Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Melon

Okay, I don't think it's fair to call this kid a "bean" anymore. He's more like a melon! When I went to the doctor today, I got another level two ultrasound--the one where they measure everything and check on all of his organs, etc. She even told me that his palate is normal, not cleft, and I think this was the third time she had counted all of his fingers and toes. Are there any surprises when the baby comes out anymore?

Anyway, she didn't laugh at my weight gain this month; in fact, she said it was normal and on track. It was a relief, since I hadn't had a chance to calculate my weight gain yet. She did, however, laugh at the weight of this baby residing in my belly. The ultrasound tech had also commented that he was big, but still in the normal range. I couldn't help but wonder if he is just big compared to Korean babies, but when I converted 1.9 kg, I was shocked to find that he already weighs over 4 pounds!

Of course, I had to Google what other moms had experienced, especially when the ultrasound spits out that estimated due date based on baby's weight. Right now, I'm 31 weeks and 5 days and the ultrasound predicted 33 weeks and 6 days, but I know that's always been a bit off with all of my pregnancies. (I think I've always looked at that number and hoped it was the more accurate due date!) Anyway, it turns out that 4lbs 3oz is pretty normal for this age, so I guess I shouldn't be too shocked. It just seems so huge!

She said he's measuring at about 17 inches long, so nearly the length that he should be at birth. That explains why things are starting to get so uncomfortable! Unfortunately, he did flip in the last month, and he's currently got his rear end down and both his head and feet are resting just under my rib cage. Lovely. I'm trying not to worry too much about it; I know he has plenty of time to flip still, but this is new to me as both Kennedy and Cade stayed head down for the last couple of months.

I took a friend who is due the week after I am to this appointment, so that we could tour the labor and delivery facilities of the hospital. I'll admit that I'm not feeling much more comfortable after the tour! There is one room for labor and recovery, which is private, thankfully. But then, they take you to another room for delivery. Even though I wasn't in labor, this room was horrifying! I think the bed and stirrups have probably been there since 1977, and the practices seem similar, since the mom has to go into this room by herself--no husbands, no moms, nobody. Yikes! There has to be an alternative to now I have some work to do!

The back pain hasn't really improved, but I've figured out a couple of ways to avoid it--mostly avoiding driving and sitting. That makes life easy, right? My feet have started to hurt a bit more in the past week, but thankfully I still don't have too much swelling. Probably because I have to lay down to avoid the backaches! I'm so excited for September to be here, as it means that the temperature should start to drop below 80 every once in awhile, and I might actually leave the house again! Only two months until we get to meet this little guy. I s'pose that means we should name him?!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The "Water Park"

Things have been pretty relaxed around here on the weekends. Eric's baseball season doesn't start again until next weekend. And without me pushing to get us all out the door, we're pretty content to just hang out at home. This past weekend, though, I think I must have been feeling a bit lazy. Especially after barely leaving the house all week, I felt a push to get us all out of the apartment.

IPark is our neighborhood mall that seems to have a little bit of everything. EMart is there, which is where we tend to shop for toys, household items or sporting goods, and when we're really desperate, clothing items. The mall itself has some decent stores, and we've bought a few clothes there. There are dozens of restaurants, a movie theater, and a huge selection of furniture and electronics. It's kind of a one-stop shop type of place.

IPark also happens to be one of the places where we ice skating last winter, and in the summertime, they have a little water park where the ice skating rink is in the wintertime. Evidently, it's there every year, but I had never seen it, and we had never checked it out. Since it was the last weekend it was open, I decided we should go for it! (I have no idea why Korea insists that summer is over at the end of August when it's still 85 degrees, but all of the pools seems to close around this time.)

So, the kids changed, we had some lunch, and we were off. For some reason or another, I think that both Eric and I had it in our heads that this would be pretty easy. We knew exactly where it was, we knew how to park, we knew the basic requirements, so we figured it would be pretty simple--even for an expat.

But things are never as simple as they seem. After a very awkward conversation, we finally managed to pay for us all to get in rather easily, and it didn't even cost much--less than $20 for all four of us. Then, we found a place to sit--a table with chairs and an umbrella. (I knew what time it opened and that we wanted to get there as early as possible to avoid the massive crowds.) Eric found a place to change, and the kids were ready to go.

While Eric was changing, a man came over and told me in broken English that I had to rent the table and chairs. (That explains why all of the Korean women were sitting on mats on the ground!) As I walked around trying to figure out where to rent a table, I had already decided that any price was acceptable for me to have somewhere to sit--in the shade. I don't own a maternity bathing suit and wasn't willing to try the shorts and t-shirt route in the public swimming pool. I was going to need somewhere to sit!

