Saturday, August 29, 2015

Our First Week Home

We're at that point now where things are starting to settle down, and I keep thinking that the next week will be a little less busy. This week we had the kids' open house, Eric was gone Thursday night, we had friends and a new staff family over for dinner on Friday. Yesterday, was baseball and catching up on some chores. Today is church, a birthday party for the kids, and dinner with Eric's 8th grade team. So, this coming week has to be a little less busy. I think. I hope.                              

Except that the kids start their after school activities this week (Cade is so excited for soccer! And Kennedy is a little wary of basketball, but excited about origami (oy!).) Eric has the middle school open house, too. On top of the regularly scheduled program, we should have something going on every afternoon or evening for the remainder of the quarter (except Fridays!). So, yeah, it sounds like things will be calming down, right? This week for sure!

We've both been trying to be a little more active this year, and Eric has been wanting to start biking as a family now that the kids are a bit older. So, I've been going to Zumba once a week at school, and Eric has been playing basketball in the mornings before school. Eric and I have also bought bikes for ourselves, and we're working on figuring out how to get that into the routine. So far, Eric has been riding to school a few times a week in the morning, and I've been trying to go out once or twice a week in the evenings. Obviously, with one or both of us gone several evenings a week, that's been difficult.

Unfortunately, with bikes comes a bunch of other little things we've had to buy...helmets, a gel seat cover so that one can actually sit on that stupid bike seat, lights. And yesterday, I ordered a bike trailer for Reece. Yet another expensive hobby! I think once that trailer arrives, though, we'll finally be set. I guess the kids and I will be going for bike rides until baseball season ends, though. I'm kind of excited for us to all be able to get out of the house to do something active.

This year, our flight arrived earlier in the day which resulted in a little less traffic, but it also meant we still had half the day before we could go to bed! My favorite flights land at about 4pm Seattle time because after the terrible traffic on the ride home, we can basically eat dinner and go to bed. Since I don't sleep much (at all) on the flight, I'm so ready for bed when we arrive!

With an earlier arrival time, though, Eric was immediately car shopping. Of course, it was necessary, so the extra time was good, as he was able to check out and eliminate a couple of cars on the first day. We bought the biggest, ugliest, oldest SUV we could find. In fact, it's the same year as the car I drove in high school and college. Ha! At any rate, our goal was to find something cheap that would hold all of us and our stuff and last the summer, so it fit the bill. Except, we did have to buy a bike rack...

It's ridiculous to me how little I remember these days. I think the "mommy brain" must be exponential based on how many times you've been pregnant and how many children you have. I'm so thankful for good phone cameras these days, because I don't seem to remember anything unless there is photo documentation that it happened. And what with carting a baby around all the time these days, the dslr spends way too much time sitting in the trunk of the car. (My intentions are always good, but when it comes time to pack the diaper bag and the stroller, it just doesn't make the cut!)

I don't even remember how much time we spent with Evan and Jen and Graham...five days? seven? And I have photo documentation of two of those days. Two. So, guess what? I remember two things that we did with them!

I remember that we went to Point Defiance Zoo (and I'm guessing we had lunch with Gigi at the Pine Cone after that), and I remember that we went on a hike with Al and Nancy. After our hike, we had lunch at Behr Pharmacy in Steilacoom (good food, slow service), and this was especially memorable because of the bear-face pancakes (yes, I have a bad picture on my phone that has helped me remember this!).

Well, I wanted to get this post done before it was time to do Reece's 10 month update(!), which didn't quite work out, but since I haven't taken the pictures yet, I'm off the hook for a few more days. You know. Now that things are slowing down...should be easy to get caught up!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Summer Overview

We have been so excited to see a drop in temperatures this week from the upper 80s to the upper might have taken a typhoon blowing through on the opposite coast to do it, but we'll take it! Yesterday I didn't have to turn on the air conditioning for the entire day, and I only had to take one shower at the end of the day, in spite of the fact that I left the house several times. Let's not take these things for granted, people!

You may recall that I never edited and posted a single picture from our trip back to the States at Christmas last year. Since I'm not too proud of that lack of accomplishment, I'm trying to get right into editing summer pictures sooner rather than later. (I can promise that I actually have gone back to that Christmas folder and tried editing on more than one occasion, but I always get so overwhelmed!)

In an effort to not be immediately overwhelmed, I started with just a couple from the major events of the summer. In hopes that I can actually remember what happened, I figured it's best to start with an overview.

I think I already mentioned that we were on the go from the moment we arrived in the States, as we had about 24 hours to find a vehicle that would fit us all before we had to be down at Eric's mom's house to spend a few days with his and brother and family in our short overlap.

When they returned to Hawaii, we returned to my dad's house for a few days before heading to the cabin on Whidbey to spend the week with my family.

After the cabin, we had a few more days at my dad's to reconnect with old friends and visit some of our favorite spots before heading to Sun Lakes with Eric's mom.

