They Do What??

The longer we live in Seoul, the more things that used to make us stop and scratch our heads, we now pass off as common place. Here are just a few.

Random Trash Lady

Picture this…you are walking to take your trash out and a tiny old hunched-over Korean lady walks directly up to you and saying nothing takes your trash out of your hands and walks away. To this day I have no idea what she is actually doing, but it is a common occurrence.

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Coffee

Had a long night? Want to grab a cup of coffee before work? Wellll…coffee shops are way more likely to be open at 11pm than 7am.

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Of the three Starbucks and countless other coffee shops between our apartment and work, only one opens early enough to grab coffee before school and that still only leaves 20 minutes to get your cup o’ life and haul your bootay to work, so you better hope there isn’t a line, and don’t even get me started about Tuesdays when we have to be at work before ANY coffee shops are open.

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Actual footage of us at work without coffee

Public Transportation

This has way more to do with living in the city, than living in Korea but it is still new for us suburbanites. It has become the norm to plan our family outings around on our transit. This dictates necessary baby gear, clothing, departure times, cash/bus card/credit cards. We have a bus stop and subway stop near us, so the options are endless. Factors to consider: parking, traffic, and how long before we have to be somewhere. Gone are the days were going somewhere just meant getting in the car.

Also great is the fact that public transportation is basically silent, like you could hear a pin drop quiet. So you can imagine how our kids just blend right in…

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Bowing

It has become second nature to bow in place of waving. This looks like a little head nod/upper body lean in casual situations (i.e. greeting our security guards at school), and a deeper bow for more formal situations.

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No Public Trash Cans

This one may be normal now, but it’s still annoying. There are basically no public trash cans. This sounds like a small thing, but as you end up with pockets, purses, backpacks full of trash, it gets old fast. I’m still not sure why this is, but maybe it has something to do with the extensive recycling they do here.

 

So as you can imagine, although there are many things that seem normal now there are still plenty of things that are anything but, like this for example…

Please note that that man in the wheelchair and the scooter were going the same speed.

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They see me rollin’.

 

That’s all for now. Sending love from the future.

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Our {Un} Reliably Miraculous Car

An emotional story of our recent car whoas with .gifs of my actual face for emphasis.

(creative liberties taken with the use of the word actual)

Remember that happy, happy day a while back where we felt free to frolic all over Seoul, wind blowing in our hair, just reveling in the new found freedom found in our new-to-us car?

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Let’s just you say you are in a bad way when you are praying for your car to not start. This spring we were plagued with a barrage of car problems. We got to the point where all we wanted was for the car to be consistent. Start, don’t start, but for the LOVE, pick one. We would take it to the shop and they would say nothing was wrong. Suppppperrrr helpful.

It quickly became clear that the only guaranteed way to get our car to start was to call a tow truck. Twice, after trying and failing to start our car for upwards of 30 mins, meanwhile messing with all the buttons in the car which usually helps (does this tell you what kind of fine machinery we are working with?), I surrendered and called a tow truck, only for the tow trucks to show up and the car to miraculously start. The tow truck guys are all pleased and smiling like, yay, no car problem, while I was more like:

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Anytime we would leave the house we would have to leave early to try and account for having take public transportation if the car didn’t start, and then just when it would seem our car was healed, we would leave with no time to spare and boom. Car. No. Workey. This is just as annoying as it sounds. Also, being late for work is awesome.

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So…while we loved (/hated) our ever un-faithful car, we began the hunt for a new car. Actually, during summer break in America we had been given a lead on a van in Korea that some people were trying to sell before moving back stateside. Our friends that passed along the info, a family with 4 kids that don’t want a car because they have vowed to never leave the house again are super heroes, said they weren’t really interested but thought maybe we were.

At this point we still had our broken down car sitting in our parking garage in Seoul, fulling expecting it not to start after upon our return to Korea, so we decided to check on getting the van. In a moment of brainstorming, our superhero friends decided we should both buy the car and share it: GENIUS. So it was settled, we sell our car to the junkyard and get a community van. Naturally this meant that when we returned to Korea our car started just fine and ran like it had no problems…for about 2 weeks and then died again. Please message me for our address if you wish to send your chocolate and sympathies (or a new car).

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In moving ahead on the van we made all the arrangements, pulled off getting a new insurance policy on it in about 8 hours (impressive for life overseas), wired the large amount of money for one year of insurance, and ran out of work like our hair was on fire to make it to the office to have the titled transferred before it closed.

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I will save you the details that don’t even make sense, but after literally jogging to the office to make it in time, we get there and as the people selling it started talking to the car people, it became clear it wasn’t going to work. Basically, it would cost more than than the car AND the insurance to even TRY to transfer it from U.S. citizens (military system) to us (Korean system).

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Whelp. That’s not going to work. Back to square one. So actually, one of our best friends who ABANDONED us to move back to the states after last school year hadn’t been able to find a home for her car before leaving. So great right??? We needed a carrr, she had a carrrr…only one problem…

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This isn’t exactly the perfect car for a large family. But now, in light of all our car whoas, it seemed like a great option. That day, we picked it up at school and drove it home. We pulled up next to our broken down car in the parking garage, and began to transfer carseats. There is nothing worse than hauling all the kids to the car and then trying to install 3 carseats. I was happy to find that it did have 3 seat belts, so the whole family would fit!

