Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Star Wars, Christmas, and Jensen Turns One!


Oh gosh. Has it really been a full year? Anyway, I won't waste too much time saying all the things that moms always say. It really did feel fast. This year was just a crazy year anyways (2 moves, one to another country) and in the midst of everything, we are still adjusting to being parents.

Star Wars The Force Awakens came out (on the one year anniversary of Jensen's due date!) and we actually got a sitter for the first time. After basically a full year. We'd only been to one other movie while a family member watched him earlier this year and what can I say? I'm kind of a nervous mom and the timing with nursing is always a little tricky anyway. And we didn't live by family the whole year (womp womp, military life). The thing is, you can take a laid back baby to just about anything except a movie theater. Well. Anything that James and I do on a regular basis anyway. We're not exactly clubbers.

So yeah, we got a sitter. And went on a movie date. Jensen was wonderful for the sitter and we got to see the new Star Wars movie, which was pretty much the movie I had been waiting for since I was about ten years old.


That same week, we had a virtual birthday party with my parents, James's parents, and some of our siblings. Jensen opened presents (with a little help) and dug into his Buttercream BB-8 cake that I made on camera while family watched on the other side of the world.  It was bittersweet. I can't imagine living here without the connection of video chat with family. I'm so thankful that we live here when we do. Even if this had been a decade earlier, it wouldn't have been so easy (thank you, Google Hangouts).


And that same week was Christmas. It was very Star Wars-filled. The go-to themed gift for everyone in our family was anything Star Wars this year. I even got Star Wars mascara in my stocking. But this was the first Christmas that we didn't either have family come to us or us go home to family. Again, we did video chat to open presents, but it just wasn't quite the same.

That's definitely the hardest part about living in Korea. It's not the weird food or the language barrier. It's that my heart breaks every time I think too much about how my parents and James's parents only get to hang out with Jensen through a computer screen. But thank God for that computer screen. I don't know how we would get by without it.

I've been going on some really cool runs through the city (sans stroller), but haven't brought my camera or phone with me so I'll have to remember to do that a few times soon. I've been reading more. Jensen is toddling around and exploring all the time. James has been home on break. My heart is full.

<3 Amy

PS: I ran 4 completely pain-free miles for the first time in.. forever. I'm starting to get excited and will blog more about running soon.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Living in Korea Part 2: Getting Settled In

We've been here for about 7 weeks now and now that household goods and our car have arrived, we are somewhat settled in. We are living in an apartment on base, which we love. I might post pictures once we hang pictures on the walls. We live on the first floor, so it's not too hard to take our dog out (something we were concerned about, moving to a city), we live in a neighborhood of other American families, and there are little play parks around the neighborhood for Jensen to play on.

What is it like living in South Korea? Well, our experience is a little different because we live on base. It's kind of like living in a little American bubble in the middle of a huge city. It's relatively quiet, the commissary (which takes American dollars) is just like any commissary on base, we have a few Starbucks and all the typical AAFES stuff (post exchange, Taco Bell, Burger King, KFC, etc).

But then we get to leave our little bubble and step out the gate into another country. We've gotten pretty good at the subway system, which is the best way to travel around the city. We've been exploring around, but it's starting to get a little harder with the weather getting colder. We've heard there is fantastic hiking outside the city, so I can't wait to do that. Also, we can't wait to use the bike highways that go in and around Seoul.

There is plenty of weird Korean food but also plenty of completely Western/American places to eat in our little international neighborhood as well. We could live here for two years and easily not eat any kimchi the whole time. But what fun is that? The nice thing about it though, is that we can dip our feet in slowly and experience a different culture at our own pace. There was no culture shock and I really don't think there will be.


Personally, I think adjusting to not working anymore has been as big of a change for me as it has to move to another country. I'm still trying to figure out how to structure mine and Jensen's day. Do we need structure, I hear you say? Yes, I think so. Otherwise we're both sitting in pajamas at 2pm, eating ice cream, having accomplished nothing with the day.

I am running more. After everything, I think the pain I was experiencing (still kind of experiencing but it's mostly gone away now) is down to core stability weakness. I am doing exercises to strengthen those muscles and working up the mileage slowly. I'm running about 3 times a week, and the farthest I have run recently is a 5k, but I'm thinking I'll start adding to that soon. I really can't wait to get back into longer runs again.

