Monday, September 21, 2015

Ballard and Mt. Rainier

Well, last week was one of those weeks. The kind where you're running around all the time, but you pretty much accomplish nothing? Oh yeah. It's a great source of pride.

We decided that the kids and I will do AWANA this year (I'm still not convinced this was a good idea!), and there was a lot of paperwork and things that had to be done in order to gain base access to participate. My friend and I took about four trips to the security office on base to get our fingerprints done before I was finally successful. What fun.

In addition to all of that, either Eric or I (or both) were gone most evenings last week, so we were really just getting the bare minimum done. The kids did homework. We ate dinner and cleaned up. That was about it! We tried to get out for bike rides, but our evenings feel so short these days.

And, of course, just as soon as we had all of the biking gear we needed and everything was figured out, one of Eric's tires went flat and we were so busy that it was probably about five days before he was able to get it fixed. He finally got it taken care of on Saturday, and we were able to ride 11 miles on Sunday. Biking is definitely our new favorite way to get to Seoul Forest because the line for the parking lot was ridiculous!

This week, we're working on preparing for Lindy's visit. We finally got some of those little things done that had been bothering me like throwing away stuff the old tenants left behind and hanging pictures on the wall. This is a four day school week for the kids before the Chuseok holiday weekend, so we've got the lazy bug in preparation for a few days off. It keeps getting harder to get out of bed in the morning!

It's always my goal to get through the last round of pictures before another one comes along, but it rarely works out. I'm close to finishing up the summer pictures, but no doubt the pictures of Lindy's visit will be delayed (if I actually manage to take any that is!).

After our trip to Skamania, we had a couple of down days to get some more shopping done, and then we began the countdown to our departure date. It was time to start saying those last goodbyes once again. So, we spent one day with my brother in Ballard, visiting the locks, hanging out at the park, and walking through town to find dinner. It was a beautiful day, and a great way to spend some quality time with him before he started his new job and we were headed back to the Land of Morning Calm.

The next day, we got up early and headed up to Mount Rainier for the camping trip with Eric's aunt, uncle, and cousin that we'd been talking about all summer. Unfortunately, we were only able to fit in one night, and we really didn't get much of a chance to check out the beauty that is Rainier because of our time constraints, but it was fun nonetheless.

Reece was more than happy to hang out in the pack'n'play, go for walks in the stroller, and sleep in a tent. In fact, I think it was one of the handful of nights that he slept straight through. The glory of the great outdoors! And the big kids, sleeping by themselves in the new tent that Eric picked up for hiking, slept in past 9:00 the next morning. We actually had to wait for them to wake up to leave because Eric had pretty much packed up everything before they got up!

But right now, as I reminisce over our summer, my youngest is chatting it up in his crib and starting to communicate that he's done in there. So, I'd better break out of the bubble before things get ugly!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sun Lakes and Skamania

I've got to admit, it's hard to be motivated to update here when there really is nothing to update. We celebrated Eric's birthday with some really good Southern BBQ right here in Seoul, though it required a really long walk and darting through the rain with a stroller and one umbrella shared between the five of us. His friends at school took him out to lunch, and I think everyone he knows baked him something, so I was off the hook, thank goodness. Aside from that, we're just here, living life. I'm thankful for some hum-drum in our lives.

Reece has been napping well and sleeping fairly well at night, considering he's got a tooth poking through on top. He finally starting signing "more" right after I published the post about how he refused to sign. (He'll probably stop sleeping well as soon as I publish this one!) He also likes to show us when he's angry or frustrated by balling up his little fists and shaking them. Such personality that kid has!

I've decided to do Awana with the kids this year. It's nuts, I know. So far, I've been to one informational meeting (which provided very little needed information), spent several days doing insane paperwork to gain base access, spent a week trying to get fingerprints done unsuccessfully, and spent an evening registering kids without every actually registering anyone. It has been kind of a disastrous start. Things can only improve from here. I think.

