Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year! and our final Christmas in Korea

What better way to welcome 2016 than by re-living Christmas Day? That's what I'm thinking, anyway. While the big kids play their thousandth round of Pay Day, Reece naps, and Eric is pricing his wish/want/need list, I figured I should get some pictures edited.

We like to keep things pretty casual on Christmas day, regardless of where we are in the world, and we've had some pretty great Christmases. This is our third Christmas spent in Korea, but we spent a fair amount of time in the days leading up to Christmas re-living past Christmases.

The kids and I looked back at Snapfish albums of Christmases spent in our home in Stanwood (as we think about parting with our current Christmas decorations, they wanted to see what our tree and stockings in the States looked like). We talked about the Christmas spent in Thailand when my dad dressed up as Santa. We remembered the Christmas that my brother was here to play Legos all day long. We talked about the craziness that was last Christmas, with Eric and the kids flying in just days before and of course, life with a newborn (largely undocumented as a result of said newborn). And we made some new memories on this, our last Christmas in Korea.

The kids were up ridiculously early. That picture above of Kennedy and Reece in front of the tree? That was Christmas morning. Still dark, and yet. there they are, waiting impatiently to get at those stockings and presents.

While we were blessed to have presents sent from family, these kids still managed to plow through all of their presents in record time. It's always a little crazy how fast that happens, though, I guess. After weeks of preparation, shopping, and wrapping, it's suddenly over.

They received lots of the things that were on their lists: a watch for Kennedy, Legos for Cade, and books for all, among the highlights. We were all excited that the kids got some much-needed new clothes (their growth spurts have been crazy this year, and I've been caught unprepared; I'm so excited to live in a country where I can shop if I need to--at reasonable prices!).

Reece obviously enjoyed this Christmas infinitely more than last. He got some new, more age-appropriate toys, and all of the kids have enjoyed them! I think his favorite part of the morning was all of the tangerines that were in the stockings. The big kids, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed caramel rolls!

We spent the rest of the day eating snacks, putting together the new puzzle the kids got, reading new books and magazines, relaxing and enjoying each other's company. It was a good way to spend our last Christmas in Korea. We can hardly wait to see what Christmas 2016 brings, though!

In fact, we've spent much of the past week doing the same. Aside from going bowling on base, a trip to the Embassy to renew the kids' passports, and a stop at City Hall for ice skating, we've spent the past week relaxed, playing endless games, and reading. I certainly wouldn't complain if 2016 brought a little more of that!

My goal for 2016 is to try to document the transitions and life changes that are coming a bit better than I have been the past couple of years. As we go through some of these big "lasts" (like our last Christmas in Korea), I hope to capture what our lives are like in this stage for the kids to be able to look back on. So, I'm going to attempt another 365 project (or at least half of one, anyway)...wish me luck!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Leading up to Christmas

Well, I hadn't necessarily planned on that last post being the last one before Christmas, but I'm okay with it. I'm assuming that all of you were just as busy as we were the last couple of weeks! On top of all of the regular getting-ready-for-Christmas and the my-kids-are-home-from-school stuff, I also took a little photography class, which ate up any free time that I would have had. So, there's that.

So, aside from sickness, we spent the week leading up to Christmas taking fun pictures, going to the staff Christmas party on base, and baking Christmas goodies.

I was trying so hard to get the perfect kids-reading-in-front-of-the-tree picture, but it just didn't work out the way I had planned. 

Oh well. These will have to do. Thankfully, you guys don't know what I was picturing, so you don't know what these are missing. I suppose it's good to know that I still have some goals to work toward for next year.

It's always fun to look back on how things have changed over the years, too. At least I'm not still posting blurry pictures anymore, like I was that first year.

I've also been working on getting in the picture a little more often again, so the tripod has found a new home in our living room, right on the edge of the kitchen. 

Our cooking baking and decorating didn't work out as originally planned with the stomach bug running rampant through our house.

Three of us were sick the first day I was planning on making them. Then, we finally got the dough done and sick kids prevented us from cutting and baking.

