Thursday, November 30, 2006

New name?

We'll no longer be on the ROK soon. Which makes this blog's name a bit obsolete. So, any and all suggestions are welcome. Either email me or leave a suggestion in the comments.

On the road again...

How time flies! It's almost time for us to move from Seoul, South Korea to the East Coast of the U.S. Yes, that would be on the other side of the planet for you geography buffs. And, lucky us, we get to deal with the Holiday madness AND look for a new home all at the same time! Since we are moving into a hotel next week and flying shortly after that, I'm making my list now of the things we will and will not miss about being on the ROK.

We won't miss:

  • traffic and insane drivers who think traffic laws are just a suggestion to be ignored (seeing 5 lanes of traffic trying to fit in one painted lane is a prime example);
  • the itty, bitty, teeny, weeny apartment we had in Daejeon -- I think it was roughly 800 square feet, including the enclosed balconies, and only boasted a kitchenette to cook in ;
  • soju, a potent rice liquor, often featured at whay-shiks (a male-bonding extravaganza that Sam says he won't miss either);
  • monsoons, enough said;
  • smog, so bad you can't see the hills and mountains that completely surround Seoul; and
  • yellow dust, courtesy of China, that infiltrates everything every Spring (and Fall this year);
  • being 13-14 hours ahead of East Coast time (14-15 hours of Central) and trying to remember what time and day it is back home before calling.

We WILL miss:

  • Ms. Cho, our aujuma, who cleaned our house and helped out with the kids once a week;
  • Mr. Alex, the care giver at the daycare who usually watched L'il Sis on the occasions that she went;
  • AFN "commercials" -- they were mini-lessons on history, geography, military life, etc. While some could be a bit on the corny side, my kids don't really ask for much because they haven't been exposed to commercials for toys, etc.;
  • the ease of public transportation: cabs, buses, subways, even "bullet"-type trains for outside the city;
  • maintenance workers (and movers, etc.) who actually show up when they say they will;
  • really cheap entry fees to museums, palaces, and other attractions;
  • Korean foods such as bibimbap that will be hard to find in the States (Sam will also miss speaking Korean on an almost daily basis); and
  • all the wonderful U.S. and R.O.K. friends we've made in our two years here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Happy Birthday, Marines!

We celebrated the 231st Marine Corps Birthday at the Seoul Hyatt this year. Included among the guests were the current Republic of Korea (ROK) Marine Commandant and 9 former ROK Marine Commandants. Our guest speaker was GEN B.B. Bell, the U.S. Army general who commands the American military forces, the U.N. forces, and the combined U.S.-ROK forces here in South Korea.

Although the U.S. Marines here are a small group, the Birthday Ball was a big event and the Marines did a great job organizing and hosting the Ball. We filled the ballroom at the Hyatt and had a great time. Unfortunately, the Marine in charge of the event placed a bottle of soju at each table. His wife (a good friend of mine) thought it would be a good idea, or at least very funny, to have her friends each do at least one shot of the stuff. It is horrible. A bit like trying to drink rubbing alcohol. I don't know how Stretch stood it last year. Despite that experience, we really had a great evening with our friends.

Usually, I get one token slow dance a year at the Birthday Ball. This year, Stretch actually danced quite a bit with me, even to faster music. And while my shoes started off comfortable enough, I eventually had to kick them off, along with many of the ladies on the dance floor. Then, after the taxi dropped us off outside the base, we had to walk about half to three-quarters of a mile to get home. Yes, in those shoes! Plus, I was trying to keep up with Stretch. You may have noticed in the picture that his legs are a little longer than mine (by about a mile!) He was sweet and tried to carry me part of the way, but that didn't really work.

All in all, it was a memorable Birthday Ball made more so by the company of good friends. We will definitely miss our many wonderful friends here when we leave the peninsula next month.

*Despite the picture, but I'm not really that short. I'm 5'4" but Stretch is 6'8".

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Trick or Treat!

Halloween came early for us on Yongsan. Official Trick-or-Treating hours were on Saturday night from 6:00 to 8:30. We ran out of candy before 7:30. This year, Big Sis decided she didn't want to go trick-or-treating, so she handed out the treats. Apparently, the candy wasn't worth having to dress up. Big Sis explained to one mom who came by with her little ones that she already had enough candy. L'il Sis, on the other hand, had a blast. She had no qualms about going up to strangers, saying, "Trick or Treat!" and holding out her bucket. Sam said even the scary masks some kids had on didn't bother her once he told her they were okay. Once her bucket got too heavy for her, we cut her off. But L'il Sis still wanted to walk around the neighborhood and see everything.

