Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Headline: White American Girl Teaches White Irish Kids About The Korean New Year.

From our visit in 2009
 Two weeks ago during Seollal (the Korean New Year) I had the opportunity to go in and teach Miles' classmates about Seollal.

So here's how it went down: I actually just called the teacher to ask if I could bring in a special Korean snack for the day.  The teacher was out, so I had to ask the principal.  She was so on-board that she thought it would be great if I could come up with something for all of the teachers/students to do, which would be easy because there are only about 86 kids at his school total, none of which had probably ever been to South Korea.  I got off the phone that Friday excited for this opportunity to give Miles something he could be proud of.
Then 2 things happened.
1.  I couldn't figure out what she meant by "come up with something for all of the teachers/students to do."
2. I had to read up on Seollal, since everything I do, and every holiday I celebrate, generally revolves around food. I wasn't going to fix BeBimBop for 90+.

Insue slight panic.  Here it was the weekend, Seollal ends on Monday, and I had no idea what I was supposed to prepare.  Also, I must remind you that I'm pretty sure 80% of the students and staff at his full-integration Gaelic-speaking school think Miles is Chinese.  Needless to say, he's the only Asian-American Gaelic speaker in our part of the country - that I know of.

On a self-important observational side note: teachers/administrators don't use email here like I'm used to.  Like, at all. (Side note of the side note: I almost wrote "don't use email like they should", but that would imply that I know best, and I'm trying really hard to give up "knowing best" for lent.)

So I decided to do like the locals and chill out.  I waited it out until Monday and then just phoned them. It seemed my chilling out paid off because the principal was gone for the week (a small detail that went unmentioned).  The person answering the phone didn't mind if I came until Tuesday (she went around and asked all of the teachers while I waited on the phone - I guess this would be one advantage of small schools).  AND they thought it would be great fun if I just came up with a presentation for the entire school.

This oddly left me relieved.  As a former teacher turned current parent, I wasn't too keen on handing out a list of things for the teachers to do with their students while I went home and drank cups of coffee and watched soaps. (NOT implying this is what other moms do - just what I would do...)  And  I thought it would be pretty fun for Miles if his mom and Nana came to his school to talk about how cool his culture is.

So I spent Monday researching Seollal a bit more, which was good for me.  I created a kick-ass slide show (you know, as far as slide-shows go) which included pictures of Miles in his Hanbok. I traced 86 paper snakes (for the year of the snake), and put on my big girl pants.

It couldn't have gone better.  I zoned out during the introduction, which of course was in all Gaelic, although I think they were talking about it also being "Pancake Tuesday" - another great holiday in my opinion.  The kids were great listeners and asked lots of questions, had lots of experiences to share, and raised their hands A LOT. This is where my teacher-instincts came in handy because I had no problem sweetly ignoring them when it got to be obnoxious (because it always does).

Cute Hanbok Pictures.
At one point the entire school was performing Sebae, or at least what I could understand and interpret of the complicated bowing ritual. They loved the pictures of Miles in his Hanbok.  And they all made snakes.  It even made it into the local paper.  This is big news here.
Other children making snakes for the Year of the Snake
I feel lucky that Miles' teachers and administrators were so excited to share his culture with his classmates (or get out of 30 minutes of lesson planning).  They took a break from their daily schedule, which is never really easy for those age levels, and were so grateful for everything (at least to my face).  And I feel so lucky that right now I have a job where I can do these sorts of things for my kids.  And if the amount of confetti on the floor of his classroom is any indication, I think the snake-making was fun for all (under the age of 10).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Obligatory First-Bites-of-Real-Food Pictures...

...don't act like you weren't waiting at the edge of your seat for these bad boys.

 Don't misread his somberness as anti-excitement. We take eating VERY SERIOUSLY in this house.

One Baby+Northern Ireland x 9 Plane Tickets = .....

Dustin's entire family came for a visit last week. I like to think that they all just missed us so much, but I have a feeling it had a tiny bit to do with a certain 6 month old most of them had never met and some dramatic Northern Irish landscape.  And the Guinness didn't hurt.

 For some it was a short visit, and it felt like we had never been away...until my nephews walked in and I realized how fast they were sprouting adult-like tendencies.  It was hard for me not to embarrass them with stories where I reminisce about fighting for a chance to hold them, or talk about their tiny squeaky voices, or nicknames we had for them. 

 It was great to have almost the entire family here, minus one little much-loved guy who is waiting to come home from Korea.

