Monday, June 30, 2008

Incredible Memory

Ian has a great memory for places. The post is full of non-descript, crumbling, tan colored buildings. He recognizes the turn for pool and you can't see the pool from the turn. In fact, the turn is easy to miss. We have only been to the pool a few times (3 I think). He also recogizes the Pet Care Center as soon as we pull into the lot that we park in when we go there. The Pet Care Center is on the other side of the fence from the lot and again, it is not noticeable. Another example, we parked in a lot where Curt had a meeting and waited for him outside. Ian saw a cat in the bushes. That was the first time we ever went there. The second time, as soon as we pulled into the lot, he pointed to the bushes where the cat had been and said,"Tat!"

He certainly didn't get this ability from either of his parents!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Birthday

I am 32 today!

Ian Sings Again!

When Ian took Kindermusik, Ms. Shelly would sing a very simple clean up song," x away. x away. Time to put the x away."
It seemed to have an effect on him so I kept singing it.

Last night, I was putting away all the shoes that Ian took off the shoe shelves when he came in, picked up his sandals and sang,"Sandals away. Sandals away." Th tune was perfect. then he picked up some shoes and said,"Shoes away. Shoes away."

I wasn't singing the song, he did it on his own.

Cursed Electronics

Recently:

1. Ian knocked the table over with Curt's work laptop (Dell). He had just moved everything off the server b/c of server problems and hadn't backed it up, yet (within hours of moving things off this happened). Both heads on the hard drive are destroyed so it had to fall just right. They sent it out to see if things could be saved. I don't understand this because if you commit a crime, they can recover anything, but if you are a regular person it is impossible.

2. Curt's Apple laptop went on the fritz. It is better since Curt removed the nickel Ian shoved into the disk drive. We think there might be more in there.

3. Curt's ipod is shot. We even took it to the authorized Apple retailer in Seoul and they said it was impossible to fix and very expensive to try.

4. The Apple G-5 desktop just went crazy. It showed the Apple gray screen of death and loud fan whirling. I tried several things to fix it but just made it worse as the archive and install option disappeared. I then just tried to re-install Leopard and it said I had to erase and install. It wouldn't even let me do that:"Installation failed". I think we lost some video of Ian on that computer, but I think I have most of the pictures that were on it. I don't know if we should try to take it to the Apple people in Seoul and struggle with translation or send it to the States to a Mac guru. Of course, we didn't have things backed up either. Hadn't gotten around to it.

My precious MacBook had better survive. I need to do regular backups to an external hard drive. Hope the computer lasts until I can do that.

Trying to let all this go.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Coex Aquarium

Last week, we went to the Coex Aquarium at the Coex Mall. It has a good variety of species and some interactive kid areas where little ones can run around. I had to chase Ian backwards through the exhibit. He was on the run! Like many places in Korea, you can get strollers for free from customer service/information. We used them to stroll the kids through the mall before we went to the aquarium and during lunch, but left them outside when we went to the aquarium so the kids could see better.

Here are the rules for the touch exhibit:



Ian has been in a throwing phase, so I had to keep a close watch on him:
video

Afterwards, Ian fell asleep:


and we had Beef Shabbu Shabbu for lunch:

Thinly sliced beef:

That you could for a few seconds in soup that is boiling on your table:

My Disorganization Saved Me from My Disorganization

Ian and I went to Karuna's 2nd birthday party today at the indoor pool on base. Traffic was terrible. I had to wait through three cycles of the light to turn. Just as I was making progress, Curt called to say that I left the birthday and swim bags at home. There was no place to turn around until I got to the base and by that time it was almost 2:30pm (the party started at 2pm). Luckily, I already had my bathing suit on and I left the pool bag from our last time to the pool in the car so I didn't have to go back to the house. I didn't have time anyway. We were a half hour late and still the first ones there! Even the birthday girl was late because of traffic. (Reason for bad traffic: rain).

Ian played in the pool for an hour and a half. The water comes to my waist so I had to get in and help him. He jumped off the side and went underwater about 50 times in a row before he switched to swimming after a ball and finally, climbing the stairs and jumping off. I had to drag him out kicking and screaming. Even with his wetsuit, he was shivering, but he did not want to leave the pool.

"My pool! My Trina! My pool! My Trina!" he wailed.

He has a hard time with "K" sounds. The other day when we were with Karuna, he said,"Krina", but today he was saying,"Trina". He really likes Karuna. He even tried to blow bubbles in the water after she did it.

After the pool time, we had pizza, hummus, fruit, veggies and cupcakes. The gift bags had a bar of dark chocolate and a little book. (Ian and Karuna love dark chocolate). There were a couple other kids there and two other couples without kids. It was a very relaxed, laid back party.

On the way in, we saw Ian's friend and modeling associate, Caroline, with her mom and sister. At the party, one of the guests we met at the ACS Playgroup. It seems big at times, but is a small community.

I am thinking that we will do Ian's 2nd birthday at the bowling alley, but I haven't decided, yet.

What Should You Look for in a Yoga Class?

Cairo Connie asked me to post about the above topic and answer the following questions:

* What should I look for in a yoga class?
* Questions I should ask an instructor before signing up?
* What do the different styles incorporate in regards to aerobic, muscle training, flexibility, etc.
* Are there differences in styles with regards to goals - ie. I'm not interested in weight loss as the primary goal.. yes, it would be nice.. but I would prefer the focus be on whole body health.

While I am not an expert in yoga, I have dabbled in many classes (due to frequent moves) and have formed some opinions that might be helpful.

Yoga in India involves much more than exercise and in fact, the asanas (poses) are preparation for meditation. In the west, yoga focus on the physical in its many variations of Hatha Yoga. Goals can range from purely physical weight loss to more spiritual meditation and study. Most classes fall somewhere in between. "Hatha" is a very generic term that could mean anything in that range. It is probably the most common name for a class. If the class has a very specific name you can be more certain of what to expect.