We hefted them out of the old car and I started on one carseat while Isaac grabbed another. We threaded the belt through them one at a time, buckled it, and then went to tightened it. That’s when something very curious happened. The seatbelt went totally loose…

Ya, pretty sure that buckle part is supposed to be firmly attached to the car. Alrighty then. We tried the second carseat with the exact same result. We stood in shock and dismay and decided, “ok, well, this is now the adults only car” (and any passengers that like to live on the wild side).

I figured at least we still had a car to get to and from school and to get to home quickly from tennis practice. That was until 3 days later it refused to start. Well, then. Now we have 2 non-working cars sitting in the parking garage, and I just don’t even have the energy to deal with it.

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Thankfully we have a wonderful Korean friend that heard of our plight and now is traversing the World Wide Web for us, trying to find us a new community van with a couple promising options. I will keep you posted on our car adventure, and until then, we’ll be waiting at the bus stop like…

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Settling Back In

Well well well. School is in full swing, and the calendar is jam packed. We had last Tuesday off for Liberation Day, and let me tell you I have never been so glad to be liberated. How do we make Tuesday’s off a thing?

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Judah just started preschool last Wednesday and he couldn’t be more excited. I snuck out of work for a minute to drop him off for his first day. I’m not taking it personally that he didn’t seem to care, told me to stop messing with his hair, and when I said “I love you, Judah.”, he responded with “BYE”. Guess that means he’s ready?? (or ungrateful that I GAVE HIM LIFE.)

Asher and Zoey are still home with our nanny. I think Asher will like having a little more time to himself (and Zoey) but will be thrilled when Judah gets home in the afternoons; they are best buds. Asher is getting a little more stubborn everyday, and it’s a wonder why seeing as how there isn’t even one stubborn person in our home.

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He talks up a storm but always misuses my and I. “My jump” “my get an owie”, butttt you already knew he was adorable. He just turned two in July and is growing in spades. He has a signature big-grin-squinty-eyed smile that will leave you in a puddle. He has also developed a not so charming middle kid defense system of squealing and hitting when not getting his way…but we are working on that.

Isaac is back into his normal rhythm of teaching 6th grade math and Bible and playing basketball in the mornings twice a week with staff. Oh ya, so there I was in my office a couple weeks ago when I see my principal go to retrieve the first aid kit. I proceeded to ask him what happened and he told me he messed up his finger in basketball that morning. He then quickly said, “but that’s nothing”, pointing to his busted lip. My response was something to the effect of, “oh my goodness, what happened?!”. Apparently my boss’ face + husband’s elbow happened. Luckily, my boss is a good sport.

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Church has been getting busy as we have been taking on more leadership roles, which means we have to get there early. *gasp* I feel like on-time would have been ambitious enough. As we are now leading up the welcoming committee, we are meeting a whole new crowd of people who can actually get places on time.

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We have been so fortunate to have found ourselves forming life long friends here, lately espeically. One of those things with life overseas, is that in some ways you form relationships quickly because “we are all in the same boat”, but everyone is so busy doing their own thing and people tend to be a bit reserved as no one knows how long you will be here. Each year we watch friends leave that have become like family (and you can still talk bad about them on your blog because they say they don’t read ittttt), but new people come. You always just have to secretly hope that you don’t become great friends with people on their way out, so naturally we have a list of people we will hold hostage should they ever try and leave us.

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Also, in my spare time *ha* I am coaching Varsity Girl’s tennis again this year. I will say though that it could be a pretty small time commitment if it keeps raining. Every. Blasted. Day. Apparently monsoon season is a little late just like the Craft family at church. Go figure. Anyone got some indoor courts we can borrow??? Between that and court maintenance, we are well on our way to becoming a Conditioning Team. And please don’t even ask why there are desk chairs etc. in that pile of junk on our courts, my only explanation is: Korea.

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Everything else here is life as normal. Zoey is back to her pre-summer habit of sleeping through the night BECAUSE SHE LOVES US. The boys are still all about her and no one makes her laugh like quite like Judah. She has started eating baby food but isn’t interested in any finger foods yet. I guess Princess Z just likes being fed. She is sitting up like a champ and working on scooting. She will be terrorizing our house in no time.

We have some longer breaks this year with the way holidays fall, so with any luck and $$$ we hope travel some. I feel a bit like this after doing our summer stock up for our ever growing family of five, but we should be fine as long as everyone pinky promises not to grow out of their shoes.

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That’s all for now. As always, sending love from Seoul.

 

Oh. Also. In my foolishness, in my last post about traveling with kiddos I forgot to give a massive shoutout to all the mamas who have gone before me and shared all their traveling wisdom. My list is certainly a work of collaboration; us mamas are stronger in numbers!!! ❤

Traveling With Kids: The Master Class

I should feign humility, but I’d really like to think that if I have any skills at all (besides making babies) it’s traveling with kids. After all, I have spent the last two years conducting some very intensive research on the topic and we have all lived to tell about it. May you find it helpful and if not, take heart, horrific travel experiences make for great stories; consider it your contribution to mankind.

Also, my experience is obviously geared around younger kids, so my advice will be too. I would like to think that by the time my kids are older they will pack and carry their own stuff, watch movies and eat junk food for the duration of the trip, and leave me the mess alone. Don’t you dare spoil it for me.

