Saturday, August 3, 2019

First Trip to Seoul and the Gwangjang Market

I think maybe I had gotten a bit too comfortable in my life back in the States because when T.J. said "let's go up to Seoul tomorrow," I was daunted.  I'd like to blame it all on Tommy and say all my hesitations were because we have a toddler along for the ride but... honestly I think somewhere in my growing up I've lost a bit of the adventurous spirit that I'd found and cultivated back in high school, my first experience living overseas as an expat. All the unknowns, the unfamiliar transportation system, the language barrier, the crowds, I was nervous.

We've been in South Korea a little over a week but we haven't had much time to venture off the Army base. Still we decided not to be too ambitious with our plans. We picked just one thing off our extensive Seoul bucket list to attempt on our first foray into the city.  The night before we booked our train tickets online, we loaded won on to our shiny new metro cards, and we planned out our route. It required a quick taxi ride to the train station, a 45 minute ride to Yongsan station, transferring to the metro and going a further 6 stops to Jongno 5(o)-ga, the closest station to Gwangjang Market.
Gwangjang Market is one of the oldest traditional markets in Seoul and is known for its countless  vendors exclaiming for you to buy their kimchi or grab a seat at their stall for a bite to eat- and that's just the food vendors- we didn't even venture upstairs to see all the silk and textile stalls or where they can make custom Hanbok. It's like the Pikes Place market on steroids x 1000000. And did I mention it was also ten million degrees...?? Literally on the train ride up we got one of those iPhone "emergency alert" notices. Of course ours showed up in hangul characters but a quick screen shot uploaded to Google translate declared it was an extreme heat advisory.  I thought maybe we'd be those dumb tourists going to this crowded, un-airconditioned market in the dead heat of summer when the locals know to stay away but it was packed with Korean nationals, students, families, people on their lunch break, all shopping or settling down for a quick meal.
We got to the market a little bit before we were ready for lunch, which gave us time to wander around cluelessly taking in all the sights and smells. It's a bit disorienting and overwhelming navigating the narrow halls and weaving between the stalls (especially when you're on the verge of a heat stroke and wrangling a 2 year old who wants to run ahead). First we grabbed our wild boy a fresh watermelon juice blended with ice. It was the perfect treat to cool him off and also distract him for a few minutes while we narrowed down what foods we were craving.
Then we found an empty bench at a bindaettok stall and after only a little pointing we were given a huge plate of the yummy fried mung bean pancakes and some chopsticks and we went to town! It was a huge portion but the three of us cleaned the plate before we moved on to the next item on our menu.
We crossed the aisle and plopped down at another booth where we were eyeing a few classic dishes we'd been told were must-trys.  More gesturing and pointing, do we like spicy or no, okay sure, and not entirely sure what we just ordered we were handed an enormous plate of tteokbokki (spicy soft rice cakes) and gimbap (kind of like a Korean version of sushi),  and another plate of japchae (glass noodles). A third plate of steaming mandu (pork and kimchi dumplings) soon followed and T.J. and I both looked at each other and asked: is this what we ordered and did we mean to order this much, and will we have enough won?? Luckily we were able to bag up what we couldn't finish and incredibly only spent ₩23 (barely $20) the entire time we were at the market.
We wandered around a bit longer and located the now famous food stall that sells hand-cut noodles featured on the Netflix documentary series "Street Food." We made plans to come back and try it when the weather was cooler, although the heat didn't seem to stop anyone else from ordering big bowls of soup.

We had booked our return train tickets for a little later in the afternoon, not knowing how long we'd need or how adventurous we might be feeling. I had heard of the Cheonggyecheon Stream just outside one of the market gates so we made our way there and gravitated towards the first shade we could find.  I think in other circumstances it would have been the perfect place to walk off our lunch and I definitely want to try to go back in the fall when it's all stung up for the national Korean Lantern festival but we had hit our limit with the heat for the day and knew it was time to start making our way home.