After our trip to Sun Lakes, we settled in at Eric's mom's house for the duration of our trip. From there, we headed out for short trips. 

We spent one night with friends from Seoul in Skamania and one night camping at Mt. Rainier. 

We also took a day trip up to the Ballard Locks with my brother before wrapping up our trip with a couple of nights at my aunt's house before our flight back to Korea.

Believe it or not, we actually feel like this was our best summer yet. We might be finally figuring out this whole summer in the States thing!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Jeju Island

Baseball is back in our lives, so I'm taking advantage of the few quiet moments I have since Eric and the kids left and before Reece wakes up from his nap. Not surprisingly, I've been working on this blog post all week and am still far from finishing.

The past week has finally allowed us to fall into some semblance of a routine. Reece has been sleeping through the night for a couple of weeks...nope...not gonna say that. It's bound to end once we say it out loud.

Last Friday night, we went out for dinner for our anniversary. It may be the fact that we went minimalist this year; our only plan was to go into Itaewon for dinner at a steakhouse that we'd been hearing about for years, but the evening went off without a hitch. It really isn't even a story worth telling to the world. After four years of "exciting" anniversary dinners, I think we were entitled to one that didn't involve adventure. (Here's one from a couple of years ago, if you're up for reminiscing.)

We'd known that with the prices at this particular restaurant, we didn't want to bring the kids, so we'd been waiting for the right occasion. Apparently, our anniversary was it. We spent almost $200 on dinner, similar to last year, in spite of the fact that we didn't order the $85 bottle of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay (can you believe that?!), but this time we left the restaurant full. And that makes a big difference. It will probably be a long time before we return, but the Butcher's Cut delivered in terms of food and ambiance.

And since I no longer document our everyday happenings (unless you keep up with my Instagram!), these pictures our from our trip to Jeju at the beginning of the summer. We crammed a lot into a short trip, so I'm going to cram a lot into a (short?) blog post.

Eric has known that basically as long as we've been in Korea, I've wanted to visit Jeju Island. Everyone talks about how beautiful it is, and with regular, cheap flights between Seoul and Jeju, it's supposed to be an easy trip. The singles like to take weekend trips down there, and I didn't want to miss out. One of those "Korea bucket list" things.

So, when the middle school decided that the 8th grade would do their Week Without Walls down there and they needed someone to go down and scout it out, he volunteered us. All of us. The weekend after school got out. The weekend before we moved. And then flew to the States. Yup. Good timing.

The upside, of course, was that we didn't have to pay for his flight, we didn't have to pay for our accommodations, we didn't have to pay for transportation (and we had a personal driver!), we got to see a lot of the island, and we didn't have to pay for most of our food. How can you turn down a trip like that?!

So, we went. We In two and a half days. Holy whirlwind. The 8th graders will be down there for five days, and we did it all in half of that time. Granted, it meant we didn't have to do the 10 mile hike with all three kids in 80 degree weather, but we still did a lot. Thankfully, we got to do just about everything for free, too!

There's no way that I could possibly remember now everything we did while we were there. It's a good thing that Eric took good notes, because he had to remember it all! It's a good thing that I took a lot of (iPhone) pictures, because otherwise I wouldn't remember anything that we did!

We had to get up at about 6 am the day we left because the trip to the airport was almost twice as long as our flight. Thankfully, aside from the ticket agent not printing Reece a ticket and the fact that I left my wallet with my Alien Registration Card (needed for all international travel) in our kitchen cabinet (I still don't understand that one...chalk it up to moving), the travel part was uneventful. Does that count as uneventful? I guess in our world it does!

And then we hit the ground running on our arrival! We had the famous (in Korea) Jeju pork for lunch, which was our first experience eating Korean food with Koreans in Korea. They ordered everything for us and taught us a few new things about how to eat our Korean meal. The pork was really good!

In the afternoon, we checked out Maze Land, but didn't get to do the mazes, Sunrise Peak, but didn't get to do the hike, Jeju horses (miniatures), but didn't get to ride them, and finally stopped for McDonalds before crawling into bed at 10pm. A long day for all of us! (Oh, and they did actually get to ride the go-karts that we went to check out!)

The next day we were up early-ish for breakfast at the hotel and then into the van for more driving. We visited a senior center and an orphanage. We went to a tangerine picking farm (where we watch pig sliding!), Eric and the kids rode on a submarine, we checked out the haenyeo, and we visited one of Asia's biggest Buddhist temples.

We made it back to the hotel a little earlier this time, but we still had to eat with our tour guides as Eric worked with them to nail down the schedule for their trip this fall. We ended up having our late evening decompression in the bathroom while the kids fell asleep in the room. There's nothing like traveling with kids!

