Wednesday, September 28, 2011

JJ's Moving Day

Wednesday night is our Lost night, right? So one of the guys who hosts thought Wednesday night would be the perfect night to move all of his furniture from his old apartment here in Korea to his new one. I have been very entertained watching people move in and out of apartments here. They use these conveyer belts to move furniture and boxes out the windows and doors of upper floor apartments. Well, JJ opted for the cheap route. He hired one guy with a truck to move all of his stuff for him. Basically the guy's only responsibility is to physically drive the stuff from one location to another (for about $100). Because he's in a hurry to get to the next job, though, he helps load and unload the truck, but usually that's about it. This particular guy was very stubborn and extra "helpful". He decided to help the guys move a big wardrobe into the apartment. The problem was it wouldn't fit through the door, and the windows that open all the way were not on the same side as the alley, so he saw the door as the only option. This guy pushed, pulled, and prodded this wardrobe, trying to get it through a doorway it could not physically fit through while the boys loaded a cabinet, a couch, a chair, and multiple boxes through the window. The mover ended up completely destroying JJ's wardrobe and took back out and to his truck in about 20 pieces. Then he had to go find another one to replace it with. What an experience. I am so grateful that it wasn't us! I don't think we'll be moving from one apartment to another here in Korea. It's way too much work!
Ross standing on top of the doorway after having just lifted the couch over his head and onto the ledge so they can take it around the corner and put it in through the window!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Soccer Saturday

Saturday was our first soccer jamboree (instead of 2 or 3 games a week, we play all day Saturday). What an experience! First off, let me tell you, it's haunting to go back now as a coach. I can't believe how much the girls remind me of myself and my friends at that age! It's really pretty scary. The other scary part is how much I remind myself of my dad when I'm out there telling them to "be more aggressive!". It is a lot of fun, though!
We got up early and headed to Seoul International School. 25 teenage girls and 3 coaches. Not a bad ratio (keep in mind I am the oldest of the 3 coaches!). Thankfully, our bus drivers knew where we were going because we certainly didn't! When we arrived on campus, we had to ask the girls where the soccer field was because we didn't know that either (2 of us are new to YISS this year, the other is entirely new to soccer). Once we got up to the field, though, things were pretty standard. Two fields back to back and a schedule of games and referees. 
This is a very different middle school soccer program than the one I participated in, though. For one thing, it's weird to me that we only have practice twice a week (Mondays are reserved for Immersion meetings, Tuesdays for staff meetings, and Wednesdays for discipleship so that leaves Thursdays and Fridays available). Sports are definitely not the priority on this middle school campus. That has it's pros and cons. Secondly, we only have 3 weeks of games. Only 3 jamborees, so it's a pretty short season. Thirdly, (supposedly) the jamborees aren't competitive. No one is keeping score (officially). We play 7 vs. 7 on half fields for 20 minute games. The girls don't know many of the rules, so the only real rule is no hand balls. They're just learning how to do throw ins, and they have no idea when to do a goal kick versus a corner kick. We were surprised that our 3 teams did really well, even with their lack of skill and knowledge of the game. It turns out this is the norm around here. One of our teams won all 3 of their games and the others won at least 1 game. It is really entertaining to watch, and I can't wait to go to practice this week and see what Miranda has lined up for them!
This one is my favorite! Jana cheering, June hit in the face!
I am really enjoying the laid back schedule and less intense atmosphere that allows me to go to practice once a week and spend a few weekends getting to know these girls better. I'll be ready when the season is over, but for now, I'm enjoying my soccer Saturdays.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Date Night