Nap time was not totally sacrificed in the name of adventure and Tommy went right to sleep once we got back to our hotel and T.J. and I also crashed on the couch after cool showers. Even though we were hot and sweaty messes I feel so proud and excited about our first trip to Seoul, that we managed it without getting lost and without any major meltdowns (on the part of Tommy or myself). I feel more confident about getting out on my own, going to new restaurants, new grocery stores, finding new places that will slowly start to feel like ours.

I think I needed this first excursion, just like I needed this big move across the world to remind me that I'm brave and that I can do hard things! We're all slowly coming out of that thick fog you're wrapped in when you land in a foreign country and I think we're doing pretty good over here.

**And if you want to see a bit more of our day at Gwangjang Market check out my youtube video here!

Friday, July 26, 2019

to my terribly wonderful two year old

Tommy you are two years old and life with you is anything but terrible. How has it been two years since you can into my life and made me a mother? How can so much life, and so many sweet, precious, irreplaceable memories be squeezed into just two years? We made sure to celebrate big with balloons and Thomas the train and corn on the cob and family (a few of your most favorite things) before leaving town. And even though today will probably be spent house hunting I couldn't let this favorite precious day go by without notice.
Sweet Tommy you are true joy and you brighten everyone's day with your full-on eyes closed cheesy smile or your enthusiastic "Hi!" and "See ya!" that you shout to everyone. Your first words when you get up in the morning, as your tripping around the crib in your sleepsack, are usually some combination of "ball," "Daddy," or "Hun-we" or, especially lately "suitcase!"  You seem to have some sort of word quota you think you need to meet each day, and there are few silent moments in our house that aren't filled with your chatter (usually about balls, or trains, or something to eat, or balls) and I love our little conversations.
I love how you want to lay on the "pill-wo" with me before bed and then you start listing every single thing or person you saw or did or touched that day. You call me "Bobby," which sounds like Mommy only slightly British and like you have a cold, and it's hard to turn down any of your demands when they start out that adorable. I am not prepared for the day Bobby becomes Mommy.
You are the most adaptable little guy I know.  It makes me so happy to see you so comfortable in yourself, and your place in our family, that you are able to face so many huge changes better than many adults would (even better than your dad and I have at times). In the past two months alone you've left behind your first true home, spent weeks and weeks not sleeping in your own bed, and you've flown across the world like it was no big deal.
You have a sweet and feisty little spirit. You are so stubbornly independent, running here and there with such purpose like you know exactly where you're going, thank you very much!  And when you wipe out or fall and then immediately shout "Okay!" it sometimes tricks me into thinking you're older than you actually are. Of course other times you come running full speed at my legs wanting to be picked up and you lay your head on my shoulder with your thumb in your mouth and I have my baby again. I am so excited to see you become a big brother. I doubt you really understand what it all means but the way you lay on my belly and say over and over "hi baby hi baby hi baby hi baby" makes my heart swell picturing you with your little brother. I hope and pray you two will be best friends for your whole lives.
You've gotten really proficient at screaming NO! even when no one did, said or asked you anything, but then are (usually) quick to correct to "no tank you." I see such a tender heart in you, especially at meal times when you throw out your hands to either side and shout "Grace!" and then finish with a hands-raised-halelujah-Amen! I hope you always have as much passion and move through your life with as much purpose as you do now.
 These two years are hands down the best years of my life. Not being your mom, not knowing you as only your daddy and I will ever know you, is simply inconceivable. I am so excited for all the adventures we're going to have with you in this next year and watching you settle back in to our new normal here in Korea (or Key-ah as you say). Tommy, you are my little buddy and I love you endlessly.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

summer break

Back in June, the movers came and packed off all our stuff, our household goods and my car are on a boat on their way around the world, T.J. and I handed over the keys to our first home to the new owners, graduation ceremonies were celebrated, and then we loaded up and said goodbye to Washington. T.J. drove his pick-up truck and our dog the 2,700 miles and Tommy and I flew on ahead of him. We reunited in South Carolina where I now find myself with an actual summer vacation- an entire month and half "off" before we fly to South Korea. With the exception of a busy toddler afoot, it almost feels like those long ago childhood summers that were wide open and fancy free.
Final Ortho Residency Banquet
Hospital Graduation Ceremony
We're gonna miss seeing Mt.Rainier out in our neighborhood!

