(Humming in my head)

I need thee, oh, I need thee;

Ev'ry hour I need thee!

Oh, bless me now, my Savior;

I come to thee!

"Joey don't just eat the shrimp eat the broccoli too!"

"I will I will" as he picks up his fork and takes a miniscule bite and nibbles on it begrudgingly.

(30 minutes later....Everyone is done eating and I'm wiping the table)


By this point he's just shifting around his food, playing with it making a mess.

"Mommy, I'm going to throw up.." (His usual deterrent)

"You only ate shrimp!!!!!!!! You need to finish the rest or else you'll be hungry in an hour!!!!

Swing low sweet chariot

Coming forth carry me home...

Another 20 minutes and it's a Mount Vesuvius eruption

JOEY. EAT. YOUR. FOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By this point there's yelling, threats, sometimes a spanking etc. Then to get the last finish line, I have to spoon feed him each bite lest he finishes his food... never.

I can't tell how frustrating this routine is. There are no words. I start to sweat, my heart starts to palpitate, I feel my blood pressure rise. Seriously, it's a good thing I have low blood pressure, or else I'd be dead. For the last couple months each time (or whenever I would remember) I made a meal met with his abject ambivalence, I snapped a picture.

Lo and Behold the gallery of rejected food:

Portuguese sausage fried rice and egg.

He ate some of it but not without making a complete mess! I notice he'll only eat the egg if I cut it into the shape of a pizza.

Scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions, garlic and kale... yea I was reaching for the stars on this one.

 He wouldn't touch it, except for the bacon of course!

My daughter on the other hand gobbled it up, with her hands like a savage.

Below: Miyuk gook (seaweed soup) and fried rice. A meal he usually eats but today he decided he just wanted to stir his soup.

Mandoo soup, she loved it and was licking her fingers. Her brother took forever to eat it and wouldn't touch the spinach!!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup... wouldn't touch it.

Whole wheat french toast.

... he ate the bacon and after 40 mins of threats he ate one strip of toast. He kept drinking his juice to delay eating his food. He does it all the time and it's maddening.

Chicken soup with rice, made from scratch in the crock pot...

"MOMMY IT'S HURTING ME!!!" gag gag gag.....

Kalbi Jjim... this is always a toss up.

After a couple hours of torturous force feeding and mixing it around, this is what his plate looked like. He hated it! The rest of my family gobbled it up!

This is one of those ghettos meals, tofu miso soup with broccoli, fried mandoo and rice with kkim (nori).

"Mommy I'm done..." he says after only eating the tofu in his soup.

My daughter on the other hand... yea I got to get her to start using her utensils more..

30 minutes later everyone is done but him!!! What is he doing?? Stirring his soup for the umteenth time!!

Korean Chicken stew... with noodles instead of rice. I thought that would help him eat it, but no he just picked at forever.

Another ghetto meal: fried rice with tofu, broccoli, carrots, onions and garlic. With rib eye and seafood pancakes (not in picture).

30 minutes later... everyone is done... except him.

"I have one finger.."

"You're killing me Joey. YOU'RE KILLING ME!!!"

Foods my son will eat:


"Mommy can I have another slice??"

Why can't he be like that with his dinner?? Kaitlyn loves it too! But then again she eats anything.

Look at him eating so well! That's because I didn't make it!

Because the whole meal time thing is so emotionally and physically draining, once a week or so we'll go out for pizza. It's not only a night off from cooking but it's also a night off from trying to get him to eat. He'll just eat the pizza, no yelling, prompting, bribery. I think the one thing that limits our pizza outings is the fact that the pizzeria owner treats us like royalty because we've been there so often. It's embarrassing.

The funny thing is, he used to eat so well. Now he only eats well at school and when he's around other people. But home is a different story. I've heard that when they need to eat more they will. I'm still waiting for that day...


Children and Schedules

UPDATE: Hello! It's been awhile! I haven't updated because the last month and 1/2 I've been either hugging my pillow or the toilet seat, going through round 3 of morning sickness! Now that my first trimester is coming to an end I'm feeling more and more like myself.

Though I've haven't been feeling well we've still been quite busy. Ever have one of those days where you've got the day planned out down to the 1/2 hour and then your child does something and it throws your whole schedule into the crapper??

Well a couple weeks ago we had one of those days planned out. My parents were heading on a plane that night to go back to NJ, so we had a fun day of beach, shopping, and dinner planned out. Just after breakfast there was an ominous silence in the house. Whenever we can't see or hear our daughter for a period of time that usually is a bad sign. I thought "Where's Kaitlyn??" I started looking around the house. I opened our bedroom door and she walks out like it's nobody's business.