Meanwhile, Jensen is learning how to walk. Doing crazy things like moving to another country does not slow down other things, like my baby growing up into a toddler.  We'll be spending out first Christmas together without mine or James's parents. Kind of crazy, right? There is a part of me that is really sad that we can't have a big 1st birthday party with family for Jensen. But there's still Skype and there will still be cake and singing. Life is kind of bittersweet sometimes.

Love,
A.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Living in Korea Part 1: First Impressions

We've been here in Seoul for about a week. We already moved into an apartment on base and I've already fallen in love with this city. We left my brother-in-law's house in Seattle-area at about 4am on a Tuesday and we checked into a hotel here in the city at about 9pm on Wednesday.. and it's confusing with the time change but basically we were traveling for about 26 or 27 hours. With a 10-month-old, cat, dog, and ALL the luggage, it was definitely the most tiring travel day of my life.

From our hotel room. Jensen looks out on his new city!

First impression of Korea:

1) It's a lot more European-feeling and a lot less "foreign" than I thought it would feel. Granted, we've mostly been hanging out in the Itaewon, the international district of Seoul. But there are coffee shops, french bakeries, craft beer, wineries, and every kind of international food you can think of here. Also, most people in this part of the city speak at least enough English you take your order pretty easily, so that is helpful.

2) They love babies here. Jensen is getting a LOT of attention here. Like.. a lot. They are just a lot more friendly with little kids here. I have a hunch that he's getting a little more attention because he's also a Western-looking baby too. At one point we had no less than 6 hotel employees that had stopped while we were waiting for an elevator and were making funny noises and faces at him to get him to laugh. It's a good thing he's cool with strangers and is basically a little flirt anyway.

3) They don't really move out of the way on the street. When walking opposite directions, I feel like I'm always the one moving out of the way. James was told in his cultural briefing that it's no big deal to bump into each other. It's not considered rude. You don't even have to say "excuse me," you just keep going. So I find myself wanting a little more space as I'm coming up on someone and it feels rude to me when they don't move, but really it's just because they don't expect to need as much buffer as I think there should be. Unless we are walking Roxy, our 75-pound German Shepherd mix. Which brings me to number 4..

4) A lot of Koreans are terrified of our big dog. Roxy and our cat have been staying at the base's animal kennel which we stay at the hotel. We took her out walking in the city for the first time and got a lot more space than we were getting without her. It seems like it was a generational thing. Older ladies were not shy about all-out scowling at her and moving as far away as possible. One women (I think a Grandma) was walking with kids and almost violently pulled one of the kids to the other side of the sidewalk. I mean.. she basically looks like a smaller black German Shepherd but she was happily wagging her tail. She wasn't that scary looking. On the other hand, we stopped a cross walk with three little Korean grade school-aged girls who were very curious about her and not at all afraid.

5) Speaking Korean is kind of intimidating. I took three years of high school Spanish and I have been to Italy a couple times. Saying hello in those languages is really easy ("hola", "ciao"). One or two syllables. "Please" and "Thank you" are also very easy to learn. Saying hello in Korean is 5 syllables "an-yong ha-say-o."

6) The beds are uncomfortable. I guess I'm basing this only on the hotel bed we stayed in and now on the loaner bed we have in our apartment on base. But Koreans like to sleep on the floor, so I'm guess our beds are pretty typical. I thought our mattress that we own was pretty firm, but I was wrong. There's firm and then there's like, stone floor firm. So besides having a jet-lagged baby waking up in the middle of the night, we were pretty uncomfortable for the firm week. We just spent some money on a really nice mattress pad though and it was the best. decision. ever.

7) Koreans are just really friendly. I've not met a rude person here yet. Everyone we've met has been really gracious towards us English-speaking Americans.

Anyway, I'll write more about our apartment and such soon!

<3 A.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pure Stay-At-Home Mom

In James's Military Intelligence Career Course, there were guys that were known as "Pure Military Intelligence." This meant that they were MI from their commissioning in the beginning. James was Infantry up until this course, so he switched over branches and became MI. So for James, there is this asterisk. Yep, I'm MI now, but I have Infantry experience. 