Last night Eric and I managed to go out on another date. That's two in two months. My Aunt Shawn will be so proud! A couple of other teachers here (they're actually twin sisters) have been volunteering to babysit basically since we arrived. One of them is new, so we met her in Mississippi, and the other has been here for a year already. Still, because Charissa is new, Esther has spent a lot of time around our group of new teachers, so the kids have gotten to know them both really well. They live near us, so on Wednesday nights when we come home for Bogwongdong, Esther and Charissa usually share a taxi with us (4 is usually the max, but the kids don't count!). Every week the girls joke about taking Cade home with them and this week when they got out of the taxi at the bottom of our hill to walk home, Cade was really upset that he didn't get to go with them. I mean really upset! Thankfully, our taxi driver thought he was so cute that he didn't mind Cade screaming and crying the rest of the way home. 
So, on Friday night, we figured we should take them up on their offer, and let the kids go over to their house to play. They were so excited! We didn't bring them any toys to play with, but in typical TCK style (and being watched by a couple of TCKs--the girls grew up as missionary kids), we knew they wouldn't have any problem!
      *Speaking of TCKs, as we were walking to dinner (a new route), there was a white kid who walked out of his house with a football. He said hi to us, and immediately passed his football to Eric, telling him to catch. He walked down the street with us for about 5 minutes, playing catch with Eric and talking about his grade, what sports he plays, and what school he goes to. Then he said he had to go and turned around and ran back up the hill. It was a unique experience. Here's a kid who doesn't have a yard to play in or anyone to play American football with, so he picks up a game with the first white guy he sees walking down the road. I wonder how often he does that?*
Eric and I took off for dinner in Itaewon at Chaakra, an Indian restaurant I'd been hearing about since we got here. It's strange, actually. Indian food is something that I have been trying to convince Eric to try ever since we met. I got him to try Thai food on our first date, but it's taken me nearly ten years to get him to try Indian food! We walked in and were greeted by the joys of the fishbowl lifestyle. There was already a group of about six YISS teachers in there having dinner, but I had gotten him this far. I was not about to let him get out of it just because there were people we knew in there. Besides, there isn't a restaurant in Itaewon we could go to without running into someone we know! Five minutes into our dinner, another YISS staff family walked in, but they decided to try their luck and finding a non-YISS inhabited restaurant. 
Eric was excited when he found out there was a buffet and even more excited when he learned the price. Fifteen bucks for a buffet in Seoul is a pretty good deal! I'm normally not a buffet person, but I wanted Indian food and if this is how I had to get it, I was willing to go for it. At least this way, I didn't have to try to read the menu. Who knows what language it might have been in!? We had lots of new, spicy foods (samosas, beef vindaloo, curry chicken, mutter aloo, channa masala, saffron rice, tandoori chicken, naan bread...yum!), some good, refreshing salads, and a custard dessert that Eric thought was revolting. Last night, he said he liked the restaurant and we would definitely go back, but I'm not sure if he's still feeling that way today...
After dinner, we went for a walk through Itaewon. We managed to find a store that sells shoes big enough to fit Eric so that he can stop wearing his tennis shoes with holes in them to cross country practice, ended the night with ice cream at Cold Stone (the group that we had dinner with walked in right after we did, of course!), and were even able to get back to get the kids using a new shortcut. 
The kids had had a great time with Charissa and Esther and Miranda had even come over to hang out with them, too. They are adored by all of our new friends here, and we are very blessed to have such great friends already!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall has Arrived!

Yesterday was the first time since our arrival in Seoul that the temperature was below 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). I have to admit that it was quite a shock to my system as somehow I have gotten used to the perpetual 80-90 F degree weather. The weather was warm and comfortable on Saturday while we were on the retreat. On Sunday it cooled considerably and I even wore long sleeves outside in the evening (we experienced real wind for the first time here on Sunday), but it was still surprising how cool it was yesterday morning when we left for school. Even more surprising was the fact that it didn't warm up much throughout the day, and it was still a bit chilly when we went out for our fire drill yesterday afternoon (at least it wasn't raining!). It's back to sun and mid-70s for the rest of the week, so it should be comfortable for us. After weeks and weeks of sweating while just standing still outside (and it's rare that we're actually standing still), we're excited for the cooler weather! Soccer practices in the afternoon heat have been brutal, and since we have another jamboree this weekend, I won't mind the cooler weather on Saturday!
The leaves have begun to fall, Everland was decked out with Halloween decor, and the temperatures are dropping: Fall has arrived in Seoul! We are excited to experience a new season in this new country!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Middle School Retreat