Well... turns out she put a whole jar of Vaseline in her HAIR!!!!!!!!!!

In a panic I rush her to the bathroom to shampoo it out and it was utterly futile as the shampoo just seemed to spread the petroleum jelly evenly through the hair without getting rid of any of it! I felt like I was trying to save a bird from an oil spill. Afterwards I tried to comb it out and that didn't do anything except make her look like a greaser.

Seeing as I was only making the situation worse, I went to my go-to-motherhood-guru... Google.

It shows up right away! I was partly relieved there was a solution but also because that meant my child was not the only crazy one to do something like this. Most of the sites were saying you have to cover the hair in either corn starch or baby powder. Since we had a huge thing of baby powder we never use, I went that route.

I felt like I was inducting her into some sort of indigenous tribe. Of course she screamed and cried throughout the whole thing.

She's like "What is this stuff??"

She's like "What is this stuff??"

To which I responded "aww poor baby do you not like that??"


It worked really well! But it didn't get everything out. Each strand of hair still seemed to have a life of its own and could still be shaped and bent to any form.

The baby powder worked for the most part. For a few days her hair looked beach dry, you know when you go to the beach and your hair dries but is still heavy from the salt water. Since we live in Hawaii no one looked twice. She looked like she's from a family that goes to the beach a lot, instead of a family of questionable hygiene.

Now I look back and I can laugh at the whole experience, remembering my screaming and going crazy and Kaitlyn crying when I put the baby powder on her, and her hair looking like Medusa afterwards... good times. To really appreciate each moment in raising kids I think you need time and perspective, which is something you never have at the present moment. I guess it's always something to remember for next time my kids throw my day's schedule into a vaseline-baby-powder-catestrophe.

On another note, time with the grandparents was amazing and I didn't want it to end. We got a great deal for one night at Aulani the Disney Resort. My husband and I were blown away at how amazing this place was. Yay for Kama'aina discounts!!

Children and Sleep

I noticed in parenting some of the most mundane everyday things become the difference between life and death... or more like sanity and insanity. In parenting you try to create a structure and a rhythm in doing things that's similar to a well oiled machine. But the littlest missteps can throw a wrench in the whole thing, causing the machine to come to a crashing halt. I would say the most important thing in keeping the machine going and the catastrophic derailments at bay is sleep.


So simple right? It's what every human does every night. You'd think if kids were tired, like normal human beings, they would sleep right? WRONG. My kids were never good sleepers. Joey is bouncing off the walls with energy all day with no nap. Then if we try to put him to sleep at 8:00 PM, he won't actually fall asleep till 9:30ish. Then as soon as the sun is up (around 6AM)... he's up. Unfortunately the sun is never late, and never sleeps in, so neither do we. Kaitlyn is the same way. Even nights when they go to sleep really late like 10PM, it does not equal extra sleep time in the morning at all. Both are bouncing out of their beds as soon as the first piercing rays of Hawaii sunshine hit their room.

This is all very strange to me because I love sleep. Literally the sun could be shining right on my face and I'll sleep like a baby. I can sleep on airplanes, floors, buses, just give me some uninterrupted time to myself and I'll gladly stretch out anywhere to catch some zzz's. So where do my kids get this boundless energy and strange synchronization to the sun?? I don't know, maybe dad.

Lately my kids haven't been sleeping well and it's been leading to some very entertaining meltdowns. For my son the only thing that tranquilizes the craziness is the very thing causing the meltdown, sleep! So to deal with our son's late afternoon crankiness we'll take him for a drive and that will be the only way to knock him out. Unfortunately gas in Hawaii is like $4.30 a gallon now, so that's been assigned to the desperate measures category. The thing is, when my kids have good sleep, they are heavenly. They are so fun to be around, laughter is never ending, the kisses are a flowing, and the cuteness is overwhelming... When they don't get enough sleep they are all those things, except the complete opposite!  Here are some quick snap shots I took on one of our recent drives, on a day when both kids were in serious need of sleep:

Then it was her turn:

When my daughter doesn't get enough sleep, days at home are very interesting as every little thing sets her off. This really happened last week:

Only two things can appease her lack of sleep...

sleep and food.

This is why I don't go anywhere without a tangerine, some crackers, or some fruits snacks. They come in handy to tame the beast. The other day she only had 6 hours of sleep at night because it was humid. My daughter cannot stand humidity and heat, unfortunately we live in Hawaii in the MOST HUMID place on the entire she decided to scream and roll around in her crib making my husband and I want to bang our heads against the wall... to knock out and be rendered unconscious, so as not to hear her shrieks... it was a rough night. Then the next morning we were at the beach! At one point she was screaming crying and shaking her fists at the sky, when I pulled out some slices of tangerines. Lo and behold she was fine!