I feel like I've been a "Stay-at-home mom" with an asterisk. Yep, I stay at home, but I work as a programmer part-time. Well.. unfortunately the working hours of my team in Seattle-area do not translate well to hours in Korea. It's pretty much exactly when I'll be sleeping over there. To phone into team meetings, I would have had to get up in the middle of the night. 

So.. I gave my two weeks notice just a few days after we found out about Korea. We are moving soon (just a few weeks now until household goods come) and there is organizing and vet appointments and well-baby appointments and all this paperwork that has to happen. 

I have a lot of feelings about not working right now. I go in between this:
 And this:

I'm more sad than I thought I would be. I was already missing my team by being one of the only remote workers when I used to be physically there, but the finality of quitting (at least for the next two years) still was really sad for me. 

So. Now I'm Pure Stay-At-Home Mom. Household Six. Domestic Engineer. It feels weird. 

Was it impossible to still work from Korea? No. But was it more stress than it was going to be worth? Probably. Also, I was to be able to take advantage of being in another country. The problem with working from home is that you are stuck at home. We are going to be right in the heart of downtown Seoul (I almost said right in the "soul" heh) and I want to be able to explore with Jensen during the day. 

We got our command sponsorship approved. And our flights are booked. The five of us (Me, James, Baby, Dog, and Cat) all have spots on a patriot express flight to Korea. It's happening. 

I've already scoped out that there are two big marathons that happen in Seoul. There is a huge running community there. Seoul is just a really freaking cool city. It's going to be awesome. 

<3 Amy 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

KOREA

Korea. We are moving there. WHAT.


I had gotten to this great place where I was happy not knowing where we were moving yet. They kept on pushing back the date when we would find out, so I just decided I would be cool with it. The Army will tell us when the Army tells us. As soon as we find out, it will get more stressful (It did). Let me just bask in the ignorance for a while. I was pretty dang smug about how patience I was being.

Then last Monday, James had the day off work. He got back from his run and while he was in the shower, his phone exploded with texts. Everyone in his squad was sending in a group text that people were finally get the email.

So people continued to get emails all morning. And we waited. I think I told James to hit refresh on his email about 50 times.

And I realized that since other people knew, I was no longer cool with not knowing.

We ended up not finding out until the next afternoon. Somehow we were one of the very last to find out. James checked his email right before he left work, got home and said, "So.. ready to go on an adventure?"

Then he told me and I had this moment of panic set in. I felt like crying, but I couldn't put my finger on specifically why. Maybe I am not as adventurous as I wish I was. Do adventurous people feel moments of panic? I was just completely overwhelmed. We did want to go overseas, but part of me didn't think it would really happen. I was sure we were going to Fort Carson or Campbell. But it turns out that not a lot of people want to go there (unless they have already been there, then they LOVE it). So since we had Korea up sort of middle-top of the list, they were like "hey! these people don't mind going to Korea. Let's send them there!" Actually, I'm not sure that's exactly how it went down, but there were people in James's class that did NOT want to go there at all and somehow still got assigned to Korea.

Luckily, about an hour after James got home, I had a run date with a friend. Seriously, that could not have been better timed. If you ever need to process HUGE news, go for a run.

How do you process something like that? Questions that went through my head:

  • Does Amazon prime deliver there? 
  • Will we have to protect Roxy (our dog) from being eaten? 
  • How do you completely flip a baby's schedule? 
  • How am I going to convince my baby that just learned how to crawl to stay put on a 20 hour flight? Actually how long is the flight? How do you get even get there? 
  • How do you do a non-DITY Army move? I don't even know. 
  • What if North Korea goes cray cray? 
Anyway, we have started the process of ALL the paperwork and hoops we have to jump through to move out of the country very soon. 

To details: We'll be at Yongsan Garrison, which is right downtown Seoul. It should be for two years, assuming that Jensen and I get command sponsorship (approved by the Army to go with him). If all paperwork does through quickly (heh), we should be moving around late October. 

AHH. 

I am excited. Really I am. I just want to skip over the moving part. 

Didn't I just write that life had slowed down and started to get sleepy? 

Stay tuned, folks. 