Another busy weekend for the Carlsons! 
Basically since we got on campus in July, I feel like the middle school staff has been making reference to the middle school retreat: their need for volunteers to help plan, to help organize, and of course to help chaperone! So by the time the second or third email came out reminding us to sign up to chaperone, I was starting to feel a little guilty. I asked if we could bring the kids so that we could both go, and the answer was a resounding "yes!". So I signed all four of us up. I really should have done a little more research first!
Remember that staff retreat we went on before school started? The one where families with young kids have complained so much in past years, that they finally gave us the option to go home rather than spend the night? The one where the accommodations are very traditionally Korean? [I just looked back and realized I actually managed to not blog about this event, so you won't remember. Suffice it to say, the accommodations are not deluxe, and that is really all you need to know at this point!] Well, it turned out that the middle school retreat was held in the same location. Had I known this, there's a good chance I would not have signed up!
Regardless, we'd volunteered and we were going to follow through (especially when our middle school chaplain's mom died two weeks before the retreat and he had to go back to the States to be with his family). Those in charge of the planning of the retreat logically decided that we could not have 10 middle schoolers in mine or Eric's care since we have these two little crazy kids with us, so we were able to play flexible support roles. That really worked out in Kennedy's favor when she got invited to her first birthday party by one of her favorite new pals here. Her friend had hand-delivered her "Princess Party" invitation and there was no way I was going to be able to keep Kennedy from that party (even to be one of the stars of the retreat!). So, the kids and I managed to get out of going to the retreat center Friday night. I dropped Kennedy off in her princess attire and took Cade out on a date, just the two of us! Eric, meanwhile, was attempting to sleep in a room with about 10 8th grade boys who did not want to sleep!
Saturday morning, the kids and I got up early, packed our backpack, and walked the mile to the closest subway station. The retreat center is conveniently located on the same subway line that we live on, so we had about a half hour subway ride with 15 minute walks on either end. Not too bad.
Many of the middle schoolers have met our kids because they come to school every Thursday with me for soccer practice, if not more often. They are always a big hit, but they were BIG stars this weekend! Every kid wanted to give them high fives, hugs, or just rub Cade's blond buzz cut! It turned out that neither one of us was too busy with the kids because they had SO many babysitters! Eric had a great time playing basketball and other games with kids, as well as getting to know them better helping out with the small groups. I worked in the Canteen where the kids were able to buy snacks and drinks during their free time. 
We had a great time getting to know our students outside of school, but at 7:00 when they still had several hours of planned events going on, we decided that our roles had played out and we took our exhausted kids back home on the subway again. It was a long day, but it was a good one. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Everland...the happiest place in Korea!

We've been in Korea nearly two months now, and we've already taken our kids to an amusement park. In the States, we said we wouldn't do that until they were much older. There was no point. They're too short for the rides. All they would do is whine about the heat and the lines. We wouldn't even get to go on any fun rides. These are the things we've been telling ourselves for the past 7 or 8 years. Since the last time we went to Disneyland.
Granted, there are no big amusement parks in Washington, and the most of the ones in the States are outrageously expensive. But, it still floors me that we've already taken our kids to a Korean "Disneyland"! I guess that's what happens when you move across the world. Things that you never would have expected! We got to take advantage of the "Foreigners Discount" (pretty generous) and the lack of lines as all of Korea spent time with their family. An awesome bonus for being an expatriate!
Our day did not start of too spectacularly, though. I tried to be relaxed and get up just an hour before we had to leave. I tried not to stress about leaving too early and whether or not we would be able to catch a cab in time, especially on a holiday. I don't think I was too successful, though. It turned out I had reason to be stressed.
Cade's favorite ride!
We walked down our hill, where on a normal day, there are many taxis either parked waiting for a patron or driving down the hill in the direction we needed to go. That morning, there was one taxi sitting at the bottom of the hill, so we kind of jogged down the hill toward it (the best a four and two year old can jog down a hill!). Just as we were nearing the bottom of the hill, a woman got in it and it drove away. Strike one. 
So, we walked the rest of the way down our street keeping an eye out for a taxi. No such luck. We took the tunnel to the other side of the highway we needed to get down to try to catch one going in the right direction. Still no luck. The ones that were there, flew right by us like we were invisible. At this point, it was the time we were supposed to be meeting our group. I was more than a little stressed now.
We finally managed to walk into Itaewon, get on the correct side of the street, and find an open taxi. We arrived about 15 minutes late. Not too bad for a Butler, I guess, but pretty stressful for this Carlson. Thankfully, the family that we were riding with had waited for us and we arrived just 15 minutes after the park opened.
Kennedy and Nora
We spent the day with two other families who have a total of 8 kids between them. A total of 10 kids ranging in age between 5 months and 12 years. Needless to say, we had a busy day of parents taking turns on different rides. Cade had a hard time with the fact that he couldn't go on all of the rides that Kennedy could, but he really enjoyed the rides that he got to go on. He went on roller coasters, water rides, spinning teacups, and he drove the cars a lot! Kennedy did the same and more! She loved running around with the other girls (ages 3, 4, and 5) and feeling like she had some independence! In the afternoon, the other parents offered to take the kids for us so that we could go on the huge wooden roller coaster. It turned out to be more than a 2 hour wait and I can't believe they were willing to do that for us. It was an awesome roller coaster, though!
7 of 10 kids riding the train
We had a great time, but I'm glad that we won't be back for another year! It was a little stressful that Kennedy wouldn't eat all day and that Cade ate everything we'd brought for her and everything we bought for her. I guess that's what happens when you get left behind on a lot of the rides! They were pooped by the end of the day, and I was glad I'd brought pajamas when they both fell asleep shortly into our 45 minute drive home.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy 30th Birthday!