It ended up costing $10 to rent the table plus a $10 deposit...apparently they were worried I might walk off with the table? When I returned, Eric and the kids headed for the pool. As soon as they stepped up to the deck, the lifeguard told Eric that he and Cade needed swim caps. We knew that Kennedy would need one, but we assumed that with their short hair, the boys wouldn't (and we don't have any for them anyway). So, he was back to get money to rent swim caps. At least I knew now where he needed to go for that.

When they were finally ready to go--we'd probably been there about a half hour by this point--they stepped into the pool and the lifeguards started blowing their whistles for everyone to get out of the pools. Eric was beyond frustrated by now. Apparently, they clean the pools every hour, so at ten to the hour, they clear the pools of people. That happened to be the moment they had walked into it, of course.

Though I think Eric would have been happy to leave at that point, they waited the ten minutes and then had their fun. Cade isn't much of a swimmer, especially when the water is cold, so after going down one slide, he took a break while Eric and Kennedy checked out all of the slides.

The two of them had a lot of fun while Cade and I did a lot of watching. I also spent some time working on shooting in Manual with something other than a stationary object (at least the light was consistent!). I got Starbucks to help me cool down, but it wasn't too long before I was uncomfortably hot and the kids started complaining about being hungry. It was time to go.

I think we only lasted about two hours of actual pool time, but it turned out for the best when it came to paying for parking. Typically we don't have to spend much to cover the parking fee, but the lady laughed when we showed her our pool bracelets and my Starbucks receipt didn't make a dent, so we ended up paying more than we wanted to for that.

Suffice it to say, we learned a lot of lessons on our first try. If only we were planning to go back at some point, it might all have been worth it! No, I'm just kidding. It was fun for Kennedy and an experience for all of us. Sometimes it's just hard for us to remember that even after living here for three years, trying something new can still make us feel like the ignorant expats that we are!

And just because I'm thinking about it, let me mention that Chuseok is coming up, which is a great time to visit Korea! It's a bit earlier this year--the first weekend of September, but it's usually cooled a bit by then. If you've been thinking about visiting, this would be a good year to do it!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

At Grandpa & Gretchen's

Well, we are officially in the school routine now. I think Eric is the only one still feeling a little bit off, as he adjusts to teaching blocks this year. The kids already have their internal alarm clocks adjusted and on Wednesday morning, they were both up 15 minutes before my alarm went off.

They are both really enjoying school so far this year, and Eric and I were just remembering how tough the beginning of school was last year for all of us with Cade at Crada. Even a couple of weeks into it, he just didn't seem to like school, and I worried that would always be the case, but he is loving Kindergarten!

On Monday, his teacher called just to tell me how impressed she is with him and what a great reader he is. As a teacher, I think to myself that with the big push on communication the school has this year, she is probably calling every parent. But as a parent, I was very proud of my little boy, especially when she said she asked the class if anyone could read the directions on the board (assuming that they couldn't), and Cade started reading them! If we're honest, I think Eric and I are a little worried that Cade won't be challenged this year and may get bored, but that just means that we have to be a little more diligent at home...and of course, work on the dreaded penmanship!

Kennedy has also had a great start to the school year. Last year, she had a rough couple of days at the beginning, which was mostly due to slippery, new school shoes that caused her to fall in the hallways [insert mom guilt here]. This year, not only is she really excited about her new teacher, but she has already developed a close relationship with one of the new staff kids who is in her class. Her parents also work in the middle school, so they're in close proximity after school, too. After last year when the middle school staff kids were mostly boys, I think she's relieved to have a girl around!

This week has brought gray and rain, but with that has come slightly cooler temperatures, which is nice. I've actually been able to function without air conditioning the majority of the day. But, the rain has prevented me from leaving the house much. Last week, I had plans every single day, but this week any plans that I had were cancelled because of the rain, and as a result I've barely left the house. Not my usual M.O., but it's working for me.

My photography class began this week, so that has been keeping me busy. I'm working on learning manual mode--a task I've attempted independently in the past, but it was too easy to just give up when it got hard. I'm learning a lot, but I'm also learning how much I don't know and am frustrated by my results much of the time. I suppose that's an important part of the learning process, though.

I can promise that while I have been taking pictures daily, you are not going to want to see the 800 pictures of Kennedy's dolls I have taken as I practice exposing for different skin tones in different light! So, instead I'm sharing more pictures from our summer, though they do emphasize another frustration I have with photography--handing off the camera.