C'mon, Dad! There's candy out there waiting for me!

Big Sis decided she liked handing out the candy better than getting the candy. Probably because she could just toss things into bags without actually saying anything.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Loose teeth and mummies

Big Sis finally has some loose teeth. Okay, one wiggly tooth and one sort-of-wannabe-wiggly tooth. But they both start better start doing some serious wiggling soon as the adult teeth have already pushed through her gums behind the baby teeth and are anxious for their debut. Silly me, I thought this was something to be concerned about and rushed her to the Pediatric Dental Clinic on Wednesday morning before school. Yes, we were late for school that morning, but I thought this was more important. There I was told it was perfectly normal and nothing to be worried about. Of course, I started asking questions regarding at what point we should be worried. Anyway, x-rays were taken, and I was told to have her wiggle the teeth to encourage them to come out at home. Otherwise, we're to come back in a couple of weeks. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Now for the "mummies" portion of this entry. We found Big Sis asleep in her bed tonight with her top sheet pulled off the bed and wrapped tightly around her, kind of like a mummy. Or a baby burrito. You know, when babies are newborns and you wrap them in receiving blankets like burritos so they feel secure. What I can't figure out is how she managed to get the sheet wrapped so tightly around her 3 or 4 times. That had to take talent!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Happy Birthday, Big Sis!

Big Sis's birthday fell on Chusok this year. Chusok is the biggest holiday of the year here in South Korea. It's a harvest celebration, as well as a time to reconnect with family and pay tribute to ancestors. Most Americans compare it to our Thanksgiving, but its also very different. At any rate, between Friday being a day off for Chusok and Monday being an American holiday (Columbus Day), we decided to hold Big Sis's party next week. Big Sis decided her actual birthday would be for our family "fiesta." Have I mentioned she's in a Spanish "immersion" first grade and receives Spanish instruction the last half-hour of every school day? Yes, I know, how ironic: We live in Korea but our child is being taught Spanish. But back to the birthday...

So we had a small cake and Big Sis opened gifts from family. She had a pretty good day and was very gracious, sharing all her new toys with her sister. Then, Big Sis spent the rest of the 4-day weekend telling us at every opportunity, "I'm six, you know," or "Well, I'm six."

Friday, September 29, 2006

So what's in your purse?

My friend shannon challenged me to do this. I'm sure it's meant to be revealing about your personality, but here goes anyway! What is in my purse...

First, I switch between this black "Prada"-esque bag that I won during the raffle at an Armed Forces Spouse Club luncheon last year and an earth-toned striped "Kate Spade"-esque bag that is not quite as tall. And sometimes not everything makes the shuffle! Anyway, when I inventoried the contents this morning (Friday), I realized not everything was present to be accounted for. So I've put in ( ) the items that can often be found in my bag that were mysteriously missing this morning.

Compartment 1:

  • 1 small bottle of ReNu rewetting drops
  • 1 Clinique Long Last Soft Shine Lipstick in Blushing Nude [I don't even know why that is in there since I rarely wear lipstick anyway. It probably got left behind from last Sunday!]
  • Thursday's (yesterday's) "to do" list
  • Tuesday's "to do" list [don't ask about Wednesday -- I don't know]
  • 1 receipt proving I paid the cable bill for both Sept. and Oct. (it saves me a trip next month)
  • 1 size 4 Huggies diaper
  • (travel-size container of Huggies wipes)
  • (sippy cup)
  • (bottled water)

Surprisingly, there was nothing in the zippered middle compartment.
Compartment 2:

  • wallet
  • checkbook
  • pen
  • (cell phone)
  • (sunglasses)

I think this just proves that I'm nowhere near as high-maintenance as my husband sometimes thinks I am.

So, what's in your purse?

(I'm tagging Amy of Savage Stories, as a working mother of twins, she's got to have way more interesting stuff in her bag than I do!)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Red alert: "Fuffy" withdrawal

In an effort to curb L'il Sis's pacifier addiction (she calls it her "fuffy"), Sam snipped the tips off all her "fuffies" on Sunday night. She did okay Sunday night, but then it got ugly. On Monday, she took only a 45-minute nap. Then, after she went to bed that night, she woke up around 10:30 p.m. and was up for most of the night. At first, she was inconsolable. Since I found her on the floor next to her bed, I thought she'd fallen out of bed at first even though I didn't hear that "thump." But now, I'm beginning to think she was just hacked off about her pacifiers being "broken." Of course, the real question is "Why, oh, why did we have to mess with the pacifiers Sunday night when there is a perfectly good 4- day weekend in just a few weeks?"