It's pretty amazing how getting rid of our house, and all the responsibilities that went along with it, really lifted a ton of weight off my shoulders. No floors to clean, no fridge to fill, no grass to cut, no errands to run, no mortgage, no bills. I feel like a kid at home again. On top of that, my massive to-do list that seemingly had no end before we left Washington, has "magically" shrunk (aka the days before we left were pure CHAOS) to just 4 little reminders. We've somehow managed to take care of everything we needed to take care of before our imminent departure. So now we rest, relax, soak up all the family time, and wait to leave on our big grand adventure.

It has been quite the treat being back in South Carolina for such a long visit, and our families have completely spoiled us- it's going to be an adjustment once we get to Korea and I don't have as many eager hands around to entertain Tommy. T.J. still has to study and take his boards next week, but we've managed to squeeze in a lot of fun together, some porch sitting and boat rides during his study breaks. And we're definitely taking advantage of the surplus of babysitters around for a couple of solid date nights while we still can!
Tommy has been an absolute trooper, he has amazed me with how well he has adapted to all the changes (let's hope that continues since the changes are only just beginning). He has be-bopped from hotel to pack 'n'play, from one grandparent's house to the other since the beginning of June. I don't know what all he understands or thinks is going on these days. And while I'm sure it's quite confusing for him, he's rolling with it and loving his summertime in the South.

Swimming in the lake, jumping off the dock, blueberry picking, his sweet little voice saying "shoo bee," fishing with PawPaw, collecting eggs with Papa Tom, checking on all the farm animals, eating lots of watermelon, and of course making sure every relative gets a chance to play ball with him over and over and over again. I love that he gets to give everyone a big hug, squeeze, kiss before heading to bed, and that he's so excited to see them again when he gets up in the morning. And I know just how precious this extended time with their grandson/nephew is for our families. 
So that's what summer looks like for the next few weeks. Lots of sunscreen and puddle jumpers, popsicles and corn on the cob, iced coffee on the screened in porch, staying up late talking with my family, listening to cicadas, and filling up on all the goodness of home here before we set up our new home over there.  

Monday, May 13, 2019

A Sweet Second Babe is on the Way

15 weeks and it’s about time for my first bump picture and a first blog post for this sweet second babe. This pregnancy has felt, physically, very similar to my first. I never got sick, just a little queasy in the morning before I'd eat, other than that I was just extra extra tired. Pretty much how my first trimester went with Tommy and yet it’s completely different in every other way. I’m less worried about every twinge, I haven’t been anxiously checking my pregnancy app every day, I accidentally ate lunch meat the other week without microwaving it first- and I didn't freak out. And if it wasn’t for my growing belly I'd probably kinda sorta forget (for just a second) that I’m pregnant.

Maybe it has something to do with a busy toddler and an overseas move already occupying most of my brain space?
I feel a bit guilty for not savoring every minute of carrying this new life- because what a privilege and joy- but I also think it’s just how this baby is going to be. He or she is coming into our family in a wild time, multiplying our excitement, and baby is just going to have to be along for the ride and ready to go with the flow. I’m less scared than I thought I would be, wondering how I’ll manage everything with two littles in tow. Leaving the house, mealtimes, bedtimes, all in a corner of the world far away from everyone and everything familiar... I just let the (many) questions come and then I set them down. They’re still there in the back of my mind but I’m trying to keep it light, to not deep-dive into the logistics of it all and dwell, obsess, fret because I know I’ll figure all those things out just like I did with Tommy.

Before we knew for sure we were moving to Korea, I had this clear vision in my head. I’m standing in the middle of a crowded street, holding Tommy’s hand and wearing a babe in a sling while all around us is the hustle and bustle of our new foreign home. And I have a huge smile! It's been such a reassuring image to hold in my head as we head off into the unknown. God knows exactly who our family needs and He has chosen us to be our babies’ parents. This little one is meant to be a part of this adventure, in this season! And I CANNOT wait to meet our sweet new baby. 

