Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Love From Korea

As hard as it is to believe sometimes, almost two years have already passed since we moved to Korea.  Facebook reminded me the other day of our announcement that we were coming here, and I thought back to how much I have learned and grown in this relatively short amount of time.  I remembered my first post about the things I love about Korea and realized how much more I’ve come to love, especially about Busan, the city we will be leaving this summer.  So here’s another, updated list of my favorite things here, and the news about where we are going next.

1.  I mentioned in my first list how Koreans love children, and honestly, this still gets to me.  Even if they don’t speak any other English, Koreans of all ages, male and female, will smile and wave enthusiastically, then say, “CUTE-ah!”  It really is so heartwarming.  They especially love when Annalee rides her scooter, which I have to say is pretty darn cute!

2.  The street that leads to the subway station in my neighborhood.  I just love it so much.  It’s lined with produce trucks and stands and trees that mark the seasons in all their splendor.  This is my favorite produce stand; the salesman is always so kind, and he always has the best produce.  

4.  Kids’ cafés. 

 I’m trying to figure out how to describe this because I really can’t think of anything comparable in the States.  The café part is for the grown-ups, and the offerings range from just your typical caffeinated drinks to snacks and even meals in some locations.  And then there are all these different things for the kids to play on.

If you’re picturing your typical “play place” attached to a fast food chain — ball pits that smell faintly of urine (or worse), sticky floors and suspicious splatters, loud and obnoxious machines or animatronic animals that are somewhat terrifying, places where you want to bathe your children in hand sanitizer when you leave — this is not what I’m talking about!  Instead are little “rooms” with play kitchens and living rooms, 

ball pits with interactive screens, usually some sort of trampoline or bounce pad, and some even have a sand box! 

 There are toy cars to ride and dress-ups, 

and often times, café employees will follow your child around playing with them, so it’s like you have a baby-sitter too and can actually have a conversation or finish a complete thought! 

Having been traumatized by American play places, I was really reluctant to warm up to these.  But then when I went and the employees made my kids wash their hands and took their temperature as we walked in, I fell hard.  
I mean, I seriously had to restrain myself to keep from hugging them.  Some are more pricey (especially in our neighborhood), but they’re pretty reasonable.  Since the weather and air quality isn’t always ideal, they’re a great place to get away to.  I don’t know if they sell gift cards, but if so, that would be THE PERFECT!!! Christmas or birthday present for someone with young kids here.  I mean, picture a house chock-a-block full of the best toys that you sit in while sipping your coffee, and then you leave and don’t have to clean up anything!  It’s kind of… heavenly.

5.  Convenience stores.  Koreans absolutely love them, and now, so do I.  You are rarely in a place that doesn’t have one.  They’ve come to the rescue when vegetarian eating options are limited as you know you can always at least get some ramen and survive!  Sometimes there are even two different chains of them side by side.  And it is so, well, convenient!  We have one downstairs from our apartment (that I’ve mentioned before), and it really does provide such peace of mind.  I’ve started wondering how I’ll ever again live without a place I can’t just run down to when I need something!  I mean, the responsibility of having to plan — it’s overwhelming! ;-)

6.  I feel safe.  Okay, not when I’m driving or crossing the street — that’s just plain terrifying.  But I noticed last summer when I went back to California, the sort of low-level (sometimes high-level) tension I felt for myself and my kids’ safety.  But here?  I dropped my phone chasing my kids to the park last week, and (thanks to teamwork from my friends!), I actually got it back!  I’ve left my kids $100+ scooters for an hour and returned to find them exactly where I left them. In California, both my granddad and one of Matt’s best friends were shot in parking lots.  Both survived, but I don’t walk through parking lots there without keeping an eye all around me, and hurrying my children in and out of the car.  Here, though, honestly?  I only worry about what other foreigners might do.

I feel like I’m often saying this, but Korea is so much more than what the media portrays it to be.  It’s a beautiful and fascinating country, and while I have had some challenges, it has definitely become a place that is special to me.  

Which is good! Because… we are staying in Korea!  (The sign above says “We live in Korea”.  And, no, I didn’t just get all good at Korean — my friend helped me! haha!). 

Our move this summer will be the shortest ever of my husband’s career.  We are leaving Busan, but we will be closer to Seoul, which I love.  Also, we will be living sort of out in the country (at least compared to what we live in now) which will be a different change-of-pace for sure.  

I leave this afternoon for California, where I will spend most of this summer with family and friends — and especially Jayna.  I think the hardest part of staying in Korea is knowing we will still be so far away from her.  So I’m going to go spend a weekend with her before her finals and then moving her out of her dorm next week.  I haven’t done any of the things parents usually do during their kid’s first year of college — I’m very thankful that I get to do this!  I’m going to soak it up!

When I get back at the end of July, we will have a week or two here before we move.  We’ve already said goodbye to some friends who won’t be here any more when we return, and we have sort of packed a little not just for our time away but for when we get back, not knowing how long it will take to find a place to live.  I’m sitting here writing this feeling pretty emotional, knowing that it is sort of the end of a little era, but also kind of in denial, I think.  

Prayers are always appreciated.  Moving here was harder on my kids, Wyatt especially, than I expected.  I’m bracing for that while hoping it is much smoother, especially since we will at least be in Korea still.  