Some tips and tricks for traveling with (young) kiddos:

  1. Don’t.
    • Ha. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. For real now.

 

  1. Talk up the trip.
    • Build excitement about the trip. Talk about riding in the car/plane and about all the things you will do and people you will see when you get there. Try and make travel days something to look forward to and not to dread.
  2. Wear them out before leaving.
    • Let them play outside or run round before loading up. The last thing you want to do is try and travel with kids with pent up energy. When flying, after we get to the gate we try and let the kids run around, climb stairs etc. for a bit before boarding. Our airport in Korea has a play area for young kids; check to see if your airport has one.
  3. Travel days are SPECIAL.
    • Things that would never fly on a normal day are totally ok on travel days. These are the days that there is no moderation, no balance, and no one is trying to win a parenting award. There are limitless snacks and too much TV, and that is OK. The only people judging you are your fellow kid-less passengers, and they too may one day know just how real the struggle is.
  4. Snacks.
    • “Healthy” (crush proof) snacks: Feel free to pack Cheetos and gummy bears, but eventually you may to want them to stop eating that, lest you want to clean up puke. I try to pack mostly things that if my kid ate their weight in it, I wouldn’t be too concerned. Find the balance between some special snacks and things that will make them be excited but not too sugary/sticky/etc. Ex. pretzels, applesauce pouches, dried fruit, trail mix, cheese sticks.
    • Pack snacks in Nalgene bottles: Still want to take fragile snacks? Can’t live without Goldfish? Fill up an old water bottle with snacks to keep them from getting crushed and spilled in your bag.
    • Ziplock bags: Great to have on hand to distribute snacks and/or collect trash. Each kid gets a baggie to hold their snacks and they can be refilled as needed.
  5. Movies.
    • We also try and bring some device for the boys to watch movies. Make sure to charge devices the night before, maybe load a new movie or two, and bring headphones and a headphone splitter if they are sharing.
  6. Wrap up some new (or even old) toys.
    • Go to your local dollar store or bargain bin and stock up on small/inexpensive toys and grab some cheap wrapping paper to wrap them. We try to space out letting the boys open them so they have something to look forward to. We have even wrapped up some old toys before, so this would be the perfect time to wrap that toy that you loathe, and pray it disappears into the airplane abyss.
  7. Clean crafts.
    • Color magic
    • Stickers
    • Painters tape
    • Magna Doodle
    • Wikki Stix
    • Tongue depressors with velcro dots on the ends for building
    • Temporary tattoos
      • All respectable children should have at least a half-sleeve by the time you arrive.

Driving tips:

  1. Car toys.
    • We have a special basket of toys that live in the car. What makes them special you ask? THEY LIVE IN THE CAR. They don’t come inside, so there is automatic anticipation to use them. #momhack
  2. Landmark incentives.
    • Ex. You can have another snack/open another toy when we cross the big bridge! It gives them something to look forward to and keeps them from running through treats too quickly.
  3. Talk about what you see.
    • When I can tell the kids are getting antsy (“I wanna get outtttt” on repeat) I sadly turn off our audio book and talk to the kids about the scenery. Judah has learned lots about back hoes (and I’ve realized I don’t know nearly enough names of construction equipment to be a proper boy mom) and water towers…and I have only almost driven off the road as Judah excitedly spots them and shrieks “NOTHER BACK HOE, MAMAAAA!!”.
  4. Maximize your stops.
    • Sometimes your kids need a slow, no stress kinda trip with lots of stops, and thats ok, but otherwise, we try and make the trip as short as possible. We try to multitask at each stop, ex. I will nurse Z and Isaac can let the boys run around at a rest stop or Isaac will do diapers while I pump gas and grab food. Road trips are great all, but sometimes it good to just get to your destination.

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Flying tips:

  1. Consider bringing carseats. 
    • We brought carseats on the flight for the first time on our last trip from DFW to Seoul. It was a game changer for us as Isaac was sitting in a middle row of 3 with the boys so there was no way to barricade them both in, and I was one row in front with Zoey. Our boys are pretty good road-trippers, so putting them in their carseats made them seem much more calm and happy to stay in their seat than ever before. I don’t think it is right for everyone or for every trip, just consider your kids ages, temperament, and length of flight. Also, you have to make sure you carseat is FAA certified; it should say on it or have a sticker if it is. 
  2. Get the bassinet seat. 
    • If you are flying, especially internationally with a baby (usually ~1 and under, but it is based on height and weight), a bassinet can be super helpful. At the very least hopefully you can get baby settled in it so you can eat hands free. Check with your airlines as some will reserve it for you ahead of time, and some have you request it on a first-come-first-served basis at check in. You also have to be sitting in the first row of the cabin to use the bassinet. I will say it is basically Murphy’s law that if your baby is fussy and you finally console them and get them to sleep in the bassinet, the the seatbelt sign will turn on and you will be asked to hold your baby. I have definitely gotten to the point of exhaustion where I just want to say, “LISTEN LADY, I assure you that if it gets bad enough, I will grab my baby, but for the love of ALL THINGS, pleaseeeeee don’t make me move them yet.”-the pleas of an exhausted mama.
  3. Cheap toys.
    • We try and bring toys that we wouldn’t lose sleep over if they got left on the plane accidentally, as everything ends up getting spread out over the course of the flight. Again see: wrap up dollar store toys.
  4. If you have small children, bring water on as long as they will let you.
    • Staying hydrated can make all the difference in how you feel at the end of an international flight, so bring water if you can. Usually with young kids, as long as you set it aside while going through security so they can scan it, they will allow it. At the very least bring an empty water bottle to fill up on the other side of security.
  5. Bring empty sippy cups. 
    • Instead of worrying with bringing milk or juice for our kids, we just pack them empty, and ask the flight attendants to fill them. They have always been happy to oblige.
  6. Cabin pressure.
    • I feel like this is common knowledge, but when flying with babies-toddlers, just try to nurse/feed or have them sip something through a sippy cup during take off and landing to help their ears adjust to the change in pressure. Between 3 kids and more flights than I can count, we have never had an issue.
  7. Fly Tot.
    • We also have this thing called the Fly Tot that we love for helping little ones stretch out and sleep. It is basically an inflatable footrest so that they can lay down. You should guess we are all too happy to through money at anything that might help my kiddos sleep. We have been really happy with it. See the Fly Tot here.