One of the things that the kids and I have missed most about home is hosting people for dinner or parties or other events. It's funny because I don't think I necessarily would have considered myself a hostess. It's not like I had a party every weekend, but looking back we usually had someone over at least once a week for dinner, a BBQ, or just a football game. A few weeks ago, Kennedy started complaining about the fact that no one comes over to our house. As I've mentioned before, we go over to a friend's on Wednesday nights and I think she is starting to miss that piece of our lives--our friends and family coming over to see us. So, with Eric's birthday falling on a Sunday, I thought I would take the opportunity to have some people over whether he wanted to celebrate or not. 
I have finally gotten enough necessities for the kitchen that I figured I could throw together a simple dinner. Unfortunately, I still haven't found a baking dish (really I never would have guessed it would be so hard to find a 9x13 baking dish!), so I had to figure out a different way to make my parmesan chicken, but I managed. I had also just used the oven for the first time when I baked the cake, so I turned it on without realizing that Eric had stuck the broiler pan back in it that morning. I figured I could just stick the chicken on top of the broiler pan. Not so. After a half hour, it was still pink. So with a hot oven and oven mitts (I just found silicone trivets that double as hot pads), I laid towels down on the kitchen counter to put the chicken on and then pulled out the broiler pan and stuck it in the sink. Because the heating source is on the bottom, I was much more successful the second time I put the chicken in! The oven and stovetop are so small that with 2 pots on the stovetop, I didn't have any extra space for anything else! 
The pan I cooked the chicken on was really a cookie sheet, so it wasn't deep enough to pour sauce and cheese over the chicken. It was more like chicken tenders (dipped in panko crumbs mixed with Italian seasoning...definitely not Italian bread crumbs but they do the job!), Prego spaghetti sauce from Costco, and mozzarella cheese sprinkled over the top (I haven't seen real parmesan cheese anywhere here and the green can of Kraft parmesan is about $10 at the grocery store, so we had parmesan chicken without the parmesan). I also managed to put together my first salad, but had no luck finding any salad dressings even remotely Italian. We had oriental dressing. Oh well. We do have a very good bakery down the street, so we had baguette slices with olive oil and garlic as an appetizer. That was delicious! I'm so very glad that is one thing I can get here...I love carbs!
We also had the cake for dessert, of course. It was pretty dense because Eric was sure that once the butter and sugar were mixed well that it was done, and I was more than willing to agree with him since it was my arm that was about to fall off. Now, I understand why you use a mixer to make it light and creamy. Nevertheless, we ate it and the flavor was good. No one complained, anyway.
Re-telling the story now, I realize why it is that we haven't had anyone over since we got here. Nothing is quite the way I want it to be. And when I have people over, I want everything to be my way (I know. You're shocked!). Thankfully, the people I had over were not judging me and are in a similar situation but with no real desire to start cooking, so they would have been happy with whatever I'd served them. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Namsangol Hanok Village

I managed to convince my family to go on an adventure on Saturday! We went to the Namsangol Hanok Village which is basically on the other side of Namsam Park which we live pretty close to. It's such a big park, though, (and there is Mt. Namsam right in the middle of it) that we had to take the subway to get to the other side of the park. Our closest subway stop is about one mile from our house. It seems close until we have to walk there with two young kids. They're really getting better at walking, though, and they don't whine too much about it anymore. Eric wanted to try one of the restaurants on the way to the subway station, so we picked up our tacos and took them with us. 

