Sunday, December 8, 2013

Managing Expectations

When I was a kid, getting to light the advent candle at church was a big deal. Like, Ron Burgundy big. Each Sunday leading up to Christmas, we would check the bulletin to see which family had been selected to do the honor and we would watch the performance as if it were a mini Nativity play. The years when my family was so lucky as to be asked to join in, we were invited to do the lighting a few weeks in advance. The week before the main event, we took home a binder that contained each family member’s part to speak during the service. This binder was carefully practiced and studied so that we had all memorized our lines and our cues to put on a flawless performance. Outfits were carefully selected so that right at the moment the flame took to the wick, we could have a perfect Norman Rockwell-worthy Christmas moment. My memories of the advent candle are pretty epic.

So, you can imagine my excitement when, last week sitting in our pew, one of our friends asked if our family would be willing to do the advent lighting the following week. My face suddenly all aglow with Christmas cheer, I sat up a little straighter and ecstatically agreed. We had arrived. We had established ourselves enough in our little church body and produced cute enough offspring to be considered worthy of *collective gasp* the advent candle. I had trouble paying attention to the rest of the sermon as I contemplated which of our daughters would ask, “Dad, why are we lighting the candle today?” and which would help me read the Bible verse. Maybe we should hold family auditions….

I should have known that things were going to be different when I asked about the binder. I was told just to show up a little early to the service next Sunday and that our lines would be ready for us near the candle lighting station. Okay, no problem. I’m an advent pro. I remember my lines from my elementary school days; I can wing this. Instead of memorizing lines, I spent the week trying to decide what we all should wear. We had to be coordinated, Christmasy, but not look like we were trying too hard. We couldn’t look like I was taking this as seriously as I was; there was no binder after all.

So, the big day arrived. I dressed us all in our carefully chosen ensembles, had a friend take a family photo and headed off to church making sure not to be late. I felt a certain celebrity vibe as I stepped out of the car and walked up to the sanctuary. Yes, we are here, the advent family. I couldn’t help but notice, however, that no one else seemed to care. That’s okay, they’ll know when they get the bulletin. Huh, no name in the bulletin? I can deal with that.

Chris headed up to the altar to find the promised advent guide so that at least he and I would be ready to speak and the girls could just sit and look cute. No paper. Oh dear. He went off to find the advent coordinator. Chris came back to report that the coordinator seemed to think that a college girl was going to perform the advent this week. WHAT!?!?! No. This is OUR Sunday. I might have had a few un-Christian things go through my mind at that point. I’m not sure what happened but the situation was resolved when the coordinator quickly sat down next to me and said, “Are you doing the candle today?” I breathed a relieved, “yes” and awaited the instructions.

“Who of you is going up?” He asked referring to my perfectly coordinated though not-over-the-top family. Somewhat perplexed, I replied that I assumed that all four of us would go up. He said that would be fine and then asked the woman next to him if we would be doing the Luke passage. She replied in the negative and reported that we would be doing the Isaiah passage. “Alright,” I replied. “Which verses?”

“Um, I don’t know. We don’t have the paper.”

Are you serious right now? Not only did you not know that we were lighting the candle, you don’t even know what we are saying? Come on, people.

I frantically started flipping through Isaiah to find a Christmas passage. “Pierced for our transgressions?” No, that’s Easter. “For unto us a child is born…” That’s it! I informed our coordinator (I now use that term loosely) that I found the right passage. He barely had time to tell me when we would be on when the opening song started.

In the chaos of finding the Bible verse, I hadn’t been able to ask anyone to document this monumental event for our family. So, as we strode up to the podium, I meekly passed off my iPhone to a friendly church-goer and asked if she wouldn’t mind taking a couple of pictures for our family. She happily agreed and up to the front we went. This was it. This was our defining moment as an advent family. I read the verse from Isaiah, Chris lit the candle, and… that’s it. We were done. We sat down. One of the most epic moments of the Christmas season had come and gone. That was the day that I learned a little something about managing expectations.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Discovery Week

I thought about titling this blog “Why I will never be able to work in America again” but I thought that might border on braggadocios. And well, you know what they say about saying “never.” And so, Discovery Week won.