<3
Amy 

 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Calm

Today, Jensen turns 7 months old. And today, James will interview for his next assignment and location. Together, we ranked a list of jobs at different Army bases 1 to 25. They will place James at one of those locations, depending on where they think he (and the rest of his captain's career course classmates) fit best.

In a little over 2 months, we will be packing up to move to one of those places. Some of those places are overseas. Some of them are in the middle of nowhere. None of them are very close to family in Chicagoland (the closest, I believe, is a 6 hour drive). We have no idea which one yet.

Four years ago, when I waited outside some gates, waiting for James to come out of Ranger School, I talked to a veteran Dad waiting for his son. He promised me that "life will eventually calm down." After nearly 8 months of living apart and phone calls and letters from the field, I didn't really believe him. We got placed at James's first assignment and he almost immediately deployed for 1 year. He returned and became this executive commander for his company, often going into the field and coming home late in the evening. Then we got pregnant and had this beautiful baby boy. Life has not been calm.

Until these last few months. We moved out to this tiny little town, next to this tiny little base, in the middle of the desert. James comes home for breakfast and it's rare for him to be home after 5.

Everything that was fast-paced before seems to have come to a halt. I used to rush to commute to work. Now I meander down the hall to my desk at home. We used to wake up early on so many Saturdays to go run a race, go hiking, or go camping. Now, we pull the baby into bed with us in the early morning and sleep in on most weekends (or at least doze and cuddle while our little adventurer sips his breakfast and rolls between the sheets). I like to think we still do more than the average couple with a baby, but the fact is that we are not quite as spontaneous as we were a year ago. Even my running has had to slow down due to some pain I still have from the pregnancy.


As we put together the list, it becomes a game of "would you rather?" Swamp or desert? Beach or mountains? Would we rather be adventurous and put Germany, Italy, and Korea on the top of the list? Or would we rather be close(r) to family, since we will likely try for another baby in the next couple years?

So I don't know where we will be in a few months. Regardless of where it is, we'll have another crazy move soon. This will be Jensen's third home and he's not even a year old yet. And it will be the first home he remembers. God will put us where we are supposed to be. Until then, we're just going to hang out here and enjoy the peace and sleepiness of the desert.

<3 Amy

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This Boy Will Break My Heart Someday

I finally caved and read "The Fault In Our Stars" like everyone else and their mom, and there was a line I particularly loved:


"I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once." 

For me, that was how I feel in love with my baby boy. And I'm just going to warn you right now. This post is pretty dang sappy. 

It was different with my husband. James and I had high school crushes on each other that God helped us bake into something more substantial. We've got a crock pot love. With Jensen, I very slowly started to fall in love when I saw him on the ultrasound and then BAM. When I held him in my arms for the first time, the feeling in my heart was explosive and fierce. 

In a marriage, you have faith and hope that your spouse will stay with you until death do us part. With a child, you love them knowing that they will very most likely leave you someday. I've tried to explain to a few friends without kids how I feel about Jensen and its hard you do that without saying "I just love him SOO much." That's lame, so this post is me trying. 

He's my little partner in crime. He lights up with the biggest smile when I walk in to get him up in the morning, and it makes my whole day brighter. He had one pointed elf ear that is so stinkin' adorable it hurts. He has chubby little thighs obtained exclusively through breastfeeding, and for some reason I'm just really proud of that. The overwhelming consensus is that he looks like his dad, but with my eyes, which is very Harry Potter-esque and I freakin love that. He smiles at everyone like they are his favorite person and for a moment, I think they believe him. 

I try not to think about the day that he won't need me anyone, but I can't help it. Every time I put another outfit away that he's grown out of, I want to just shout STOP GROWING UP ALREADY. Someday soon, he won't be so thrilled when I wake him up in the morning. Someday soon, his chubby little thunder thighs will lengthen out. Someday, I will no longer be his number one lady. And someday, I will have to let him go. 

I hope he still loves me when he grows up. I hope he has the courage and strength of his dad. I hope he is loving and kind. I hope he grows into a man who loves God.

But I can't think about that too much. I have to enjoy loving him as he is now, and pray for the man he will become someday. My little baby. He will break my heart someday, but loving him every moment until then, and after, is worth it.

<3 A.

Note: Remind me to come back and read post when he's drawing on my walls and putting frogs in my shoes.