Most class work on strength and flexibility, but some classes are more aerobic and some have more focus on meditation, balance and pranayama (breathwork).

Ideally, you can do a little reading and choose a class that theoretically fits your goals and start your yoga exploration there. However, in some places, like Cairo where Connie lives, there isn't much selection, so you may just have to try what is available and see if you like it.

1. What should you look for in a yoga class?

*Choose a class that matches you goals, if you have the luxury. If you don't, keep an open mind, "go with the flow", "commit to the process" and give it a chance. You may be surprised.

*Choose a teacher that you feel comfortable with. Yoga should be non-competitive, meaning that they don't compare you to other students, they work with you where you are. Yoga should be a positive experience, if you don't feel comfortable with the teacher for whatever reason, you won't get the full experience.

*Choose a teacher with training. A teacher does not need to have studied in India for 10 years to be a good teacher, but to ensure proper alignment, prevent injury and give modifications to postures to deal with your fitness level, existing injuries, pregnancy, etc., you need a teacher that has been trained.

2. Questions to ask an instructor before signing up:

*What style do you teach?
*What is the focus/goals of the class?
*Where did you train?
*Can you make adjustments for ___________ (whatever issue you have)?
*Sometimes, you can do a drop-in class or free trial class before making a commitment to a package. Ask about this.

3. What do the different styles incorporate in regards to aerobic, muscle training, flexibility, etc.?
See this Yoga Journal article for a listing of styles.

4.Are there differences in styles with regards to goals?
Yes. I enjoy a variety of styles, some are more athletic than others. Some are designed for fitness, yet still have pranayama and relaxation incorporated. I do not like classes that you don't feel a burn. In a good class, you will know that you have been there, no matter what the style.

A few other random pieces of advice:

1. Surrender to savasana(corpse pose). It is a relaxation/meditation pose. It is amazing how well it works. When I first started doing Bikram, I thought savasana was a waste of time, because how could you recover yourself in such a short period of time (between difficult poses), but then I started to give into it and it was truly amazing. It made my final savasana (10-15 minutes) much better as well. I also appreciate classes for a stronger emphasis on meditation after learning this lesson in Bikram (a very athletic style).

2. Chant. If they chant in the class, do it. Don't be afraid to use your voice. You will be helping others by committing to it and chanting loudly.

3. Try a class at least three times before making a decision. If you are very reluctant, you can drop in once, but I really recommend trying at least three classes. The first time I did Bikram, I thought I was going to die. The second time was better. I didn't go back for a third time because I got busy. So I tried again and went three days in a row. I loved it.

4. Go (or practice) at least 3 times a week to see a real benefit. You will see/feel a difference even if you only go once a week, but to get physical results (weight loss, increased strength, increased flexibility, improved meditation), I think you need to do it three times a week. that said, you don't need to start three times a week.

5. Develop a personal practice. Do sun salutions or pranayama every day at home. I don't do this, but wish I did.

For Connie, they had classes at CSA, though the teacher I had is now gone. There is also an Indian Cultural Institute in Cairo that offers classes and there was an instructor that I found online but didn't try who taught out of her home. Some classes are offered at gyms and the popular dance studio in Maadi, but again, I didn't try those.

As a mom, one of the most important factors is finding something that fits your schedule and you can get to on a regular basis, that is why I went to CSA (I could walk).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shaky in Yoga Class

I couldn't barely hold a downward facing dog today in yoga class. My legs were so shaky. The teacher asked if I had been out dancing all night. Ian was pretty wild in gymnastics class yesterday, but no dancing.

When I first found the Pure Yoga Studio, I just wanted to do the Bikram/Hot Yoga classes because I've gotten great physical results from Bikram and I know what to expect. It is the same breathing and asanas in the same order. I knew it would be a serious class. However, because I am limited by the CDC's Hourly Care time constraints between 8am and 3pm, I started taking classes according to time of day (10am or 12pm), rather than style and got to sample many styles. My opinions:
Every class at this studio is awesome. Every class is tough. I wish I could go every day.

Pure Yoga Studio is clean, calming, beautiful and professional. The teachers are very welcoming and the class is not competitive. The teachers try to push you farther than you think you can go, but on days like today, where I couldn't seem to do anything, they work with you where you are. That is the way I think it should be. The teachers are very well-trained and are always learning and growing. They go to conferences and they work with each other between classes. They teach a variety of styles and enjoy each style rather than proselytizing about the superiority of one particular style or studio. They do not compare themselves to other studios in town, they just welcome to you take class and decide for yourself whether it is right for you or not. It is definitely right for me. I still may do the teacher training in August at Magic Pond, but I highly recommend Pure Yoga. I will write more about Magic Pond when/if I do the teacher training.

Back to the original point of this post, I didn't realize how out of shape I had become though. My body is really out of balance and I am weak. I need to have a routine that I do at home everyday so I can really strengthen myself and get the full benefits of yoga. We also did alternate-nostril breathing today which reminded me that I need to neti and do alternate nostril breathing daily as well, because my right nostril is probably 50% blocked.

If you found this post and are looking for Pure Yoga, it is located on the 4th floor of a building located across the street from the Galleria East in Apgujeong. The biggest sign in English is blue and says, "Prouna". There is also a red Cacherel sign but it is in Korean. There is free valet parking, you just give about 2K won for a tip. It is a 15 minute walk from the closest metro stop (or you can metro and bus). Look up directions to the Galleria for exact stops.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Searching for Baby Gear in Seoul

The guidance from Post is "bring baby gear/maternity clothes, etc. before you come".

Thanks. Especially, when I read that AFTER I arrive. But, Koreans get pregnant, too. They have maternity clothes somewhere. I am not pregnant, but am hoping to have a second child and am trying to scout the resources before I need them. For the petite, Korea is a shopper's paradise. It is almost overwhelming how much women's clothing they have, but it is all for small women. There are larger Koreans who have clothes, so there must be a place for larger people to buy clothes (large here is size 10 and above). Again, the guidance from post is "buy before you get here or order online".