We've been spending a lot of time riding bikes along the Han now that we finally have all of the needed equipment. Kennedy and Cade had to trade bikes because Cade wasn't able to start and stop by himself on his "new" bike. It took some convincing, but we're grateful they were willing to work with us, as now Cade has to ride a pink bike and Kennedy is riding a green one that's covered in skulls. Don't tell them I told you. Cade has been eating as much as he possibly can in hopes that he'll soon be tall enough to ride his own bike! He probably just needs about an inch.

After waiting around for Reece to nap on Sunday (oh, did I say he was napping well? well, not always...), we decided that he would fall asleep faster in the bike trailer than he was in his crib. It had been over an hour of waiting, so we headed out instead, which gave us the freedom to ride as long and far as we wanted without worrying about when his next nap would be or getting home to make dinner. I prepped everything for dinner beforehand, and we were off. We rode nearly to Yeoido Island, almost five miles, before turning around. I was impressed with how well the kids did. Even when Cade crashed and burned because a guy walking wouldn't get out of his way, he still got back on and finished the ride.

I do feel a little guilty that Reece shouldn't technically be in a bike trailer until he's a year old, but I'm comforted by the fact that the bike trails here are in much better shape than the sidewalks. I know that if we haven't yet damaged his neck in a stroller on the sidewalk, then the chances of neck damage in a bike trailer on the path aren't too high. And I'm definitely sticking to the paved trails with it; it's enough of a challenge without crazy sidewalks and pedestrians!

It's a little frustrating knowing that we've put over $300 into this little hobby here in Seoul in the past month, and we're really going to want to continue it during the summer. Which means, we're going to have to invest just as much or more in all of this gear in the States, too. I guess that's just life for us.

The one thing that we did buy in the States last summer for our future in bike riding was a bike rack for the "rig," so the kids were able to bring their bikes to Sun Lakes, among other places. That one picture at the top? That's the one picture that I took while we were at Sun Lakes. Pretty impressive, huh? Of course, I brought the camera all the way over there. I unpacked and put it in a little drawer in the dresser in our room. And that's where it stayed for three days until I packed it back into the car.

We had a great time in Sun Lakes, but with the heat and always hauling around baby stuff and beach stuff and too much stuff in general, the camera was left behind every time. Eric and the kids played miniature golf. Eric and the kids played at the pool. Eric and the kids rented a pedal boat. Eric and the kids played at the beach. Reece napped. I read.

That's not entirely true. Reece got to swim in the pool a little bit (it was freezing cold!), and he floated in the lake, too. The boy really does enjoy the water, but he prefers that it always be at a comfortable temperature--a little more Philippines, a little less Washington. I also rented a paddle board for an hour, and aside from thinking that I was hearing my kids yelling for me, was generally able to relax for awhile.

And since Lindy had joined us on this trip, our child to adult ratio was even, and she definitely took her (un)fair share or hanging back so that Reece could nap. We stayed in one of the new duplexes at the resort, which was big, beautiful, and cool, so Reece took some really good naps while we were there! The big kids got a chance to learn some social lessons, as they played with the neighbor kids on the front lawn. They're used to automatically being included because they're the only white kids around, so having to ask was a little out of their comfort zone, but they did a good job.

After Sun Lakes, we headed down to Lindy's house and settled in there. We were only there for about three days before we took a short trip down to Skamania to visit our friends from Seoul. It was the first time that we had seen friends from Seoul while we were in the States, and it was a little surreal. We've had some people talk about or try to make plans to see us during the summer in Washington, but most of those haven't been people that we usually spend much time with when we're in Seoul, so it didn't make much sense to us that we would spend time with them while in Seattle.

This family is new to Seoul, but both the kids and the adults hit it off right away, and since they live in this amazing place just a couple of hours from where we were staying, it was hard to say no when they suggested we come visit. They actually have a home of their own for the summer, so it's easy for them to have everyone come and visit them. It sounds like their guest rooms are booked pretty much every night of the summer, though! They had friends that had just left before we arrived and family that was coming just after we left. Busy people!