Someone's a happy camper now!

Someone's a happy camper now!

This week she was really cranky after her nap, especially because it was super humid in her room. So while she was wailing and having a meltdown I placed her in her high chair and put tangerines in front of her... again works like a charm!

And.... just another day at the Daechoong Mama house. I've heard people say before "You love your kids through the words you speak and the schedule you keep." This is so true, but the very wise person who wrote this quote probably didn't have kids that hated humidity and all things related to sleep. I hate pithy sayings that underline my parenting inadequacies. Seriously though, aside from these quick snap shots, on a day to day basis parenting I would say is a lot of fun! The laughter and the joys of it all certainly outweighs the meltdowns and the fatigue. There's never a dull moment I'll say. Here is another pic from yesterday:

Mother's Day and Mackerel

Happy Mother's Day everyone! Strangely when I think about Mother's Day, what comes to mind is not overpriced flowers or chocolate or hallmark cards, I think of mackerel, the smelly oily fish that was the household staple of my youth. Why would Mother's Day correlate with this pungent seafood? I've been thinking that myself.

I remember when I was in 3rd grade watching the girls around me in envy as they opened up their Wonderbread sandwiches and each took a moment to read the little folded heart shaped notes their mothers made them. I was disgruntled that my mother never packed me a lunch but hastily threw a couple dollars on the dresser every morning so I can buy it. I remember enviously seeing class mothers come in and participate in class and help set up events. I remember, seeing kids bringing their amazing science projects and presentations to school. It was obvious that their parents toiled away and created immaculate presentations, while their child held the glue stick. Whenever I brought home a project assignment, it was in danger of being held together with rice. When school was over I remember seeing all the class moms set up the snacks for the Girl Scout Brownies. I so wished my mom was one of them, each mom looking enthusiastic and prim. When I got home from school I would want to unwind with episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but when my mom got home from work, she would have the audacity to turn off the TV so we can do homework. Of course, unprompted she took the liberty  to oversee every aspect of this. Sometimes she was frustrated because she didn't know how to pronounce some of my spelling words, or knew what they meant. "Why your teacher give your this word??" she would say annoyed. Either way, I had to spell each word, solve each math problem, and read every book to the level of her satisfaction. Then dinner came along and what I wanted more than anything was American food, like I saw on TV. I wanted mashed potatoes and gravy with meatloaf in the form of one of those microwavable TV dinners, but many nights my heart and my stomach sank as I heard the loud angry sizzle and crackle of the frying pan. I knew what was for dinner...


That smelly oily fish never went silently into the night (or the iron skillet) without spraying around every particle of its oily existence, creating a thin malodorous layer of grease. By the time the fish was fried every surface of our kitchen was laminated with the stuff. This smell of mackerel grease combined with the aroma of kimchi and garlic that ever permeated our house, was like a type of olfactory napalm. We tried to dissuade her, but my mother was impervious to our mackerel protests. Hungry and tired when I was ready to finally partake of the meal, I had to exert effort in picking out all the big pieces of fish bone that were interlaced through the meat. The small pieces had to be chewed heartily lest they get lodged in your throat. I have not-so-fond memories of that happening, only to be relieved by swallowing whole spoonfuls of rice. Mackerel, rice, side dishes, and kimchi was the routine in our house. After every dinner I was peeved that my food never left me, as the smell had become one with my shirt.

Now ironically, mackerel is one of my favorite foods. I love to order it when I go to Korean Restaurants. Now, I crave the crispy salty oily goodness of it. When placed sizzling before me, I readily dig in, separating the big bones and gulping down each savory bite with rice.   I would cook it more often if my husband didn't protest against the odor so much. He would look at me in puzzlement as to why would I order mackerel at a Korean restaurant, a food that was so pedestrian and unfavored in my youth?  For one, my adult palate realizes now that it's absolutely delicious and healthy. It's packed with nutrients that boost your immune system, brain and nerve development, while fighting cancer agents in your cells not to mention it's high in calcium. Each mackerel is a humble package for all those benefits. In the same way, it reminds me of my mother.  She was a wife and a mother of two kids, working full time and often taking classes and faithfully volunteered at church. She could have easily resorted to a microwavable dinner now and then, but she took the time to cook mackerel. Now each crispy bite reminds me that she always wanted to give her best despite her weariness. It reminds me of her unending patience towards our complaining and griping. It reminds me of long nights where she took the time to go through our homework not allowing her English deficiencies get in the way. Like the small calcium-rich fish bones that needed extra chewing and weeding through, my mother didn't mind being inconvenienced and putting in effort, if it yielded worthwhile results. Though I never got Wonderbread sandwiches for lunch, or heart shapes notes, or immaculate science projects, or microwavable foods (thank goodness), but what I did receive was far more valuable, she taught me to never give up, that limited skills and time is no excuse to not give life your best shot, and lastly remember to be faithful to God and be grateful for the life you've been given... and if you need to be daechoong here and there to get by, don't sweat it.

