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Wow…it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. We are very welll and looking forward to taking a trip back to North America for the summer break. As to my lack of posting, mostly it’s a combination of being busy with life and not feeling the desperate pull to write that I once did. I think I mostly need a break. But until I get back to into writing again, please take a moment to fill out this survey for parents of multiethnic Koreans in Korea if you are one. Also, if you know someone else who is, please pass it along to them. :)

 

We FINALLY got the official dol party pictures back including a lovely little book of the best ones. Therefore, as part of my then/now project, I thought I would share one of Dragon at his dol party table in contrast to Mr. Lee’s dol party table 40 years ago.

dol table dragon

lee dol

Like so many things, there’s such a contrast between the home-prepared family party in Mr. Lee’s photograph and the uber commercialized/aggrandized contemporary party. I’ve been to several dols which have the traditional table laid out with the fruit and ddeok, but I’ve also seen a lot of fake fruit, or, in Dragon’s case, flower arrangements, candles, and knick knacks that obscure the traditional items (if any) from a clear view. (We did get a rather large box of fruit to take home though).

And I love that my boys have almost the exact same outfit on.

A precious set of photos.

March is the beginning of the school year in Korea, so tomorrow I’m back teaching a new set of students, and the little Mr. gets to move to a new class. This year we actually received a supply list, so I braved the back to school crowds on Friday and battled my way through the aisles to get everything he needs. Tres cute.

school supplies

And…I did a little interview over at Loving Korea. Go check it out and peruse Oegukeen’s lovely site while you are at it.

I never really expected to talk this much about breastfeeding on the blog, but then it became such a huge part of our story.

My goal has always been a year. But then I got close to a year, and Dragon hit a wave of daycare gifted illnesses that made nursing a bit more necessary on the days he couldn’t handle anything but liquids. So we carried on as normal a little longer, and then ever so slowly, we cut out feeds over the past month until this morning I replaced his last feed with a bottle of milk. We snuggled together in bed until, with glee, he finished his slurping and gave me a sloppy morning kiss.

1 year, 1 month, 5 days.

Despite it all, we did it, and now we are done. Ready to move on to the next chapter….

weaned

As I thought about what makes a Canadian birthday a birthday, I felt that other than the Happy Birthday song (also a feature of the Korean dol), the birthday cake is probably the most iconic element. There’s a cake at the Korean dol too, but in an uncanny valley way that mirrors the gap between Canadian and Korean wedding cakes.

At our venue, we blew out a candle on a real cake, but at the dol for Dragon’s friend the next day, and at several other dols I’ve been to, the cake on display is just a styrofoam show cake. Then, you cut a real cake (with an enormous sword-esq weapon), but that cake is whisked away and given to you as you are leaving the building. In other words, nobody at the party actually eats the party cake, but if they did, it would be a Korean bakery cake which has a distinctly different taste and texture from a Canadian cake. Therefore, I felt really strongly that I wanted Dragon to have a real cake that not only represented him (as opposed to a generic cake picked by the venue) but that we were able to share with the rest of our guests.

You see, dol parties often include take home presents for guests. Canadian parties would have a bag of goodies for the kids, but at the Korean party, it’s a gift for adults. When I started going to dol parties in 2007, everyone used to give out rainbow coloured ddeok (chewy rice cake). However, at some point the custom seemed to change overnight, and suddenly I began receiving miniature picture frames, tea towels, a variety of trinkets, and one time, rice (probably the best gift). Of course, it is always nice to take something home with you, but most of the time we’ve felt the same way about these presents as people feel about a lot of Canadian wedding favours…they are okay, but they often just take up space and rarely have much relevance to the event other than the name and date emblazoned on the item in some place. Thus, we decided that the cake could be both a way to honour the Canadian custom and gift our guests.

I asked my friend, who has a bakery business on the side, to make us two cakes. The first was an apple spice with cream cheese frosting. Sadly, Dragon didn’t get to eat any of this cake because he is allergic to cinnamon, but I heard it was divine. Dragon’s cake was chocolate with vanilla frosting and…and…yes it did. It had a dragon on it. Super duper cake, and the staff member assigned to our room kept squealing over it.
cake 1

cake 2 better

And yes, I really really really wanted Dragon to get to feed himself his own cake. I was slightly worried that this custom would create an uproar as the next worst thing to being COLD in Korea is being dirty. Baby-led weaning is not so popular here, and it’s custom to spoon feed food into baby’s mouths with one hand and use a wipe on the mouth with the other in one harmonious action for every mouthful of food to prevent any spillage or smearing. However, sitting in his high chair in a roomful of well-fed people, Dragon’s first taste of icing and cake went unnoticed by everyone but the table of expat mamas + 1 K-husband he was sitting at. He enjoyed the cake immensely. (Note the outfit…I didn’t want him getting chocolate on his ‘I’m the Birthday Boy’ onesie before the big day!)

