Thursday, October 10, 2013

Farewell, Korea.

I've been putting off writing this post, because it's hard to say goodbye.

When we were asked to take this expat opportunity nearly two years ago, we weren't sure what to expect life would be like in Korea.  But we accepted this challenge and faced it with optimism and excitement.  I have to say, it was the hardest decision we've ever made together in 14 years, but it has been more amazing than we ever thought possible.

So much has happened in the 18 months we've lived here.  Not only have birthdays and holidays been celebrated, but our boys have grown up so so much.  When you think about it, Parker has spent equal amounts of his little life in Korea as he did in the U.S..  The weird thing is that he has actually become a little boy in this foreign country.  And Connar, man oh man, he has just matured so much.  When we first got to Korea, he was just starting to talk in phrases, but now you can literally have an entire conversation with him.  It's just crazy to me how much these boys have changed over the last 18 months.

I cried today as I looked out our window, just thinking about all that we've been able to experience during our time here and just how much I'll miss so many things about the expat life.  This opportunity has a lot of perks, but I believe one of the best perks of all is that I was able to stay home with my boys.  A lot of women wish that they could stay home with their kids at one point or another, and I'm no different.  But to have it actually happen has been fabulous and fabulously difficult, all at the same time...and I wouldn't trade it for the world.  The time that I've had with them is priceless, and I'll forever be grateful that I was able to spend so much quality time with these precious littles of mine.  I try to remember "they'll only be this age once", so being a stay at home mom has been such a blessing.

The memories we've made in Busan are unlike any other we'll ever make anywhere else.  Talton and I know just how lucky we were to get this opportunity....and also just how crazy we were to take it on.  But I believe things happen for a reason, and I believe that this was where we were suppose to be at this time in our lives.  I'm so thankful for this time and so grateful for a wonderful support system in our family and friends back home.  Being so far away from family and friends has been the hardest part of the entire deal.  That has never gotten easier, but I must admit that I'm super proud of us for doing this together.  I think there's something to be said for moving to a foreign country where everything is done differently, and the only person you have to rely on is your partner.  We did this, and I couldn't be prouder to be married to Talton.  He's a rock star as far as I'm concerned.

Thank you, Busan, South Korea, for everything you gave us.  We'll be leaving a little piece of ourselves here tomorrow and will carry a little piece of you with us always.


I figured one of the last things I take the boys to do should be one of the first things we did upon our arrival in Busan. So I took them back to the slide on the beach.  :)  Enjoy the pictures comparing them in June 2012 to last week.  This turned out to be our last trip down to sink our toes into the Haeundae Beach sand and to dip our tootsies in the water.

They were just so little...
 Now, look how much bigger they are!

Really, look at the difference in Parker!  Where did the rolls and creases go?

Then...Going down together, holding hands with each other and Daddy.
 Now... See ya!


Still loves to go down head first.  :)

Loved sand and rocks then...
 ...and still does today.


Wow, time flies when you're having fun!  :)

things we will and won't miss about Korea

The time has come, folks.  We're moving home tomorrow from Busan.  Before I write a farewell post to Korea, I wanted to share some of the things we will and won't miss about Korea.  :)

things we WILL NOT MISS about living in Korea:
  • frequent changes in restaurants or stores you've come to like... I can't even begin to tell you how many times we've set out for a place that turns out to be shut down and gutted out or tried to order food that either they don't make anymore or decided not to cook today (even though it's on the menu).
  • the stares at the boys... I should've charged for looks, that's for sure.  Pats on the head would've been extra.
  • the lack of personal space... Please tell me you read this post that I wrote last year.  It's just the tip of the iceberg with personal space.
  • no English TV... I've actually gotten so use to this that I completely forgot to watch my favorite shows, or any shows for that matter, during our last two visits home.  I can't wait to get my hands on the checking account will be happy with that too because the only way we've been able to watch English shows have been to buy them on iTunes.
  • Having three trash cans and a food trash to empty...I'll be ecstatic to see that go!  I will say that I'll be more conscious of recycling once we move back home, but it'll be much easier to want to recycle when the recycle can is in my garage and not down an elevator, outside, and in a big stinky room with hundreds of other people's trash.
  • Being alone...  It's so hard not to be around the ones you love.  We are so fortunate to have good family and friends who love us and our boys and want to be spend time with us, so being away from everyone has been one of the hardest parts of living on the other side of the world.  Should I even mention how much T and I are looking forward to regular date nights?!  Look out Mom...Here we come (or maybe I should say, here the boys come!  :)
  • Not being able to simply ask someone for help finding something at the grocery store.  When I needed baking soda, Talton had to translate it on his phone to show someone.  When I needed toilet wipes, I had to find some in my backpack to show them (because there was no way I was acting that one out!).
  • the dryer that takes forever and a day to dry a load of clothes...  For real, I can only do 2 loads a day...tops...and that's if I start at 8 am and finish the last load late at night.  Sometimes I have to leave the door open to allow the dryer the opportunity to cool down.  So frustrating.
  • making my own ice - I miss the ice machine in my fridge!
  • I will not miss having to make dinner for the boys to take for them to eat when we go out to eat.  It'll be nice when we eat at places where the kids' menu includes items they actually like.