After Evan and Jen headed back home, we headed north again. Well, actually, after a long day for me that began with a bridal shower and then a Carlson family party, Kennedy and I headed north for my aunt's birthday party to see my family. It's always hard to split time between families and to try to fit everyone in, so sometimes we have to split up or make tough decisions, always knowing that someone's feelings are going to be hurt.

The following day, Eric and Cade met us at my aunt's house where we were able to get together with more of my family to celebrate my grandpa's birthday. After that, we headed up to my dad's. We spent a lot of time just relaxing. Okay, I spent a lot of time relaxing while everyone else painted the shop and the outbuildings they have on their property.

The kids spent a lot of time running around outside with their cousins--something I'd been dreaming about for months! We ate lots of good food and re-connected with some of my old friends. We celebrated the 4th of July with a crab feast that my dad and Gretchen worked hard for, but I think it was worth it to them! Kennedy spent the evening cracking crab for her brother and grandpa, and they were both in heaven!

We talked about going on a lot of little hikes, but time kept escaping us, so we only ended up going on this one up the Oyster Dome. Strangely, it's less than ten minutes from my dad's house, and yet I had never done this hike. Not so strangely, I was not able to complete it this time.

With an almost 2,000 foot elevation gain in about 3 miles, my 6-month pregnant body wasn't up for the challenge, so after a slow first mile, the girls decided to turn around and get some lunch while the boys continued up. So, Eric took these pictures, and Auto worked better for him on this trip than on the hike he went on a couple of weeks later.

When my dad headed back to Alaska after a short three week overlap, we headed south again, back to Eric's mom's house. This was the last sunset out in farm country, and considering this is really the only place we see the sun set all year long, it made it hard for me to leave. But there was still more summer to be had and eventually I'll get around to posting it. Right now, I have to finish getting ready to head to the Back to School picnic that Cade has been waiting for all week!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Celebrating 10 Years

Our first week of school is always a short one, as we celebrate Korea's Liberation Day at the end of the week, and this year was no different. So, the kids only had three and a half days of school, but it's nice to ease into it.

That Thursday night was actually our anniversary, but good friends of ours were having a post-wedding shower, so went to that instead. We rarely celebrate our anniversary on the actual day, anyway. So, we went out the next night. Last year on our anniversary, Eric was starting to get sick and not eating much. Shortly after, we found out that he had pneumonia, so I don't think we ever really went out for our anniversary. Since he was making up for last year, and we were celebrating year 10, he decided to go all out!

He talked to one of our Korean friends (who is all about finding new and exciting restaurants!) and ended up with reservations to a nice what I will call "Western style Korean restaurant." I'm still not quite sure what it was. But, I do know that it was expensive, it was the first six course meal that I have ever eaten, and that we were both starving again when we finally made it home an hour later!

As always, it was an experience getting to the restaurant. I had originally asked Eric to find a place that we could drive to, but those are few and far between. So, we planned on a taxi instead, our only concern being how to communicate to the driver where we were going (since we didn't know anything other than the name of the restaurant). It turned out that he couldn't read the address from the website, as we'd hoped, so after a ten minute conversation and multiple phone calls, Eric decided just to follow the directions on the iPhone maps and tell the driver where to turn. It actually worked out pretty well, aside from how angry the driver was with us. It was just a short walk from where he dropped us off, through an alley, and a weird little gate. iPhone maps saved us again!

The dinner itself was pretty incredible, though we felt pretty out of our element. We started with abalone, followed by pistachio-crusted scallops, there was a salad, a pasta course, a main dish of beef tenderloin with roasted garlic and bleu cheese, as well as dessert and tea. It all looked and tasted amazing, but we were served the world's smallest portions in huge dishes!

The real fun began after we left the restaurant. Right away, we noticed that streets were closed and there wasn't much traffic. Soon, we were walking through throngs of chairs and people setting up what appeared to be a major event. It didn't take us long to remember that the Pope was in town, and clearly we were right in the middle of where he would be speaking the next morning. There was no way we were going to be catching a cab or a bus without a long walk. After walking about 45 minutes (by this time it was almost 10:00), we stopped to get something to drink and rest for a few minutes at Dunkin' Donuts. Both of us were hungry, but donuts didn't look appetizing. After walking another block, we finally came to an intersection with cross traffic and were able to find a taxi--what a relief! We finally made it home, and then Eric headed out to get kebabs from the late weekend night cart that was in our neighborhood. Another adventure that we won't soon forget!

These pictures are from our week spent with Evan, Jen, and Graham after we left Whidbey Island. I think I've already mentioned that I did a terrible job documenting the events of our summer with the camera, and this is a great example. We spent the week shopping, seeing relatives, playing Legos, watching the World Cup, and hanging out at the park, and I didn't document any of it! For our anniversary, Eric is paying for me to take an online photography class for the next month, so hopefully I'll start being a little better about documenting life again!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kennedy's First Day of Second Grade

I really can't believe that this girl is in second grade already!