eating cake

The other gift which is given at dol parties is the door prize. In addition to gifting the person who correctly predicts what the baby with choose from among the fortune telling items, there’s usually prizes given to the guest who knows the birth weight or how many teeth the baby currently has. There’s also often a prize for the person who came from furthest away, and although I’m usually from only a few subway stops away, I ALWAYS get this prize because everyone thinks it’s funny to give it to me being the sole foreigner in the crowd on most days. My all time favourite was one of those multi-packs of tissue boxes which was both bewildering and annoying to carry home on the subway. I’ve also received a mini cutting board, a couple of tea towels in addition to the take home tea towels, a single box of tissues, and some tasteless tea.

But then Mr. Lee came up with the idea of asking my mum to bring some treats from Canada. She brought 6 mugs that said ‘Canada’ on them and featured a moose, and then we filled them with flavoured hot chocolate, Laura Secord chocolate, shortbread (the Scottish side of me), maple syrup produced down the road from my childhood home by a family I’ve known my entire life, and…it may seem strange, but a ladybug chocolate which comes from a store in my hometown and reminds me of home.

mug4

mug3

mug1

mug2

I hope they were enjoyed by those who won them. If not, they can always re-gift them to me!!!

And finally, although most people give cash presents for a dol, Dragon also received three miniature gold rings which are the traditional presents. These rings are so impractical but eternally adorable. It’s something I’ll really treasure when he is an adult, and I’m able to look back and see the tiny rings that once fit on his fingers up against his grown up hands.

Rotated_photo-14

And then there was this ring we got today. Pororo does 1st birthday gold ring. Love Love Love.

ring p

On T-minus 2 Days Til 1

How do I know my baby is growing up?

He’s crafting with the big kids at daycare now.

craft

I think he actually tore the paper himself! I saw a picture of him ripping paper!!!

And…

self ca

He seriously took his first selca tonight. Right before he tried to chew the side off of my phone.

There are lots of different ways multicultural families deal with diversity during milestones. Personally, I believe that our son is Canadian and Korean, and I feel very strongly that both of those elements of his identity need to be honoured throughout his life. However, I think there’s a longer and stronger tradition of incoporating other cultures into Canadian culture than there is bringing Canadian elements into Korean culture, and I think there are fewer models for those of us trying to do so in Korea. Therefore, when we started thinking about planning Dragon’s dol, I decided that I wanted his party to have Canadian elements and that I wanted the party to represent our family (which is maybe a Canadian idea in and of itself).

The first area where I thought we could make such changes within the structure of the Korean dol party was with the fortune telling event. This is probably the most iconic part of the contemporary dol and a part that I really love. In this ritual, a number of items are placed before the baby, and the item the child picks is said to indicate his or her future. The items change depending on the venue and the parents, but they often include a combination of the following:

Money – (Wealth)

Thread – (Long life)

Rice – (Lots of food)

Calligraphy brush (traditional)/pencil (modern) – (Scholar)

Archery bow (traditional) /golf ball (modern) – (Sports star)

Stethoscope – (Doctor)

Gavel – (Lawyer/Judge)

Microphone – (Celebrity)

I figured it would be pretty easy to either put a slight twist on the traditional items or include some additional ones that reflected our own family. So we chose:

Concert bands from Mr. Lee’s favourite festivals (musician)

concert band

Cow (veternarian – because my sister is in vet school, and we are an animal loving family)

cow

Hockey puck – (hockey player – the team my family supports, and we received this toy puck on our family trip to Boston in the summer)

hockey puck

Money – (Wealth – Canadian $10 bill + Korean 10,000 won)

money

Pens (Scholar – we had planned to put pens from our undergraduate alma maters and my current place of employment together, but we couldn’t get a pen from Mr. Lee’s school, so 2 out of 3).

pens

Rope – (Long life – from our traditional wedding altar…the dol party rope is usually white)

thread

When guests arrive at a dol, they are given a ticket and asked to choose which item they think the baby will choose. If the baby chooses the item you predicted, you are entered in a contest to win a prize.

I’m sure it’s the first time the venue ever had to print off this label.

lotto

And then there was this. ㅋㅋㅋ

animal

Our emcee explained to the guests why we chose each item, and I think this change to the ritual was well received.

So what did Dragon pick?…..

Our son is going to be a wealthy man! Or…maybe as Mr. Lee mused…chosing the money means that he is going to use up all of our money! ㅋㅋㅋ

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