Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, Cade

Dear Cade,

I have been trying to take some good pictures of you lately. You know? Around your birthday? You have not been interested. Your dad watched me edit these pictures of you the other night, and he was not impressed! I'm not sure what he wanted me to do. You just have no interest in smiling for the camera (or even standing still long enough for me to get you in focus).

You turn four today. My youngest is four. I can't quite wrap my mind around it. (How old does that make me?!)

This has been another year of change for you. Your sister went off to Kindergarten, leaving you at home by yourself. You have really come into your own, as a result. I have enjoyed the one-on-one time that we have had this school year. It looks very different than it did the year that Kennedy was in preschool. No trips to Target and Starbucks like we did before. Instead, we hang out at home or go on play dates with other little boys, namely Ezra.

Over Christmas break, Dad took you to Gangnam and got you signed up for preschool for next year. You are really excited about going to school, even though it isn't our school. You are already learning so fast, I'm excited to see what you learn in preschool! You can already count to 30 and you know most of the letter sounds. Most of this is a testament to your sister, because I'm not as good at sitting you down and working with you as I should be.

Everyone always comments on what a good kid you are (and how calm you are--for a boy!). You are very respectful, and for the most part, you listen well and are very helpful around the house. Today, one of the moms at play group said that she would love to be a fly in the wall in our house. What are my kids really like at home she wanted to know. Are you loud? Do you run around? She's under the faulty impression that you are always calm. That is so not true! You do things like run around the house with an umbrella...

You are still a great eater--you love spicy foods, especially fried chicken and Thai food. You eat more pizza in one sitting than I do. A couple of weeks ago when I asked you what your favorite food was, you told me it was soup. Last night, we had soup for dinner. You sat down and said, "I don't like soup." Before dinner was over, you said, "I love this soup!" It's official. I can't keep up with you!

You were so relaxed during your birthday celebration at play group yesterday. You told me that you needed to finish your crackers before you could blow out your candle even! You crack me up! I love you, little man. Happy birthday!


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Gyeongbokgung Palace

It's been quite a weekend. Friday night we had the big fancy, schmancy dinner hosted by one of our student's parents. I have their daughter in class this year, and she is such a great kid. I really like her! Remember the same dinner last year? I got a couple of pictures this year, but I have yet to upload them, of course.

Yesterday, we had a birthday party in the morning. It was quite a trek on the subway--more than an hour before we reached our stop. And then, we exited the station. And we really had no idea where we going after that. Suffice it to say, it was cold, we couldn't find the party, and things started to go downhill fast. Thankfully, we all made it home eventually. I'll just leave it at that.

It has been another busy week. Only the second time this semester that I have had to work THREE days in one week! Sheesh! It was overwhelming! It was fine, but I spent one entire day working on my day off, and the other day Cade and I had a play date, so there wasn't much spare time to speak of.

On the Saturday that my dad was here, we went to the biggest palace in Seoul, Gyeongbokgung. Somehow, we had managed to skip this palace up to that point. I think we've been to all four of the big ones in Myeongdong now. I think you have to pay a whole three dollars to get into this one. That includes the huge palace and the National Folk Museum.

Shortly after we arrived, it became clear that something was going on. We saw these guys dressed up and carrying flags, so we followed them.

They were doing the changing of the guard ceremony, which turned out to be very long.

It was cool, though. 

Finally, we were free to explore the palace. Which, of course, looks a lot like the other palaces!

And, just like every other Korean tourist spot, they have these cutouts for you to pose in. I love how much my kids love these incredibly tacky things!

My dad gave in to the kids' pleas, but he warned me that he did not want to see his pictures on the blog, so it's sadly lacking!

The kids were already cold and hungry, so we stopped at the gift shop for an overly priced muffin and hot chocolate.

We were only about halfway through the palace at this point, so you'll have to stay tuned for the next post. There were too many pictures to put them all in one post!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dad in Seoul

Why is it so hard to stay focused when you have a ton of work to do?! It's ridiculous! I just finished going through round four of thesis statements, but I still need to finish grading quizzes, entering extra credit, and answering emails. Those are just the things that I have to have done for school tomorrow. Yet, here I am, procrastinating. I have forbidden myself to look at Facebook or Pinterest on my school laptop for the last few weeks. I was starting to look way too much like my students as I flipped through spaces without even thinking.

About a week after Gretchen came through Seoul, it was my dad's turn. His layover was a bit more extended--by about 6 days. We were so excited to have him here! The only downside was that we were back in school by the time he came.

I actually had to work the day he arrived, and thought I tried to get the day off, we ended up having four people out of the high school for the first few weeks after the break. Needless to say, our one substitute was not going to be able to cover for me!

Eric was still able to get the day off, so he went to meet Dad. Because he had a longer stay (but still arrived around 6 am), we let him come into town on his own via the subway. I never really understood the whole story, but I know that they were meeting in the station where Dad had to transfer. I know that they both waited for a long time because for some reason they did not cross paths immediately. I'm still confused as to what happened there, but it worked out.