Because she had so much time to think about who her teacher would be this summer, she did some calculating. We were pretty sure that she would get one of our friends as her teacher this year, because in the past the school has matched staff kids with someone they already have a relationship with, or with the teacher the older sibling had (in Cade's case).

The week before school started, though, Kennedy started to think about why that might not be such a good idea. If we knew her teacher well, then we would hear a lot about what and how she was doing in the classroom. She also knew some of this teacher's reputation in terms of what rules she's serious about.

Last year, Kennedy's teacher was new to the staff, but we didn't really know any of the 1st grade teachers well, so it didn't make much difference. She was also older; both of her kids are in college, and Kennedy came to realize that she tended to be a bit lax about things. She fought the important battles, but not the small ones.

Kennedy knew that there would be a new second grade teacher this year, and she decided that she was going to be her best bet. If she got the new teacher, then she wouldn't know all of the rules yet. She wouldn't know us well, and we wouldn't hear about everything that went on in the classroom.

And that is exactly what she got! She was so excited! And she's even more excited now that she's spent a few days with her. She seems fairly certain that her teacher is the most fun and the "coolest" of all the second grade teachers, so it looks like she's going to have a good year!

She thought I should take this picture, and I'm glad she did. There will come a day when we don't remember what the entry way to our apartment looked like, but we'll have this picture.

I already admitted that we didn't these pictures on Kennedy's first day of school, but we'll try to pretend that isn't the case, okay?

She was relieved to find that for the second year in a row, the door to her classroom was open, but her teacher wasn't inside when we wanted to get some pictures. (Moms can be so embarrassing!)

It has already been so interesting hearing their stories of what goes on at school from the different perspectives of these two. On the first day of school, they both went to the same assembly, but they had different stories to tell about what happened at that assembly.

And today, I got to see them both in the cafeteria having lunch (at different times) while I was volunteering as part of my new "mom" status.

My own week has been quite different, as well. I haven't had nearly as much free time as I would have expected, and I'm suddenly understanding what those retirees mean when they say they're busier than they would have ever thought!

I spent two days taking new spouses around to do some shopping, then had lunch with a friend one day, and today spent a few hours working at the school before having lunch with some of the moms and their crazy kids! It's been pretty good, in spite of the fact that I don't actually have a baby to take care of yet, and I'm feeling a little purposeless. (This girl is going to be so embarrassed of this picture...apparently it's her excited face. I would have skipped it, but I always get a picture of her in front of the classroom door!)

We have been having some internet issues at home, in that our internet isn't working at all, and it's a holiday weekend, so it won't be getting fixed any time soon, either. In other words, don't be surprised when if it gets quiet around here again!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cade's First Day of Kindergarten

Today was the day that Cade has been waiting three long years for. The day that he finally started school at YISS. His first day of Kindergarten!

Of course, he tends to be pretty casual about things. To talk to him, you would never know just how excited he was for today. In some moments, he even appeared a bit shy, but no one was fooled. It was clear by the big goofy grin on his face that he was excited!

His orientation was on Friday afternoon, so he got to visit his classroom, meet his teacher (again), and find his seat and school supplies.

He played it off like it wasn't a big deal to him, but he kept talking about sitting at the "orange" table all weekend. And he was certain that Saturday would be the day to go to school. And then Sunday would be the day to go to school.

Finally, Monday rolled around. And he slept in until almost 8:00! It was a good thing he didn't have to be at school until 8:30 for the Boo Hoo Breakfast.

One way that I could tell just how excited this boy was for school to start was his willingness to have these pictures taken. This kid is not a fan of being in front of the camera, but he was ready and willing when I asked them if we could take pictures on...ahem...Saturday.

(which means they're not actually walking to the school bus, though they could be!)

Cade is the only male staff kid in his grade level...still. There are four girls and Cade, so he happily sat with the girls to have his pancakes and bacon at breakfast.

And then we went down to the courtyard and took a few pictures before they were off to their first day of school!

It was a short one--a half day made shorter by the breakfast and prolonged parent drop off--but he still had plenty of stories to tell upon his return!

He was feeling a bit shy about getting any more pictures at school, so I let him get by with just this one outside his classroom. For now.

We didn't time things very well to get Kennedy's pictures in her classroom on the first day of school, so her teacher was at lunch when we went up. We'll have to try again tomorrow. (And I should really stop giving away my secrets!) But, I figured that Cade deserved a post of his own for his momentous occasion. So proud of this kid today!
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