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Things to consider:

  • Baggage allowances- most airlines allow for an extra bag as the infant’s diaper bag, a collapsible stroller to be checked at the gate, and then extra allowance to check pack n’ plays, carseats, or larger strollers. Check ahead of time!
  • Some airlines will allow you to select a special kids meal (hot dog, spaghetti, pizza, etc.), infant meal (water for making bottles, premixed formula), or even an older infant meal (baby food, juice).
  • Early boarding- most airlines will let you board before they board the main cabin. This will allow you to get everyone settled and claim your overhead compartment space near your seat.
  • Airports will often let you use express lines for security, immigration, or customs if you have your hands full. Don’t be afraid to ask. I’ll never forget after a particularly horrific day of travel we walked up to the immigration line and it was ENDLESS, and I promptly pushed our stroller to the DIPLOMAT/FLIGHT CREW/IMPORTANT PEOPLE line and Isaac’s like, “…babe…” I responded with, “Isaac our kids are screaming, exhausted, and covered in throw up (I told you…horrific). Leaving this airport ASAP would be public service.” *They didn’t turn us away, they must have seen that glimmer in my eye that told them I was fully prepared to fight someone.
  • JUST ASK! There may be extra seats and often times the flight attendants will take pity on you and give you some extra room. Or you can go as far as asking them to move the people around you so that you have more room…I have totallyyyyy never done that. Survival of the shameless.
  • Always bring a change clothes. If not, you are basically daring someone to throw up. Now I know. See: Why You Should Pack Clothes For Everyone.
  • If all else fails, bring earplugs.
    • You can’t win them all. If you have tried everything, sometimes your kids may just fuss. Crank up your favorite jams, pretend the kids aren’t yours, and try to tune it out. 🙂

 

And just for your reading pleasure, a few humorous moments:

 

When turn around to find your son making a call on the TSA telephone.“Sorry, mom, I’ve got to take this”.

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Or when you are going through security and think your husband has the child, your husband thinks you have the child, and then you hear, “um, excuse me, is that your child over there?”. (See your child running through the airport about 20 yards away.) Nope…never seen him before…

 

When you are so over parenting on an airplane that you literally ask the grandma sitting next to you if she wants to hold your baby…and you get him back 5 hours later. ALL THE PRAISE HANDS.

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When your kid refuses to sleep any during the 14hr flight, and finally passes out…while landing. Hello, unconscious Judah.

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When you are headed off for an international trip and you see a well dressed family and wonder where the heck all their stuff is….(that is only half our luggage).

 

When your child makes a new friend because he unexpectedly refuses to get on the escalator and you only realize after he is out of reach. #goodparents

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Well, I’m not sure if I have helped, or actually convinced you to not travel until your kids graduate. So, if you get brave, may we see you in the clear skies or the open road. ❤

 

Summer in the States

I know you were all waiting with baited breath to hear that we did indeed, by the grace of God, endure our first (and second) trans-continental flight as a family of 5. There were fits, sleep fighting, and tears (only a little from adults). The only saving grace of these flights is that it’s doesn’t have to be pretty, we just have to survive. And then there is jet lag…

…and since we are clearly idiots or experts, a traveling with kids post is coming soon.

We spent the summer around some of our favorite people in the whole world, eating good food, playing outside, and not remembering what day it was. Hello, eternal Saturday.

With Isaac’s family we took a little trip to Atlanta to see the Braves play in the new stadium. Naturally, after driving 6 hours with 3 kids, as we pulled into our parking spot at the stadium it started raining. After a 2 hour rain delay, the game finally began at 9pm. Anyone know what it’s like to try and contain un-napped children in public after they should be in bed? Cue snacks…The boys are getting old enough that things are holding their attention more (HALLELUJAH movies on the plane), so it was fun to see them excited for baseball. We finally made it to our hotel around 11:30pm. I’m pretty sure our summer motto was “What bedtime?”.

We also found time to squeeze in two trips to The Varsity between baseball games and a trip to the aquarium. If you are ever in Atlanta and haven’t eaten there, go. Also see: why our pants our snug.

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After our time with Isaac’s family we swung through our old college town to see our best friends for a few days on our way to Texas. And as if we didn’t know we were best friends before, who in their right mind invites your family of 5 with 3 three and under to stay at their house?

The boys thought they were in heaven between the ducks, geese, chickens, horses, lake, bikes, trampoline, and rope swings. I still have no clue how we got them in the car when it was time to leave.

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Then it was on to Texas to see my family. We took a little trip to Austin, TX for a long weekend. We went to an awesome indoor play place (hello A/C) and children’s museum, and swam at the hotel in the evenings. The boys slept well those nights.

We also made it out to The Oasis on Lake Travis for dinner with friends. The view never disappoints.

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On the way home from Austin we took the long (out of the way) route, to take Isaac on a little tour of Texas. We toured the Shiner brewery in Shiner, TX, stopped by the Blue Bell creamery in Brenham for some ice cream and a quick hello to a cousin who lives there (hey, Stephanie!), and then headed on to College Station just so we could drive through enemy country.

