Saturday, January 4, 2020

We Were Together: Holiday Wrap-up

Walt Whitman wrote, “We were together.  I forget the rest.”  

That’s kind of exactly how I feel after this holiday season, when I had all five of my kids home with me and it was all a blur of fun and together-time.  And today, the day after Jayna headed back to college, I’m kind of feeling a bit empty, wondering if it was all just a nice dream.  But since I know it wasn’t, I thought I’d write down a little bit of all that happened.

— We took a little staycation in Seoul.  Matt was working there anyway, so we headed up and spent two nights at the Dragon Hill Lodge, which is where we stayed on our first visit to Seoul which was three years ago already!! and where always stay.  This was the first time, though, seeing it fully decked out for Christmas, and it was so fun.  

We stayed there ostensibly for going Christmas shopping at Insadong, eating at Petra which is probably our favorite restaurant in all of Korea, and seeing the lanterns in Jongno.  It was a pretty chilly day, with a high just around freezing, so it took some willpower to leave the warmth of the hotel lobby, but once we got out and walked briskly to the metro, it didn’t seem as bad.

We did some shopping — I would say “a little”, but apparently we were there quite a while because the younger contingent of my kids complained quite a bit.  But we broke it up with lunch at a vegan restaurant that was really delicious.  

This was a traditional style Korean restaurant, with low tables that require you to sit on the floor.  You also must remove your shoes upon entering these restaurants.  Very few Korean restaurants offer truly vegetarian and definitely not vegan options, so we don’t get to do this often.  I realized how seldom this happens as we were putting our shoes in the little closet by the front door, and I surveyed what was a truly embarrassing sock situation (though not as terrible as the socks in the microwave incident). 

Now, we take off our shoes at home too, but I guess I’m not paying as much attention.  So here’s the thing: as the chief laundry-ist of the family, I get pretty frustrated by our socks.  Read: I have stopped bothering to actually match them.  As I’m folding, my criteria for matching are as follows:

1) Are they mainly the same color?

2) Do they look like they at least came from the same package? (i.e. Wyatt’s Jurassic Park socks, a triceratops + a spinosaurus = a match)

3) Do they appear to be the same size?  

Yep, I’ve gotten that lazy. OH. WELL.

I normally do not care a whit about this, but as I was looking at our feet as we shuffled through the restaurant, I was kind of horrified, sheepishly smiling at the other customers.  But I also wondered if other busy moms would just high-five me? 

It was very quiet in the restaurant, but my kids waited at a mostly polite volume because I had brought along this Christmas paint-by-sticker book recommended by one of my favorite bloggers, Janssen at Everyday Reading.  These books have been a big hit!

Anyway, the food came, and it was so delicious.  We ate to our hearts’ and stomachs’ content, then headed back out into the cold.

— We went from Insadong to the War Memorial of Korea.

 I don’t know how I’ve lived here so long and not visited it, (actually, come to think of it, most of my visits to Seoul have been on Mondays when it is closed) but it was truly incredible.  It is so well done and informative.  And the art is incredibly moving.

I stepped out of the Tear Room with actual tears in my eyes.  
Some of the displays led to interesting discussions too, like one that featured Korean villagers laden with packs which were all their belongings as the moved to escape the war.  My kids talked about what they would take if it came to carrying just what they could manage on their backs.

— After the museum, we headed to Petra.  Matt had been in Seoul all week and had eaten there earlier, graciously sending me a text of his feast so I could be eaten up with jealousy.  This is where I’ve eaten my birthday dinner the past two birthdays.  It is my favorite.  I love that even though a few months go (sadly) between most visits, the head waiter always remembers us and asks, “So how many falafels today?”  Some restaurants are good most of the time, but miss the mark occasionally.  At Petra, this never, ever happens.  Also, I have been eating Middle Eastern food my whole life.  I have been to the Middle East twice, and the summer I turned 13, I spent about six weeks in Jordan and Egypt.  So I think I can speak with at least some authority when I say this is excellent Middle Eastern food.  Especially considering it’s in Korea!

— The plan had been to go from there to the lanterns.  But Matt, who had been working hard all day, said he was tired and would take the younger kids back to the hotel.  Jayna, Skyler and I were determined we would see the lanterns, but then we stepped out into the cold and suddenly remembered that there was a hot tub at Dragon Hill and hey, we’d seen lanterns before.  So we headed back for a good soak while the younger kids swam in the indoor pool.

— The next day we went to Seoul Grand Park and Zoo.  Somehow — I think because snow clouds had moved in — it felt so much colder even though the forecast said it was supposed to be warmer.  We rode the chair lift at the park and decided that was about enough for us, so we stopped for a picture in front of the zoo sign 

without actually going in and walked back to the car, shivering the whole way as a few snowflakes started to fall.

— Christmas Eve and Christmas were wonderful, especially Christmas.  All this season, I’d been craving time to just relax, and that’s exactly what we did.  We opened presents in the morning, went out to lunch at our favorite local Thai restaurant (another tradition we’ve started while living in Korea), and then parked ourselves in front of the TV for a Christmas movie marathon.  It felt just about perfect.

— The rest of the time was spent similarly relaxing hard.  I took Jayna and Skyler to see Little Women, and we absolutely loved it.  (Lilly was invited too, but these days she finds hanging out with her dad to be more fun if she’s given the option.)  I think the script was probably the best of them yet because it allowed so much more development of the characters and a chance to build the rapport that I felt with them when I read the book (a million years ago).  So good.  Have you seen it yet?

— We didn’t get a white Christmas but did wake up to a sugar-dusting of snow on New Years! It was thrilling especially to the kids.  (Please note: Annalee’s hands aren’t that big; it’s her new Frozen 2 gloves. 😂) 

— The trees are put away now, but my favorite new ornament that went on my favorite tree was this hedgehog by Annalee.  She’s obsessed with hedgehogs right now (though she’d tell you cats are her favorite animal, which... I just don’t get it).  I love the ingenious use of dental floss too!

We are starting this year — and decade — with full hearts, which is good because I know this year will be one with plenty of change again.  But more on that soon.  Our holiday was lovely.  There has been goodness and rest.  We were all mostly healthy except for some colds,  but no one was too miserable.  There were things I wish we had done, like taking a family picture, but at least I know we were all there.  There was laughter, and we were together.  

I hold it all tight in my heart.

How were your holidays?  I hope that they were equally wonderful and year is off to a great start!

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