My goal is to find things locally so people have options and don't have to contend with the shipping nightmares that the APO can bring. Somethings come very quickly, but there are size limitations and bigger items within the size limitations can take much longer to arrive. I have found some items on Korean sites, but the sites are in Korean and require a Korean registration number to order, but I think if I have a Korean friend help me navigate, I could order online. Haven't tried it, yet, though. Still waiting on resolution to my stroller order from the States that never arrived.

I have seen Ergo baby carriers, Stokke Strollers, Orbits, MacLarens, etc. everywhere. I just found out that my friend bought her Ergo in a store here in Korea for about the same price as in the States. The PX carries very low end strollers and have a very limited selection. Jogging strollers, double strollers, higher end single strollers are in demand and hard to ship from the States so finding a good source would be great. I haven't seen Bumbleride, yet. I wish I had!

To recap my stroller dilemma, I ordered a Bumbleride Indie in March and it hasn't arrived. I contacted the company and they were waiting on a replacement to ship out that was supposed to come towards the end of May. I haven't heard that it arrived and they shipped it to me though. Bumbleride (the manufacturer) left a comment on this blog to contact them so they could try to investigate on their end. They said they shipped what they think was my order to the site I bought it from, arunningstroller.com, but they, of course, don't control what happens after that. I appreciated that they contacted me, but they can't really do anything about it. They advised me to contact arunningstroller.com again to check the status. So, that is where I am, I sent them an e-mail and am waiting for a reply. At this point, a refund would be fine as well. Had I known where to purchase a good urban terrain stroller her in Seoul, I could have avoided all of this. I appreciate that arunningstroller.com is willing to ship to APO. Most sites won't precisely because they don't have control like they do over UPS and FedEx shipments. I just wish I had the stroller. Maybe I will try calling tonight.

I always seem to find a project like this.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Product Review: Toddler Leashes

After a horrible experience being delayed in the airport with an uncooperative 15 month old, I got online looking for a toddler leash. Most of the hits were for blogs or message boards talking about how horrible it is to use one. However, when faced with a bored toddler who wanted to run away from me in the airport and went limp when I tried to hold his hand, I knew I could have used one. There was no option to go home, we were stuck. I couldn't just let him run because there were too many people wielding heavy baggage. Distractions of snacks, drinks, nursing, toys, etc. lost their appeal. He wanted mobility. He refused to hold my hand. He was insistent on going behind the podium at the boarding counters. It was a nightmare. Like everything else, a toddler leash is a tool. For those of us who a driven to purchase it after dealing with a very willful child, it is not an effective everyday tool, but it is a good distraction/coping mechanism for certain situations like airports.

When I searched, I found a variety of leashes in different styles including:

*Wrist band
*Fabric
*Backpack

I went with a monkey backpack for $9.99 or so from Target. Wal-Mart carries it as well.
It had two advantages: it was cheap and cute. I thought he would like the monkey and enjoy wearing it.

The results: he loves the monkey and requests to wear it. He doesn't always let me hold the other end, though. I don't use it very often, in fact, I probably use it more on him at his request, than I do trying to use it for its designed intent.

That said, it was totally worth it and definitely useful. It has bought me some time on several occasions and I do recommend them as a tool in your parenting chest.

At the Aquarium yesterday, my friend, Jen, brought a kid leash/backpack for her daughter. (I did not bring the monkey, but should have as I was sprinting through the exhibit chasing after him). Her daughter did great on the leash. She is also spirited, but less prone to run. She had a Tot Tether. At $34.99, it is much more than the monkey pack that I have, but it has the advantage of the buckles being in the back so the child cannot undo them. Ian can undo the front buckles on his monkey. The backpack itself has a lot more room than the monkey pack which basically just has an opening. You can fit a few Hot Wheels cars in the monkey, but with the Tot Tether you could fit more. It is still a nice child-friendly size, though.

I didn't see the Tot Tether when I was looking to buy for Ian. Even if I had, I think I would have still gone with the monkey based on cost and Ian's personality (which limits the amount I can effectively use something like this), but it is nice to have options.

As with everything, your child's personality, your environment, your child's size and interests will determine what baby you need and what baby gear you can skip. This item is not something to put on a baby shower registry, but if you find yourself dealing with a child who climbs out of strollers, thrashes in carriers (below a year this is not a problem but after, if they trash and fight, toddlers are very strong and it is miserable, plus toddlers get heavy), and refuses to hold your hand, a toddler leash/backpack is very helpful.



There are many other

Ian Says Names

Yesterday, we went to the CoEx Aquarium and mall with Jen and her daughter, Karuna. Karuna is a few months older than Ian and much more verbal. We got them balloons after the aquarium. Karuna said,"bloons!" and Ian, who usually says,"Ball!" in refernce to a ballon said,"bloon". He usually says,"ball" quite insistantly. I guess he just didn't believe us when we told him it was a balloon.

But the most exciting thing was that Ian said her name,"Krina". O.K. so he didn't get it quite right, but that is the first name he has ever said. He doesn't even say his own name, yet. Then today when our housekeeper, Nanette, came. I said,"Nanette is here," and he said,"Nanette here." We were walking the dog when she arrived so she went ipstairs ahead of us and Ian said,"Where Nanette go?"

Afterwards, on the way to gymnastics I said,"We are going to see Coach Cathy" and he said,"Cathy".

Lots of verbal progress, but the name thing was most exciting.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Three Stooges in Seoul

The past few days have been like a Three Stooges episode. On Friday, Curt was reading Ian a story and Ian got excited and kicked his legs out. He toppled the little table with Curt's work computer on it. The result: no hardrive. Curt had just moved his emails off the server and was planning to back them up this weekend when this happened. So everything is gone. He took it in today and they had to send it out because "both heads are destroyed". It had to fall in just the right way to get so messed up. I broke a jar of roasted red peppers and the glass shattered into a million pieces.