As you may remember from previous posts, our school has a tradition in the high school to take a week off from regular classes and “discover.” Teachers design courses ranging from learning how to cook here in Seoul to camping in the deserts of Oman. I’ll be the first to admit that planning a trip with 15 teenagers can be stressful and that spending a solid week with my hormonal, sans-prefrontal cortex students isn’t exactly the portrait of a holiday.  But, come on. Who says “no” to hiking in the Himalayas? Not this Colorado girl. And so, off I went.

The last time I went to Nepal, we stayed relatively close to the foothills near Kathmandu. We went off the beaten path, so to speak, though the actual path we followed was well worn by the locals traveling from village to village. This time, we took the most scenic flight I have ever been on to the town of Pokhara and took off on our hiking from there. This distance gave us spectacular views of the Annapurna Range though we ourselves never got much above 6,000 feet.

Now, a trip like this sounds amazing on paper. Exotic culture, spectacular mountains, “fancy camping” (as I like to call it), what is there not to like? In the planning stages, you have to know that your wild card is always going to be the group of students traveling with you. Their attitudes and behavior can make or break any trip, no matter how well-planned.

One of our campsites

These kids are used to traveling. Just like us, their parents take every chance they can get to check another country off the list or go back to their favorite Thai beach. They are the hipsters of the travel world. “What? You haven’t been to Burma? It’s really great this time of year. I wouldn’t go in the summer, though. Too touristy.”

They can be tough to impress. Not only have they been everywhere but their parents are often CEOs or dignitaries of some sort and are therefore *ahem* well off. When they travel, they go in style. Business class or bust, baby. So when I am imagining flying to Nepal with these guys, knowing that we will be sleeping in tents, without showers, and either using the glorious forest floor or (if we are lucky) a squatty potty to “take care of business”, I am a little skeptical. How are they going to react?

And so, here I am today to confess to you that I sold these kids unbelievably short. They were incredible. They were as thrilled as I was when we got to our first campsite and found squatty potties available to us. They even came back and told the rest of the group that they had to go check out just how clean said services were.  
The actual view from the squatty potty

They raved about the food prepared by our tour guides and thanked them profusely for everything that they did for us.
Yep. He made a cake in a portable kitchen. A CAKE!

When it came time for some manual labor at one of the village schools, they didn’t bat an eye about getting dirty and working hard all day. Even to the very end on our red-eye flight back to Seoul, they were bright and cheerful and ready to face the day.

I guess that the “discoveries” made during Discovery Week aren’t limited just to our students. I’ve mentioned before how TCKs (third culture kids) are different. After this trip, I think I’ll be proud to have a couple of them in my house.   

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Malapascua. With twin toddlers.

One of the many reasons that we so thoroughly enjoy teaching overseas is that we get the unusual luxury of celebrating both major Korean holidays and major American holidays. So, while we didn't get to enjoy backyard barbecues on Labor Day as many of you did, we saw your Labor Day and raised you Chuseok. This is a lunar holiday that is similar to American Thanksgiving. Depending on when it falls, we get anywhere from a couple of days to a full week off of work. This year, we were lucky enough to have a full week and we took the opportunity to cross another country off of our "must-see" checklist: the Philippines.

As you may or may not be aware, the Philippines is a large country that offers various climate zones and myriad activities for tourists. We chose the always popular beach option and headed to a tiny island called Malapascua.

This location had come highly recommended to us because of its secluded nature and gorgeous beaches. And, let me tell you, it certainly did not disappoint on either account. The beaches certainly were spectacular. Exhibit A:
Our hotel offered numerous sun chairs and what I can only describe as beach multi-person lazyboys that allowed us to lounge and play to our hearts' content. Not only that, but our room was on the first floor so once the girls were asleep, we could carry our trusty baby monitor down to said lazyboys, order a cocktail, and live the dream.

