Saturday, October 26, 2013

Conferences & Maui Wrap-up

Thankfully, it has been just a bit less busy in the past week or so. Last weekend, Cade was sick for the entire weekend. The highlight of my birthday was getting out of the house in the afternoon to sit in a coffee shop that had all of the doors open, so that I could catch up on my reading for class. It was a beautiful day, and I was thankful for the fresh air that I hadn't experienced since early Friday afternoon.

The beginning of the quarter is always a little stressful--there is a lot of prep work to do--but it was so much nicer than the previous week! We only had four day of class and then nearly a twelve hour day of back to back conferences. We were exhausted by Friday night. 

Conferences with Korean parents are very different than what I am used to. Of course, much of my experience comes from meeting with parents at Sylvan. The meeting usually lasts between 15 and 20 minutes, and the parents do much of the talking. Sometimes, it seemed like more of a therapy session than anything else. The parents want to talk about their frustrations with their child, with the teacher, with the school, maybe even education in general.

This is not the case with Korean parents--even the ones who speak English fluently. Last year, when I began my conferences by asking a question to get them talking, I got a lot of responses about how they wanted to hear from me. It seemed that they wanted me to be that go-between, so that they didn't have to worry about actually talking to their child. This year, I told my students that their homework was to go home and talk to their parents about what was going on in class. Their parents' homework was to come in and be able to tell me something, anything.

I had an alarming number of parents tell me that yes, they were pretty sure their child had tried to tell them something, but they weren't listening. Seriously. They admitted to it. Suffice it to say, conferences are interesting. I do all of the talking--they have no questions, no agenda, which I suppose makes it easier. Honestly, it's not too hard. It's rare that I have an angry or rude parent. Most of them don't challenge how I do my job at all. They're concerned over whether or not their children have high As (an A- doesn't always do it) and how to prepare them for the SAT. That's about it.

Obviously, I am over-generalizing here. Some parents are legitimately concerned about their children's futures and others are just fulfilling the duty that is parent-teacher conferences. I am your parent, therefore I am going to check in with your teacher (just like we do for our kids). Either way, I'm glad they're over and I won't have to spend my day doing them again until February.

While we were in our long day of conferences, Cade got to go to his Halloween party at school and Kennedy spent the day with one of our high school neighbors. Cade was thrilled to dress up as Batman, thanks to friends who happen to have costumes hanging around. Kennedy enjoyed spending her day doing little crafts and getting treats with Kathryn.

On Saturday, Eric had a baseball game, of course. The kids and I decided to go out for brunch for my belated birthday celebration. Kennedy ordered the biggest plate of chocolate chip French toast that I have ever seen! They were both beyond thrilled by the experience! In the evening, we finally went out for my birthday celebration dinner, to a new Southern barbecue restaurant in Itaewon. It was pretty good!

I really planned on taking pictures this week, but it didn't happen. The leaves are still just starting to change around here, and Eric has been busy with baseball, so we still haven't taken our family photo that is becoming an annual tradition. Hopefully, we'll be able to make it a priority next weekend, though with playoffs for both teams beginning, everything else takes a backseat. 

I think this may be my last round of Hawaii pictures--all from my phone, obviously. Here's the recap from the top down:
Kennedy at the park in Evan and Jen's neighborhood :: Eric and I at the Maui Brewing Company tour sunset from Halealaka :: the kids enjoying homemade popsicles in the kitchen window
checking out a new beach :: baseball in the park :: preparing to watch the outdoor movie 
:: enjoying the outdoor movie--UP :: 
first experience with Hawaiian shave ice after an afternoon at the beach :: another beach day 
:: sunset dinner date night with good Indian food ::

Here's a completely random fact for the day: I was apparently published in the Stanwood/Camano Crab Cracker, which is a little publication printed in the Stanwood/Camano area. I used to peruse them every time I went somewhere in Stanwood and had to wait. They leave copies in the lobby at Sylvan, so I used to read through the calendar of events to find out what stuff was going on locally. One of my blogger buddies from Marysville happened to pick it up (and read all the way to page 39) where she recognized our picture and blog post. Apparently, my little blog is easier to find than I thought.  