things we WILL MISS about living in Korea:
  • Being able to get nearly everywhere on foot.  The only places close enough to walk in Houston will be my mailbox and the park.
  • A beach right outside our door.  I'm pretty much over the sand being everywhere in my house, even when we don't actually go down on the beach, and I'm not a "crazy about the beach" person but come on now...Living at the beach ain't such a bad gig.  And it'll never happen again so it's pretty cool to know that we did it.
  • Honesty.  Seriously, it's like everyone's on the honor system here.  For example, they leave the parasols and chairs on the beach every night throughout the summer (in a big pile but they don't actually lock it up in a building somewhere).  My friend left her iPad sitting on the treadmill at the gym one night and didn't realize it until a week later.  When she went to the gym to see if someone found it, they had it waiting at the desk for her.  In one of the restaurants in our building downstairs, there is a hallway that runs behind it with a big freezer full of food, and it's unlocked all day every day.  If only the rest of the world were as honest as the people here, it would be amazing.
  • Safety... I've never felt as safe anywhere as I do here.  I don't think twice about going outside late at night, people wanting to take a picture with my kids (I should charge way extra for that one!) and their intentions behind it don't worry me, and I don't check my backseat before getting in the car.
  • Of course there are places that are dirtier than others, but for the most part, this is a really clean city. And the fact that there aren't many, if any, public trash cans out and about makes that even more hard to believe.  Even after a big storm, there are cleaning crews on a mission as soon as the rain has stopped to clean debris washed ashore and more along the roadways cleaning up tree limbs, leaves, and trash that might've been blown around.
  • Actual seasons...  While a true, cold Winter being longer than 3 days is too long in my opinion, I have to say that living through actual seasons was pretty neat.  I loved the cool Fall and Spring weather!
  • The gym being so close...  We live on the 5th floor, and the gym is on the 3rd floor in our building.  Seriously y'all, it doesn't get much more convenient than that.
  • Going to the open air market to buy fruit...  I've come to love seeing those few people I take the boys to buy fruit from, and although I don't know what they're saying in Korean to the boys every time we visit, I can tell that they think C & P are pretty cute.
  • The kid cafes...  The boys loved going to play at the play places/kid cafes, and although it may not have been so easy to find new places to take them, it was always worth it to find places they enjoyed.
  • The quick service at the airport...  The check in line has always been longer than any immigration or customs line, which is so polar opposite of the airport in Houston.  You are seriously in and out, often times without any line at all!
  • The spicy Korean ramen soup.  Kelsie, can I get an amen?!
  • Having Starbucks a walk away, at the bottom of my building.  I'm not a Star-aholic by any means, but I have been known to enjoy a nice, warm cup of hot chocolate when it's cold outside.  I can walk down, grab it, and be back up in my place in 10 minutes.
  • heated toilet seats---Need I say more?
  • The culture.  The temples.  The mountains.  The cherry blossoms.  The people.

In all seriousness, Korea has been our home for the past 18 months.  We'll be leaving a part of ourselves here and will remember Busan with great fondness for the rest of our lives.  This is an amazing city, and I'm just so thankful that we had an opportunity to come here as a family and really immerse ourselves in the culture.  What an experience!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Look at 'em go!

Connar has gotten really good at riding his Strider recently.  He picks his feet up and glides like nobody's business.  Parker is slowly getting more comfortable on his bike too.  It's so fun to watch!

How cute are they riding around with their helmets on?!
And what about Connar's samurai sword on his back?  Love it!

And this Bug can do it with his patch on too!  :)

Funny thing about these two..they wake up with tons of energy.  So much so that they had already done many, many laps before their Daddy even left for work that morning.  This is him kissing them goodbye for the day.  :)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

the milk man

He cracks me up.
Instead of merely asking for milk sometimes, he'll just go ahead and fetch it himself and bring it to me.

On this day, I was busy doing something and told him to wait a minute.  I found him waiting on me like the living room...watching a movie...with milk AND cup in hand.  :)

And as soon as he saw me taking his picture, he jumped up and followed me, holding the milk up.  I guess he had waited long enough.  :)

What can I say?  The boy loves his milk.  :)

endless energy

These boys have, what seems like, an endless amount of energy.
This was one day morning recently.

some bike riding, courtesy of Connar

more bike riding, courtesy of Parker (while Connar reads on the back...why not, looks like a great place to read to me!)

Then it was time for some wrestling.

and then some jumping...

and back to wrestling...

 And then this one wanted to help me clean.  Starting him early!  ;)
(Notice that he has the vacuum in one hand and a Mr. Potato Head in the other.  Talented, I tell ya.)


Later, Houston!

After a quick three week visit in Houston, it was time to go back to Korea.  As usual, we flew from Houston to Tokyo the first day and then from Tokyo to Busan the next day, to break it up a bit for the boys for us all.

