ngyuk ngyuk

I always get up before illie.

yesterday morning she was sitting on the bed and I came back to the room and I heard her say “ngyuk ngyuk”… took me about 10 seconds to process what she said. it was actually “you woke me up”

was she mumbling or is my hearing getting worse?

Owner of a shiny new … debt.

The search is finally over. After looking at over a hundred houses, we finally found one and successfully bought it.

Getting into escrow was crazy. On a Saturday, the house was listed and I saw it. We went to the open house on a Sunday, and for the first time ever, Illie fell in love with it. I contacted my lender on Monday morning, got the pre-approval, and contacted the selling agent about it with our bid. The agent knew we were bona fide serious about our offer, came to our place at 8pm that Monday for us to sign the offer papers, and then drove it straight to the sellers who accepted it. At 10:30pm on Monday I got a call from the agent telling us that we were in escrow.

The next morning the agent said they got calls from three other agents saying that they wanted to bid on the house, but it was too late.

I had the huge pleasure of contacting the previous agent and telling him to cancel our offers for the two other houses – especially to the seller that was playing obnoxious bidding games in a situation where the price was already above market. By the way, as of this writing, that house is still on the market at 51 days.

I am extremely grateful at all the hard work that our dual agent, Peter Ursano, put into making this process as convenient for us as possible. The lender got the paperwork done within schedule, and while there were bumps in the road everything still happened on time. The move-in date is happening on Veteran’s Day 11/11/11.

Given the market outlook, I fully expect for the value of this house to be less than what we bought it in the next several years. While I was not as picky about the actual house, one criteria that I had was that we would be never be moving again. So when we see the value of this house go down, at least I may see our property taxes go down.

Photography

Illie and I started getting interested in photography around late 2007 before we travelled to Alaska. I’ve been pretty influenced by Ben Ho. We started out with a Canon XTI and a wide angle f/4 17-400mm lens. I blogged about it when we first got the camera.

After Ruby was born we became even more interested in photography so we could get good pictures of Ruby. After my dad gave me some of his vintage 70s Nikon lenses, I realized that I needed a faster, low light lens. At Ruby’s5th week we got a 35mm f/1.4 lens, and we drastically improved our ability to take low light pictures without flash.

Once Ruby started showing signs of walking at around 11 months, we got a 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II lens for outdoor pictures. The picture quality is crisp and sharp, and the bokeh is beautiful.

At around Ruby’s 9th month we decided to get a professional-level DSLR : the Canon 5D Mark II. It drastically improved our ability to take low light pictures and also allowed us to take wider pictures. The flexibility that this camera gives us is so much greater than the Xti. Though it is somewhat embarrassing for us to carry this amazing camera around, since we really are beginners in this field.

Later on we began to take in RAW and spend more time with post processing. At every step I believe our photography has improved, though the improvement has not kept up with how critical we are with our work. A couple weeks ago my cousin Judy asked us to give them a photoshoot, which we gladly did. It was the first time we were very precise with taking pictures, and spent a lot of time post-processing. We also learned quite a bit about photoshop. The galllery from the photoshoot is here. This work has earned us a pending gig with one of Judy’s friends that we don’t know.

There is still a lot for us to learn, and we haven’t even started trying out any kind of lighting.

Vacation to the Pacific Northwest

First week of June was a vacation to the Pacific Northwest to visit my brother in law in Portland. We then stayed three nights at Paradise Inn in Mt Rainier, and then the weekend in Seattle where we stayed with Maz and saw Illie’s high school best friends Erin and Chris. Illie and I are really in love with the Pacific Northwest, and if it weren’t for family in Southern California there would be no doubt that we would move up there. It is so green, alive, and beautiful, and the cloudy/misty/cool climate is perfect for us. I went running in the suburbs of Hillsboro, and due to the perfect running temperature (cloudy, low 50s), a brisk low 7 min/mile pace felt strangely easy. That’s compared to the same effort at high 7 min/mile pace in Southern California. I ran with Illie’s cousin, then with a Malaysian intern from Mt Rainier I met, and then with Erin and Chris. Before the vacation, I had felt burnt out at work, and I came back from the vacation refreshed, well rested and happier.

I felt like Ruby’s development was noticeable during the trip, especially since I was spending more time with her and not away at work. She’s becoming more verbal and blabbing more – some of her favorite sounds are “daht”, “baht”, and “bahf”. She’s starting to associate “ma” with Illie and starting to say “ba” but she doesn’t use them to directly address us. Her understanding of our Taiwanese has improved and we’re starting to speak to her more as a child than as a baby. She’s also a lot more stable walking now, and has started to run.