Have I mentioned the best part of both family road trips was that our kids were in the other car with their grandparents??? We didn’t want to deprive them of quality bonding time, after all…

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It was the best summer we have had in a long time. The kids traveled so well and we got to see so many people we love. Now that Nana (my mom) and Nino (Isaac’s mom) have summers off, we just need to find a way to get Grandad (my dad) and Poppy (Isaac’s dad) off work and it will be PERFECT! We survived one more trip over the Pacific and it’s right back into work. School started for teachers last week and kids came this week, varsity tennis starts today, and our schedule is full of catching up with people we have missed all summer long.

What a gift we have to have family all over the world.

P.S. Here are some new pictures of our school! They worked all summer redoing the entrance.

 

 

 

 

Kid Update and Summer Plans

I can officially say, nothing makes a school year fly by like having a baby in January. I really can’t believe that summer is next week. I think I may be in denial as summer=packing and flying 14hrs with our new family of 5.

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Isaac and I have been reading the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, which is all about godly parenting and making sure the purpose of discipline is to teach your children to love and obey God, not just obey us for our own convenience. As we begin to discuss this upcoming flight with our 3 year old, 1 year old, and 4 month old, we have decided that the goal is to give them whatever they want, as far as humanely possible, and as Isaac told me, “ain’t nobody’s heart getting shepherded on that plane”. Operation just survive is a go.

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Isaac and I coached middle school tennis this spring, which was a lot of fun. Zoey was our MVP this season, for sure.

The cherry blossoms, magnolias, and the azaleas have come and gone, and we are headed straight for hot and humid.

We have had some extra time to appreciate the foliage this spring as our children’s love for throwing things out the window has been reignited. Yes, we strongly scold them and no, they do not listen. Asher is basically on house arrest and not allowed to approach the windows.

As the temperatures have warmed up we have been outside every chance we get, barring when the air quality or my allergies are trying to kill us.

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Lately we have been working with Judah on his numbers and letters. Naturally his favorite number is four, so if you ask him to count it always starts “fourrrrr, fiveeeee”. Sorry boutcha 1, 2, and 3. He is always in parent mode, ready to scold Asher, hold his hand in the street, or rock Zoey (with or without adult consent or assistance).

Also, lately Judah has become more particular about how things are done. Isaac always just gives me a look and says “he’s your child”. I think I’m offended. So walking to church the other day I realized Judah was lagging a bit and I turned around to see him trying to readjust a paver that wasn’t flush with the others. Bless him…he comes by it honestly.

Asher

Asher is becoming Mr. Independent. He is happy playing on his own, and has adopted Judah’s attitude about everything, “MY DO”. So fun. Makes everything more enjoyable, like the 857 tasks that at the ripe age of 1, he insists he can complete on his own, when as a matter of fact, he can’t. Knowing that this summer sleeping arrangements will vary, we have just transitioned to a big boy bed to hopefully give us more options for bed assignments. The boys have seemed to get a big kick out of being roommates the last few months, but I’m sure all bets are off for the kids’ sleeping well for the next while. The word of our life…transition. Something is ALWAYS in transition.

Zoey

Hey-ooo. Zoey’s first official kid update. She’s a champ. She is a happy, smiley, get-along kind of gal.

*me frantically knocking on ALL the wood*

It has been such a treat to cough, cough, finally have a laid back baby. She tolerates her brothers prodding fingers and not-so-gentle touches like a trooper. She currently sleeps about 10p-4a and will eat and go back to sleep until I feed her right before work at 6. More nights than not, it is Judah getting up and out of bed that keeps us up more than Zoey.

And not to worry, just like Judah and Asher, she draws attention when we are in public.

So we are T-11 days until we land in Texas for summer break. We will be there for a few days, and then head on to Mississippi to see Isaac’s family and his sister’s wedding, then come back to Texas and spend sometime before heading back to Seoul at the end of July. We are so excited for the open road, Mexican food, cokes bigger than 8 oz, and seeing all our friends and family. Here’s to having three kids in one row in the car where *gasp* they can touch each other. I am not above driving like this.

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See you soon, America!

Life with Little Z: the First Days

After Zoey was born, it was a bit surreal how all the anticipation was gone in a split second. Isaac put her in my arms and it seemed like the whole world just stopped. We took turns holding her as all the staff filed out of the room. We were left to enjoy those precious first moments with our new babe. We spent the first few hours FaceTiming family and making official introductions. It was so fun getting to tell people that we had our first girl, and that we had decided on the name Zoey Jean Craft. In keeping with our tradition, her first name is a biblical name; Zoe means life in greek and is found many times in the new testament, and her middle name is a family name from her paternal great grandmothers, Barbara Jean and Doris Jean.

We tucked our sweet girl into her bassinet beside the bed, and finally fell asleep about 7am; a bed has never felt so good. We slept until about 11am, and awoke to find the streets outside covered in a fresh dusting of snow. For a baby born to a Texan and a Mississippian, a snow day on her first day of life was extra special. The streets outside were quiet as we soaked up our new babe in our cozy room. And then the boys came to visit…

Our good friend Rebecca brought my dad and the boys up to welcome the newest Craft. They were so captivated by her…but still working on that calm and gentle thing.

We were given the option to go home that day but figured we would stay the night to try and rest up before officially heading home to be a family of 5; our sweet new angel had other plans. Just as we were crawling into bed after staying up to watch the classic Federer v. Nadal match up at the Australian open, Zoey started fussing. She had been so chill all day, we were sure that she was going to be the laid back kid we have never had. But guys, she screamed and screamed and screamed All. Night. Long. Finally around 3am, I just told Isaac to go walk the hallway with her until someone took pity on him and offered to take her. It worked like a charm.