We got on at Naksapyeong and did our first transfer from line 6 to line 3 at Yaksu station. Then we went a couple more stops and got off at Chungmuro. I think the toughest part of the day was when I realized I wasn't sure which of the 8 exits at Chungmuro we were supposed to go out. When I read about it online, it said it was just a few minutes from one of the exits...but we picked the wrong one. It turns out it is actually visible from 4 different exits, but not the one we went out. Oh well. It only took us about 10 minutes to find it and then we were on our way!
Kennedy painting her fan
Eric and I finally got to eat when we arrived at the park and then we started exploring. It is basically a park that has replicas of original traditional Korean houses that were located around the country. I thought that because it was Chusok weekend, there wouldn't be many people there, but again, it turns out I was wrong! There were a lot of people checking out the traditional Korean culture and houses. The kids enjoyed watching the drummers. Kennedy got to paint a fan to take home as a souvenir, and she really enjoyed seeing the women dressed up in traditional hanboks ("Mom, they look like princesses!"). Cade enjoyed playing with the water from the wells, playing with the Korean kids, and running away from us every chance he got!
a pair of traditional baby slippers woven with straw
After a couple of hours of exploration, it was clear the kids were getting tired and we needed to start heading home. One thing that I can't seem to get used to is the fact that whenever we are done with our activity, we still have the trek home. It's times like this when I wish that we still had that big Durango to plop the kids into at the end of a long day. They would sit in those big car seats and go right to sleep. It is a very different experience now! When we decided to leave the park, Eric and Kennedy were walking pretty far ahead of Cade and me. By the time Cade and I got to the bottom of the hill, Eric and Kennedy were nowhere to be seen. I looked in all directions and couldn't see them anywhere. I called Eric and he didn't answer. I really didn't know what to do. I figured Eric would head back the way we came because he is comfortable with what he even vaguely knows. But, there were 4 subway stops right in front of me. He could have gone in any of them...I didn't know what to do, so Cade and I were just standing there trying to figure it out when they came out of the 7-11 where they'd gone to buy water. Phew! That was stressful! Because Eric felt so guilty about disappearing on us, he even let me go to the Starbucks across the street where I got my $6 Frappuccino and my first souvenir Seoul travel may have been worth it!!
We made it safely back to our neighborhood, taking roughly the same route (we did utilize the closer exits to the subway) and Kennedy and I picked up some Thai food from the local "Buddha's Belly". Certainly not the best Thai food I've had (doesn't hold a candle to Jasmin Thai in Stanwood), but it was cheaper and it's a whole lot closer!
The night ended with my cake baking escapade...what a day!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Baking a cake...and eating it too