On Saturday morning, Ian threw Roxxy's bone and hit Curt in the eye. His eye is blackened. A few weeks ago, Ian poked Curt in the eye causing a big red mark on his eyeball. Then, Curt's apple laptop died, but was recovered when we discovered a nickel shoved inside. It still doesn't sound right so there must be more change in there. Ian threw a plastic wine glass and broke it. He threw the bone again and hit Curt over the other eye. He is throwing everything he can get his hands on. Curt is going to be blind soon!

Today, I dropped a soda as I was trying to put it in the fridge and it exploded, covering every inch of the kitchen. As I tried to clean it up, I hit my head on a cabinet and then broke a wine glass. I couldn't have choreographed this sequence better.

There were some other things, but I don't want to think about them anymore. Hoping for better luck this week.

One good thing that came out of it, he could not do a report he was supposed to do, but when he came in today, people had made changes to all the data so it would have had to have been redone anyway.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Product Reviews: Fuzzi Bunz and Bum Genius One Size 2.0 Cloth Diapers After 14 Months of Use

I posted my impressions of Fuzzi Bunz and Bum Genius One Size 2.0 cloth diapers after two weeks of use here. However, I think that since 14 months have passed, an update is required.

Here is Ian wearing a Bum Genius One Size 2.0 diaper (taken earlier today):


If you click on my first review, you can see him in the same diaper at age 7 months. Both the Fuzzi Bunz (size medium) and the Bum Genius are holding up well. The stretchy side tabs on the Bum Genius pilled fairly soon after I got them, but it hasn't effected the function of the diaper. I've used cloth diapers almost exclusively with the exception of long trips, moving to Korea and currently when he goes to daycare (he only goes a few hours a week), because they require that he uses disposables. I use cloth wipes with my cloth diapers because clean up is easier and it is one less thing to buy.

After he started having more solid poops, I began using Imse Vimse Biodegradable Diaper liners. Most of the time, I can peel the liner out and the poop goes straight into the toilet, no dunking, swishing or spraying required. However, there are occasions that warrant that kind of attention. There are accessories like the Diaper Duck and spray hose that can make the dunking task easier, but I didn't bother with either of them. I also have a wet bag for when I change him on the go. I keep the dirty diapers in a laundry basket in the laundry room until I am ready to wash. I have 18 diapers.

If I have another baby*, I think I will get a set of Fuzzi Bunz in Size Small and use my Bum Genius One Size to supplement. I think Bum Genius might be a little bulky on the smallest setting, but I haven't tried it, so I can't say for sure. When I bought the diapers, I liked the idea of velcro on the Bum Genius better, but after use, I prefer the snaps on Fuzzi Bunz. Though, my velco is holding up fine, I think the snaps are more durable in the long run and they are also harder for the child to remove. Both the Fuzzi Bunz size mediuum and the Bum Genius One Size 2.0 have worked for Ian from age 7 months to the present age of 21 months. There is still room to grow. I'm not sure if they will last until he is out of diapers, but they should get us close.

If you go with pocket diapers like I did, they are very easy to use, but you must make an expensive initial investment. I was a little skeptical about how much money I would save, but the diapers paid for themselves long ago. In the month of March I had to buy disposables and that was painful after almost a year of not using them on a regular basis. After you've been using cloth, the perfumed, chemical-laden regular disposables become gross. Just the smell is unpleasant. It didn't bother me when I was using disposables full-time before I started cloth, but after, I really noticed it. Luckily, the commissary carries Nature Babycare diapers I also put some 7th Generation disposables in my shipment when we moved so I have decent alternatives for daycare.

If you are thinking of trying cloth diapers, check out the Diaper Pin. Read the FAQs and reviews. Choosing was really an overwhelming process, but if you read the FAQs, you can learn the lingo and the differences in what is available.

*I had another baby in March 2009. Click here for updated review.

Adventure to the 63 Building in Seoul

We look at the 63 Building out our window everyday. We've been across the river to Yeouido and walked by the 63 Building, but had not been inside so we decided to remedy that today. For 26,000 Won a piece (Ian was free), we got a ticket to the Sky Deck, the Aquarium and the IMAX show.

We started out in the 63 Sea World Aquarium. There are plenty of different types of fish and other species to see including, sea otters, seals, penguins, some reptiles, sting rays, eels, etc. It is not a huge aquarium, but it is a good size for an outing, especially with a toddler. Ian enjoyed himself.

video

Then, we took the elevator up to the Sky Deck.
video

The Sky Deck has a "Thrill Deck" where you can stand and see straight down. There is a warning sign that looks like Marilyn Monroe with her dress blowing up so that people don't unwittingly flash.

Incredible views of the city:




Our house:


We took a lunch break at a Japanese place. I had spicy pork cutlet and Curt had sushi. The sushi in Korea is really disappointing. It tastes like cafeteria/mall sushi in the US. I had much better sushi in the US, even in Erie, PA, the sushi was better. Kim Bab, the "Korean Sushi" is very good, but they don't put raw fish in it. I've seen ham, hot dog, tuna salad, egg, etc. Every type I've had has been delicious, but the raw fish type sushi is terrible. It is really thin and not fresh tasting. Not a lot of tuna and salmon, either. Ugh. I need to get to yoga soon so I can plan a sushi lunch with Meg (from Japan). Hopefully, she knows where to find decent sushi. Though, it is probably ridiculously expensive. Anyway, Ian was decently behaved during lunch and afterwards we headed to the IMAX show.

The IMAX show currently playing is "Mysteries of Egypt". It was cool because we have seen most of the places in person. Ian seemed into it in the begininning, but fell asleep a few minutes into the show. We had English headsets. It is a little hard to concentrate on the picture when you have to listen so hard to hear the narration. We enjoyed it anyway.

