Saturday, December 28, 2013

In Memoriam

This is one Christmas that will not soon be forgotten, though our Christmas day was not particularly memorable. We spent the entire day on the floor putting together Legos. We didn't even eat. The kids had cereal before finally getting to bed around 9:00, and we had leftover chicken. What a hostess I am.

This Christmas won't be memorable because I neglected to cook a big dinner, though. This will be the one that we remember because we lost one of the most amazing women I've ever known. My grandmother was one of the most caring, sweetest people I've ever known. I was blessed to actually be related to her, but there were a lot of people who were blessed just by knowing her.

I have so many memories of her, and I cannot believe that I will never see her again. That we will never again walk through her door to find her baking or stuffing tins with one of the many cookies that earned her the name "Grandma Cookie."

I'm finding it difficult to describe what it's like to lose a a relative while overseas. A year ago I couldn't have thought of a single reason why I would miss the funeral of someone so important to me. This past summer when she started to allude to the fact that she wouldn't see us again, I didn't believe her. I didn't even think about what it would be like to come back solely for her funeral.

A couple of months ago when she started to get sicker, I thought that it would be too tough to go back for it. Eric couldn't handle all the run around with the kids without me. Then, as things became more imminent, I realized that I couldn't not go home for it. My family is too important to me to miss this. I talked to my principal, and I was on high alert for the few weeks before Christmas break. Always had sub plans written in the back of my head.

Then my brother arrived. The very next morning I got an email I didn't want. We needed to discuss what our plan would be if she passed away while he was here.

It was not an easy decision. One that involved a lot of pieces--plane tickets, time changes, kids, Christmas. I won't go into details, but I can't emphasize enough how difficult the decision was. In the end, we are confident that our family understands and that each and every one of them know how much we love them and wish we could have been there during this time. We also appreciate the lengths they've gone to include us as much as possible in the events at home. More than anything, we know that Gram is looking down on us and is happy that we're together.

Grandma Cookie created and nurtured an incredible family and for that I will always be grateful. I remember as a kid, I would watch our family and wonder how she put up with us. She was always the calm amidst the storm. Even at the end, she handled everything with grace and dignity, adamant that it was her time to go even if we weren't ready to let her go. She will always be greatly missed. My grandpa wrote some wonderful words about her here

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Kennedy's Christmas Program

Things have been pretty busy around here!

Eric keeps talking to people about these pictures as if they have seen them, though, so I feel as if I should show them to you!

This past week was full of immense amounts of essay grading and midterm study sessions. I'm almost done with those essays, but I've barely started on the 80 tests I have to grade.

Nearly two weeks ago now, Kennedy had her Christmas concert. It was three Kindergarten classes and all four first grade classes. It may have been the most adorable thing I've ever seen!

It's Ms. Weir's first year as the music teacher for K-3, and she did an amazing job putting together this program. The kids did a great job, too!

There are videos to be seen, but I have neither uploaded my own, nor gotten the links from others. So, in spite of Eric's promises, you're out of luck in that area! Kennedy did do a great job of posing with her friends, family, and teachers after the show, though.

My brother arrived on Thursday night, after having received his passport just the day before he hopped on the plane. I think we were all quite surprised that he actually made it on time!

Our first day was spent driving to Cade's school to drop off the tuition we'd forgotten earlier, meeting people at school, lunch in Itaewon, and kalbi for dinner at our favorite neighborhood place.

On our first day of vacation, we got up early and experienced Korean Costco on Saturday. Nothing like it! Then we trekked to Dongdaemun to have lunch at a Nepalese restaurant with a friend. It was delicious! The afternoon was spent putting together Legos and our evening ended with spaghetti and the kids' first introduction to The Santa Claus.

Our goal is to get out of the house and into the cold today for a couple of other Korean experiences. It's almost noon now and we're not even dressed, so we'll have to see how much we get accomplished today...but I'm sure the day will end with some nice, warm dolsot bibimbap!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Dinner

This week began with the YISS Christmas dinner at the Seoul Millenium Hilton, which is quickly becoming a tradition. We also had Kennedy's Christmas program at school, which was very impressive. I've been feeling like every day is Friday since Monday, so it's a relief that tomorrow finally is Friday. That has been compounded by the fact that all week we've gotten little dustings of snow. Maybe a half inch every day, but it never amounts to anything. The snow day we all hope for this time of year continues to evade us.

This week I have been continually and immensely grateful for our car. Evening treks in the winter are tough--especially on the kids--so it's been really nice knowing that we can drive many places.

It has also been nice knowing exactly where we're going and what to expect this year. Being able to drive to the Hilton at the last minute when it was raining, and we didn't want to mess with hiking up the hill in dresses and heels in the rain was such a relief!

Unfortunately, I didn't do as good of a job getting pictures of us this year.

One of our staff members volunteered again this year to take pictures of everyone, so I didn't bother to hand off my camera to anyone. Not brilliant, I suppose, since we never took a family picture in the fall this year, either.

The kids were obviously pretty shy when we asked them to stand up there by themselves to get their pictures taken!