And the next morning, we were off on our return trip to Seoul to finish up the last minute packing. I think it's safe to say that we're all a little jealous that he gets to go back and spend a week actually doing all of the things that we just saw. But, would I want to go back with 85 8th graders? I don't know.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cade's Kindergarten Graduation

We're a couple of days into the second week of school and so far things are looking much better than they did at this time last week. Everyone is healthy, albeit a little sleep deprived. Reece learned how to crawl last week and has been struggling with naps ever since. Combined with the fact that he's waking us all up at between 5:45 and 6:00 am, we've all been a little tired by the end of the day!

If I could figure out his napping--at least something do-able--then I feel like we'd be starting to get into a routine. But, every day is a little different. He's only sleeping for about 45 minutes at a time, which means he needs three naps to make it through the day, and it just doesn't seem to be working out.

By the time, we get some sort of routine figured out, things will get turned upside down anyway. This year, the kids are finally riding the regular school bus, rather than the staff bus, and Kennedy is not enjoying it at all. I think she liked being one of those crazy staff kids that ran all over the school every afternoon. Next week, their after school activities will begin, though, and she'll get to skip the afternoon bus ride a few times a week.

Before I get into the pictures of our summer, it's only fair that I go back and post the pictures of Cade's Kindergarten graduation. He did make for a handsome little graduate, after all!

It's all a bit of a blur by now, but I remember that my highest priority was getting pictures (when is it ever anything else?). And pictures are never Cade's priority. This kid has been averse to my camera ever since I got the thing.

Nonetheless, I managed to get him outside at our apartment complex to take a few photos, and I even hauled my tripod over, so that we could get a family photo. How often are we all dressed up at the same time? Not very often.

At Kennedy's graduation, I got to take lots of pictures of her with her friends because everyone arrived early. That didn't really work out with Cade, but I did get this shot of him with his friend, William, who left Korea last month.

I also knew ahead of time to ask Cade which side of the stage he would be standing on and which side he would walk down, so that I could get good pictures. You can see how well that worked out!

Ha! We were in the opposite corner!

Nonetheless, he was a cute little graduate, and we are so proud of all that he accomplished as a Kindergartner!

They have both already gotten rave reviews from their teachers this year (never mind the fact that they were required to send us "positive contact" emails!), and we're looking forward to all that they will learn as first and third graders!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The First Day of School

The first week of school is almost over already! They have a special half day tomorrow as the president of Korea decided that the annual Liberation Day holiday should be observed on Friday since it falls on a Saturday this year. That was a new one.

The week has been a little different than we had imagined, but it's looking like things are improving at this point.

Cade came home on the first day of school with a stomach ache and low grade fever. He slept the entire afternoon (it was a half day), and only got up off the couch to get into bed. When I woke him up on Tuesday morning, he agreed to get dressed but then he laid on the couch until it was time to leave for the bus. When it was time to go, he was in tears and promptly climbed back into bed for another nap. Poor kid.

By about 1:00 in the afternoon, he'd eaten a ton and announced that he was ready to go to school. That didn't work out for him, though, since it was so close to the end of the day.

He woke up feeling great the next morning, but came home with another stomachache and slight fever again on Wednesday. He skipped dinner and went to bed early again. On Thursday, he woke up willing to eat a little bit and headed to school knowing he could come home if he felt sick again. Thankfully, he's still feeling fine, so we'll see how tomorrow goes!

Cade has the only male teacher in the first and second grade this year, Mr. Adams, and he is so excited about it! Mr. Adams has been here since before we got here, so he's a YISS veteran at this point. He's originally from England but has been in Korea for a long time and is married to a Korean, as well, so he's probably not going anywhere. He's one of the most soft-spoken and gentlest teachers I know. It's going to be a great year for him!

Based on the small amount of time he's spent at school so far, he seems most excited about the new technology class that is starting in the elementary this year. Cade really likes the teacher, Mr. Chan.

Kennedy has been dying to know who her teacher would be this year since the moment the plane landed in Korea. She spent every single day asking us to check our email to see if we'd gotten the news yet. She was so excited!

Like every other year, she's thought about the pros and cons of all of the potential teachers. She actually started talking about which 3rd grade teacher she wanted back in November. One of the teachers, Ms. Everett, had a family setup similar to ours because she was in 2nd grade when her baby brother was born. Ever since Kennedy found out about that, she had wanted Ms. Everett for a teacher.

Unfortunately, Ms. Everett moved back to the States this summer, and since then I think Kennedy had been hoping for the new teacher that arrived last year. We don't know her well, but Kennedy thought she looked like a lot of fun. Instead, Kennedy continues her tradition of having the new teacher, and so far she is loving Mrs. Hannah. She's both new to Korea and new to teaching (after one year in the States), so it will be another interesting year for her. She's not at all phased by teachers "trying things out" on her, though, so it should be a good fit.

We're all excited for another great year at YISS. It's so comforting knowing that regardless of which teacher our kids get, they're going to learn a ton and be loved and nurtured by this great community!
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