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The next morning I got to take a nice hot shower before we headed home…I was thinking man, this shower looks awfully familiar (in case you missed her arrival story).

As we were preparing to leave, one of the midwives came in to get Zoey and told us to come with her. Turns out we were getting a “how to bathe a baby tutorial” complete with translation. Lucky for Judah, because by that point he was reallllllly dirty.

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Do you see this two bowl system??? One for soapy water one for clean water. We are also supposed to have all the clothes laid out in a manner so that she is never naked and cold. This lady would likely be appalled by our take-them-in-the-shower-and-hold-an-ankle-so-you-don’t-drop-them technique…

And we head home to the troops.

The next few weeks were a blur of new baby and house guests. My dad arrived in Seoul 6 days after my due date. He had be hesitant about coming after my due date as the goal was to be here to help with the boys while we were in the hospital, but I assured him I would still be pregnant…call it mother’s intuition. He stayed for a little over two weeks. It was a great time filled with playing trains, ordering in, and granddad catching cat naps with Z.

Just before my dad left, Courtney, a family friend who is just out of college, arrived for a visit for a month to see Seoul and help out with a drama production at our school. I’m not quite sure what her plans were for wanting children before her visit but we may have scarred her for life.

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While I did warn her that she would be walking into the chaos of a new baby, 3 under 3, and my dad being here, she still decided to come. Brave girl. I think she learned some valuable life lessons, like how (our’) kids don’t listen (ever), how they have a propensity for being disgusting, and that they get into EVERYTHING.

Bless her heart. She may have just been trying to be nice, but when she left she talked about wanting to see us this summer…maybe she figures she’ll be done with therapy by then.

Just to keep things interesting, on the same day that Courtney left, Isaac’s mom flew in. To be exact, Courtney flew out on the same plane Tina flew in on. Small world. We drove out to the airport to pick up “Nino” with little Z in tow. It was love at first sight.

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Tina, Zoey, and I spent the next 2 weeks exploring Seoul and shopping while Isaac worked. We had the best time showing her around and were so grateful for the extra help.

The transition to three has been surprisingly easy, obviously by the grace of God. We have had only a couple moments where it has been very clear that our old way of doing things isn’t going to work anymore.

For instance the other day: We were coming in from the playground right at bath-time/bedtime. Isaac came in with Asher to change his diaper, I came in with Judah to put him in the bath, and try and keep the playground sand from infiltrating the entire house. Meanwhile, Zoey was at the door, fussing in the stroller.

Me- “Uhhh…Isaac can you get Z?

Isaac- “I am dealing with Asher, can you get her?”

Me- “Well I am trying to get Judah in the bath!”

*looks around waiting for the third parent to appear*

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(If you, like Isaac, haven’t seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…shame on you)

Naturally, we seem to have found our new rhythm justtt in time for our summer break in the U.S.; isn’t that how life goes? We are so grateful for our families, of blood relation and friends that for some reason claim us. Life abroad comes with so many extra challenges, so to our people coming all the way to visit, the ones cheering us on from the states, and friends taking us in as family here, we could not do this without you.

 

The Grand Finale: Zoey’s Birth Saga

Ok, ok, ok. Grab a snack…this is a long one. But I promise to not leave you hanging this time.

By the time we arrived it was about 10pm. They checked on baby and everything looked good. I was 4 centimeters dilated. I guess that’s one centimeter for EVERY. DAY. I. WAS. IN. LABOR.

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Also terrible…each time they went to monitor the baby, it took them forever to find the heartbeat because baby was staying so high (hence the labor sagaaa). For the record, taking forever to find your baby’s heart beat combined with the nurse not being fluent in English is actually even more terrifying than it sounds. That’s life abroad for ya.

So to avoid scaring off any of my 5 readers, I will just give you the P.G. version of how the next 6 hours went. I am more than happy to share all the gory details with whoever wants to hear about it over a cup of coffee. You’re buying of course; I’ve earned it.

After we checked on baby, we got settled into our room. As luck would have it, Wednesday when we stayed there we were in a nice, small, private room, but Saturday the suite was available for us. It was a majorrrr upgrade. It almost makes the wait worth it. Oh wait.

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Oh, hey there, super pregnant miserable Ali.

I paced for a while through the contractions and then my midwife asked if I would like to take a bath. My suite was conveniently connected to the room for their large birthing tub. I was thinking “oh yes, I love a good bath”. Now amended to say, “I love a good bath, WHEN NOT IN LABOR”. Really, nothing takes the fun out a nice, warm, relaxing bath with dim lights in a nice quiet room like your baby and uterus have a severe disagreement about if said baby will or will NOT be leaving the womb. Each time a contraction would come I would thrash about trying to find any comfort (IT WAS NOT FOUND). Come to think of it, it reminded me a bit of this scene.

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After the bath I asked my midwife to check me to see if my prolonged agony had a least produced some progress. At this point it was about 1am. This brings up a fun little story. You all know Isaac, my precious saint of a husband, always kind and polite. Well, through a small misunderstanding…he got into a bit of a heated argument with our midwife right in the middle of a nice bunch of unrelenting contractions. Word to the wise: try to not hack of the person delivering your baby when in labor…

So you see what had happened was…when I got out of the tub, I asked my midwife to check me, and she just kinda stood there (granted it was 1am and she was probably in a daze). So Isaac, eager to get her to help me before another big contraction hit said something to the effect of “umm…check her??”. Keep in mind, she spoke English, but not super well, so Isaac skipped all the pleasantries like can you, would you mind, would it be possible, etc. and it was NOT received well.