Tomorrow is Eric's birthday. So he needs a cake, right? 
Within the first week that we arrived, we celebrated a couple of birthdays with friends. We ate dinner out and someone picked up a cake for each of these celebrations. One from Paris Baguette--the bakery that has a location on every street corner--and the other from Cold Stone. In my mind, I thought those both sounded like great options when our birthdays started to come around. I knew they weren't too far out and it continued to sit in the back of my mind as I continued to struggle to find baking tools and ingredients.
On Friday, I went with a friend and her daughter shopping at a couple of new stores. I was finally able to find baking sheets and other supplies. Kennedy was so excited to see muffin pans, cupcake wrappers, and cookie cutters! She wanted one of everything! I told her that for now, we would stick with the necessities: cookie sheets, a bar pan, and cooling racks. 
Friday afternoon, a package from Eric's mom arrived with measuring cups, spoons, and vanilla in it. It even had a container of his favorite frosting! I knew that all of these things had worked together just in time for me to try to bake Eric's cake...from scratch.
Many of you know that I am not a baker. I hate to bake. You have to measure things. You have to follow a recipe. It drives me crazy. It's too stressful. If you are missing an ingredient, you can't just substitute or it won't turn out. It's very frustrating for me, but it's not for me.
So, I decided that even with my rudimentary tools and ingredients, I would try to throw together a cake for my husband's birthday.
Step 1: Find a recipe online for an easy white or yellow cake (up to this point, I have only made cakes from mixes--that's right straight out of the box. I'm not saying I'm proud, but it has always turned out!)
Step 2: Determine baking time and temperature for the strangely shaped pan that I bought. (It's not quite square or rectangle and I have no idea what the measurements are, but I gave it a good guess!)
Step 3: Convert 325 degrees F to 161.7 degrees Celcius.
Step 4: Measure flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla into the biggest bowl that I have (appropriate for a small salad).
Step 5: Measure sugar into another mixing bowl (smaller, but it will fit the butter and sugar).
Step 6: Google search on how to measure 2/3 cup of butter from a large 450 gram cube of butter.
Step 7: Get frustrated with the results of the Google search as everyone thinks you are stupid for trying to use "spread" rather than typical American-sized sticks of butter. Give up on this method and pour a glass of wine instead.
Step 8: Determine that in order to correctly measure 2/3 cup butter, I will have to soften the entire cube slowly in the microwave, then scrape off the softened parts and pack into a measuring cup for dry ingredients. Oh so fun.
Step 9: Begin to cream together butter and sugar with a soup spoon.
Step 10: Continue attempt to cream together butter and sugar with a spoon.
Step 11: Hand off to Eric to have continue to cream together butter and sugar. He promptly says, "I think it's done."
Step 12: Add two eggs to butter and sugar. Continue stirring with soup spoon. Easy enough.
Step 13: Begin adding flour and milk to butter mixture. Stir with soup spoon.
Step 14: Continue adding flour and milk to butter mixture. Continue stirring.
Step 15: Pick up arm and re-attach.
Step 16: Continue adding flour and milk to butter mixture. Continue stirring.
Step 17: Continue adding flour and milk to butter mixture. Continue stirring.
Step 18: Now add batter back into larger bowl with remaining flour as the bowl you started in is to small to mix all ingredients together.
Step 19: Continue adding flour and milk to butter mixture. Continue stirring.
Step 20: Pick up arm and re-attach.
Step 21: Continue adding flour and milk to butter mixture. Continue stirring.
Step 22: Continue stirring 1 more minute (the directions say...I say, no thanks!)
Step 23: Butter and flour the cake pan as I have no idea how it's going to work and the last thing I want is this cake stuck in the pan!
Step 24: Pour batter in pan and stick in the oven.
Step 25: Let it burn because I'm so tired I don't want to get up an hour later when it's finally done! (Thankfully, I thought better of this and may have even taken it out at the right time.)

I will admit that it looks pretty good. By the time I was done stirring, the smell of it was enough to make me nauseous. I'm not actually looking forward to eating it. I'm not really a big fan of cake. But that thing is going to get frosted and it will be enjoyed! Whether we like it or not!

Friday, September 9, 2011

In Preparation for Chuseok

This weekend is a HUGE holiday here in Korea--Chuseok. Expats here refer to it as the "Korean Thanksgiving" which basically means they spend days traveling, preparing, and eating food. For us, it means we have two days off of school (every other year it lands in the middle of the week and we get a whole week off from school--although I still end up with a whole week off!). We have learned many things about the practicalities surrounding Chuseok (though nothing of what the tradition behind it is). 
One of the first things I learned is from a 6th grader: make sure you do not hang your laundry out to dry with the windows open over Chuseok. In her words, "They're all cooking their smelly Korean food, and your clothes will smell so bad, you'll have to wash them again." Point well taken. Our laundry is done and put away and it's only Friday night.
One guy told me about a month ago that he went to Costco here in Korea the weekend before Chuseok his first year here. He's lived here 3 years and never been back to Costco. Again, point well taken. We will just have to live with our lack of American food (in bulk) until after Chuseok.
Another guy told us that you do not want to try to attempt to travel outside of the city on the 3 days preceding the holiday. The highways are gridlocked like you wouldn't believe. Traffic doesn't even move for hours. On the plus side, he said Seoul empties out and is as close to a ghost town as you will ever see it. I find this very hard to imagine and look forward to what that means!
As my preparation, I have been doing research on places to visit, must-sees in the city, and have planned out a little itinerary for our four days off. Now, I just have to see if my family is game to visit one of the traditional Korean hanoks, Namsongal Village, Everland (an amusement park), and whatever market I can find that is actually open this weekend. And then I have to convince Eric that he actually wants to do something to celebrate his 30th birthday. That'll be the hard part.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Day in the Life

Kennedy at the international play group
I realized that I have been writing a LOT about what goes on with me, and a little about what's been going on with the kids, so I thought I would give an update.
First off, the potty training is not going too well. We may not be putting enough effort into it, though. I'm not one of those moms who is happy to just take the diaper (or pull up) off and let him pee in his underwear. I just can't deal with the mess, so instead we have to remember to put him on the toilet a lot and we don't always remember! Last week, Cade did poop in the toilet which was very exciting! Unfortunately, it was quickly followed by him peeing and pooping in the shower. We put him on the toilet every time we change his diaper or before we take a shower and he pees in the shower every time! At least it's easy to clean up! Patience is a virtue.