Lush Cosmetics in Seoul

Lush Cosmetics has a store in the 63 Building in Yeouido. Take the purple line, line 5 to Yeouinaru, Exit 4 and walk straight, 10-15 minutes. The Lush is on the same level that you buy tickets for the aquarium etc. I think B1.

Organization Day Picnic

We got to the picnic after they started serving the food and barely got anything to eat. We were rescued by some pre=packaged lunch packs that were set aside. It was very hot and the lady who was supposed to be doing balloons had broken her leg so she didn't do them. They was nothing for Ian to do, so Curt gave our game tickets away and the person who used them dunked the Colonel in the dunking booth. There was a cool Taekwondo demonstration with lots of high leaping and board breaking.

Ian also enjoyed the bouncy blow-up thing:


video

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blind Playdate

When moving to a new place, my philosophy on finding my way and making friends is to "say yes". You never know when you will meet a person that you click with and even if you don't click with them, you might learn something from them. It is natural to gravitate towards people who are like you. I look for people about my age who look like my friends from college. However, I've had some great experiences with people I might never hang out with, if not for the kids. In Erie, I had two playgroups: one hosted by a mom in her early twenties and one hosted by a mom who was about 40. They were very different from each other and very different from me, but it worked for both Ian and I.

In the spirit of saying yes, a woman on the Yongsan Playgroups list that I had never met invited us for a playdate because we live fairly close to one another. (Turns out we had seen each other before when her daughter did a makeup gymnastics class in Ian's class but we didn't get to talk because wrangling Ian in gymnastics class is a feat. I do remember complimenting her daughter on how well she went through the obstacle course, but Ian was particularly wild that day). She lives near the Hyochang Park metro stop, two stops from mine so we decided to meet there. We hopped a bus to avoid walking the hill and then we had a great playdate at her place. Her daughter just turned two and is completely adorable. She (the daughter) was a very enthusiastic little hostess and Ian was a bit overwhelmed at first, but he soon joined in and they played very well together. The mom reminds me of my college friends. She wants to get her yoga certification. She is a laid back, yet involved parent and she likes to go and do. She has been here for two years and is leaving in the fall, but we can do a lot over the summer. We've even got our first adventure planned to go to the Coex Mall (for the aquarium) next week.

Her daughter skipped her nap today and was starting to get cranky, so after a good play, we took our leave. Jen told me which bus to take to get back down to the metro and we headed out. Just as we got down the hill from her apartment, the bus pulled away. I started looking around and saw this overhead walkway with purple poles.

"That looks like the one by our house," I said to Ian.

Then I gave the building it was attached to a closer look. The CLS kindergarten and started laughing out load! I had made a giant circle by public transportation to get to her! Then, I made the 5 minute walk home!

Sometimes, it is good to miss the bus.

Bad Cab

Ian was a monster at a museum tour and dinner hosted by a Korean General. It got to a point where we had to leave. We tried to take a cab (it wasn't that far from our house), but he cab driver didn't know where to go. I had a Korean tell him, but since there is no logical system of street addresses and our building is only a few years old, he didn't know it. I told him to take me to the Mapo metro stop by the Best Western hotel. He didn't know that. He took me in circles and finally to the Gyondeock metro stop which is a metro stop in Mapo, not the Mapo metro stop. I called the free translation service several times (02-1330). They were somewhat helpful, but they didn't know where my building was either. Then the driver took me to the Mapo LG Xii. The security guards didn't know my building and tried to convince me I lived there. If it weren't for a nice Korean couple who spoke English who lived in Mapo LG Xii and recently purchased a unit in Chung Am GS Xii, I would have had to get out and walk in heels with a sleeping toddler in my arms. I need to get the management's phone number in case this happens again. The total cab fare was over 16,000 won (over $16) when it should have been 4,000 won. I gave him 10,000 won. He pointed to the fare thing and I said,"That's all I have for you. It should have been less." He didn't argue.

The good news of today is that I had to leave Ian with Nanette, the new once a week housekeeper while I took Roxxy out n the rain. I told him to show her his trains and that I would be back. I told her that he would probably cry. He didn't cry. Not at all. He was absolutely fine. She is available to babysit on weekends and some nights. We might be brave enough to try it. Events like tonight prove Ian can't tag along anymore like before. Maybe when he is beyond the food throwing stage. Really embarassing tonight. Yikes! The kid has some power to his pitch.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Small Success!

Since arriving in Seoul, it seems like we have been losing money in large chunks for a variety of reasons. One such occurence involved a misunderstanding about when our hotel money was cut off. We signed our lease on a Friday and moved in on a Sunday. It took awhile to move all of our stuff. When we submitted the voucher, they said we were cut off as of Thursday. The PCS rate is $250 per night. The personal rate is $120 per night. Annoying. Expensive mistake. Curt was finally able to talk to the right person to get the difference between the PCS rate and the personal rate refunded so we didn't totally lose out.

There are two big, glaring issues left:

1. Moving claim: we don't know how to submit it.
2. Bumbleride Indie Stroller. It was ordered in March and still hasn't arrived. The company is waiting to get another one in stock to send it to us, but I am coming to the end of my patience. I am starting to worry that they are just blowing me off until the date to get the credit card company to go after them passes. I hope that isn't the case. I should have called the credit card company to ask about it. I do have e-mails from the company, though, so hopefully that will count for something. I am almost ready to just ask them for a refund. We probably won't get the original shipping charge back, but at this point, I just want the anxiety about it to be over. Our Inglesina Zippy is holding up well, so maybe we can get by without it anyway. I did want the Bumbleride for the one-hand push feature and the tougher wheels. I thought it would be easier to get around Seoul. If I ever order a large item again, I think I will free ship it to one of the APO forwarding services or my mom.