She looked at him, took a moment, and then angrily responded “Isaac, do you have a problem with me? Have I done something to make you unhappy with me???” I could not believe what was happening. I was in so much pain and the contractions were coming hard and fast; I was not, I repeat NOT about to have my midwife quit on me. So I did what any logical, spiritual, deranged, exhausted, overdue, laboring person would do, I grabbed her hand and started praying for her, thanking God for her heart to serve and her skills to bring healthy babies into the world. Heartfelt prayer…justtt provoked by a slight moment of insanity/terror.

Either my prayer worked or it confused her enough to forget the argument and check me. Praise the Lord, I was 8 centimeters BUT the baby was still very high aka. still not coming (fun fact- between both pregnancies with the boys and 9 hours of stronggg Pitocin with Judah, I had never gotten past 2cm, so this was new territory). I paced the room some more, just trying to survive. I was doing everything I could through the contractions to help move baby into position. It was at this point I looked deep into Isaac’s eyes and begged for help; any semblance of composure was gone, like LONG gone. I knew I definitely didn’t want to have an epidural, but in my desperation I asked my midwife if there was any other option for pain relief. She ever-so-helpfully reminded me that I was at a NATURAL birthing center. Somebody hold me back.

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Looking for any relief, I got in a HOT shower. Through each contraction (can you overuse that word in a birth story post?? If so, I’m sorry), I would try to help the baby move lower. I labored in the shower for over an hour but was growing restless. So I mustered what strength I had to get out and I asked my midwife to check me again. Her response: “that is really not necessary.” I fought the urge to reply in a manner more like—in a real low voice… “now you listen here..” and opted for PLEASE instead.

She checked me, and do you know what she said? DO YOU KNOW WHAT SHE SAID??

NO. CHANGE. After two hours of intense laboring I had made no progress.

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…that was the moment we decided having two kids was plenty and that three was downright greedy, and we packed our bags and went home…

Ok, ok, ok. We didn’t do that, but only because it wasn’t an option…

It gets worse, y’all. So here we are, 3am. That’s 82 hours of labor, and my midwife says “Ali, I think it is time we consider a C-section, this doesn’t seem to be working”.

A C-SECTION. A C-SECTIONNNNNNNNN. I had no idea that was a thing, like 4 days of labor and 8 centimeters progressed and “whelp, thanks for trying, but…”. I was not about to quit now. I went into problem solving mode and ask if they wouldn’t let me go any longer, that maybe we could just do epidural to wait and see if I would progress. My midwife agreed this was a good option and told me that the anesthesiologist would arrive in about 30 minutes. She said that once I received the epidural that I could sleep for a few hours and then try again. I could have kissed her. A NAP? A NAP? Hallelujah, sweet baby Jesus.

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So I sat on the edge of the bed, still writhing in pain, as they started an IV in preparation for the epidural. My midwife began to notice that I was starting to get the urge to push. Guys. Straight up. At this point I had my eyes on the prize…baby NAP. I was doing everything I could to not push. We had a plan, remember??? DRUGS, NAP, try again.

People began bustling in and out setting up supplies, while my midwife’s tune changed and she began encouraging me to try to push. They brought in a birthing stool and things started to get real. In my state, I just didn’t want to move, so it took my doula and midwife about 5 solid minutes of coaxing to get me to leave the side of the bed and begrudgingly sit on the stool. I just kept thinking “where the heck is that dang anesthesiologist??”. My midwife looked at me and told me that I had to decide: epidural or keep trying; she needed to know if she needed to call off the anesthesiologist. In the tiniest voice I had, I told her I would keep trying. It all happened so fast…gloves were coming out, in preparation for the birth our midwife ask Isaac if he wanted to catch the baby, and then my doctor showed up and we all know they don’t get doctors out of bed at 4am for nothing. Could it really be happening?? Surely not.

Ever since we showed up at the center Saturday night everyone kept saying things like, “Allison, you are having a baby!” or “Today is finally the day!”. My response varied between ya ya/whatever/sure I am/ liar liar pants on fire/ I’ll believe it when I see it, but there was my doctor, “Are you ready to have a baby?”.

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With my new-found determination, I focused, breathed, and after just 15 minutes of pushing I heard Isaac shout through my delirium, “It’s a girl, baby. We have a baby girl”. At 4:17am on Sunday, January 29th, Zoey entered the world.

In my exhaustion, I had honestly forgotten that we were anxiously waiting to see what the gender of baby #3 would be, so it took a minute for his words to sink in. Isaac handed me our baby girl. From no progress/potential c-section to baby in arms in less than an hour. God is so good. I have never felt such sweet relief in my entire life.

21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

John 16:21

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The Plot Thickens: Zoey’s Birth Saga

After a long sleepless night at the birthing center, pacing through consistent and strong contractions, I finally got some rest around 6am. When I woke up, I realized that my contractions had slowed to about 8 minutes apart.

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Our doula Jess, Isaac, and I were just resting and trying to eat a little when my doctor and midwife showed up in the door way and announced it was time for me to go home.

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Looking back, it really is a miracle that there weren’t any casualties, and by any, I mean many. In all seriousness, I credit my successful VBA2C to calls like this, as opposed to choosing to speed things up with interventions, which I am pretty sure I got to the point I would have paid CASH MONIES for some go ol’ interventions. So here’s to my brave doctor and midwife, who don’t even know justtt how close they came to getting beat up by an overdue pregnant lady, that they advised to go home WITHOUT a baby in hand. Rude. For the record, my doula was awesome too, HEY Jess, but surprisingly, I actually never wanted to harm her 🙂

For expediency’s sake and the fact that my brain has tried to desperately forget the details of the next 68 hours, let me just summarize what went down. 