Kennedy has been doing a great job with everything lately! She is a big encourager for Cade with the potty training. She tries to tempt him with stickers if he goes (apparently she remembers that's what she got), and she helped him pick out a special drink at the store last week when he pooped. She has also been helping out with chores around the house. The upside of the short broom is that it is the perfect size for her, so she is learning to sweep. She also volunteers to dry the dishes while Eric washes them after dinner. She is out of her screaming phase, thankfully, and they have both been doing a great job going to bed recently!
Cade in the bouncy house at school
They are, in many ways, becoming TCKs (third culture kids--if you don't remember, you can check out an old post about this). They have learned to make a toy out of ANYTHING! A few weeks ago, they started pulling kitchen towels around and calling them puppies. Cade turned one of our drying racks into an ice cream truck. They've made a coffee shop out of the hole between the chair and couch in our living room. And, every time we buy something new for the house (like a router or even crackers), they turn that box into a special treasure chest where they collect everything they can find (rocks and various garbage they find at the park!). They don't have many real toys, but they keep themselves entertained and their imaginations amaze me. I remember reading in a book before we came about TCKs that had created their own Monopoly game out of a cardboard box, and I thought "I'm not creative enough to do that". It turns out, I don't have to be. They are!

Bouncy house at the picnic
We have discovered many, many parks around our neighborhood and we make daily visits to at least one of them. There is an international play group at our church on Wednesdays. So, the Wednesdays I'm home, I take them and the Wednesdays I work, our nanny takes them. Friday night, we had a Back to School picnic at school where there were food vendors, bouncy houses, and water gun fights. They've gotten to know a lot of staff kids, and they had a great time running around with them!
They also have developed great relationships with the other new teachers here (the ones that we met in Mississippi at PFO). They are all really good with our kids and the kids are really comfortable with them. We hang out together as a group every Wednesday night and have a Bible study...oh wait...we watch Lost, eat cheap pizza, and tell everyone we're having a Bible study. Just kidding! I think for a lot of us, it's the only night we watch TV, so we enjoy the down time and being able to just hang out and relax. The kids enjoy the attention and the fact that they get to watch their own "kid" movie.
All in all, I think they're finally adjusting and it has been a long time since I've heard either one of them say they want to go back home to Stanwood!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Fear of 4th Grade

Friday was my first official tough day at school. There was a group of teachers out for a conference on Friday, so the elementary principal asked if I could switch out one of my days and come in on Friday. Then he said that because I was the one being inconvenienced, I could cover the middle school absence and he would have my job share partner cover the elementary absence. I was happy with that. I told my principal that was the plan and I thought that everyone was on board. Things started to look a little fishy when on Thursday night, I had received sub plans for the elementary, but not the middle school. I tried not to worry about it. I didn't sleep well, though.
Friday morning, I got the email from my partner, that our middle school secretary had told her she was covering middle school and I was covering elementary. I'm not sure what happened, but the wires got crossed and now here I was on my day off covering a 4th grade classroom. At this point, I had about 20 minutes to study the plans, find the classroom and keys for it, and figure out what I was going to do with 25 4th graders for the day. I started reading through the plans to find explanations of the reward system (moving clothespins), the system for punishment (moving numbers), and the class reward system (beans). I was in tears...literally. 
Give me 100 high school students in band, I'll be fine. I'll take away cell phones and make sure that every kid is paying attention. Give middle school students on the soccer field and I'll make sure they run until they collapse. Give me 25 4th graders and I'm in tears!
Thankfully, I've gotten to know one of the 2nd grade teachers pretty well and her classroom was right next to the one I was in for the day (though I didn't know it when I went to track her down!). She walked me through the plans, told me what everything meant, what I could ignore, and what I would actually be teaching. The class itself was pretty good and while I stumbled through every single routine they have (seriously...line order, student jobs, specials classes...I still can't figure it all out!), we managed, and I survived the day.These kids were so well trained that the same girl kept turning off the lights and locking us out of the room every time we left it! 
I don't think too many people found out about my breakdown Friday morning, but they all knew I was out of my element and I am happy to return to middle school today!
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