I am also discovering that students are finding my blog at a much more alarming rate than before. Already, this school year I have had more than one student say that they have found it--that is not normal. It doesn't change what I post, but it does make me a little more aware that maybe it's not just our family reading what I write!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Many people wonder why we need a car in a city that has such great public transportation, and so I just want to tell you how incredibly thankful I have been in the past few months for our car.

I'm thankful when it's 90 degrees out and I can hide from the sun. I'm thankful now that it's down into the 50s in the morning.

I'm thankful when it's raining and I don't have to rely on an umbrella to protect me right before I go to school. I get wet enough in the dash from the car to the bus and back again. I can't imagine how bad it would be if I had to walk Cade up the hill to get on the bus and then walk all the way down the hill to try to catch a taxi in the rain. (Not to mention how difficult it can be to get a cab when it's raining anyway.)

I'm thankful that I can count the number of taxi rides I have taken since our arrival in Seoul in July on one hand. Considering the fact that without a car, I could be taking taxi as many as four times a day, I am beyond thankful that I haven't had to do this. The stress from finding one when you need one and the headaches I get from crazy drivers and smoky cars are enough to make me wish I never have to take another taxi.

I'm thankful when I have soccer practice. I can make it home to change my clothes, pick up Cade, and back in time to get a few more papers graded before practice starts. At the end of the day, when all of the buses home are long gone, I don't have to try to find a cab, and I can even give somebody else a ride home!

I'm thankful when I can give another teacher a ride home, save them a few steps or a taxi ride. So many people have offered me (or us) rides in the past two years, and I'm so grateful that I can return the favor to singles who don't need a car or couples who are still holding out.

I'm thankful that I don't have to take the school bus to Costco on Thursday afternoons. I'm grateful for the years that I took advantage of that service, and I'm thankful that it's available to me when we're so busy that it makes the most sense. But, I'm so thankful that neither I nor Kennedy have thrown up on the way to Costco in the past six months. I'm so thankful that I don't have to deal with the stress of Costco compounded by the one hour time limit that is imposed by the driver and fellow shoppers. I'm so thankful that we can drive to pick up our groceries now!

I'm thankful when we have a lot of stuff to bring to school. In the past, it has sometimes taken us a week to get everything we need to school because we just don't have enough hands to carry it all onto the bus. We may have to take several trips from the parking garage up to the classroom, but that's no problem compared to several trips home!

I'm thankful when we have to carry suitcases. There are few things more stressful than trying to find a taxi for a family of four when everyone has a suitcase. Most taxi drivers will take one glance at us and speed right by. When one finally does stop, there is the rush to try to fit everything in followed by the rush to get everything out again. In our own car, we can stack those suitcases wherever we want!

Our car isn't particularly photogenic--though we did get a car wash yesterday--so, I thought I would share these pictures of the sunset our last night on Maui, instead. We attempted a silhouette picture, with help from Evan. The only view of the sunset that we get around here has a lot of buildings and power lines in it--and we have to drive to find even that!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week Within Walls

Obviously, things have been pretty busy around here. Honestly, I just couldn't justify spending the time needed to write a blog post--long or short. I also still have lots of pictures to edit--all of those girls' soccer pictures that I'm supposed to share with parents and Kennedy's birthday party pictures, too. I haven't touched them, though.

Last week wrapped up with Fun Fest (where I did not take one single picture) and my girls soccer team winning first place in the All Star Tournament. This was the last week of the quarter, which always means a lot of grading and of course, preparation for the next quarter. I suddenly realize all that has to be done before we start our next book. I should have spent a lot of time re-reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, but that didn't happen, either. No, I have spent every spare minute grading sonnets. And exams. And blog posts. Oh yes, it's been fun!