-----
Now I doubt I'll manage to keep up monthly pregnancy updates but I figured this baby at least deserved a solid first attempt.

Size of Baby:
An avocado. I feel like I definitely popped A LOT sooner than with Tommy which is fun since I'd prefer to look properly pregnant than like I ate too much for lunch. I've been wearing maternity jeans since around 9 weeks...partly out of necessity partly out of my love for that elastic band.

Gender: We don't know yet but we find out soon!! Our anatomy scan is the second week of June at which point we'll be living out of suitcases in an empty house and it's at 8 in the morning so I'm not sure what we'll do with Tommy for the appointment..... but I'm so excited to get to stare at our baby moving and grooving for an entire hour! It will be a moment of calm, and time to focus only on this little avocado in the middle of all the chaos.

Cravings: Salty and spicy food. I'm really thinking this move to South Korea is fortuitous because I could totally go for a bowl of hot spicy hand cut noodles. 

Symptoms: Not really. Though I do miss sleeping on my belly and I've already started waking up in the middle of the night to visit the loo.

Favorite moment so far: I've got Tommy trained so that when I point to my stomach and ask "what's inside Mommy's belly?" he says "baby!" I know he has zero idea what that actually means but I like that the idea has been planted.

Looking forward to: Feeling those first flutters and kicks! Hands down that is my absolute favorite part of being pregnant. And this time around I think it will be especially neat when Tommy can feel my belly move. Mostly I can't wait to see if Tommy will have a baby brother or sister. My heart soars when I think about that sweet relationship, the best friend I'm growing for him.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Back with a Bang and a Big Announcement

It's been a while and there a several huge things to catch you up on so let's just cut right to the chase.

We're moving to South Korea!

But wait... there's more...

We thought that moving to the literal other side of the world wasn't quite enough excitement for our family so we decided to add a little bit more... a new little baby!!
Did you get all that? We're moving and growing in a big way. And we are so very excited and overwhelmed and ready for this huge new crazy wild adventure.

Believe it our not South Korea was our first choice but even still, breaking the news to our family was much harder this time around than when we moved to Washington. And finding out we were expecting Baby #2 soon after we arrive at our new home I'm sure added to their concerns and multiplied how hard the distance will be. They're all so very supportive and planning future visits but definitely wishing South Korea was just a teeny bit closer to South Carolina.  We've actually known about the move since the end of January but in true Army fashion there's been a lot of hurry up and wait and wait and wait some more.  However, it seems like things are finally picking up speed.  We've sold our house, we have physical orders in hand, movers are scheduled, Tommy has an adorable passport picture, the new baby's anatomy scan is booked, so we felt it was time to share the news.

We move (around) the end of July and Baby #2 is due (around) the end of October.  And that's about all we know at this point. It's been a huge exercise in patience and trust. Trust that the Army moves people to South Korea all the time and so surely they know what they're doing (right), and trust that the ever expanding to-do list will be completed, some way some how, by the time we board our one-way flight to South Korea.

But most importantly I am trusting that the Lord goes before us and prepares our way and He will be with us on that 14 hour flight with our 2 year old, and He will be with us in the Korean hospital when baby brother or sister is born and, He will be with our little family as we travel and explore and grow and settle and put down temporary roots in a new home and are inevitably changed in unimaginable ways.

Monday, February 4, 2019

18 Months with Tommy

Tommy is now 18 months old. Does that make him officially a toddler or is he still allowed to be my baby? I see pictures of him from this time last year and cannot believe how much he's grown and changed in that short time. He is amazing, he is wonderful, he is my favorite little person in the world. He is wild and loud and rough and rambunctious. He is sweet and snuggly, feisty and funny!

I thought I’d do a little update like I used to do monthly just to have a record of all the Tommy-isms from this season of life. I know I’ll be so glad I did this whenever Tommy has a sibling and I’m trying to remember what to expect for this fun and hilarious season. Plus I never want to forget how he squeezes his eyes closed tight when he's really happy, or how he twiddles his fingers and raises his fist above his head when he hears itsy bitsy spider.
Weight: 26lbs. Of course after the 100zillionth “up” of the day he feels more like 50lbs but for some reason I don’t seem to be getting any stronger lifting all this dead weight, just more achy.