Saturday, September 16, 2006

make-up artist

You can get the idea although this picture isn't that great -- it doesn't really show the full impact of what L'il Sis did to herself. She kept spinning away every time Sam tried to get a picture. Imagine! A 2-year old who didn't want to cooperate.

L'il Sis decided she needed a bit of color last weekend. Somehow, she found some crayons after escaping from her room in the early hours of Saturday morning. We found her like this -- the area around her mouth covered in purple crayon. She was also grinning away and laughing. Fortunately, she didn't eat the crayons -- she just used them as lipstick. So in addition to scribbling on the walls and doors any time she finds a pencil (muralist), she's now adding make-up artist to her coloring resume.

Butterflies and more butterflies

Big Sis has been on a butterfly- catching kick lately. She could spend hours at it. Sadly for her, she doesn't have a butterfly net and had to make do with a net that came with some Sassy bath toys. I was amazed at how many butterflies were placed in captivity by that little net. Big Sis waited for the butterflies to land on the ground before pouncing. She began by putting them in a jelly jar with holes poked in the lid but that was too small, apparently. She moved on to the plastic container you see in these pictures that Sam slashed in many places to allow air flow. The new hobby came in handy when Big Sis had an assignment to catch an insect and bring it to school to share.
L'il Sis has only been mildly interested in what Big Sis is doing. The running about is what she enjoyed. Although, she did get jealous when Big Sis was hunkered down showing a butterfly to a neighboring 3 year old girl. She ran across the play area to where Big Sis and the other little girl were and knocked the poor girl over. I made her say she was sorry.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"I need help"

L'il Sis has a bad habit of screaming very loudly and very shrilly whenever she wants something. is frustrated, needs help, etc. So we've been asking her to say, "Help, please" instead of screaming when she needs help. Yesterday, as I was making dinner and Big Sis was working on a tally chart and chattering away to me, I was vaguely aware that L'il Sis was saying something. Both girls were in the playroom. Big Sis was working on the counter on the other side of the kitchen sink and L'il Sis was on the floor near her (where I could hear her but couldn't see her). Anyway, poor L'il Sis must have been on her 3rd or 4th repetition before I realized what she was saying: "I need help. I...Need...Help. I NEED HELP!" Although initially neglected, L'il Sis did get heaps of praise from both Mommy and big sister for asking for help so well instead of screaming. And, yes, she did get help.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

First day of First Grade

I can't believe my baby is in first grade already! But she is and today was her first day. Big Sis completely shocked me by getting out of bed all by herself (on time!) and getting ready for school with only a minimum of fuss. She was nervous but you'd never know it!

Fortunately, L'il Sis was going to daycare after Big Sis went to school so her backpack was ready to go as well. She took that as a substitute for Big Sis's lunchbox that she was trying to carry (until Big Sis tucked it into her backpack). As you can see, both girls were more than ready to go well before we needed to leave.

Big Sis was so pleased when she learned that a classmate from kindergarten would be in her first grade class this year (no easy feat, considering there are at least 7 first grade classes at her school!). After school, about the only thing Big Sis would tell me about her day was that her teacher had taken all her glue sticks. She told me this over and over and over. Apparently, it was quite the tragedy and she is having a difficult time getting over it.

August pictures

I know I haven't posted any pictures lately. It's been a busy month. Although I haven't posted, I have been taking pictures. Here are some of my favorites from the past month:

Claire and Daddy share a dance.

I had been telling Maeve we'd go to the Aquarium at the COEX Mall all summer. Finally, last Thursday, I realized it was my last chance before school started. Of course, it seemed every nursery school in Seoul was on a field trip that day! Maeve still had fun, though.

Claire looking sweet, while dressed in her princess/ballerina finery.

Claire eating her broccoli. This was a rare night when she announced, "I like broccoli! More broccoli, pease!" Of course, she only nibbles the florets off and leaves the rest.