The three boys headed to a nearby jjimjilbang (remember my first experience with that?). They missed out on the actual hot tubs because they couldn't find them, so their experience was lacking that essential element, but there was still a lot to check out. Eric will have to go back another time.

I had the next day off, so Cade and I took Dad to school to check out our classrooms, the campus, and meet a few teachers and students. Then we took him to one of our favorite "fast food" places: a Turkish restaurant with great hummus, chicken kebab, and naan. (Who wouldn't come to Seoul for Turkish food?!)

Our next stop was the Seoul City Tour bus stop in Itaewon. We've only been on the tour a couple of times, so we couldn't remember exactly where the stop was. Eric was pretty sure it stopped outside the Starbucks (thankfully, I at least knew that it was the one near Noksapyeong, not Itaewon station). So, we headed to Starbucks to warm up and watch for the bus.

We waited and waited. I tried asking people and no one spoke enough English to help me. Eventually, we saw the bus coming. As it passed right by us in the left lane, we quickly realized we were not near the stop! We chased it down the street, but we definitely did not make it in time! It turns out it stops opposite the Hamilton Hotel. Good to know for the future.

So, we had another 20-30 minutes to wait for the bus. Keep in mind it was below freezing! Eventually, we made it onto the bus. It was so stinking crowded that there wasn't a seat for Dad to sit and listen to the tour (which you know was killing him!). The only benefit to the crowd, was that they couldn't ask us to pay!

We stopped at the Namsangol Hanok Village first (it was so warm the last time we were there!). It is different in the winter when they have ice sculptures of the hanoks, in addition to the real thing.

Dad and Cade enjoyed the challenge of trying to get these long darts into tall, thin cylinders--a traditional Korean game that I cannot name.

After about an hour, we headed back to the bus stop and some Koreans that were waiting with us shared their red bean fish-shaped pastries (bungeoppang) with us.

Our next stop was Seoul Tower, of course. I think this is about the sixth time we've been there, and I think we have reached the tower about six different ways now! It looked about the same to Cade and I as it always has!

Since we had yet to pay for our tour, we didn't feel guilty jumping off at the Hyatt and cutting our tour short. It was getting later and colder by the minute, and we had already had a pretty full day!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Gretchen in Seoul

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day! Our actual Valentine's left much to be desired. After working all day, I went to Costco in the afternoon with two other married men. Apparently their wives didn't have an exciting Valentine's either!

But, Eric texted me while I was gone and let me know that he'd secured a babysitter for the following evening, so we were able to go out on a date last night. We thought about heading back to On the Border. (Remember this story from last fall?) But, it's still so cold! So, we headed to a new "fancy" restaurant in Itaewon--one that we wouldn't bring kids to! It was Bulgarian--yet another new experience for us. It was really good, and we had a very nice evening.

These pictures are from the week after Thailand...while we were still on Christmas break...remember that? It seems so far away now! Anyway, my dad's wife, Gretchen, had to fly back early because she had to get back for school.

She had a twelve hour layover in Seoul, so we offered to show her around for a few hours. It was the first time that we had a guest and didn't go to the airport to pick her up. We gave her directions for how to get on the bus and where to get off, and then Eric waited at the Hyatt Hotel near our house for her to arrive (her flight arrived around 6 am, so we would have had to leave our house around 4 am to meet her!).

Waiting for her to arrive was definitely the most stressful part of her visit! The bus comes through about every 20 minutes, and I think Eric waited there for about two hours before she arrived because we wanted to make sure we didn't miss her. We were certain we'd lost her somewhere in Seoul! Who do you call when you've lost a human being?!

She finally arrived, never can tell how long it is going to take someone to get through immigration and customs at the airport! The kids were so excited to show her our apartment. Then we took her to the school and showed her our classrooms and she met some of our co-workers. We even had Korean BBQ for lunch.

It was FREEZING, of course; I think it was about 10 degrees that day (and she did not have cold weather clothing!), but we trekked up to Seoul Tower anyway. Can you come to Seoul and not look down from the tower?

That was really all we had time for, though. We dropped her back off at the Hyatt just a few hours later. She was on her way back to Seattle, and we were waiting for our next guest to arrive...

The sad thing for us is that it still looks and feels like it did in early January. There is still a lot of snow on the ground from last week. Our highs are in the low 30s (with lows around 5 in the middle of the day last week!). We're all starting to wonder if spring will ever arrive in Seoul!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wrapping up Thailand

This is officially the last post of Thailand: all of the random shots from my phone. The good news is I have pictures from those first couple of weeks after we got back. The bad news is I don't if I've taken pictures with the DSLR since my dad left Seoul. 