As a mother I can only hope to emulate her willingness to sacrifice, to give of herself, and to teach. Though I didn't realize at the time those mundane mackerel dinners taught me something. I hope this Mother's Day you are able to show your mother some love, I know I am so grateful for mine.  What are some of the everyday mundane things about your childhood that remind you of your mother?

Throwback: My mom and I 2008. Do you see the resemblance?

Throwback: My mom and I 2008. Do you see the resemblance?

Some pictures from Waikiki, I'm so blessed to be a mother to these munchkins=)

2014-04-04 23.29.56.jpg

My Thoughts on the Sewol Tragedy

I can't believe it's May already. The school year seemed to have flown by. This blog has become like a neglected puppy, once the apple of my eye, and now metaphorically tugging on my shirt begging to be walked. I want to write, I do. My dream would be to be in a room by myself and have 24 hours of uninterrupted silence, with unlimited carby snacks and soda, (without the caloric repercussions) and my mac on my lap, and just be able to write. But alas I can't put two sentences together without a million things begging my attention. 

So there's that and there's the overall gloominess of April.  The whole Sewol Ferry disaster was just devastating. Every time I read a new article or watched another video, as a parent, my heart broke for these families whose children were victims of a completely avoidable accident. I would recommend reading about the chronological order of events that took place here. When I think my tear ducts have run dry, with each video of wailing families, I'm back sobbing like a baby. Another thing that bothers me is everyone jumping on the whole "Confucian" branding and blaming of Korean culture for the accident.  As if they think "of course this disaster happened because Korean's are brainless robots that don't know better than to obey orders and sink with the ship." Let's remember how it was a student that first called 119. Let's remember that many students risked their lives to make sure their peers were safe first. Let's remember there were many ferry workers that risked their lives to save others. I like how Kai Ma put it in this article. All this culture blaming, inadvertently blames the victims of the crime. I'm not saying that Korean culture is completely guiltless in this tragedy, but lets look at the practical, structural, administrative flaws and then look at ways Korea can prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again, instead of assigning a blanket of blame to "Confucianism."  Many of these media outlets have a skin-deep understanding of Confucianism, and know it as "subordinates are to listen to authorities" and nothing more, so it must be really easy brainstorming about it around the water cooler of these media outlets.

I would love for of the media to come up with articles that shed light on a more nuanced understanding of Confucianism and exactly how it affects Korean culture and what Confucianism actually is and is not. This blog put it better than I ever could here. This tragedy was an alarm for many of us. As a Korean American I've become so proud over the years to see Korea, boom and blossom the way it has. Hearing the countless stories of from my parents, of the war torn ravaged country they remember from their childhood, to seeing the economic powerhouse it has become today, made my chest fill with pride. Even though I was born here in the States and I've only visited the Motherland once in 1997, knowing that it is the country of my parents and my ancestors, I couldn't help but feel a vague attachment to it. In recent years, another source of pride was the entertainment industry of Korea. I think many of us were blinded by the bright lights of K-Pop, K-Drama, and wealth, and failed to see the cracks in the country's veneer. When I read how lax the safety measures were on the Sewol, how abominably dangerous they made that ferry for travel, and the overall sinful negligence of the top crew members, just as I felt a subtle sense of pride for Korea's achievements, I feel an overarching sense of shame for what happened on the rugged Dadohae sea. I don't have roots in Korea, I've never lived there, but inexplicably, I feel connected to it's well being.

As a parent I can't imagine the grief and the agony these families are going through. The fact that this was a completely preventable tragedy makes it unbearable. As parents, we are able to empathize. We are able to feel to a gut wrenching degree for the victims families. These kids were in the prime of their youth with all the love of their families and their high expectations embracing them. So alas, my small plea, on my small blog, in an infinitely large webosphere, let's change the conversation to what can be done, how we can help, and remember the heroes of this tragedy, that the future hope of a nation can be seen in the bravery that a few crew members and students showed on that fatal day. Let's respect their memories and put steps into place that ensure that a tragedy so preventable never occurs again.