So that’s our big news!  What are your summer plans?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Watching, Reading, Wearing, Eating, May ‘18

So even though it’s already June 1, this is the Watching, Reading, Wearing, Eating for May.  I have a whole lot on my plate at the moment which I will fill you in on soon, plus I had a sick kid at home this week — one who would not stop talking the second the Motrin kicked in and his fever came down.  I couldn’t even have him watch a TV show without having to have a conversation about it.  

(He’s a whole lot like my dad.)  

But better late than never, right?!  I’ve said that a few times here, haven’t I?  Here it is:

Watching — We finally saw Coco.  It was beautiful and sweet… but I had the whole thing figured out pretty much from the start.  

But I also watched not one, not two, but THREE grown-up movies in May!!  The first was not exactly a new movie — I think it came out a few years ago — called Room.  Have you seen this?  I watched it Mother’s Day weekend (because it’s largely about a mother and what she would do for her kid).  In case you haven’t seen or heard of it, a young woman is kidnapped and forced to live in a shed for several years.  She has a baby and raises him in “Room”, which becomes his world, until realizing that she desperately wants her child to grow up free, she comes up with a risky plan.  It was hard because I can’t watch or read things where kids are getting hurt and abused without feeling physically ill, but I stuck it out even though I was actually shaking in parts of it.  It definitely made me think about things like what we do to adapt to difficult situations (though I’ve certainly never been in one like that!), and also the lengths parents will go to for their children.

Skyler (my super-cool fifteen-year-old who loves watching classic movies!) and I watched To Catch a Thief.  Oh Cary Grant and Grace Kelly!  Oh French Riviera!  Oh Edith Head costumes!  I felt swoony again and again.  What’s not to love?

Then we watched Game Night.  The premise kind of reminded me of the Michael Douglas movie from the 90’s called The Game, but it was much funnier.  I definitely laughed out loud.

Reading — Honestly, my reading slowed a lot this month.  I think it’s because I was working through nonfiction informational books, which are sometimes just a little too easy to put down.  Especially when you are needing to work on other things.  But I did read a few good books.  One was There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk.  The subtitle is A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (From Friluftsliv to Hygge).  This was full of interesting and very thought-provoking information.  

I read it on the heels of Last Child in The Woods by Richard Louv.  Both books speak to this strange phenomenon of trying to teach our kids to be environmentally responsible while pretty much removing them from nature (and nature from them!).  Think about the playground at your kids’ school, for instance.  Do you see much evidence of nature? 

McGurk (whose blog is Rain or Shine Mamma — a great resource!) returned to her native Sweden for six months with her two young daughters.  What she learned — or was reminded of— about the Scandinavian way of raising and educating kids is so fascinating.  I have some wonderful Norwegian friends here, and I picked their brains about it as schools are very similar there.  PLEASE read these books!  They address issues that concern all of us.

I followed that up with Rethinking School by Susan Wise Bauer.  I have three girls that were so easy to send to school and trust that they would behave.  They are/ were model students and citizens.  And then I had Wyatt.  The boy is smart!  But he learns (and behaves) so very differently than his older sisters!  This book is a fantastic resource for out-of-the-box thinkers/ kids like him.  I’m (very slowly and humbly) learning that it’s okay for him to be different, and reimagining ways to make him love learning — which is one of the things I want most for him.  

Wearing — DRESSES!!!  It’s finally dress season!!!  

(This is what happens when you’re trying to take a picture with a kid that just woke up from a nap). And shorts season!!!  And sandals!!! *heart eyes* Gone are the puffer jackets (F I N A L L Y!!)!!!  I’m so very happy!  Though you need sunglasses if you’re looking at my legs right now, they are so white.  This weekend looks like it will be the warmest of the year so far, so I hope to hit the beach for a bit.

But also, Matt gave me this bracelet made by my friend Amber (who I’ve mentioned before). 

 You guys!  Barely a day has passed without me wearing it!  I love it so much!  Amber is one of the sweetest and hardest working women I know, so check out her shop Touch of Whimsy.  

Eating — We have a move looming soon, so I have been made a very concerted effort to “shop the pantry” while coming up with meals for my family.  Have you ever done this?  Every meal is kind of like an episode of Chopped, complete with hits — and some definite misses.  But one of the latest hits came when I found a packet of rice noodles and decided to do something different from what I usually do with them.  I tried these Banh Mí bowls I’d pinned.  I can only really say that what I ended up with was “inspired by” them because I didn’t have some of the ingredients for the tofu (plus I had to double the recipe to feed my crowd) and wasn’t about to shop for them.  So instead I baked the cubed tofu — and I got the kind I wanted!! Firm tofu is a must for this! —in a  375-degree oven for 20 minutes and then tossed them in a marinade of minced garlic (I think I used four cloves), two T’s miso paste, one T soy sauce, 2 T water, 2 tsp’s honey, 1 tsp Sriracha all whisked together, then cooked it very quickly in a pan.  Everyone loved it — to the point that I sadly did not have any leftovers.  But weren’t they pretty? 


So stay tuned for more about our move, coming up next week!  In the meantime, what are you watching, reading, wearing, and eating?