Sunday, January 30, 2011

Are You Ready?

Are you ready? This is the question that Chris and I are posed daily, if not hourly, by friends, family, store clerks, and anyone else who catches a glimpse of my imposing belly. And rightly so, as we are less than 72 hours away from doubling our family size. The question is expected and understandable. It is the answer that is a bit more complicated.

I can answer the more concrete aspects of this question with relative calm. Is the nursery ready? Why, yes, it is! The two cribs ready are to go with clean sheets waiting to welcome baby soft skin. The changing area is stocked with diapers, wipes, lotions, creams, etc. The dresser is crammed (and I mean crammed) full of the most adorable outfits that I just couldn’t pass up from (Okay, I’ll admit it. I went a little crazy on newborn clothes. I know that they won’t wear them for long, but seriously, there is some evil genius out there designing baby clothes. The cute factor borders on ridiculous.)

Have I educated myself? I will go ahead and answer yes to this as well. For those of you who don’t know, I am a self-professed baby moron. I know nothing about these tiny humans or their habits and behaviors. I never was any good at the babysitting thing growing up and now I tend to hang around the pubescent crowd. Problems with girlfriends and college entrance exams, fine. Problems with colic and diapers, I’m lost. But, I have done my best to inform myself of the ways of the baby. My bookshelf is now stocked with Babywise, Happiest Baby on the Block, What to Expect the First Year, etc. While I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be a baby whisperer, I at least feel confident that I will put the diaper on the right end.

What about backup? After the “Are you ready?” question, the second question out of people’s mouths has been, “Do you have someone coming to help?” Happily, I have the best mother and mother-in-law in the world who will be braving the long trans-Pacific flight to endure sleepless nights and piles of diaper changes to come and help me out. They will be here to ensure that I do, in fact, put the diaper on the right end and to help me through the countless number of maternal freak-outs I will undoubtedly experience in the next few weeks. Not only that, but I also have an amazing baby-savvy husband who has been an incredible help over the past nine months and whom I am certain will continue to make himself invaluable in the coming months. So yes, I have called for backup.

But are we actually ready? I mean, are we ready to become parents? Now that, I have no idea. How do you make yourself ready for that? I’ve become quite accustomed to being responsible only for myself. How will I do when I have four tiny eyes staring up at me depending on me for their life and well-being? What will I do when they cry and I don’t know how to soothe them? What will I do when I realize that there are TWO of them and ONE of me? The only answer that I can come up with is this: I will cross that bridge when I get there. I’ve done what I know to do and now, I just wait. Ready or not…

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Independence, who needs it?

My exponentially expanding belly and constant comments about “any day now” serve as steady reminders about how life as we know it is about to get turned on its head. Don’t get me wrong, we are beyond ecstatic for the arrival of our little ones and I feel blessed to have made it this far in the pregnancy. However, I am also trying to make the most of the life of “coupledom” before our little family doubles in size. When my parents presented me with a salon day as a birthday present, I figured this would be a great way to spend a Saturday while Chris was away at a basketball game. Getting a few recommendations from my well-coiffed friends, I made an appointment with a stylist accustomed to cutting Western hair. (Trust me, it is different from Asian hair. If you don’t believe me, look at some of my pictures shortly after a Taiwanese haircut.)

I decided that I would venture out and find this salon on my own. I’m trying to get my fill of “on my own” now as I understand that will be quite difficult to come by in a few weeks. So, I wandered down to a main street by our school and hailed a taxi. I told him the area of town that I wanted and off we went. I had been to this area of town once before and I was convinced that I would somewhat easily be able to locate the salon in question. My dear husband often teases me about how much slack time I give myself as our travel days often turn into a “hurry up and wait” kind of experience. Following this pattern, I gave myself about 40 minutes for a jaunt that I calculated should take approximately 15 minutes. At this point, my main concern was whether or not the hair place would have a comfortable waiting area.

However, I noticed that the taxi was taking a few back roads with which I was quite unfamiliar. When he finally stopped, I knew I was in the correct neighborhood but not where I needed to be. Unable to communicate “take me to some place I might recognize like a subway”, I simply paid the man and stepped out, again, on my own. Surely the subway was around there somewhere and I would be able to get my bearings from there. So, off I went in search of the subway. Not the finest decision I’ve ever made. I zigged and zagged through alleys and main roads trying to sniff out the elusive subway. At one point, I attempted to get directions from a friendly 7-Eleven clerk who looked rather alarmed when this staggeringly pregnant foreigner wanted to walk all the way to the subway. I figured that was probably not a good sign. Keep in mind, finding the subway was only going to be a landmark for me and, judging by my directional prowess thus far, would probably do me very little good. So, at about five minutes until my appointment, I decided to throw in the towel.

I hailed the nearest taxi once again while simultaneously calling the hair salon. The following part of this story is why I love living in Asia. I explained to the person at the salon that I had an appointment but was unable to locate their whereabouts, would he mind directing the taxi driver? No questions asked, he agreed and I passed the phone to the driver who didn’t bat an eye as he astutely listened to his destination. He very swiftly took me in the exact opposite direction that I had been walking for some time. As I passed by the newly familiar shops and restaurants I wondered why I hadn’t just done this in the first place. But then, where is the adventure in that? A mere ten to fifteen minutes and about $3.50 later, I was at the salon’s doorstep. The helpful taxi and I parted ways and I was greeted into the salon with a warm cup of tea. This was followed by a lovely hair washing and haircut performed without giving me ridiculous 80’s style layers (again, see pictures of haircuts in Taiwan). Refreshed by my new style as well as my adventure gone awry, I once again found a taxi. This time, I knew how to direct him to our apartment so no phone call was necessary. That is a step in the right direction, right?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Year to Remember

By: Coach

Wow! 2010 is in the books and I doubt there will be many like her. Ashley and I were reflecting on the past year and we both came to the conclusion that it was probably one of the craziest 12-month roller-coaster rides we have ever experienced as a married couple. It certainly had it all: uncertainty, life-changing experiences, milestones, but most of all blessings.