Jealous yet? The next paragraph just might change your mind.

So, yes, the island was secluded and gorgeous. The problem with a secluded island? They are sometimes difficult to reach. We flew directly from Seoul to the city of Cebu in the Philippines, a 4 1/2 hour flight. Not too bad. The catch? It left at 8:30 PM putting us in Cebu at about 1:00 AM. With twin toddlers. We decided to splurge and have our hotel make arrangements to have a private van come and pick us up at the airport to drive us to the port. How far was the port? Three hours away. On Philippine roads. In the middle of the night. With twin toddlers. Once we safely reached the port, we had to wait for a boat to take us across the bay to our island. We speculated about what kind of boat would take us to our destination and were pleasantly surprised when it showed up and appeared to be quite seaworthy. So, we boarded the boat and made the final 30 minute leg of our journey across a choppy ocean to be escorted to our hotel room where we barely had time to take off our shoes before we fell into bed at 4:30 AM. With twin toddlers. Why did we do it? Let me remind you:
So, we took the week to relax and recover and to gear up for the journey back. Ah, yes. The journey back. This time, it wouldn't be so easy. Our flight back to Seoul left at 1:50 AM. So, doing the math backwards, we decided to leave our hotel at around 7:00 in the evening to give us a little slack time. However, around lunch time, we were informed that a typhoon was headed our way. Awesome. We needed to leave the island at 4:30 or else we wouldn't be leaving for the next couple of days. Presented with the options, we decided to throw everything in the suitcase and be ready for the 4:30 ferry. The 30 minute trip across the bay turned into an hour of roughing it through some of the choppiest water Chris or I had been in. With twin toddlers. Luckily, our van was there waiting to take us back to the airport where we would have ample time to wait for our flight. Which left at 2:00 AM. With twin toddlers.

As I watched the sunrise through the plane window, I had to laugh at our crazy journey and our crazy selves for knowingly putting ourselves through it all. I am also just going to tell you. Through all of the travel, the girls were absolute rock stars. They loved the boat rides, the van rides, and especially the airplane rides. When we landed in Seoul, Lily was upset that we weren't going on another plane. Her mom and dad were not as upset.

It was an incredible week and all four of us had a blast. Would I recommend Malapascua? Absolutely. Without twin toddlers.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

America's Top Five

Well, we are back. After the girls’ annual rainbow tour of the United States, we once again find ourselves wondering what to do with our time at 2:00 AM as we battle through jet lag back in Seoul. It was a great summer full of dear friends and family, fantastic memories, and more than a few Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits. What more could we ask for?

As we unpack our giant treasure chests known as suitcases, we settle back in to our apartment and reflect on our time in America. Each year when we arrive in the U.S., different things strike me as surprising. This year we were taken aback at the size of things. Everything from parking spaces to refrigerators to chicken breasts just seemed bigger. Let’s not talk about the size “medium” soda offered by Wendy’s. Learning our lesson from previous Stateside visits, we tried to behave ourselves our first few trips through the grocery store and not throw random novelty items into the cart as we raced up and down the aisles like kids in a candy store. I’m hoping we didn’t leave behind too many uniquely flavored coffee creamers or “new” breakfast cereals in our adopted kitchens after our departure.

As always, we found many things about the good ol’ US of A that made us feel at home and appreciate the ingenuity of our compatriots. As a tribute to the Motherland, I have decided to compile a list of the top five things that we feel America is doing right.