Staying with Maz and Hwayoung was great because they have a 6 and 3 year old that Ruby is especially curious about. Ruby was very curious about their toys, and especially liked following the 6 year old around. With those kids, we as parents felt like it was okay to not keep an eye on Ruby all the time, and it was relaxing. Also, staying with parents made it a lot easier to care for Ruby because everything we needed was there, the house was already child proof, and any kind of mess we made was the norm. That was probably the highlight of the trip, along with recounting college memories from a decade ago.

Spoonfeeding her has become almost impossible, especially when she doesn’t nap enough. She’s figured out our tricks and is adamant about doing things herself instead of having things done for her. But her ability to self feed has improved, though not as much as we’d like. Illie has constantly been trying to fatten her up, and we’ve tried to give her lots of puree with high fat/caloric content, but to our dismay she doesn’t like carbs and protein very much. Yesterday night Illie and I observed that lately her food preferences, in adult terms really makes her a "health nut". She loves fruit, especially steamed apples, oranges, and strawberries. She also loves vegetables such as chickpeas, onions, peppers, and black olives. She absolutely loves drinking plain water and dislikes milk and juice. She’ll eat rice and tofu. The only meat that she’ll eat is fish, and she doesn’t like beef, potatoes, cookies, cake, or any kind of junk food. Is this common for kids this age? I hope she carries these tastes through adulthood.

Ruby @ 14 months, running

Ruby turned 14 months a week ago. Since about a month ago, we counted about 15 words of vocabulary that consist mostly of signs, one word “flower” (as in my previous blog) and the word “more” which she doesn’t seem to say anymore. While I’ve been very strict about restricting any kind of TV watching, we’ve allowed her to watch Baby Signing Time only during feedings, which has actually taught her to sign. Now that she vastly prefers walking to crawling, we’ve been taking her outside for walks and when she encounters a dog or a baby, she’ll spontaneously sign “dog” and “baby”. Baby Signing Time has also distracted her during feeding, which helps because she naturally dislikes being fed. We also discovered a feeding tactic that takes advantage of what seems to be a reflex, and we’ve been able to put a lot more food in Ruby’s stomach than before. As of last week she was about 21.5 pounds, but she’s had days where she was over 22 pounds. She is now completely walking and almost running, while stumbling a lot less than she used to.

It seems that after about a year, the amount of change has increased, but the types of changes has decreased.

Illie’s mom has come back from a vacation and has graciously helped out in taking care of Ruby. I’ve been able to increase my running mileage as a result, my long run is up to 11 miles and I’ve finally surpassed a 30 mile week again. I’ve been continuing speedwork on my own, but it’s no substitute with during speedwork with a group. I’m back close to marathoning weight, but I don’t believe I’m close to racing fitness as I was in ’07-’09.

Illie started a full time job at Altamed about a month ago. We’ve been ready to buy a house but it is practically impossible to find a suitable house in the area that we want to live. I have no idea how much longer we will be renting, it could be for years.

BAA, almost 11 months, parenting…

Earlier this week I found out that thea Boston Athletic Association change the qualifying standards to get into the Boston marathon. So whereas before, I felt pretty confident that I could qualify for 2013, it looks like the time I’d have to invest in training now is too much. I’ve decided to shelve my plans to qualify for Boston. In the meantime I get to enjoy my running and not spend too much time away from home.

Tomorrow, Ruby will be 11 months old. She is now walking while pushing onto something, like a cart or a musical table. It seems to me that her balance and ability to stand and walk on her own is improving without actually practicing. She appears to be a bit risk averse so she isn’t daring to stand and walk on her own that much – often times I see her standing on her own without realizing it. Illie reported that she took two steps without holding onto anything last week, but we’re not sure whether those really count as her first steps.

She’s learned several signs that are mostly cute but impractical: clapping, raising her arms, a begging sign, “milk”, “baby”, and repeatedly sticking out her tongue. Her eating has improved, but she is still horribly messy and still hasn’t kicked the habit of pushing food out with her tongue. Her top two teeth are already budding, so hopefully when they come in, that will improve her eating.
I’ve figured out how to get Ruby to enjoy bathing a lot more. I put her in the soapy water and let her play on her own for awhile before I actually start washing her, and now this sets a really good tone for the rest of the night. Unfortunately for the last couple nights Ruby has developed a habit of crying out in the middle of the night, and she now demands two sessions of breastfeeding before she wakes up for good in the morning. Hopefully this isn’t going to be happening every night now.

We’re starting to discover that having a baby creates a gap between us and our childless friends, while making us closer to the friends and family who also have babies. There’s a lot of implicit understanding and unspoken sympathy with friends who also have kids. At the same time, some who don’t have kids and haven’t gone through the same struggles have a difficult time understanding what we parents go through. Case in point, a childless friend visiting for the weekend initially invited me to go clubbing, and when I said no, he asked me whether I was interested in karaoke. It was already inappropriate for him to suggest these baby-unfriendly activities, but then to aggressively counsel me on how I should conduct my family affairs, how I should be a father, and then not back off became very offensive. But this was only part of the irritation: in the past, without a child, it was already somewhat annoying to always have to give an hour or two to waiting this particular friend to be late (habitually), but I always tried to be flexible. Now with a child, we no longer have that hour or two to give. We’ve decided this weekend that we can no longer tolerate this anymore.