Maeve and Claire coloring together:

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

2 year old carjacker

"Mommy! Look at Claire!" Maeve yelled. I immediately started looking around for Claire. She wasn't in the playground (like I thought she was). She was a few yards away, standing next to one of those motorized toy Jeeps, trying to pull a little boy out of it. Let me backtrack a bit. There were 2 little boys in the Jeep, both older and bigger than Claire. But she didn't let that stop her. She wanted to be in that Jeep, so somebody had to get out. So there she was. Pulling on that little boy, trying to get him out. As soon as I saw her, I yelled, "No! Stop that, Claire!" Not that it had any effect on her whatsoever. I had to physically pry her away and carry her away from the scene of the crime. Claire continued to tell me, "I sit in truck! I sit in truck!" She was plainly not listening when I tried to explain that (a) she didn't know those kids; and (b) carjacking just isn't nice!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

how old are you?

Maeve is always saying the funniest things, usually made funnier in the context of her age and the fact she is saying them. This weekend she lived up to this again. It has been very hot and humid in South Korea lately. (They really aren't kidding about the dog days of summer here.) So, there we were, walking across a parking lot. Maeve was moaning and complaining about being thirsty. Then she startles us with, "I have to hydrate... to stay healthy!" Sam asked if she knew what "hydrate" meant. She didn't, but she still used it correctly!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Claire says...

We've been talking up the whole potty training thing lately. "Big girls use the potty, babies use their diapers...." you get the idea. The other morning, I tried to get Claire to just sit on the potty. Without looking at me (she looks away and ignores me if I'm saying something she doesn't want to hear), Claire responded, "No thank you sit on potty...[big pause]...'kay?" with a big smile.
Later, when I asked her if she was a big girl or a baby, she answered with an emphatic, "Baby!" So I guess that's that. She is definitely not interested for now!

Then there's the dinner battle. Lately, she hasn't wanted to eat much of anything at dinner. When we ask her to take a bite, Claire usually gives us a big grin (to the point I sometimes worry her cheeks will explode!) and says, "I drink-a milk!" One night, after 20 minutes of asking her to take just one bite, she finally did and pronounced, with great surprise, "I like it!" Meanwhile, I'm aging by the minute! Whoever it was who said that kids keep you young, they LIED!

military brat

Maeve really is a military brat. On last Friday's movie night, she opted for Bambi. During a scene with the hunters, Sam tried to assure her that the hunters weren't trying to kill ALL the deer, they were just looking for food. Maeve response was, "Why don't they just go to the commissary?" By the way, I don't think she ever says "grocery store."

I don't know if it's sad or funny, but C-O-M-M-I-S-S-A-R-Y was also one of the first words she could read (hard to miss those huge letters on the front of the building).

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Just some recent pics of the girls together...

HRH and the power behind the throne...

Love my sister!

Serious and Silly Maeve

Being Claire

"Just give me the Fruit Loops and no one gets hurt..."

Lost amid the Little People

"My kitchen!" (translation: Stay outta my kitchen!)

"Chicken!" "Too hot!" "I wanna make it hot."

Can you see me now?

I'd like to take your order, but this writing thing...

Juice, anyone?

As you can see from the tiara, Claire is a fan of Cinderella. She can even (almost) say her name.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Flooding in the ROK

Sam emailed me some incredible pictures of the flooding here in Korea which I can't figure out how to post here. The Han River is at its highest point in 30 years. It has overflowed its banks and flooded the parks on its banks and has even flooded parts of the Olympic Expressway which runs next to the river on its south bank. For a comparison to those of you who have never been to Seoul, imagine the Washington Beltway flooded in places. There were pictures of buses in Youido (part of Seoul), where all you could see were the tops of the buses! These pictures were taken a couple of days ago when it was really pouring down rain. Seoul has received 14 inches of rain in the last week with more expected. In fact, I just received a weather advisory telling me heavy rain is expected for the next few days, with the possiblity of as much as 2 to 6 inches daily. Hm-m...just wondering if this is how Noah felt...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

rain rain, go away....

What a week! Last Sunday, we lost power for most of the day (from around 1:30 p.m. to almost 10:00 p.m.). They finally got it back on, then we lost it again Monday morning around 9 a.m. We were put on a generator a little before 5 p.m. and were told to limit usage of high wattage appliances like the A/C, washer & dryer, and stove. And we've been on the generator ever since! I think it finally ran out of fuel today (Sunday) when we again lost power. This time, they had the generator running shortly after they arrived. I've been told it could be 10 to 15 days before they can fix the problem. Fun!
To add to all of that, it's been raining since Monday! That's right, it's Sunday now and it's still raining. You do the math. The typhoon that went by the peninsula explains Monday and maybe even Tuesday. But it doesn't explain Saturday and today, when it was really coming down. Welcome to monsoon season! We may not need to go to the pool for Maeve's swim lesson this week.