1.       Public trash cans. For whatever reason, Koreans haven’t embraced this idea just yet. I’m not sure if the government is afraid people might put too much of their personal rubbish in public receptacles or perhaps we are keeping more citizens in jobs by having plenty of street cleaners on duty to keep the city looking nice. At any rate, finding a public garbage can here is reminiscent of a Where’s Waldo treasure hunt. I will often put on a jacket and reach in the pocket to find a wrapper or receipt of some sort that never disposed of during my last jaunt in the city. In America, on the other hand, trash cans are everywhere.  Along strip malls and main streets, there is no shortage of places to put my rubbish. Buy an ice cream cone at a vendor and don’t want the receipt? Why, throw it away two feet away from the store. Soiled a napkin already? Just five feet more and there is another can awaiting your refuse. Decide you don’t want the ice cream after all and want to dispose of it? Why, there is another vessel hungry for your waste. Way to go, America.

2.       Opening hours of stores and restaurants. This one particularly hits home when we are in the throes of jet lag. One of the meals that I look forward to most in America is a greasy waffle and eggs breakfast from the Waffle House at 4:00 in the morning. Why? Because it is 4:00 AM and they are open. Spectacular. Here, if you want breakfast before 10:00, you had better start cooking. The popular local brunch restaurant opens at 11:00 most days and noon on Sundays. Starbucks doesn’t open until 9:30. There is one local place to get coffee that “opens” at 7:30 but they will be shocked if you darken their doorway at that unseemly hour. Chris and I took the girls earlier this week and, though they are known for their breads and pastries, there were none in sight as nothing had been cooked yet. God bless you and your greasy hash browns, Waffle House.

3.       Children’s menus. Brilliant. Maybe I’m just not going to the right places here in Seoul but I have yet to see that blessed paper with the little maze and the $3.00 grilled cheese served with a cup of milk and some crayons. How awesome is it that it is just standard procedure that restaurants offer smaller portions to those with pickier palates and let them color while they wait for their food? Just appreciate that concept for a minute, people. Here’s to the red, white, and blue on that one.

4.       Garbage disposals. Now, I know that these are not ubiquitous in the American kitchen but for those lucky enough to have one, they are something special. During our years overseas, we have lived in two countries who compost all food waste so every scrap of uneaten or even rotten foodstuffs has to go in a special bucket under the sink and be taken out to a larger food repository with everyone else’s inedibles. I’m sure that it is great for the environment and everything but seriously, eew. I love to be able to rinse my plate off in the sink, flip a switch, and forget about it. Bravo, USA and whoever else supports this helpful contraption.

5.       Drive through coffee. Admittedly, Americans can be a little funny when it comes to personal space and their cars. I’m going to let you know that outsiders looking in think that our drive through everythings have gone a little overboard. Do I really need a drive through pharmacy? Probably not. Drive through coffee? Oh, yes.  Running late for work and need a quick pick-me-up but don’t have time to go in? No problem. Can’t possibly bear the idea of waking your sleeping child in the car seat but in desperate need of caffeine? They have you covered. Up again with your jet lagged twins at 5:30 and don’t feel like getting out of your jammies and facing the world but running low on your espresso IV drip? Come on by. Not only are they open, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your Ford. America at its finest.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pass the Pork

When the girls were first born, everything that I knew as “normal” in my daily routine was turned upside-down. As all new parents do, we had to learn to adapt to a life that now revolved around someone else (or, in our case, two someone elses). The jarring time period of readjustment felt a little bit like the proverbial rug got pulled out from under us. We were left lying on our backs gasping for air in a bewildered state of shock. Eventually, however, we caught our breath and learned to appreciate life on the floor. It’s true what they say that sooner or later you “forget” about what life was like before kids. Sometimes I try to remember exactly what I used to do in the afternoons and weekends pre-children. Nowadays conversations about bodily functions have become so natural that on occasion I will inadvertently horrify a toddler-less friend. Sentences like, “No, we don’t eat Cinderella, “Honey, teapots aren’t for hitting,” and “We color on paper not…. (you fill in the blank)” have become commonplace in my everyday vernacular. I have more than one Dr. Seuss book memorized and I am now well-versed in scores of children’s songs that get us through bedtime.