Positive thoughts for the stroller.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day in the Mountains



We wanted to go to the mountains but didn't have a proper map. We just started driving and ended up on top of a mountain where lots of rich people lived. We didn't make it far! Luckily, my friend Suki called and said her family was going to the mountains. Her husband played a gig the night before so they woke up late. Perfect timing for us! The drive took about an hour and a half due to traffic more than distance. It is significantly cooler up in the mountains. We hung out by the water and had some Korean red wine and snacks. We stopped off at a Korean barbeque place on the way home and had pork and bacon with a variety of kimchis, cold vinegar soup with noodles, and more with Korean saki. "We-hi-o" is the Korean toast. You cook your own meat at the table over hot coals. The bacon is super delicious but so bad for you (probably marinated in sugar and soy). I wish I had taken pictures. We arrived home so late we just put Ian down without changing his clothes. We changed his diaper without him waking up and didn't want to push our luck. Here he is the morning after with his baby and his dog:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

2nd Attempt at GPS

The English GPS units finally arrived at the other vendor on base. We took our Seoul guide book, our electric bill (for our address) and the brochure from the tap studio to see if the vendor could show us how to program things. He said that the address on our bill was the mailing address, but not what we needed to find it in the GPS. Same with the info on the brochure and in the guidebook. In other words, you need to know the area you are going, or the full description in order to use the GPS. Well, if we knew the area, we wouldn't need the GPS. No one seems to be able to explain how addresses work here. So for $540, we passed. I think I will just have to start driving around with people who know where they are going and build my knowledge that way. Even Americans who have been here for years are no help. They don't know the highway numbers. They just drive. Frustrating. I need to write proper directions as I figure things out to help others.

I hope to drive my new friend, Ji-Young to Heyri Art Village on Monday. She will show me where the IKEA is and then go to her art class. I will increase my driving knowledge to three places!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Chocolate Snob

Ian loves chocolate. His favorite chocolate seems to be Lindt 70%. He is such a connoisseur that when I gave him Ghiradelli 60%, he noticed and was not happy. Not so unhappy that he didn't eat the Ghiradelli, but he made sure he got some Lindt first. Today, I tried to give him Nestle chocolate chips while I ate a Scharffen Berger dark chocolate bar. He got absolutely indignant and set the bowl of chocolate chips on the table and said,"Dat. Want dat!" pointing to my chocolate bar. You might think he just wants what I have, but when we go to the cabinet, he picks the Lindt everytime.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Ukraine Train

Cairo Connie's sister-in-law and brother-in-law are leaving for the Ukraine in 10 days to adopt their 11th child. She chronicles her journey in her blog, The Ukraine Train. You can donate to help them reach the adoption fees through a site called Reese's Rainbow. Having one child can be challenging, but 10, soon to be 11 children is amazing. Denis, also has special needs. They have already found doctors to care for him when they get him back to the States.

When I look at Ian, my heart breaks for children that are alone. Every child should have a parent whose eyes light up when the child enters the room. Adoption requires hefty up-front expenses. If anyone reading this, has anything to spare. Please help them bring Denis home.

Meeting New Friends in Insadong

I went to the AWC meeting last month and met Jessica. Her husband is working over here on the same project as Curt, but in a different capacity. She was a teacher in the States, but isn't working right now. She has made a lot of interesting friends and gathered us together, old and new for an outing in Insadong. I was really impressed with her itinerary. It was thorough and well-timed. We went to a tea museum and shop, then another little museum (Mokin Museum) and finished up with lunch. I feel great! It is awesome to connect with people who are open and active. One woman is a meditation instructor. Another owns The Well-Being Shop in Itaewon which I learned has bellydance, yoga and candlemaking classes. When the two of them connected, they talked about holding meditation classes at the Well Being Shop Studio which would be great for me! I met another woman who got her masters in Graphic Design, but is the mother of a 15 month old and living in Seoul for her husband's work. Curt mentioned a possible film project that I wouldn't be comfortable doing myself, but if she could her me, that would be great! She would like to get her daughter into modeling so I am going to pass a picture of her daughter onto the modeling agent.

I had Ohmija Cha (5 Taste Tea) at the tea shop, pictured below:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Benefit of Toddler nursing

After modeling yesterday, one of the other moms e-mailed me to say her daughter had a fever. Ian was fine until dinner time and then his fever appeared. He went to bed early and slept through the night. Today, he still had a fever, but was very active otherwise. He wouldn't eat or drink very much, but he did nurse a lot. "Iss molk time now." You can give a toddler water, but you can't make him drink. I was glad to be able to keep him hydrated without stress.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Very Little Input, Lots of Output

Ian hasn't eaten much today, but he has had about 6 dirty diapers including a couple of massively dirty diapers. He had to take a bath after the last one. Gross!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Almost

I feel like everyone else knows where to go and is clued in and we are not. Today, we attempted to go to IKEA. Someone posted directions on the Yongsan Playgroup message board and we attempted to follow them. Everything was going well, until the end. It was nothing like the directions described. No IKEA. Couldn't find it. It is supposed to be in Paju Book City. A lot of publishing houses are here. There was a flower and book festival so we walked around that a lot. We asked a few people, but they didn't know. Debilitating not to be able to find it. Now, it is not on the IKEA website, but there is a website: http://www.iikea.co.kr
Of course, I can't read it.