Height: 32.2 inches (he’s now more than half my height....)

Clothing size: 18-24 months, some 2T

Diaper size: 5 but only in Pampers Pure. Just a little PSA that not all diaper sizes are the same even in the same brand. I accidentally let myself run out of diapers (again) and had to quickly pick up the only pack available which was Pampers Baby Dry in size 5 and he woke up soaked through! And so I held one up next to the Pampers Pure and the Baby Dry was soooo much smaller even though they claim to be for the same weight range.
Milestones: I truly think he understands everything I say. It’s incredible to see him learn and definitely makes me more and more mindful of how I speak in front of him. He follows directions so well (when it pleases him) and he now says quite a few words of his own: Mama, Dada, up, ball, football, touch down, good throw (he is his father's son), all done, sit down, light, hot, please, thank you, Alexa (luckily she doesn’t respond to his particular pronunciation...). He is also getting better and communicating what he wants by pointing and getting very excitable and also sometimes by screaming, He makes lots of adorable animal sounds, my favorite being his loud and exaggerated BAAAAA for sheep.

His skills with a spoon and fork are also really coming along which means I might get to just feed myself at mealtimes soon. He also has 8 teeth with 4 more big ones trying to work their way through. He can now climb up onto our kitchen chairs and loves to sit there like a big boy. Climbing in general is a favorite past-time and just one of the fun ways he keeps me on my toes.
Eating: Our last time nursing was on December 10th and while I had to pump for a little bit longer after that date, we are (both) fully weaned. And while he occasionally still sticks his hand down my shirt it was a very easy transition for him (emphasis on "for him" I'm still not over it). He now gets whole milk in a sippy cup, ideally at breakfast lunch and dinner, though he sometimes takes his time with it casually throughout the day along with water. Now that he has more teeth he pretty much eats what we eat. For breakfast he either has a frozen waffle with peanut butter, or oatmeal, or whatever cereal I’m eating that looks more interesting to him and fruit.  For lunch we do a lot of pb&j’s, grilled cheese, yogurt, sliced turkey and cheese, pita with hummus, and of course more fruit. He LOVES fruit and I often catch him trying to tear his way into a clementine with the peel still on. For dinner boy loves his meat so if we’re having chicken or pulled pork, meatballs, you name it, he is all about it! He also loves mac n cheese, cottage cheese, potatoes, beans. I've had a bit of a harder time getting him excited about any vegetables so I also give him pouches with more greens from time to time and hide shredded zucchini and carrots in these chicken meatballs I make pretty much weekly.
Sleeping: Tommy is still a great little sleeper. He gets up around 7:30am and then goes down for a 3 hour nap around 12-12:30 and amen and hallelujah for that! He goes down for bed around 7:30pm. Easy peasy. He is still sleeping in his crib and using a sleepsack and he cuddles with his Hudson bear. I was worried that our sleep routine wouldn't be a sweet and snuggly once we stopped nursing but I love our little snuggle time. We read a couple books, sing a couple songs and rock and cuddle while he sucks his thumb.
Favorites: I think his first true favorite that almost goes without saying is his undying love for all the balls. Baseballs, footballs, Hunley's tennis ball, pieces of paper balled up. You name it, he throws it!  His favorite books lately are More More More and Are You My Mother, which was an all time favorite of mine when I was a little one so I am happy to read it to him again and again and again and again... He loves to give hugs and cuddles and says "awwwww" every time he leans his head down. He runs full speed, arms flung and throws himself on me or T.J. or Hunley. Two out three appreciate the love, I'll let you guess which one is less than enthused. His favorite toy is the Roomba and now that he's figured out how to turn it on and off himself it has become the background soundtrack of my life and I have to hide it in the garage when he's not looking so Mama doesn't lose her mind.