As the girls get older, we face new challenges (i.e. potty training, note previous comment about bodily functions) but we also rediscover hidden gems from our former life. Each time this happens, it feels like we have been given a special gift that we don’t take for granted. In the last few weeks, we have been offered such a treasure: eating out. In the very beginning, eating out didn’t pose much of a problem. We would just load up the diaper bag, each strap a girl to our front in a carrier and head off and enjoy our meal as they slept soundly in their little cocoons. As time drew on, this task became increasingly more difficult. They became active and needy in the toddler sense of the word. This presented an additional element of danger in traditional Korean restaurants as these establishments have a hot grill located in the middle of each table in order to cook the meat for your dinner. Delicious? Yes. Hazardous? Extremely. We attempted it a few times as the girls just started getting grabby and quickly gave up to prevent third degree burns on the girls or any incidents of cardiac arrest for the parents.

A few weeks ago, we decided to give it a go again. We nervously brought them to the table and held our breath as the grill was lighted. I pulled out the arsenal of snacks and crayons to keep their busy little hands occupied as our dinner cooked. To our delight, they waited relatively patiently and their curious little fingers only rarely reached for the fiery forbidden fruit at the center of the table. Chris and I enjoyed a Korean dinner that, compared to a year and a half ago, was a downright pleasure. The girls even had their first taste of kimchi which seemed to forever cement “spicy” into their growing vocabularies. Since this positive experience we’ve revisited a few of our favorite restaurants from our former lives and rekindled our love for Korean fare.

And so another page turns in this novel of parenting and growing up. With this victory comes the faint bittersweet twinge that reminds us that our little ones aren’t babies anymore. Questions coming in asking us about where they will go to school remind us that they won’t be toddlers forever either. And so we snuggle our little girls knowing that the days they will fit in our laps are numbered. We relish in the fun times and recognize that the bad times “are just a phase”. And we order another round of barbecue pork and kimchi.

Monday, May 13, 2013

An Important Lesson

I know that girls want to be pretty. We have some sort of innate desire to be beautiful and to be noticed. So, it didn’t surprise me when the girls suddenly became obsessed with the Disney princesses wanting to don princess dresses of their own. I was delighted when, once royally adorned, they immediately and instinctively recognized that they must spin around in circles to achieve the full potential of their tiny frocks all the while saying, “Dada, look! Dada, look! Pretty dress.” That will melt a mama’s heart.

So, like I said, none of this surprised me. I have my own fond memories prancing around with my sister singing in old flower girl dresses pretending to be Belle or Ariel. Our girls know all of the princess’ names and at least one song from each movie that they regularly request mama to sing or attempt to sing it on their own. Forgive my perpetuating gender stereotypes, but I think this obsession is cute and so I go with it.

Their fascination has taken a turn that I didn’t expect, however. A few weeks ago, we let them sit down and watch The Little Mermaid in its entirety (sorry to all the parents out there who are against movie watching at this age). They were completely enthralled with the movie and didn’t take their eyes from the screen the entire time. They picked up on the parts that I expected them to: Ariel’s song, all the fish. Under the Sea, etc. But Lucy especially seemed to gravitate toward the one character I expected to fast-forward through: Ursula. For whatever reason, Lucy was captivated by this corpulent villainess. She laughed and squealed with delight whenever she was on screen. When Ursula’s more devious nature was revealed, Lucy looked at us and explained, “Ursula is mad!” And so it began. Whenever we talked about Ariel or the other princesses, Lucy’s immediate input was, “Ursula is mad!”

The fixation didn’t stop at The Little Mermaid. We were watching a brief sing-a-long video of Snow White’s “I’m Wishing” when the evil stepmother made a fleeting appearance as she glanced disapprovingly down at the Prince and Snow White. I’m not kidding; she was on screen for probably less than five seconds. But, of course, she was who Lucy spotted and immediately asked about. “Who is that?” and so I told her, “That’s the bad queen.” For days now, all she wants to talk about is how the “bad queen is mad.” They saw the end of Snow White and were far more concerned that the “bruja” (Spanish for witch, that’s what we named her) fell off the mountain than poor Snow White falling “asleep.”