Then, Eric and Kennedy got sick, so the decorating was delayed. By the time we finally got around to finishing them, it was the 23rd and Cade had a stomachache, so Kennedy and I ended up doing them by ourselves. We had to get them finished, though! 

The kids passed out plates to all of our neighbors and the security guards in our complex when they were finally complete. We still have plenty of cookies, though! Even after passing out a couple of dozen to friends, so that they could decorate with their kids. 

Christmas Eve, I spent the day preparing my mom's caramel rolls and the strata for breakfast the next morning. Honestly, I don't think there was much of our Christmas Eve that we will want documented from this year. The kids were not particularly well-behaved and by the time we were ready to leave for church, there was valid concern that our Christmas morning might not look like what the kids were hoping for. A reminder of the true reason for this season was definitely what we needed at that point.

Thankfully, everything worked out, after the kids wrote long and detailed letters to "Santa" about how they intended to change their behavior. We were all in much better moods after the candlelight service and chatting with friends at church (as well as eating!). So, Eric and I spent the late evening wrapping presents while watching Home Alone (because, it's a classic, of course) and playing Santa.

And finally, after all of the preparations, all that was left was a few hours of sleep before the much-anticipated day was finally here!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Phew. This past week has flown by in a blur of events, crying, puking, and lack of sleep! Reece, Cade, and I have all had the flu for the past 24 hours. Reece got a cold about a week ago that's still making him a snotty mess, not to mention the fact that he's had two teeth pop through. Ack. At least that's one good reason to not be traveling in the next few days like everyone.else.we.know.

And since I have not had time to edit any other pictures, I will leave you with this. (We'd hoped to actually print and mail them this year, but alas, envelopes were not to be found! This will have to do!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Life Lately and the Last Photoshoot

Today is one of those days where I have so much to do that I'm not really sure where to start, so instead I blog. Probably not the best choice, but it is what it is. I have already gotten two kids off to school, put one down for a nap, and done a couple of loads of laundry. That counts, right?

This time of year is always so busy that it's hard to keep up with everything. We had invited friends over for dinner last night, and I was so relieved when they couldn't come because they had a sick kid. I'm excited to have dinner with them, but next week will be so much better. We have things going on every night this week, and it was nice to take an unexpected break in the busyness. Plus, we had leftover lasagna in the freezer to eat, and you can't really serve that to guests. After spending much of my day making hummus, it was nice to pull dinner out of the freezer!

Though I will say that since I delivered this gallery last week, I have been a little less stressed! This family was so fun to shoot, though, and the pictures were a breeze to edit since all of the color and light were in camera this time!

I was definitely exhausted after the shoot, in fact I was more sore the day after shooting a walking one year old than I was the day after my workout. Not a good sign. She had me running, crawling, and rolling. It had rained pretty hard the day before, so I was dirty from head to toe! She also hadn't napped well, so she was not the happiest of babies. There were a lot of outtakes!

This little one is exactly one week younger than Reece, and we used to be neighbors, so we spent a fair amount of time together last year walking to and from church, going to the grocery store, and neighborhood walks. Boy, did it make taking their pictures a whole lot easier! You would never know that she's younger than Reece the way she walks circles around him! She's a quick little one already, but I'm so glad that it's her and not him. I'm perfectly content with the fact that he isn't walking yet!

Is anyone else missing the monthly Reece posts? Just me? Okay. I'm not missing the work that went into taking the photos or writing the updates, but who decides that after one year kids don't change as much as quickly? Is there really that big of a difference between 12 months and 13 months? I don't know.

I do know that I finally took him to the doctor, and he weighs 23 pounds. He's at about the 50th percentile for height and about the 20th for weight, if I remember correctly. He's been sleeping a little better lately, but it's still inconsistent. He's definitely still an early riser, but honestly, it makes it easier to fit his naps into the day. We've been trying the one nap a day when we need to--because we'll be gone in the early afternoon or because he's slept in--and it's working out fine because he's so good-natured, but I'd really like to hang onto two naps as long as we can!