An Uncertain Future Becomes Much Clearer

Ever since we committed to stay in Taiwan a second year (which we officially decided early in 2008), we knew it would be our last year there but that is where the certainty stopped. We had absolutely no idea where we would go from there. Do we go back to the States and try and find teaching jobs in arguably the worst economy since the Great Depression? Do we look elsewhere for overseas jobs and, if so, what does the process even look like? Needless to say there was a lot to learn in the months leading up to the 2010 job fair in Bangkok. Nervousness does not adequately describe our feelings as we arrived at one of the biggest job fairs for teachers in the entire world. We were overwhelmed rookies who I am sure looked like 2 white-tailed deer glaring into the Dodge Ram headlights. Despite our cluelessness, interviews were scheduled and one of the most well-recognized international schools in all of Asia gave us an offer! Suddenly the sting of watching Alabama dismantle Texas for their 73rd national championship faded away as we flew back to Taipei with (at least) the next 2 years planned out. Seoul Foreign School was where God decided to place us next.

2010 would also answer a major question that plagued us for 2 years. This question would usually take the form of a Taiwanese student, church member or even 7-11 cashier nosily inquiring: “When will you have baby??” Not only were we constantly reminded verbally by everyone there that it was well past time for kids, seeing the THOUSANDS of pregnant Taiwanese women served as a constant reminder as well. While living in Taipei, we came to the conclusion that while unmarried American teenagers are the most fertile people on the planet, the Taiwanese are a close second! Needless to say this only added to the feelings of doubt, helplessness and frustration as we continued to try for a baby, to no avail. Then our first week back in the States for the summer changed our lives forever and God answered our prayers and gave us a “double portion” on top of that!

Busy, Busy, Busy!

The months following the acceptance of our new positions at SFS were probably some of the busiest of our lives. We were bombarded with e-mails from the school’s HR director with a very long to-do list before arriving in August. On top of that we had the newly formed stress of being pregnant with hardly anyone knowing at first (including our employer). Throw in not one but two summer weddings (one of which was in Mexico) and that makes for a majorly eventful spring and summer! As always there were friends and family that we were not able to visit with during the short time we had in America. If you are one such person I apologize and I am sure 2011 will be far less busy with our two little additions…. well, maybe not!

A Banner Year – Milestones

The past year also brought about some pretty cool additional landmarks for me personally. 2010 will always be known as the year we found out about the BOGO’s, the year we came to Seoul, and the year we discovered that dream jobs do, in fact, exist. There are a few other events and milestones that occurred this past year that I will always remember with fondness. A few of you out there might know this about me: I am a pretty big Auburn football fan. I know, I know, its one of my hidden interests so my apologies to those who feel a little out of the loop when you read this. Ever since National Signing Day back in February, Auburn has been building a special program (believe it or not they actually signed about 30 players in addition to Cam Newton). The die-hard AU fan has known about this for a while so seeing the success on the field this year does not come at a huge surprise like the rest of the nation. Needless to say this die-hard fan has seen some incredible seasons in my lifetime but almost all of them were ironically accompanied by tragedy (i.e. 1993 and 2004). In my lifetime, Auburn has a winning record over our hated rival Alabama and has upset numerous top 5 programs. Auburn has had some great gridiron moments – many of which I have witnessed in person. The one glaring area where we always seem to fall short: championships. Yes, we might have beaten Bama more times than they have beaten us recently but they have more SEC and National Championships than we do, and unfortunately it’s not even close! Our only official national championship came before both of my parents were born and even though I hope every year my beloved Tigers can make it to the big game the harsh reality is that odds are they will only get there about once every 40-50 years. So, exactly one year after our bitter rivals lifted the crystal trophy in Pasadena, Auburn will have the same chance in 2 days! For the first time in BCS history Auburn is undefeated AND playing for it all.

Speaking of undefeated sports teams: my JV basketball team is unbeaten and has a great chance to win a championship. As a coach who has done it for several years now, I understand that seasons like these don’t come around very often and I feel very fortunate to be doing so well in my first year here.

Another big landmark for me was turning 30. To me, turning 30 is a milestone itself but for me it was extra special. When I was younger I always envisioned my 30’s being spent with my family, my wife and kids. I know this is strange but I would pray earnestly about it. Most teens pray for sports cars, pretty girlfriends and popularity. All I wanted was a future that had me a dad by the time I was 30. Recently I let that dream go as it did not seem to be a reality. God has a funny way sometimes of showing us that He wants to bless us and give us what we want! This time last year I was struggling with the idea of possibly not being able to have children to now realizing in the year I turn 30 I will be blessed with 2 daughters! My 30th birthday party was one that I will never forget spent with our new friends here in Seoul and a few old friends from Taiwan. It was a special night.

Lastly, I want to mention another milestone for Ashley and me. Like many of you, I had to take out loans for my education (both undergrad and master’s). Living abroad has its advantages, one being a high salary coupled with low cost of living. Because of these financial advantages, we became officially debt free on December 21, 2010! Talk about a weight being lifted off your shoulders. It’s a great feeling to know that nothing is holding us back from saving for the BOGO’s future. So all in all 2010 was a heck of a year. I can’t wait to see what 2011 has in store! Stay tuned…