So, my psychoanalytic friends, what does it all mean? Why are my sweet princess daughters being lured away by these evil villains? Even our nighttime routine was taken captive by these wicked antiheros. When it comes time to say our prayers, the girls list friends and family members and then, without fail, Ursula and the “bad queen”. There are a few different things one could take away from this development. Are the girls showing a propensity for the dark side? I am going to choose not to think so. I am going to choose to see it this way. The girls are teaching us a very important lesson: Pray for thine enemies. May we all be so loving.    

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Has Sprung!

Between the incredibly beautiful new blossoms, the weather finally inviting us to spend extended periods outside, and the promise of the approaching end of the school year, I have to say that spring is my favorite season here in Seoul. We were able to commemorate the season change with my parents a few weeks ago and got some of our annual photos at the university near our school. The girls were... somewhat cooperative. Enjoy!

I love Tessa!

The hills are alive with the sound of music!

Friday, April 5, 2013


If you get CNN, the BBC, Fox News, heck even if you get facebook, you are probably aware that things here on the Korean peninsula are not exactly… friendly. Just so we are all aware, the relationship between the Koreas hasn’t been amicable for some time but right now tensions seem to be mounting.

I’m going to be frank with you. We learned the term “the CNN effect” when we first started looking for international jobs. Recruiters warn hopeful teaching candidates to be aware that news stories are often sensational and that life in a country often isn’t what you see on CNN. Teachers who have happily worked in places like Laos or Saudi Arabia corroborate their counsel declaring that they couldn’t have been happier living in these questionable countries. I’m going to tell you that I believe that there is a certain element of truth to this “CNN effect.” If all I knew about the U.S. came from the news, I would think that half the population was rioting for marriage equality while the other half was somehow involved in a mass shooting. Not exactly an inviting place to visit.

And so what does that mean for South Korea? Are we safe? Is CNN blowing Kim Jong-Un’s “bellicose rhetoric” out of proportion? I don’t know. I really have no idea how much of what we see on the news is sensational and how much I need to be worried about. Truthfully, it is a little nerve-wracking. My CNN app on my iPhone is constantly updating me with news about threats, missiles, and Guam while the U.S. embassy here seems cool, calm, and collected. Who do you trust? My brain says to trust the embassy and to look around at my students and notice that all of the ambassadors’ kids are still in my class taking notes and goofing off like any other day. But something in the back of my mind is constantly on edge. I don’t want to be the fool who ignored all the signs and ended up in a heap of trouble because no one told her to be more careful. On the other hand, I don’t want to be like the Y2K wackos who built bomb shelters and stocked them with water and canned goods for the supposed end of the world. So where is the happy medium?

A Security Message for U.S. Citizens
The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest that there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea (ROK). The Embassy has not changed its security posture and we have not recommended that U.S. citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the Republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time. The U.S. Embassy takes as its highest priority the welfare of American citizens in Korea. Should the security situation change, the Embassy will issue updated information.
Convinced? Again, the majority of my mind trusts the Embassy and that it is in their best interest to act on the behalf of its dear citizens abiding abroad. But, there is that little bit of me that isn’t sold. And so I will go about my daily life. I will make dinner, teach class, enter grades. But, I am also going to have a “go bag” packed and ready should we have to skedaddle at a moment’s notice. Am I overreacting? Possibly. Do I care? Not a lot. Judge me if you dare. Judge me for not being careful enough; judge me for being too careful. I’m just doing the best with what I have, people.

I am hoping that one good thing will come from all of this publicity. Perhaps this will be the summer when no one asks us which Korea we live in. SOUTH Korea, people. SOUTH! They don’t like us much up North.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Making a House a Home

I’ll be the first to admit it. I am a terrible decorator. I love it when I walk into someone’s house and everything is just so and they have cool art pieces and just the right accent wall, blah blah blah. I admire those homes and the artist who set it up that way with a sort of awe. How did they do that? How did they know which pieces to buy, where to put them, and what color to pick for their throw pillows? My sister knows how to do it; my mother is great at it…  I, however, fall short in this area. As it turns out, decorating is one of those skills that is important to help you settle in to your living quarters. The throw pillows and accent walls can make the difference between feeling at home and feeling like you are permanently staying in a hotel.