I finally finished all of my grading today, though. Only a few more little late assignments trickling in, and then I can upload my grades and put in comments--all right under the wire of the due date, just like my students.

And, of course, last week was the week that Eric was gone for his Week Without Walls with the middle school. Four days with 250 middle school students doesn't sound like fun to me, but I think he enjoyed it. Thankfully, the kids and I managed within our walls, though it was pretty tough to get the work done that I was supposed to be doing. I ended up staying up late to work, naturally.

Our week ended with a professional development day where I was supposed to finally have a chance to work for a few hours. We'd gotten Kennedy a babysitter for the morning during our meetings and then she ended up with a pretty fun play date in the afternoon with one of her classmates. Cade was supposed to spend the day at school.

Around 10:30 in the morning, while I was in one of my meetings, Cade's teacher called and said that he had a fever. She said she wanted to give him some Tylenol and that she would call me back if it didn't go down--this was a much more relaxed approach to a fever than I had previously experienced in Korea. An hour later, she called back and asked me to come pick him up. Poor kid.

I'm not sure that I told the whole story about our first drive to Cade's school, but suffice it to say, I knew I couldn't find it again--easily. Luckily, it was right around our lunch break that the school called, so I had Eric come with me. This allowed him to read the iPhone map to me while I drove--it's really quite different from what we're used to in the States. We can't read signs and when we can the pronunciations on the phone tend to be different than the signs. Even the signs themselves are placed where you really can't predict which exit you're supposed to take until you're passing it. This is a problem.

Anyway, we managed to find it without much trouble--we took a different route from last time, so I'm still not sure how to get there. Because there were two of us, I was able to stay in the car while Eric ran up to get him. This is a real life-saver here where it's impossible to find a legitimate parking space. I'm sure the school has parking, but they haven't communicated to us where we might find it. We got the boy and took him back to school with us where he laid on bean bags in Eric's classroom for a couple of hours until I was ready to go home. Then he slept from 2:30 in the afternoon until 7:00 the next morning. He still hasn't totally recovered, but he doesn't have a fever anymore, thankfully.

This pictures in no way represent our week here in Seoul. It is starting to legitimately cool down now--I need to put away the shorts and get out the sweaters this weekend, I think. These pictures are from our last afternoon in Hawaii. Kennedy had been wanting to take some pictures of the flowers, so we walked down the street from Evan and Jen's for a few minutes to document them. What I wouldn't give for some relaxation on the beach right now!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Oh, Korea

Today is one of Korea's national holidays (what they call a "red day"). It's sort of like a bank holiday. Schools are closed, but pretty much everything else is open. Our school doesn't observe all of the red days, but Cade's school sure does, which means I had to take the day off to hang out with him. I decided that since we've been so busy every weekend and every evening that I would try to drive to Costco by myself. "Try" being the key word. (The pictures in this post are totally unrelated to today!)

I did start my day off right with a homemade pumpkin spice latte!
Our trip began fairly uneventfully. We pulled out of our complex and drove up the hill. There we were stopped by a guy with an orange wand, who told me, in his broken English, that they were "shooting." No surprise. It's rare that I can drive a road here without seeing someone out with a camera. It was a little more serious than that this time, though. By the time they let me drive up the hill there were five or six cars behind me, too. Just stopped. In the middle of the road. Oh, Korea.

I had my map on my phone open next to me. I knew about the first mile. And I knew that shortly after that was where we had gone wrong the last time, so I was on the lookout. I nearly made the same mistake again because there are two signs that say "Yangjae" and that's all I knew to look for. This time, I made the right decision, though. I was confident. It was going to be easy from here.

I was wrong. Like I said, all I knew was "Yangjae," so when I saw the sign for Yangjae station, I figured that must be it. I remembered that we weren't exactly sure where the exit was the last time, but there was a long line, so we just got in it. We're always headed where everyone else is. There was no line this time, but I figured it was just because it was earlier in the day.