We drove down on Monday morning--not leaving as early as we'd hoped, as always--and arrived about lunch time. After a quick lunch, we headed down to the park in their neighborhood which is sandwiched between a lake and the Columbia River. After an hour or so tubing behind the jet ski on the river, we headed over to the park and watched the kids swim while the adults sat in the shade chatting. A couple of our other friends from Seoul, whose parents live in Portland, joined us for dinner.

In the morning, after a big breakfast, we headed out to hike Beacon Rock. After our hike, we drove out past the Bonneville Dam and then to lunch on the Oregon side of the river. After a late lunch, we headed back to Lindy's through Oregon, stopping at Multnomah Falls on the way. And even though it put us on the road much later than we'd hoped and messed up Reece's nap much more than I would've liked, it was totally worth it. It was beautiful, in spite of the fact that we didn't have time for even the short hike. I think we could visit them every summer for the next years, and still not see all of the beauty there is in that area!

And now, Reece is awake, he's going to be hungry, and I still haven't done many chores, so I'd better get back to the hum-drum!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Whidbey and a Big Kid Update

It's been another busy week, but a good one, I think. Lots of socializing, lots of playing, and lots of working. This week begins the Carlson birthday madness with Eric's birthday today. I honestly can't believe that we have another one to celebrate in October. Madness, I say. It's really time to get to work on those. Kennedy and Cade have been working on planning their birthday parties lately, and hopefully they'll start work on Reece's soon, too! (I'm only half-joking here; so far, they've come up with some pretty good ideas!)

We are welcoming fall weather right now, as daily highs are only in the low 80s and the temps at night have finally dropped into the high 50s. It's so exciting to need another layer for the morning bus stop, though it's frightening how soon winter weather follows the comfortable fall temperatures. We haven't had rain in awhile, and the humidity is starting to fall, as well. It feels so good! I haven't even turned on the air conditioning in a couple of days!

Kennedy and Cade have been loving school lately, though Kennedy is not loving the homework. This year, she has 30 minutes of math homework every day, in addition to 20 minutes of reading, and weekly spelling assignments. She really doesn't enjoy the fact that her little brothers get to play while she has to do homework. Can't really blame her.

Kennedy's teacher emailed us a couple of weeks into the school year, commenting on how impressed she is by Kennedy's writing. With the great debate that Eric and I have always had as to whether we should be more focused on writing or math with the kids, I'm feeling pretty good about that. I think I'm winning! I am so glad that she enjoys reading and writing so much.

The first email that we got from Cade's teacher wasn't quite as specific, as he hadn't had time to gauge many of Cade's skills yet. He basically said something to the effect of "Cade's reading seems on target." In other words, nothing too spectacular, but nothing to be worried about, right? Eric and I chatted a bit about this and the fact that at some point, Cade would have to even out among his peers in terms of reading. I mean, no one looks at an adult who can read and comprehend and says, "wow, he's a really good reader." Nonetheless, I was a little surprised that it had happened so quickly.

Well, about a week later, I had an in-person conversation with his teacher at open house, and he commented on what a great reader Cade is. I laughed a bit and was honest with him that we'd thought based on his earlier email that Cade had averaged out among his peers. He laughed and said that he just hadn't had a chance to assess him yet but that it will probably be a couple more years before Cade is just an average reader. Reading (and spelling) certainly have come easily to this kid! (Bike riding...not so much!)

Cade finally got to upgrade his bike this week (the one we got last spring from friends was too small for him), and it inspired him to lose the training wheels. He had a rough start, but after a couple of days he had it down. We're hoping for another family bike ride this weekend, since Eric's games are cancelled.

The kids have also really loved hanging out with our friends who live in our new apartment complex. They love to check out the playground through the window to see who is outside playing, and we love that they're old enough that we can send them down to play by themselves. I really had no idea how much moving apartments would improve our quality of life. It's been a game-changer.

The benefit of putting off our week on Whidbey Island this year was the fact that the kids got to bring their bikes out there, so they were able to ride around the neighborhood and up to the pool with their cousins. We tried hard at that time to get Cade to take off his training wheels, but he wasn't having it. Next summer, he should be able to keep up with everybody a little better. Just another one of the hazards of his TCK lifestyle--he'd never really had a bike or anywhere to ride one, so it was a little more scary to him than your average 6-year-old. Oh, the mom guilt.