Friday, July 07, 2006

swim lessons

Considering that Maeve wouldn't even put her face in the water in April and left her first swim lesson that month in tears, I think she's made great progress in a short time. Yes, I know I'm biased. But she's jumping in the deep end and swimming with her face in the water. When she comes up sputtering, having swallowed water, she catches her breath and goes right back under the water. She's a very determined little girl and she amazes me all the time!

Visitors from home!

Sam's mother (Grammy Ruth) and his aunt (Aunt Mary) came for a whirlwind visit in June. We had all been looking forward to this visit for awhile. They only had a week, so we did our best to wear them out by dragging them to as many places as we could while we had them! No rest for jet-lagged visitors here! Considering that monsoon season had already officially started, we were very lucky that the weather held during their week-long visit. It was hot and humid. But it never poured rain -- it only drizzled a bit. Ruth and Mary in the Dragonhill Lodge courtyard.

On the subway the day after their arrival. Sam and I didn't realize how much Claire had grown until we saw that she required two laps during her snooze on the subway.
After exchanging money and shopping in Itaewon their first morning, we took them to see Gyeongbokgung Palace that afternoon. We took the English guided tour and as you can see by the next picture, Maeve didn't let the guide get too far away (even during a quick break mid-way through the tour). She just didn't want to miss anything, I suppose. This was a problem at a museum we visited the following week, but I'll get to that later.

The next day we took the Seoul City Bus Tour, which we hadn't done before and really enjoyed. We hopped off the bus a few times to see traditional houses, the top of Namsan and to see the view from Seoul Tower (visibility and air quality were so poor we couldn't even see the Han River), and to find a place to have lunch in Insadong. The tour also gave us ideas of places we want to return to and explore in greater detail.

The girls put on a fashion show for our guests. Princesses kept disappearing into the playroom only to reemerge as another princess. They also modeled their han-boks for us. The only problem was they kept changing clothes and didn't want to stop.

Sam and Maeve took Grammy Ruth and Aunt Mary on a KTX train to Daejeon. Mainly, it gave them a chance to ride the KTX (the fast train) and to get a glimpse of where Sam lived last year. But since Maeve joined the expedition at the last minute, it turned out to be mostly for her since they went to Expo Park and enjoyed the attractions there before returning to Seoul.

Sam, Ruth, Claire and Maeve in the Dragonhill Lodge courtyard. This was Sam's last day with us before he left for Hawaii for work. So we took it pretty easy that day.

After Sam left, we still kept our visitors busy and on the go. A friend kept the girls for me one day so that we could go shopping at Namdaemun Market. Our 4-hour excursion (including subway rides, shopping and a detour through Itaewon on the return trip) was pretty successful to judge by the bags we were carrying back.

The next day, Ruth and Mary took a tour of the DMZ. While not necessarily a "fun" thing, it is an informative way to spend a day. I would certainly recommend it as a "must do" for anyone visiting Korea. Between my visit there last year and visits to a few other places, including the War Memorial (next few pictures), I've certainly learned more about the Korean War than I ever knew before coming here.

These next pictures were taken at the War Memorial (a museum that covers the military history of Korea, with a big focus on the Korean War). We visited there the day before Grammy and Aunt Mary were scheduled to return home.

Now, remember how Maeve shadowed our tour guide at the palace? At this museum, we had hand-held audio guides that told us about exhibits throughout the museum. Left to her own devices, Maeve would have listened to each and every one! She wanted to hear everything, see everything. Finally, I told her that she and Daddy could come back and spend an entire day looking at everything and he would do a much better job than Mommy at explaining everything, especially the equipment! They'll both be in heaven then! Is it normal for 5 year old to enjoy museums so much?

Maeve exploring the planes in the outdoor exhibit.

Claire fell asleep while we were still outside and didn't wake up until we were half-way through the interior of the museum. Later, she and Grammy rested in the shade before walking back to the car. Did I mention it was hot and muggy?

This is probably what Maeve enjoyed most about the visit, though: reading to Grammy and Aunt Mary every night. She usually read them 3 or 4 books. Unfortunately for them, they tended to be the same books each night! Claire would listen for a little while, but then would jump up to play or grab her own book to look at before listening a little more. Then, she'd jump up... you get the idea. Between all the outings and the showing off, the girls were pretty tired and easy to put to bed most nights.

It really was a whirlwind visit. It seemed that they had just arrived, but before we knew it, Grammy Ruth and Aunt Mary had returned home. The girls certainly missed all the extra attention they received! It was pretty quiet here until Sam returned from his trip a few days later.