I could tell immediately when I got off the exit that it was the wrong one, and I figured I had probably gone too far. Of course, I wasn't sure how to get back on. On and off ramps are not as easy to find here as we're used to in the States. I thought maybe I should glance down at the map. As it turned out I was able to see that I hadn't gone far enough, and it was easy enough for me to get back on the highway (thank you, Lord).

A few moments of peace before Kennedy's birthday party. Grading quizzes while I waited for Cade's bus.
Now I would recognize the exit for sure, I thought. Except that every time I refreshed my "place" in my iPhone maps, it said I wasn't to the exit yet. Then, all of a sudden, it said that I had past the exit. They say that Yangjae is just outside the city, but it's kind of like how University Village is just outside Seattle. You are definitely not outside the city. By this point, though, I had passed a rest area (remember those shopping malls along side the freeway?), so I knew I had gone too far. Back to the iPhone maps I went. Thankfully, it told me that I could take the next exit, do a little u-turn, and get back on again. The only problem was that I was going to have to pay tolls going both directions. Whatever. It was worth it at that point. The alternate route without tolls was much longer. As it turned out, the toll booths weren't in operation. I was able to get through and turn around easily without having to pay for it. Thank you, Lord!

As we headed back, I asked Cade what he wanted to do. After all of this craziness, I would have been content to give up, but he didn't want to. I was not confident in the directions that the phone gave me, and I was even less confident as I got the highway driving over pink and green lines that I had never seen before. Nor did I understand why it was having me get on another highway, but I did it anyway. Things got interesting when the highway split because of course, I wasn't able to read the directions very closely while driving. I made a decision that took me through a tunnel and shortly after we left it, Cade announced that he saw Costco. I couldn't see it, and I didn't believe him, but eventually he explained to me where it was. I knew where I needed to go to get there now, but of course, I couldn't. I couldn't go straight. I couldn't make the left I needed to. It was ridiculous the alleyways I ended up driving through to get in line to park. Oh, Korea.

my Friday evenings have been spent at soccer practice down by the Han River
We finally made it, having to park on the roof because it was so busy. Oh well. We got our groceries. We ate our lunch. I was only slightly worried about having enough cash to pay for everything and knowing how to get home.

this is the last week of soccer, thankfully!
I had plenty of cash and we made it all the way back up seven stories of escalators and ramps pushing a heavy cart. We found the car again. We had room (unlike last time when the trunk was full of stuff and we completely forgot about it!) for everything. Somehow, I spilled my entire Pepsi all over my foot as I was unloading the cart. I needed new Toms, anyway, but it was still pretty gross. I guess I could do that in any country.

The problem began when it came time to actually leave the parking space. I thought that I had been so brilliant earlier. I had actually remembered how impossible it is to load your groceries when you back into the parking space, so I had pulled in forward. The parking spaces here are SO incredibly small that I would have had to carry my Costco bags over the car in order to put them in the trunk. Obviously, they were really heavy (how else would I have managed to spill an entire drink?!), so I couldn't have done it. I parked in a spot where I could back up as far as I thought I would need to in order to get out of the spot. Seriously. I was planning ahead. What I did not plan on was the person who decided to create his own space behind me. Not right behind me; he did leave some room for me to back out, but you should have seen it. What a joke. It must have been a 22-point turn. (And did I mention it was at least 80 degrees up there? I was sweating. And angry.) I finally made it out, though.

We made it home uneventfully. I gave up on iPhone directions because I didn't like either of the routes that it wanted me to take. Apparently, my confidence had built back up by then. Must have been my ability to back out of that space. Seriously, give me parallel parking any day. I can handle the world's smallest spot on the first try.

I am extremely grateful for our car, in spite of the stress today. If you had told me two years ago that I would still be telling stories about our trips to Costco, though, I may have cried. How can it still be so eventful?! Oh, Korea.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Kennedy's Birthday

Kennedy really struggled with the decision of what to do for her birthday this year. I told her that I had made arrangements to skip out on soccer practice, so that I could celebrate with her (which was actually much harder than it sounds, but it all worked out). So, we gave her the option of going out to dinner or picking a meal for me to make for her. She said the decision was "impossible."