I'm so grateful that they get glimpses into what our lives were like as kids during our summer trips. I know that there are many expat families around the world who don't have the time or money to get to spend a month in their passport country every year, so we're so thankful for that opportunity. Even when kids are tired and cranky. Even when they won't touch a clam. Even when they feel like the outsider because they don't know how to ride a bike. It's just a part of our lives now.

The weather was so ridiculously nice this summer that I don't think I ever put on a pair of long pants. It was the first time I'd been out at the cabin when it was really hot, and for once, a swim in the Sound was not unthinkable! I actually hoped to fall off the paddle board when it got too warm!

We spent our days lounging on the beach or at the pool before putting together huge, delicious dinners in the evening. I probably gained about 10 pounds in the five days we were out there! Evenings were spent around the campfire, capturing the sunset, looking at the stars, roasting marshmallows, and playing rousing games of Heads Up. Only another nine months until we'll be back there!

And now, I'd better get some work done because no part of today has gone as planned, and I have yet to figure out how everything is going to get accomplished...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Reece at 10 Months

I can't believe Reece is less than two months from his first birthday! How is it that the days go by so slowly, but the years go by so quickly?! I can't wrap my mind around it. Really though, even the days have been going by pretty quickly lately. It's already the 9th, and I'm finally getting around to the monthly update. Such is life. And, you'll notice that this is more of a compilation of the decent pictures I've been able to get of this kid in the past couple of weeks, because a planned photo shoot? That's just crazy talkin'.

Moving: Now that Reece is crawling, we are officially into the I-don't-sit-still for anything phase. Actually, that's not entirely true; he does still enjoy a good ride in the stroller and will be content to watch everything and everyone when we take hour-long morning walks after we drop the big kids off at the bus stop. But, if you plop this kid onto the floor, he's off in nanoseconds to find the closest non-toy he can. As is typical--as long as it's not designed for him, he's interested in it!

Diaper changes have now reached the mission impossible stage. It's like fighting a squealing pig. I lay him down and rip off the diaper, he rolls over and tries to crawl away. I lay out the diaper and lay him down again, and he's off rolling onto his side. Most of his diaper changes happen in his crib now, so that we can contain him. Oy.

It is fun to watch him play with something he likes, and he plays independently very well. He likes the stacking cups and the interlocking floor mats the kids got from the school librarian. He will sit and play with those things for 20-30 minutes, only frustrated from time to time.

It is also really cute to have him follow me around the house as I do my chores. He's a big "helper" when it comes to folding the laundry or putting it in the dryer. And, of course, he always helps out with the sweeping...just follow him around with the broom, because he can find things that are invisible to the naked (adult) eye. I sweep about four times a day, but he always manages to find something I didn't!

Sleep: This kid. Seriously. Last month, I was so excited to report that he was sleeping well at night and napping great during the day. I couldn't believe how easy the transition was back to a more normal routine. But no, that couldn't last. He is still sleeping really well at night; he probably has one wake-up about once a week, but he's been waking up before 6 am every.single.morning since school started. And it stresses me out. I've tried everything--putting him to bed earlier (as early as 6 pm when he's waking around 5:15 in the morning) and of course, leaving him in his crib until 7:00--just a few minutes before we leave for the bus stop. The first week of school was rough. He would wake up super early, I would crawl out of bed, get dressed, brush teeth, wash face, and get him before getting the kids up. Then, he would basically sit on the floor screaming while I tried to get the kids ready for school. Kennedy would inevitably end up running late because she spent so much time comforting him. Trust me, we're all happier with him talking to himself in the crib!