So, what is a less-than-artsy girl to do when she wants to make her apartment seem like less of a stay at the Hilton and more of a home? I tried my hand at art, pictures, area rugs, etc. but our apartment still lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Our apartment still seemed to fall short of our friends’ places that had seemed to capture the essence of “home”. After much soul searching, I think I finally found the answer: appliances.

As one who loves to eat and therefore must love to cook, I slowly came to the realization that no home of mine would be complete without my stand mixer given to me by my mother for our wedding. This spectacular treasure spent four tragic years collecting dust in our storage unit until this summer when I had enough sense to pull the ol’ girl out and ship her to Korea. I didn’t realize just how naked my counter was until this glorious piece of equipment graced the Formica in August. When I see pictures of our first two years in the apartment, I immediately notice the gaping Kitchenade-shaped hole near the sink. How had I survived for so long without it? That question will have to remain unanswered as I can only reflect on how my kitchen and my cookies will be forever changed by this home-making addition to our apartment.

As the year wore on, we started to realize that our apartment was still missing something; it wasn’t complete just yet. We pondered our dilemma for some time and finally found what our home was missing. This darling little domestic device was installed just last week:

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, a dishwasher. Admittedly we are still figuring this little beauty out as all of the instructions are in Korean and my once-a-week class hasn’t reached the “appliance instructions” chapter yet. At any rate, we have now re-entered the modern age of mechanical dish washing. It was a lovely four and a half years of soap suds and rubber gloves but it is time to move on.

And so, I have come to this conclusion. Should you come and visit a home of the Simpsons (be it in Seoul or somewhere else in the world), you may not have decorative pillows matching hand-knit afghans on the couch. There may not be special guest towels that were chosen to coordinate with the soap dish in the bathroom. But, in my home I can always promise you fluffy cakes and spotless dishes. Is that enough for you? For me, at least, these two details were enough to make our house a home.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Is It Spring Yet?

I’m not sure if you have had a chance to check your calendar, but we are in March already. March, people! How did this happen? I think that one of the reasons that I find this so hard to believe is that it is still unbelievably cold here. Now, I know that it is all relative. Sometimes we talk to our friends who moved here from the Philippines or India and shiver whenever the thermometer dips below 70°. Other times, we talk to friends who moved here from Moscow who haven’t pulled their winter coats out yet. Finding a sensible medium between the two, I am going to tell you that it is cold here and has been for a while.

I also recognize that you might be thinking, “Hey, man up. You are from Denver!” Yes, I know I was born and raised at the foot of the Rocky Mountains but a Colorado winter is quite different from a Korean one. While Denver does indeed deal with blizzards that bury highways and temperatures so low they make your water pipes freeze, Mother Nature frequently smiles upon Colorado and sprinkles sunny 60° days throughout the winter months. Seoul is different. In January, the average temperature was 27° and I can’t remember a day where the high was above freezing. February had a few days above 32°but not by much. Yes, I am used to cold. I know how to scrape ice off of a windshield and I make sure to dress in layers to maximize body heat insulation. But, I am also used to only having to apply those helpful tidbits on and off throughout Colorado’s unusually long “possible snow season”. I am used to expecting snow at Halloween and Easter (never Christmas) but I am also used to pulling out short sleeves in December.

So this whole eternal winter thing is kind of cramping my style. And, I know I am not the only one. All four of us seem to be suffering from a delusional cabin fever. We see the sun shining outside and, for some unknown reason, think that it must be a great day to take a walk. So, we say the magic word “Go” to the girls and they are off like shots to the front door ready to be released from their indoor prison. Not five minutes into our excursion, however, we are forced to succumb to nature as the girls bury their rosy cheeks and snotty noses into our shoulders to shield their faces from an icy wind.