She was still struggling the night before with it. But, she finally managed to decide to go out for Thai food (because, she noted, "my birthday is not on a Monday when Wang Thai is closed") and then to come home for brownies with chocolate and caramel sauces.

Unfortunately, our afternoon and evenings always seem to go by much faster than one would think, so we had to rush through things a bit, but we got it all in.

She got to Skype with Lidi before leaving school and then with Uncle Evan and Aunt Jen at home while she opened one present before dinner. Then we walked into Itaewon for dinner and home again.

I had to leave Eric in charge of the camera and presents while I got her dessert ready, hence the flash. She was very excited to get some new clothes for fall (thanks to aunts and uncles and great-grandparents for those!). The present she opened before dinner had clothes in it, and she insisted on changing before we left.

She was thrilled to enter into the world of American Girl with her first new doll in years (thanks to Lidi!). I wonder if "Baby Jane" has finally reached retirement age. She has carried that doll with her everywhere for the past five years. Will Sage be able to replace Jane? Only time will tell.

She also got her first "big" Lego from us, so Legos have taken over our living room all week! I do love watching how creative they can be with Legos. Cade was playing with them before they were even out of the box!

And while her brownie was not as beautiful as the restaurant presentation, it still tasted pretty good and she was happy! We have one blessed 7 year old girl!

We have another busy week ahead of us, starting with Kennedy's birthday party tomorrow after school. This is my last week of soccer, thankfully, but it is an especially busy one. As a matter of fact, the next couple of weeks bring a whole new meaning to "busy." This is the last full week of the quarter, which means an incomprehensible amount of grading for me (I'm secretly hoping the anticipation will be worse than the reality), compounded by the fact that Eric will be gone all of next week with the middle school. So, if anybody is interested in flying to Seoul next week to help me juggle kids and school, that would be wonderful! (And of course, don't be surprised if it's even more quiet than normal here. Sorry.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy Birthday Kennedy

Dear Kennedy,

Today, my precious daughter, you turn seven years old!  Please forgive me, I am not nearly as eloquent as your mother, but I will do my best to describe for you how much I love you and how proud I am of you here on your special day.

Of course, you have grown so much this year! You have lost your first teeth!  You look so grown up in your clothes it almost scares me.  When I sort the laundry sometimes I have trouble telling the difference between your shirts and your mother’s!  Mostly, however, I have noticed how much you have grown as a person: emotionally, spiritually, and academically. 

You are so much more confident this year.  I see you being kind to your friends at school.  So often you defer to your little brother to make him happy (even when your parents don’t make you).  You carry on conversations with older kids and adults.  You use so many big words…you must be your mother’s daughter! I can’t believe how quickly you have picked up reading!  It seems like just the other day we were painfully sounding out three letter words and now you are reading full books with no help!  I love how you do the voices!

Kennedy, your prayers touch my heart!  God will always love to hear from you, no matter how old you get, but I have to imagine that he has a special place in his heart for the prayer from little girls.  You are so genuine and thankful in your prayers.  Only when you are a parent yourself will you understand how strong my desire is for you to have a personal relationship with Jesus. 

This year you have started to develop some passions.   Whenever other people ask me if I want my children to follow in my footsteps and play baseball, I try to convey to them that my desire for them is not so much that they share in my passion for baseball, but that they develop a passion of their own.  This year has been so exciting for me to see you develop a love for art and for swimming.  I love how you pay attention to the details in your art and how you can be so creative and come up with new ways to express your ideas! 

You have such a big heart for other people Kennedy, and I love just how concerned you are for the well being of others.  I love how we still cuddle at night and read together, but I know those days are slipping by quickly.  Tonight at your birthday dinner I made a joke and you just rolled your eyes and told me I was sooo goofy.  You won’t be my little girl forever, but I will always love you and be here for you. 

Happy Birthday Kennedy Wennedy!

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