Tap Dance in Seoul

I went to tap dance class tonight. I haven't tapped since highschool and have forgotten everything. I still have tap shoes, though. I met a Korean woman who is married to an American at a party last weekend. She trained as a jazz pianist, but always wanted to learn tap, so she started taking lessons and asked if I wanted to go along. She speaks English and Korean so she translates for me. The studio is run by a husband-wife team. The wife works in the financial district during the day and helps out at the studio at night and on the weekends. The husband is a full time tapper. Everyone has nicknames. They call me Blondie. They do performances and the next one is in September. If I can get back shuffle ball change, maybe I will do it. Suki (Japanese nickname of my Korean-American friend), my friend, is going away for a few weeks so I will go with her one or two more times before she leaves and then have to get there on my own for a few weeks until she comes back. The drive isn't bad, but the parking is crazy. Next time, I am going to look for a pay lot and just pay instead of doing what she does which is park in the alley. She says she can't park, but she parks much better than I do! At the end of the class you have to perform what you learned in front of everyone. Today was the first day for an adorable little girl named Eileen. She is Korean, but that is her name. She is 6 years old, a little chubby with thick, small framed glasses and just adorable. Her mother is taking the class with her because Eileen is shy and didn't want to do it until her mother got taps and joined in. After the last class, the group sometimes goes out for dinner and drinks. We went to the early class because it is less crowded, but someone brought kimbop (Korean sushi rolls) and we had a little snack before we left. I bought a studio shirt for 9,000won (about $9). I need more shirts. My taps are character taps (high heels). If I stick with it, I might get myself some lower taps. I need to see if I can get there on my own first.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rachael Ray's Salmon Burgers with Caesar Slaw

Tonight, I made Salmon Burgers with Caesar Slaw, recipe by Rachael Ray:

Salmon Burgers with Caesar Slaw
Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray
Show: 30 Minute Meals
Episode: 30 Minute Dinner Club


1 (14-ounce) can Alaskan salmon, drained and flaked
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 lemons, zested and juiced, divided
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs, 3 generous handfuls
Salt and pepper
4 anchovies, finely chopped, optional
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Couple handfuls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano
2 hearts romaine lettuce, shredded
1 head radicchio, shredded
To flaked salmon, add egg whites, parsley, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 2/3 of the total amount of chopped garlic, the bread crumbs and lots of black pepper and a little salt. Mix together and form 4 large patties or 8 mini patties.
To a salad bowl add the remaining zest and lemon juice, remaining garlic, chopped anchovies, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire. Whisk in about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and cheese. Add lots of black pepper, no salt. Add shredded lettuces to the bowl and toss to coat evenly. Now, season the slaw with salt to taste, if necessary.

Preheat 2 tablespoons, of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a nonstick skillet over medium to medium high heat. Cook salmon patties 2 to 3 minutes on each side for mini patties, 4 minutes on each side for large patties.

Serve salmon patties atop Caesar Slaw.

To Connie, tell Brad, I followed the recipe almost exactly this time. I didn't have radicchio and I used less romaine than they called for because I didn't want that much slaw. So close.

This was my first time experimenting with canned salmon. There are bones and skin in it, so you have to pick that out, but it is a good option for cheap salmon. The commissary doesn't carry fresh fish and it is expensive on the economy. Also, a lot of what is available at the Korean supermarkets are varieties of small, white fish that taste like the bottom of a lake. I need to find a fish market, but judging on the lack of quality in the sushi I have had, I don't have much hope. Korea is a peninsula, but I like the beef and pork dishes much better than the seafood.

The recipe turned out well. The slaw is very tangy and goes well with the salmon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tool! My Tool!

When I take Ian to daycare I say,"Ian, you are going to school today," and "Here we are at your school."

Today, as we pulled up he said,"Tool! My Tool!" He didn't cry when I dropped him off. I am not sure if that is because lunch was just about to be served (he loves to eat) or if he has just adjusted. Either way, it was great!

Next week, I am going to venture off post to somewhere other than yoga. I had him reserved for my regular 9am-12:30pm yoga slot for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, but I extended Monday and Thursday to be from 9am-3pm so I can do these outings without Ian. There is a 16 hour limit so I dropped Tuesday. I've decided to drive to the base and take a cab to Insadong on Thursday to write out the driving directions. The American Women's Club meets there so it will be good to know how to drive there.

I think I have finally found a mom to go exploring with. She said she heard there is an IKEA showroom where you can order. It is not a full store, though. That would be awesome! Clean lines and low prices. I could get an affordable livingroom set from IKEA. Instead of making a major investment in furniture that will probably get trashed or buying something super ugly from the post furniture store, IKEA could do the trick. I am hoping it is true.

Third day in a row that I did not get up to exercise. 0 for 3. Maybe tomorrow.

Breastfeeding: The Great Toddler Silencer

Another reason for breastfeeding a toddler is the ability to silence them when nothing else can. After Gymnastics class, we went to lunch with another mom and her two year old. Ian and Mateo thought it would be fun to have a screaming contest. They were screaming and laughing at their loudness. The manager came over and told us to quiet them down. We told them to be quiet. I physically covered his mouth. Tried to keep shoving food in and finally nursed him. He calmed down and fell asleep. With Ian out the game the other boy calmed down as well.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

International Battles With Blonde, Take Two

I made a second attempt to get my hair highlighted here in Seoul. The first time, I went on message boards and went to one that was recommended. They claimed to speak English, but they really didn't and they turned my roots orange.

Today, I just decided to go to the Clippers Salon at the Dragon Hill Lodge on Yongsan Post since it is much closer to the Post childcare center so even if they screwed my hair up, I would at least save transportation time and babysitting fees. Joanne Cho did my hair and she did a great job. She highlighted my hair with foils and then applied a toner to reduce the orangeness of the section the last place created. Finally, a deep conditioner, cut and style. I had a pedicure done while I she was putting in the foils. I went with gold toes. I like pedicures because they last. I like manicures, but I often chip my nails on the way out the salon, so I never get them. Plus, fingernails grows too quickly. But, a pedicure is very satisfying, especially when you have big, ugly toes like I do. Makes them look almost pretty.

The stylists at Dragon Hill are all Korean, but most speak English and they help each other and they work on Western hair (both black and white) a lot, so you can get blonde highlights, braids, extensions, and relaxers. The prices are reasonable. Not cheap, but everything is a la carte, so you don't have to get toner, deep conditioning, and styling if you want to save money. The price was about the same as when I went off-post to the orange hair place.

If you are here in Seoul and don't have base access, if you volunteer at the Second Hand Rose Thrift Store for the AWC, you can get base access so you can go to this Salon if you desperately need highlights!