Ruby @ 10 months

Ruby is more than half way through her 10th month. We are now thinking about her first birthday.

Her latest developments: she imitates actions like clapping, hand gestures to twinkle twinkle little star, wan sui (raises her hands up), and repeatedly sticking her tongue out. She doesn’t yet wave hi or bye yet. She’s become better at self feeding, and she’s losing her tongue-pushing reflex. Unfortunately she’s regressed with the pooing in the toilet, so now we can only get her to poo in the toilet when we notice the signs and rush her to the toilet.

One of the things that amuse people most is that Ruby bear crawls. She sticks her butt up high. It’s not that she can’t crawl normally on her knees, it’s that she just prefers to bear crawl. When we put shoes on her, she crawls normally.

She’s recently started stooping from standing position, and she can stand on her own, especially when she’s not paying attention to the fact that she’s not holding onto anything. She seems to be more capable of standing and starting to walk on her own, but she doesn’t appear to be interested in learning how to do it.

Ruby has become more difficult with bathtime and diaper changes. She hates being restrained, and protests quite a bit in the bathtub, especially when I’m rinsing her hair. Sometimes she is just in a bad mood at night because of our routine. The good news is that, for over a month now, she sleeps all the way through the night, and for several weeks now, for bedtime, we have laid her in the crib awake, leave her room, and she either protests for a couple seconds or goes straight to sleep on her own.

Every weekend has been eventful, in a good way. Since the last blog post, we visited Illie’s cousin in Orange twice, and then drove to San Diego for a 1st birthday party, to see Illie’s residency friend and her baby who was born two weeks after Ruby, and then last weekend we visited Judy and her twins, and the then attended a family get-together with an uncle visiting from the UK. Next weekend will be a piano recital with my middle/high school friend and then dinner with family.

Ruby continually gets to see a lot of family every weekend. I love the fact that we can constantly expose her to family. She sees both sets of grandparents and extended family every week. We haven’t seen a quiet eventless weekend for a long time.

Ruby has chosen her favorite stuffed animal. It is a handmade hedgehog that one of Illie’s attendings gave Ruby for a baby shower. I’ve actually tested whether the hedgehog is her favorite multiple times by placing the it among a lot of other stuffed animals, and Ruby will crawl over to the group and deliberately get the hedgehog.

Also, one of my favorite pics, taken during my family get-together with my British uncle. This one is of my dad and Ruby:

December/January with Ruby

Whew. The last several weekends have been very eventful. Starting on Dec 17th, it was Willie’s wedding, then there was Christmas weekend at Upland and then Rossmoor, then the Yen’s baby shower in San Diego + my father-in-law’s birthday, then Ama’s Funeral / memorial with a Wu get-together. Last weekend we visited Upland to see Illie’s med school friend from Fontana, and this weekend we have a piano recital for Illie’s cousin’s two kids. Next weekend will be a birthday party in San Diego. Before we moved back to the LA area, things were a lot more quiet. But being this busy is a good thing, and I’m glad we get to see both sides of the family a lot more now.

Lugging around all this Ruby stuff everywhere we go is a huge pain. We’ve come to accept the fact that we’ll be losing things all the time. Hopefully we only lose the inexpensive things.

Ruby turned 10 months today. I think she’s probably about 18.5-18.8 lbs. Some of her developments from December and more recently has been drinking from a straw, climbing stairs, imitating adult hand motions, swaying to music, and incorporating more consonants into her babbling. About a month or two ago, she learned how to open doors and drawers, and one of her favorite hobbies is to find any kind of container with things inside of it, and to throw everything out. She’s become less apt to automatically put everything she sees in her mouth, and in general she’s very well-behaved, and only complains when she’s restrained during diaper and clothing changes.

We’re starting to see the baby disappear and a toddler appearing. There is no particular instant where it happens, so watching her right now is a bit confusing because we’re not sure what she is. My cousin just gave birth to twins last week and I reminisce, look back on pictures of newborn Ruby, and there are lots of things that she no longer does. It’s a constant reminder for me to treasure the moments we have now, and as before, I love it. I didn’t know I would enjoy being a dad so much.

I finally got a running stroller. It’s great. I finally get to run on weekdays guilt-free, Illie gets to relax without having to take care of a baby, and the greatest thing is that Ruby loves it. As her normal curious self, she’s always very observative and then she often falls asleep while I’m running with it. Because I’m concentrating more on controlling the stroller, I do a very easy pace, usually in the low 9 min/mile range, which I can keep up for a very long time. I feel like when I start my long runs again, I can put Ruby in the stroller and easily go out for a 2-3 hour run.