He has another tooth coming in on top, and I'm hoping that is why he's suddenly become such a picky eater. Reece and I went out for lunch twice last week (probably the only two times we've been out all year!), and he refused to eat at either meal. What a stinker! (We actually went out with this little one and her mom, too, and I was so glad (again) that Reece isn't walking! She just wanted to run around the whole time, though she did eat a ton, as well!)

He's pretty limited himself to eating beans, fruit (any!), cheese, and bread. Arg. He won't eat meat of any kind anymore, and the only vegetables he'll eat are tomatoes, corn, and green beans. It makes it much more difficult to feed him three meals a day. He pretty much wants milk all.the.time, and since making the switch to the cup a couple of weeks ago (that ended up going much better than expected!), I've been pretty lax about it. The kid drinks a lot of milk. And we buy a lot of milk. Often. I can't wait to buy milk in gallons again!

The big kids have been busy, as well. Kennedy asked me to mention (a couple of weeks ago, and I kept forgetting!) how tall she's getting. She has now outgrown all of the school pants I was counting on her wearing this year. I think I'd bought two pairs in a bigger size for her, so those are the only two that fit. It's going to be a long winter for her, wearing leggings with skirts and dresses. #momfail

Cade had his Christmas program at the end of last week, which was great, as always! We have the links for his program, so if you'd like to see it, let us know. Unfortunately, he was in the back row this time, so we couldn't see him as well as we have in the past, but somebody's kid has to be back there, I guess. This week, he had Culture Day at school, and we dressed up in our jeans and t-shirts to share about our American culture with the other first graders and their parents. It was quite the event!

Today is their last day of swim lessons for Q2, so we're excited to watch and see how they've progressed. I'm going to try to get a workout in, and see some of the HS basketball game, so it should be a busy afternoon. At least all three events happen in the same building. But now, I'm off to buy more milk. Cuz that's what I do.

Friday, December 4, 2015

New Community

As I sit here, barely able to hold my eyes open (though it's 2:00 in the afternoon!), Reece babbles in his crib, trying to fall asleep (though there's a good chance he won't). He slept through the night all week, and we'd started to think maybe we'd turned a corner, but the last couple of nights have been terr.i.ble. Ugh. Multiple wake-ups is always so much harder after you've gotten used to being fully rested again!

Eric and Cade are off on another of what we have come to refer to as the "birthday party adventure." Seriously. So many, many stories to tell of the headaches that have arisen as a result of what should be (in our minds) a simple birthday party. But so many things aren't simple when you live overseas. The worst fight of our marriage--one when I'd decided I was going home to pack my bags and fly back to the States that afternoon--was a result of not being able to find a birthday party.

These are the kinds of things I'm not going to miss.

That's right. I'm making it public. We won't be back in Seoul next year. Most of you already know, anyway, but it's been harder to blog without alluding to thoughts of next year. So much of our thinking at this point seems to revolve around how little we know about next year.

And while there is a huge part of me that breathes a sigh of relief when I think about birthday parties or my outing this morning, (The hostess had sent out a map that me at all! I knew the area where she lived, and I still couldn't figure out where it was based on the map and address she provided.), there is another part of me that grieves.

This morning, I was invited to a Christmas tea. Not really my sort of thing, but I like people. I like food. So why not go? Just because it's 32 degrees out and I don't know where I'm going? Maybe. Because I have to bring something and lug it all the way over there? Maybe. Because I have to be out of the house by 8:40? Probably. Because I can't just hop in the car and drive over there? Sure.

But, I pulled up my big girl panties, I texted a friend to walk with, I threw together some coffee, some pumpkin caramel, and some peppermint simple syrup, and headed out into the cold to hang out and laugh with some lovely ladies. Some I'm just getting to know because they only arrived a few months ago and some I've known since we've been here, but I'm always getting to know better.