But, I know that spring is around the corner. Well, maybe not around the corner but at least at the end of the block. On particularly cold and dreary days, I find myself wistfully flipping through last year’s pictures to find when we started spending extended periods outside or even wearing short sleeves. It has to warm up soon, right? Right?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Twins: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Well, it has been two years since the so-called “BOGOs” came into our lives and made us a family. Since then, we’ve seen a lot. I was tempted to say that we had seen it all but then I thought about things like school, homework, friends, and even *shudder* boyfriends. So I decided to stick with “a lot”. Twins are a different animal. We get a variety of responses when we tell people that we have twins. We get everything from the awe-struck “Wow, I don’t know how you survived!”, the inappropriate “Are they natural?”, the insensitive “Better you than me!”, to the connection making “I’m a twin!” or “I have twins!” No matter the comment, they almost always cause a reaction. So, I thought I would be real with you and give you the skinny on what it’s like to live with our toddling little phenomena.

Many times in an attempt to make an emotional connection, I’ve had moms tell me, “My kids are only ___ months/years apart. It was pretty much like having twins.” I’m going to let you in on a little secret: No, it wasn’t. There is no such thing as “pretty much” twins. Either they are twins, or they aren’t. Now, I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense at all. I honestly think that there are many things that are more difficult about having kids at two different ages than two at the same age. For me, when it is nap time, it is nap time. For both kids. I don’t have to worry about keeping one quiet so the other can sleep and I get a break at the same time every day. When they were infants, I only had one schedule to keep (and yes, I kept to it. Ask anyone who was around me for the first year of the twins’ lives).There are no “older child toys” and “younger child toys”. We don’t have to worry about the toddler being upset about the baby breaking a favorite doll or the baby swallowing a Lego meant for a toddler. Remember, I was only pregnant once, gave birth once, went through one infancy stage. Hence: BOGO (buy one get one free).

But, I’m not going to lie. There are things that are more difficult with twins. Breastfeeding. I think that is all that needs to be said on that topic. Soothing little babies when all they want is their mother’s full attention and it has to be divided between the two of them. Sometimes I look at new moms and I think to myself, “How is she looking so normal? How is she coping with this new little being so well? I was a MESS at this time!” I have to comfort myself with the thought that I had two and they were a double dose of game-changer. Or it is also quite possible that they just are coping better than I did... or at least hiding it better. Even now when I get home from work, all these two little girls want to do is to be held and played with and, frankly, all I want to do is hold them and play with them. But, I’m home at 4:00 and dinner is at 5:00 (yep, still a schedule freak).  So that means figuring out how to stir spaghetti noodles with no hands. I’ve figured out a few creative solutions but mostly I’ve come to the conclusion that this, just like infancy, is a phase that I need to embrace and that it will get easier.

On the other hand, there are some simply amazing things about twins. They will share a connection that will be impossible for me to understand. They will never remember life without the other. There is no greater gift to a parent than having your kids love each other. People often ask us if they fight and the answer is that yes, they do. I think that sibling rivalry is inevitable no matter what the age similarity/difference is. But they also love each other and enjoy being around each other. Even at this young age, they show empathy, “Uh-oh, sissy is sad!” or concern, “Oh no, sissy is in time out.” They frequently ask to hug and kiss each other, they dance together and hold hands. Just one interaction like that and any of the difficulty we’ve had with them that day melts away and we are once again enthralled with the miracle of these two little girls.

So, there you have it. Twins: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just remember, unless you had twins, you didn’t have twins.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Our Year in Pictures

I think that we can all say that 2012, as it did not end up in a fiery zombie apocalypse, turned out alright. Here is our year in review:



Meeting Mama C and Granddad in Taipei





Back in Seoul

Phuket, Thailand




Spending New Year's in Rome

What a great year! We can't wait to see what is in store in 2013!