I did not get up this morning to exercise, but I am going to shoot for doing it tomorrow. We'll see.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Working Through Anxiety

The vacuum is a keeper. It is definitely more substantial than the cheap vacuums I have purchased in the past and seems to pick up on the bare floors pretty well.

The GPS is going back. It just isn't that easy to use and the manual is terrible. Old Karen would not return it because I felt I should be smart enough to use it. But, as Curt and my friend, Chad, always say,"faulty design". It is too expensive to keep when I couldn't find the things I was looking for. I don't want to put the effort in to figure it out and I don't think I will, so it is going back. Curt bought it so he needs to return it. We have 15 days, but I want to try to do it today or tomorrow.

Instead, I need to start learning Korean and make an effort to find a good road map.

On exercising, I bought a 30 class pass for yoga. Among the options, you can do unlimited for 1 month, 3 times a week for 3 months, or a 10-, 20-, or 30- class card. In May, I did unlimited for 1 month. Unfortunately, due to babysitting being full, I couldn;t go as much as I wanted. It was still cheaper per class than the 10 or 20 class card, though. I would like to 3 times a week, so it would seem that the 3 times a week for 3 months would be best, but if we travel and miss a week, then you can't make that up. I've also booked for 4 times a week for the first two weeks of June. However, after buying the class card, I realized that while the per class rate is less than unlimited, unless I make the card last for more than 2 months, I would have been better off getting the unlimited. I guess I will just see how this goes and re-evaluate the next time I need to do my contract based on how much I am going.

I was supposed to go to yoga tomorrow, but I am getting highlights instead. I love the yoga studio but going 4 times a week is not sustainable because it takes half the day. I don't have the motivation to get other stuff done when I get back. I was doing well with Fly Lady when I got dressed first thing in the morning, but with yoga, I don't do hair or makeup because I am going to sweat in the class. I could do it when I get home, but I haven't been. So, the plan is to go 2-3 times a week. Wednesdays are Ian's gymnastics days and I want one day where Ian and I go exploring somewhere. I have been trying to find someone else to go with us, but so far we just can;t get it together to schedule things.

Curt hasn't been able to exercise because he has to be to work too early. The half hour difference in travel time between driving and the metro could be used for exercising is I drove him in, but I don't like getting up. He would like to go to spin class at the base at 5:15pm, but something always happens and he can't get there because he is still working. He gets home at 6:30pm at the earliest if I pick him up, but often it is more like 7:30pm and then he is too tired. I usually get Ian and Roxxy to the playground once a day, but Roxxy really doesn't get enough exercise.

So, something's got to give. I have had to take Curt in to work a few times last week and today because he had to be there even earlier than usual. When I got home, I felt awake, but Ian went back to sleep so I have been thinking about it and we've come up with a new plan to try to get our exercise in: Curt will exercise on the treadmill and bowflex in our apartment in the morning and I will take Roxxy out for a good, hard walk at the same time. That way, if Ian wakes up, Curt will be able to take care of him, but it is unlikely that he will wake up. Then, I will drive Curt to work. When I get home, I will put Ian back in bed, take a shower, get dressed and start my day. Might even be able to get an abdominal or pilates workout in when I get back from dropping Curt off, but I am not going to try to do that in the beginning.

Other things causing anxiety: replacement stroller has not shipped yet; the postal idiots are making us run in circles trying to return the original Gaiam box (that was sent back erroneously by the postal people and some how has come back to us , though we've already received a replacement shipment); house in is CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome); haven't mailed Father's Day cards; etc. etc.

I think this exercise routine will work. I hope so. Curt, Roxxy and I need it!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ian Says,"Refrigerator"

He pointed to the large, non-working US refrigerator and said,"Refrigerator". Then, he pointed to the small, built-in European refrigerator and said,"Refrigerator." Lastly, he pointed to the other, small, built-in European refrigerator and said,"Refrigerator".

Big words from little people are so much fun, especially when he can't say,"cat" or "car", it's "tat" and "tar".

He tries to say chocolate and ketchup (as previously reported): tochtate and tetchtup or other versions.

And of course,"cereal" which sometimes comes out as,"cer-real-eal".

Obsession: Ketchup


Ian can't get enough ketchup lately. He calls it chechet or koch-ot. I give him a bowl with ketchup and he dips Kashi crackers in it. Better than fries, I guess.

6 Random Things About Me in Seoul

Cairo Connie tagged me for the expat 6 Random Things Meme:

1. My son is a model for children's clothes catalogs here in Korea. It happened accidentally when he was "discovered" at our hotel playground.

2. I learned to love Korean food in Germany when I was in 6th and 7th grade because my best friend's mother was Korean and cooked A LOT!

3. Seoul is very hilly and I am putting my Inglesina Zippy stroller (my old stroller, not the one ordered in March that is better designed for this type of terrain, no that one is still missing) to the test going up and down all the curbs, hills and stairs.

4. I take yoga at a very swanky Korean studio in a very swanky area. I laugh every time I go and valet my Hyundai Tucson.

5. My silver Hyundai Tucson, which was purchased before we knew we were going to Korea, fits in perfectly as there are lots of Hyundais and most cars are black, white or silver. Gotta love those brightly colored Smart cars for breaking up the monotony of our view.

6. I still can't speak or read Korean, yet, but an example of how far making an effort will take you: Ah Nyoung Haseyo is hello, one of the few words I know. Since being in Korea, I saw a Simpson episode where they had Tom Jones covered by Koreans,"Ah Nyong, Pussy cat, Whoa-o-o-o-o-o!" It was awesome to recognize a Korean word randomly. My plan is to workon Korean this summer.

I don't know enough active bloggers for tagging, so if you are reading this and want to participate, please do so and let me know by commenting here.

Ian Sings!

A-B-C-D! Yesterday in the car I think he got as far as "E". It is clearly recognizable in letters and tune. Very cool, because I don't sign that song very much so he must have picked it up at daycare. He sang the phrase once yesterday and twice today. Guess I will start signing the Alphabet song more often.