He loves grabbing fistfuls of dog food and flinging them about wildly and then immediately sticking his thumb in his mouth. Blech! He is my little helper though and eagerly puts his shoes away on the steps when we come inside from a walk, or he will throw things away in the trash for me while I'm making dinner. Of course he also likes to take things out of the trash hence his nickname "trash panda." He is very interested in other little kids and he happily plays in the church nursery which is thrilling and means I get a little adult time during the week.  He thinks Hunley is his best friend.... the feeling is not mutual but Hunley is mostly very patient with him. He loves long walks as long as he has snacks. And he stomps his feet excitedly and runs about when he sees his Daddy getting home from work. He is becoming much more opinionated and dare I say strong-willed.  Just when I think he's going to drive me crazy and I'm looking at the clock for bed time, he comes in for a cuddle and melts my heart.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Favorite Books of 2018

I set a reading goal of 52 books last year and I was pretty optimistic when I read 9 books in January alone. But alas that was a bit of a fluke and, even though I made a big push during my two kid-free trips to Colorado this year, and pounded out 7 books in December, I finished two books short! I think it had something to do with the fact that Tommy became a little bit more wiggly and distracted during nursing sessions which prevented me from doing any more reading while nursing.

Regardless, here are some of my very favorite books from this past year that I managed to read in between wrestling my little wild child and sneaking in a few pages at night before my husband passive aggressively pulled a pillow over his head and said "uhhh... so bright..."
*post contains affiliate links :) 

Throne of Glass (series) - Sarah J. Maas
If you like fantasy, magic, a badass heroine (or two or three), a world shaking, heart breaking love story... this is for you. The best part is that's it seven books and even then I didn't want it to end.

Beartown - Frederik Backman
Dark, sticks with you, gets under your skin, breaks your heart, makes you cry, makes you mad, makes you feel things about being young, about being a mother and a daughter. The extremes we go to, tearing apart our lives, just to break something, just to hurt so we can feel like we're doing something to take away the hurt in our children's lives.

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
Speaking of mothers and daughters.... oh this was such a complex and devastating story about that most complicated relationship. 

"To a parent, your child wasn't just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present your were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all existed at once. It was a place you could take refuge, if you knew how to get in. And each time you left it, each time your child passed out of your sight, you feared you might never be able to return to that place again." 

Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo
A fantastical, magical heist. Oceans Eleven with the same impossible odds and an eclectic crew of capable misfits, but set in a make believe world. "No mourners, no funerals!"

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman
I started this one skeptically and at first thought it was a little weird and not my thing, but because everyone was talking about it, and my mom loved it, I kept reading and it totally softened my heart and was worth all the hype. Eleanor is not annoying, as I initially thought, she is uniquely endearing and unapologetically herself in the face of incredible childhood tragedy. It made my heart hurt for the lonely and also made me think twice about how flippantly we answer "fine" to the question "how are you?"

The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
For book lovers and lovers of book lovers. For anyone who's ever been changed by a really good book.

"...a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us...when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day." 

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore - Matthew J. Sullivan
Long live the bookstore!! An unexpected mystery, twisted and connected through hidden clues cut out of the well loved and well worn pages of books.

The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah
What's more dangerous? The unknown wilderness of Alaska or the unknown wilderness inside your own family?

A Man Called Ove - Frederick Backmam
Another by this author quickly becoming a favorite of mine. It's totally different from Beartown but equally as wonderful! This title has been out for a bit but I just read it at the end of the year and it was the sweetest feel good way to end the year! Just lifts the spirits and puts a smile on your face!

Educated - Tara Westover
It would be unbelievable if it wasn't a true story. The things children are capable of surviving at the hands of their damaged and damaging parents...

My Oxford Year - Julia Whelan
A fun quick read and a sweet little love story set in one of my favorite places in the world. If you liked Me Before You, and especially if you didn't like it because you hated the ending and overall message... this is 100x better.

Into the Water - Paula Hawkins
"Some say the women left something of themselves in the water; some say it retains some of their power, for ever since then it has drawn to its shores the unlucky, the desperate, the unhappy, the lost. They come here to swim with their sisters." 

I got a kindle for Christmas and I’ve already got a few books checked out from the library on my nightstand. I set the same reading goal for 2019, 52 books, so wish me luck and leave me your best recommendations!