By the time Kennedy's concert rolled around, Cade wasn't even willing to stand in front of a camera, so I guess I should be grateful for these pictures!

Kennedy, on the other hand, is more than willing to pose for me...

The week began with pictures of these three girls in front of the Christmas tree at church. Somehow, their dresses coordinated and had very similar styles at every event this week. 

We even tried to get a picture of all of the staff kids together. Unfortunately, even at its widest, my lens couldn't get all of them in. Kennedy is barely in this shot--and looking at someone outside of it--in the bottom righthand corner. She's got one of our friend's sons on her lap--what a goof!

Apparently, she was in the mood for pictures that night, because about 10 minutes later she came and got me (and my camera) to take a picture with Kyla, one of our neighbors and one of my students. It was pretty cute!

This has obviously been a really busy week. My students have turned in a lot of little end-of-the-quarter assignments, leaving me with a lot to grade and enter. And, of course, I still have a huge pile of essays to grade, but Eric says he's been waiting for this post, so here it is!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Counting Down to Christmas Break

The busy season has officially begun around here, complete with colds to round things out. Midterm grades were due two weeks ago. Essays were due last week in my classes. My students had tests this week.

Next week are in-class essays and presentations. We also have Christmas programs next week. And then midterms. Oh my. The countdown to Christmas break is on.

I was lamenting on Instagram this morning that the only thing worse than not being able to prioritize what to grade first, is the guilt that I feel about the work that I'm not grading now. While I'm in the middle of grading tests (because I have to pass those back before midterms), I feel guilty about the fact that I'm not getting any essays done. Something's gotta give.

On top of it all, I have one of the worst colds I've ever had. Our colds this summer were miserable because it was summertime and because they lasted so long. This cold is painful, though. I don't think I've ever had so much sinus pressure in my face before. There were a few days this week where my students looked at me and said I should go home. (So did my principal, for that matter.) It was a good thing I didn't have to do much actual teaching this week.

Thankfully, I'm already feeling a bit better than I was at the beginning of the week, and everyone else seems to be fairly healthy.

There are only two more weeks of school (counting midterms, which are really short days for me!), and it will all get always does!

The kids are also religiously counting down the days until my brother gets here and until Christmas Eve. It's an exciting time of year for those without deadlines looming! I suppose we should have some sort of Advent calendar going, but instead it has been good mental subtraction practice for Kennedy.

These are obviously some old pictures--there are no colorful leaves to be seen at this point in the year! It has been a warm week, though--in the mid-40s every day!

And now, I had better get back to those papers! If I feel guilt even while grading, you can imagine how I feel while blogging!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend

This year we hosted our own Thanksgiving dinner. I was much more optimistic about it earlier in the week before the colds hit us hard, but I medicated and stayed on my feet all day, so that I wouldn't be tempted to slow down, and everything turned out pretty well. Thanksgiving is the one holiday that we celebrate after you do--we don't get Thursday off, so we celebrate on Friday.

Thankfully, Costco has continued to carry artichoke hearts, so I was able to make my favorite artichoke dip after Eric managed to find sour cream on the third try. We also had baked brie with persimmon sauce and pomegranates.

Mashed potatoes are easy enough. I tried a new recipe for sweet potato casserole that turned out to be the favorite amongst our guests. I'll admit it was pretty good! We even managed a green bean casserole with ingredients from one of the foreign food marts.

Our turkey was ridiculously expensive, so it was a good thing I didn't mess it up. In fact, it tasted pretty good, as well. The only disappointment was the lack of real stuffing. This was the first year that I hadn't brought back a bag, so we were stuck with Stove Top--it was better than nothing, I suppose.

I refused to bake dessert, so I sent Eric to Costco to pick up a pumpkin pie. He came home with cheesecake--Korean cheesecake. I wasn't going to have this elaborate meal end with bad cheesecake, though, so I candied some walnuts (turns out pecans are hard to find when you don't know what you're looking for) and melted some caramel to drizzle over the top.

We had a couple of new teachers over for dinner--they're actually the two youngest staff members--so they were thankful for a home-cooked meal. I'm sure that it wasn't exactly as their moms would have made it, but they seemed grateful. It was fun to see the shock on their faces with every item we pulled out. I remember feeling the same wonder our first year--where did these people get this food?!

On Saturday, after cleaning the house (again) and finishing the dishes from the night before (we were just too exhausted from our illnesses to do them before bed), we put up the Christmas tree.

The kids did almost the entire thing by themselves while I drank a homemade caramel sauce latte. Yum.

I put the lights on for them and then they hung all of the decorations.

I still haven't had the energy to move some of the ornaments to the top half of the tree.

Afterwards, we introduced them to A Christmas Story for the first time while we drank hot chocolate.

And then it was time for bed--which is where I'm headed right now. In spite of feeling miserable with this cold, it was a nice weekend spent relaxing with our family. It was nice to see so many of you on Skype (okay, Eric did, while I cooked), but it's not quite the same. We miss each and every one of you and hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!
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