Just so you know... Both in the Busan and Tokyo airports, these luggage carts that hold your suitcases are FREE.  We paid like $6 to use this one in Houston.  Ridiculous.

In the United Club lounge they had a family room.  Score!  It was a room with a door....perfect for a family room!  :)  We had a little breakfast before hopping on the plane, and we didn't have to worry about the boys bothering other people who were trying to relax in the lounge.  Plus, the more we can keep them busy before getting on the plane, the better.  Having somewhere besides the gate to wait at gives us an opportunity to mix up the scenery and pass some time.  We enjoyed it so much that we have already pulled out our passes to use the United Club lounge in Tokyo on our flight back home later this week.  :) 

So here are two of my recent great ideas that work really well for us (in the picture of P below).  First off, the little bowl in front of Parker... I put one of those in each of the boys' lunch kits with all of their snacks, so that they have somewhere to put their food other than on top of the tray table in front of them (either it's too far away or their iPads are sitting on them).  Having a small bowl to reuse for every snack time has worked out beautifully!  Wish I had thought of that a year ago and not just a month ago. :)  The second great thing I figured out to do with Parker's headphones (since he won't wear them) is to hang them on the arm rest between the two of us, volume up, and with it facing him.  Works like a charm.

C playing Angry Birds and T playing Candy Crush (they sit in the two seats in front of P and I so we can use the wall to (1) give them a place to rest against if needed (2) a little extra space and (3) to block them in ).  :)

By the time we got to Tokyo, went through immigration, got our luggage, and went through customs, we still had to wait for the shuttle to take us to our hotel 15 minutes away.  We were pooped by this point.  It was around 2 pm in the afternoon there, which was midnight in Houston where we were coming from.  When you've been up all day long and then add traveling literally half the day on an airplane with preschoolers, you can understand why we were so exhausted.
 Even after the long flight, we were still having to entertain little ones while we waited on the shuttle for the hotel.  Thank goodness P was just about asleep in the stroller, but C was putting up a good fight.  Gotta remind yourself to be patient and kind when they get fussy, even if you're super tired, because they're just 2 and 3 years old and are being real troopers with the traveling.  Traveling with littles isn't for the faint of heart, that's for sure.

It wasn't too long after sitting down on the shuttle that Parker fell asleep on my shoulder.  When we got in our room in the hotel, we had to wake him up so he'd hopefully go to sleep later at the regular bed time.  Getting adjusted to the time is such a hard, hard part of living on the other side of the world.  It took a while to get P to actually wake up and not keep falling back to sleep on this bed.  I felt so awful that we couldn't let him sleep, but I knew it would be harder later if we did.  We all ended up going to sleep at like 6:30 pm (thank you, hotel black out curtains!).  That seems really early, but it was 4:30 am where we came from (in Houston), so we had actually been awake for far too long at that point to stay up any longer.
 I did eat one of these before hitting the hay though.  Delish!  I don't normally eat Milky Way, but this Japanese version tasted very much like a Three Musketeers, which I love.

The next morning, the boys were ready to party way too early (I'm talking 4:30 am or before....I can't even remember, I was so tired).  They actually were awake for a while before we gave in and turned the lights on.  So we played as much (as you can in a hotel room), read, ate snacks (breakfast wasn't being served for a few hours), and watched a little TV for a few hours until it was time to head back to the airport for the last leg of our journey from Tokyo to Busan.

Speaking of watching TV, I recorded this to show you what we watched.  There were tons of Japanese infomercials and not much else to watch.  Their expressions are priceless though!

Once we got to the airport and grabbed some Mickey D's for breakfast, we had to stop by Connar's favorite newsstand in that airport (I know, it's funny that he loves a Japanese newsstand, right?!) to get some new books for the boys.  And yes, they're entirely in Japanese.  It's okay...they don't read words yet, just pictures.  And stickers.  They read the language of stickers.  :)
 Thomas the Train for Parker
 and samurais for Connar

To pass the time while waiting at our gate, I gave the boys one coin each, and they thought it was the best thing ever to put their coin in, push the coin release lever, and watch their coin fall down into the tray over and over again.  Whatever floats your boat and keeps you on the quiet side, boys.  :)

Man, when we got on the last plane to get back to Busan, it's like you get a second wind because you're almost there.  This flight usually isn't too packed either, so we often don't have a neighbor in the seat next to Talton and I, which is more than nice.

Isn't he so handsome?!  Love you, babe.

They started off like this...

... but they didn't last too long and were out like a light pretty quick.  (Thank goodness I had enough sense to bring their Pillow Pets this time...such a huge help on long plane rides or long journeys that require several plane rides!)

Once we got home early that afternoon, the boys were excited to be back in their space and around their toys.  One minute C was playing with his ninja turtles, and the next minute I turned around and he was like this....  Out cold.  Poor, sleepy baby.

Happy to say we don't have to do this long journey but one more time, back to Houston later this week.  Woo hoo!  It'll be so nice to not have to deal with jet lag anymore.  :)