Don't even get me started on this kid's naps. He started last month with wonderful 90 minute naps, waking happy and chatty. Those were short-lived. He started going back to 30-45 minute naps and being absolutely miserable because he'd woken too early. So, I have spent the last two weeks timing his naps. I peek on him when he finally gets quiet to make sure he's asleep, and then I set an alarm. For 28 minutes. Not 29. Not 30. It has to be 28 minutes, because then I sneak in and touch him (basically bother him) until he startles and then goes back to sleep. And that's how I get him to sleep for 90 minutes. This kid is a lot of work. (And if I'm honest, I'm afraid to stop. You're only supposed to have to do this for three or four days until his body gets the idea, but no, when I don't do it, he's awake and nobody's happy about it.) And why can I feel the tension in my back just writing this? I seriously need something more important to worry about!

Eating: Reece is an eater. As in, anything and everything. And lots of it! I'm thankful that unless he's starving, he really just eats everything I give him, and then he's content to be done when I stop delivering. If he's really hungry, he'll let out a good scream or cry, so I don't mistakenly stop feeding him. He's got that whole communication thing down; sign language is for chumps.

At this point, he usually eats pieces of whatever we're having for dinner. Unfortunately, he eats so fast that it's difficult for whoever is feeding him to also eat at the same time. He loves tomatoes, cheese, and any fruit. He's a fan of chicken prepared in any way, meatballs, olives, corn, and beans.

He has finally mastered the cup, as well as the cup with the straw in the last week, so that's encouraging since it's time to start weaning from the bottle. He's still downing his four 7 oz bottles throughout the day, in addition to all of that food. He hasn't had any problems with any dairy products, so I'm starting to think about when we'll make the switch to cow's milk. I'm not too excited about needing to buy three different kinds of milk.

Reece is a happy, social little guy. Everyone comments on how happy and content he is, and we're so blessed to have such a great little boy in our lives! We love this little bugger!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hanging at Grandpa's

Today was supposed to be Reece's 10 month update, but when does anything ever work out as planned? (Seriously, though. I should really be showering and cleaning up right now, but no, I'm immersed in the world of Lightroom and blogging!) Reece crawled into the edge of the window the other day and has a lovely bruise on his forehead. He also scratched his nose yesterday before his fingernails got clipped, so I've delayed his 10 month pictures until his face has healed. As any good mom would. Ha.

Reece has been driving me crazy lately with his insanely early wake-up times and this whole wake-to-sleep method we've been doing for naps to try to get him enough sleep during the day. Eesh. I'll be happy when this phase is over!

Right now, I'm in the midst of the all-important Awana decision. On Monday night, I decided to go to the information meeting about Awana on base to learn a bit more. Many of our friends here have been involved in it for years, and our kids have been begging to do it for years; this is the first year that Eric said we (meaning I) should do it. But, I'll be honest, the base pass is not as big of a perk, as they're now limiting it to just Mondays, and I'm not sure that we really need to be adding one more weekly activity to our calendars (the meeting this week means that we have something scheduled every afternoon or evening this week. eesh.). Somebody tell me what to do.

This year, we had just a few days at my Dad's house on either end of our Whidbey trip, and we didn't really get a chance to do many of our normal activities, like hiking and big dinners outside with cousins running all over the place. We did still get to have our 4th of July crab feast, which was pretty amazing. I think it was the most crab I've ever seen in one place, and Reece thoroughly enjoyed it!

The kids also got a chance to ride the new horses, and Sue, the owner of said horses, was out nearly every day to work with them, so Cade learned a lot about horses this summer. He was out by her side every chance he got! The kids thoroughly enjoyed every opportunity to check for eggs, especially once Grandpa let the hens out and they got to start looking for them under every tree and bush in the yard!

They enjoyed working on the tractor with Grandpa, but I'm not sure "enjoy" would be the word they would use to describe the work shoveling pea gravel for the new foundation. And I can definitely say that the days we were stuck with no car while Eric was either buying one or having ours fixed were not our favorite.

As always, we enjoyed re-connecting with old friends, and this year's 3rd of July at Big Lake was pretty great, as it was so hot that spent most of the day bobbing in the lake with a cool drink in our hands. Doesn't get much better than that!

Alright, I should really go shower...or figure out how to hook up my new bike trailer...or do some dishes...except now Reece is awake from his nap!
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