And those are the moments when I wish we weren't leaving. When you're surrounded by community that you've been plopped right into. I might not love every one of those women, but when I moved here with no friends and no family, they took me in. They will understand things about me that many of my old friends never will. They won't expect me to be the person that I was before I became an expat. They've been here for me when I've had no one else, and for that I'm so grateful.

We don't know where we're going to be in six months. We don't know if we'll have jobs or a place to live or friends and family nearby. All we know is that God is going ahead of us. Paving the way for us, and we're just praying that there will be a community waiting for us wherever we end up.

(If you, too, are looking to make some food to take pictures of (oh, am I the only who does that?! haha), then I definitely recommend this recipe for pumpkin scones and this recipe for pumpkin caramel...both are amazing!!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

We had the best Thanksgiving weekend! While our actual Thanksgiving Day was a little hectic with school, meal prep, and editing, our three day weekend was pretty relaxing.

We spent Friday morning on FaceTime with Eric's family while I finished putting together the stuffing and cranberries for our Thanksgiving lunch with our good friends. This year, there were only four families, and the adults were significantly outnumbered by the kids in this group.

It was a little crazy with all of those kids, but each year it's gotten a little easier, as the kids have aged. Seven boys and five girls--Kennedy is the oldest at 9, and the youngest is 5 months. They were able to be quieted and entertained for a movie for a significant amount of time, allowing us to eat and relax for awhile.

Of course, it's always nice to go to a friend's house knowing that your kids can't really do any more damage than their own kids have. It's also nice knowing that more than likely, our kids won't be the craziest ones there. That makes it a little easier to relax!

Reece, of course, was happy to hang out with us...and spent most of that time eating in the high chair. He's pretty low maintenance, as long as there's plenty of food around!

On Saturday, we had Thanksgiving with another group. That one wasn't quite as relaxing, as we were the only ones bringing kids, and it was our typical "aunt and uncle" group. The kids were pretty much on their own to entertain themselves, though they were provided with Thanksgiving coloring pages, which Kennedy loved. It wasn't quite the hang-out-relax-and-play-games Thanksgiving that we'd had the day before, but that's okay.

Did I mention that it snowed, too?? Not enough to stick, but we had enough to watch hours of flurries. Perfect for drinking hot chocolate and putting together a puzzle while listening to Christmas music!

The kids had been planning to put the tree up after dinner on Friday for weeks. They even got the tree and ornaments out of storage by themselves on Thursday afternoon. Since we didn't get home until about 5:30 on Friday, it was a good thing it doesn't take long to put the whole thing together.

Unfortunately, every year our tree seems to get a little more pathetic. The chintzy ornaments I bought our first year here have been breaking every year, and since we haven't kept up the annual ornament tradition while living here, we seem to have fewer ornaments every year. It's a good thing the kids keep making felt and paper ones at school!

Yesterday, I finally finished wrapping up everything for my photoshoots over the past couple of weeks, much to my relief. While it was a lot of fun, it's nice to be done with deadlines for now!

These are the shots that I mentioned from the scouting trip I took the kids on. The light was great both of the afternoons I took them out, and Kennedy was feeling especially cooperative. Maybe we should try to get her into some modeling here; she seems to enjoy it and her college savings account certainly could benefit!

Because, you know. We really need to add another thing to our lives right now. Ha.

This week we literally have plans every afternoon/evening. The kids' Christmas programs are this week, so that's keeping us busy, but of course, it's a fun busy. Reece doesn't really love that they don't start until past his bedtime, but so far he's managing.

Last night was Kennedy's program, and even though she doesn't have our very favorite music teacher, it was still a great show. Kennedy stepped out of her comfort zone and did one of the non-speaking acting parts, so she dressed up as an angel for the last two songs. This girl really likes to stay in the background (not that you can tell from these pictures!), so we were proud of her for stepping up.

Thursday is Cade's concert, and after learning nearly all of his songs ourselves, we're excited to finally see the performance! They've been working on this since September!

Well, this post is a bit picture-heavy, but at least it's pictures of my own family this time! Next time, you probably won't be so lucky, as the only pictures I have edited right now are of other families!
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