I was impressed by the Christmas decorations in Incheon Airport. I don't know why I was surprised, though. That's just how things are done at Incheon. Our plane hadn't even left the gate before Cade had his sunglasses on. He was ready for sun!

When we booked our flights (in July!), we had a four hour layover in China. In the months between, our flight changed and we ended up with a nine hour layover. Then our flight was delayed by two hours! 

Needless to say, we were all pretty antsy and miserable. There was only one, fairly small terminal for the international departures. We weren't willing to do the whole immigration thing just so that we could find better restaurants, so we settled for the interesting food we could find.

It's pretty incredible to me how far we've come in our experience of traveling by air. Two years ago, our children had never been on an airplane. Eric and I had only flown twice in our entire marriage. Now, I cannot even count the number of flights we've had in the last year (mind-boggling!). We've learned a lot!

Dad frequented one of the restaurants on the beach that had live music. The night that I went, he even agreed to sing on stage! It was pretty funny!

I think one of Cade's favorite parts was breakfast in the morning. He got fresh fruit and bacon every single day, alongside a bowl of cereal, of course!

It was so relaxing that most days we spent an hour or two just relaxing, drinking coffee, and chatting at the breakfast table. In five more months, we're headed to Hawaii...can't wait to see a warm beach again!

The sunset over China was beautiful on our way home. When we arrived at Incheon and got our messages, we had one from our nanny telling us that she'd been unable to get into our apartment when she'd stopped a few days before. So, it was the middle of the night, we were lugging bags through subways and then up and down the streets of Seoul on the way home--and all the while, we weren't sure that we were going to be able to get into our house when we arrived! It was stressful, but thankfully we had no problems getting in when we finally did arrive.

And, since this post is all pictures of Cade, I will end with the fact that during this trip, Cade finally decided that he is fully potty trained. He shared a room with my brother, and he was inspired. He decided that he is now officially too big to wear pull ups to bed. I remember a year ago when Eric and I finally decided that that his kid needed to wear underwear. I thought he would never be fully potty trained! He has definitely had a few nighttime accidents, but I'm thankful that he took the decision out of my hands...I may have never let him lose the pull ups! We are officially free of diapers! Yay!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Thankful for today

This is that time of year. The time of year when it feels as if it has been winter forever. We have to look back at old pictures (not these pictures!) to remember that it warms up here, and Cade asks "Remember when it was so warm that we could wear shorts?" I know Cade. I totally understand.

this is an old picture...ajummas making kimchi on our street
 Last week it reached 50 degrees and after getting 6 inches of snow on Sunday and another inch on Tuesday, we've had two days where it has barely gotten above 10 degrees. Will spring ever arrive?!

the snow back in December
We've been really busy with school again, too. Kennedy is back into swimming and Seoul Seekers, so she has activities until 4:30 two days a week. This week, we had the school play, so I was at school until almost 9:00 the other night.

which one of these doesn't belong? I was so shocked to see a cat on the bus that I had to take a picture!
Eric is back to finishing his Master's homework some time in the middle of the night after the rest of us have gone to bed.

coffee date a couple of weeks on a random Sunday afternoon
And poor Cade probably feels like he hasn't left the house in a month, because it's so cold I won't take him anywhere that we don't absolutely have to go!

homemade (large) taquitos and crock pot refried beans
 But, at the same time, at this time of year I'm feeling grateful. It was a year ago that I started covering a maternity leave that never ended. It was a year ago that I was amping up to go to Indonesia (and while it was an awesome experience!) and realizing that was another week that I was going to spending with 7th graders that I needed a break from!

sharks at the aquarium on Kennedy's field trip
I don't even know how I prepared to start working full time. I haven't even figured out how I'm going to manage working every day (though still part time) next year, and I've already experienced it once.

made homemade taco bowls...we were hungry for Mexican after Thailand!
Even with my subbing experience, I had no idea how hard it was going to be to take over for someone else and to try to emulate her style and lessons. What a joke. It turned out that I couldn't even do it (so, I guess it's a good thing she didn't come back!)

streaming the Super Bowl on our snow day last week
This year, I am so thankful for my own classroom. For great students. Even my worst days here are better than my good days in public school in the States. Sure, my students have their issues, but it's nothing like what I've dealt with in the past.

our snowman...he was over 5 feet tall!
The other day, I sat back and watched as one of my classes worked on figuring out what they should name the website that they are creating. I had assigned one of the students the task of naming it, and he wanted to include the class in the decision. I loved watching them (politely) argue with one another about why one name was better than another. And I love the reason that they finally chose the name they did. While they were totally unaware of it, it was a great learning experience for them and left me with a high for the afternoon.

snow in the trees in our apartment complex this week
So, I just wanted to remind myself at this time of year that this time of year really isn't so bad. That I am blessed with a wonderful family and a job I love, and that spring will arrive this year, too.

miscellany monday at lowercase letters
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