-Squatting, walking, lunging, Castor oil, pineapple, spicy food, etc. ETC. ETC.

-My 1 & 2 year old boys “Mama owwie??”…”Yes, baby, mama has an owwie” (AKA. a tiny mutant baby is harming your mother from the inside…no offense, Z)

-Trying to find rest by sleeping in the bathtub. (A clear drowning hazard but that seemed unimportant at the time.)

-Cooking dinner, cleaning house, watching movies, all in 4 minute intervals where I would go in the other room, die ever so briefly, and then resume normal activity.

I also received some well meaning suggestions from others (aka. things people say when they don’t know what to say):

“Try and sleep between contractions”.

Have you tried (FILL IN EVERYTHING I HAD ALREADY TRIED TWICE)?

“How about you go out and do something fun to take your mind off of it?”.

IT BEING THE DYING OF MY UTERUS EVERY 240 SECONDS.

 

I could spend the rest of my life trying to find enough GIFs to portray how I felt in those moments, but I won’t. DID I MENTION I NEVER KILLED ANYONE? I’m getting extra jewels in my crown, for sure.

Saturday morning (mind you all this nonsense started Wednesday afternoon) brought with it an eerie calm and a much needed nap, and then finally. Finally. FINALLY. , I started have a new kind of pain. You know it’s about to hit the fan when new pain is actually an encouraging sign. I was sure that it either meant I was officially dying, OR maybe, just maybe, actually going to have a baby. Isaac and my doula were all blah blah blah “I think today could be the day”; blah blah blah “I have a good feeling about today”. I was real close to telling everyone exactly where they could stick their enthusiasm.

But…lo and behold things seemed to be progressing. As I cooked dinner, frankly I was becoming a bit annoyed (and clearly detached from reality) by the fact that I could barely get anything done to get food on the table before having to double over with yet another contraction. Can’t a woman just make dinner for crying you loud???

Isaac- “babe, I think this is it”

Me- (groaning) “no, it is never “it”. I’m fine”

Isaac- “babe…I really think we should go in”

Me- (pause for contraction I can’t talk through) “noooooo…I am not going back there until I am SURE I am leaving with a baby”

Isaac-“Ali, your contractions are 3 minutes apart and have been for the last 2 hours.”

Me- (wincing in the pain of a contraction, AGAIN) “Ya ya ya…just let me drink a little more Castor oil.”

Isaac-“uhhhh I don’t think you need it, I think we need to go in”.

Me- (…in intense unrelenting pain…) “no, I’m fine”

10 minutes later

Me- (actually dead) “UHH, YA, Ok…I think it’s time to go”.

Commence repacking the bag, cleaning the house (yes, Isaac will never let me live this down. I HATE leaving a messy house), kissing the boys and my dad goodbye, and taking off for the birthing center.

I know. I know. I’m doing it again. The story is just to long to continue here. It’s not my fault. Blame Z, but good luck trying to stay mad at her.

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Houston, we have a GIRL: Zoey’s Birth Saga

Grab some popcorn and let’s settle in for a nice story, orrrr a terrible story if you are still planning on having kids in the future.

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Join me for a birth story told in gifs.

Let’s start at the due date, January 20th, which historically for me has meant a big fat nothing. So surprise surprise, my due date was met only with more “You’re STILL here??”‘s. Thanks again for those. 40 weeks + 4 days felt a little more special as that is the day that both the boys had born, but yet again, no baby, so at 40+5 I woke up feeling pretty determined to have a baby.

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Please keep in mind as soon as we got the all clear that baby was fully baked, we had been walking, squatting, lunging, eating spicy food, eating pineapple, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, taking evening primrose oil, sitting on a birthing ball, etc. I had even gone so far as chugging castor oil TWICE.

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I could go on explaining the gravity our efforts, but it would just get into terms you don’t know like “rebozo sifting” or the unmentionable act that will surelyyyyyy induce labor…

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…we were fully prepared to try anything to avoid a 3rd c-section. At this point I had been having contractions, but they were still inconsistent. So Wednesday (5 days late), was just like every other day, I woke up went to work, but I knew exactly where I was going after…ZUMBA. I was met with gasps and stares as it didn’t seem that people realized just how serious I was about having a baby ASAP. So there I was at the back of the class, doing my heavily modified version, whilst still timing contractions.  I would put another gif here but oddly enough they don’t have one of a large mammal doing Zumba, sooo we carry on…

I went home and we ordered in the spiciest Thai curry I could stand for dinner. At this point my contractions were about 5 mins apart and consistent. I was cautiously beginning to think that it might be the real deal.

Weighing the fact that I was having strong and consistent contractions less than 4 minutes apart with the fact that could basically be in the Guiness Book of World Record’s for slowest labor progression, we debated for a long time whether we need to go to the birthing center. As they continued for a couple hours, finally around 10:30pm we finally packed our bags (shame on us for procrastinating, but then again so did baby) called over a neighbor (also last minute, thanks Mike!!!), and headed to the center!!

Spoiler alert, baby Zoey was not born that night, or the next, or the next…do you get the picture??? So I’m going to leave you hanging right here for now, and I don’t even feel bad about it…at least you aren’t in labor.

Stay tuned.