Someday these seven boys will all be together, and the world will never be the same.
All of the nephews, minus Elliot, who we can't wait to finally meet.
The week was filled with castles, laughter, and some of the best food we had had in a long time.  There were many games of Candy Land and Crazy Eights.  There was birthday cake and wine, and even some American Valentines Sweeties.  Luckily, I married into a family full of love, generosity, and a willingness for adventure.

Now the process of reminding our boys that the world doesn't just revolve around them begins...

Completely worth it.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

6 months old.

Ollie at 6 Months...

Favorite past-times: Solving Ireland's national debt crisis and now sitting up without assistance.
Greatest Accomplisment to date: 2 very sharp bottom teeth and a wicked backswing.

Likes....being held.
Dislikes...not being held.

Hobbies: Chess, European Football, and Frequently checking to see if his mom is still on top of her game in the middle of the night.

Goals for next month... Some anger management classes, Get through a few board books we've been working on, figuring out how to permanently attach himself to his mother, and eating solid food.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Idiots Guide to Valentines Day After 10 Years of Marriage.

Valentines Day usually is a tricky one in our family.  If you've been reading for awhile, then you would remember this post from 2011, where I pretty much called my husband out on never getting me anything.  To be completely fair, until then I always pretended like I didn't want anything.  I was too good for Valentines Day; to intelligent to let a Hallmark Holiday rob me of my time, energy, and money.
Well, in my mature 30s I've realized that I want Valentines Day to rob me. ROB ME! ROB ME BLIND!  I want silly chocolates and surprise notes.  I want everything to be heart shaped and pink, because when else in my life is ANYTHING going to be heart-shaped and pink?  I want to leave notes for people with silly phrases that are unacceptable on any other day of the year, - like the card with a heart shaped snake with the phrase, "I hope we wind up together."  That's FREAKING HILARIOUS.  I don't care who you are.
So basically Valentines Day has been sort of weird for my husband and I.  For years he thought it was a ridiculous holiday and had convinced me that Valentines Day was really everyday.  Which I naively believed until I realized that IT'S NOT.  All of our dating years, including our first year of marriage were like this.
Our second year of marriage I decided to rock the boat by sending him on a long and detailed scavenger hunt around the city.  It was a big hit, but after he came home to me empty-handed (which in all fairness, was the agreement...) I felt a little broken-hearted. For years after that I accepted the fact that we just didn't celebrate Valentines Day.
Then 2010 happened. I don't like to bring it up because I think it is embarrassing for all of us.  But, my dear sweet boys who will inevitably have to celebrate Valentines Day with the opposite sex....let this be a lesson to you.  It all started because all of my coworkers got flowers on Valentines Day.  (I say all, but...you know, it's my story.) I came home pouting because I had received NOTHING.  Which, to be fair...was the agreement.  I sulked all night and when Dustin asked me what was wrong I told him in my saddest seventh grade voice, "Everyone got flowers today but me."  I'm not sure what I expected him to do at that point, except maybe just apologize?  But he did one better...he had flowers sent to me the NEXT DAY.
Let me ask you friends.  When someone gets flowers delivered to them on the DAY AFTER VALENTINES DAY do you say "awwwwww" like, happy "awwwww", or do you say "awwwwwww" like, this-pour-girl's-husband-forgot-Valentines-Day-and-she-must-have-read-him-the-riot-act "awwwww"??  And I taught HIGH SCHOOL.  Those smart little teenagers certainly knew the deal and didn't let me forget it.  To be fair (again) I can take a joke with the best of them, and I even threw in a few lines to make fun of myself...but a girl shouldn't have to make fun of herself on the day after a particularly sad Valentines Day, am I right?
Luckily Dustin and I can joke about it now.  And things have definitely improved.  I don't really need much.  I don't need fancy jewelry or an overpriced set-menu dinner out (Seriously?! Can you not just eat off the regular $10 a plate menu on Valentines Day ANYWHERE?!)  You know what I like?  A card that took longer than 5 minutes to throw together (free) and maybe a cheesy box of chocolates that you can only get at Valentines Day.  Those are nice places to start... which I think I wrote about here (again).
So one would think that Valentines Day has only been easier and more lovely for us since then.  One would think.  Basically, like any reasonable adult, I agree weeks before with my husband that we shouldn't get each other anything for the crazy commercialized day. Then, like any reasonable adult I spend the two or three days before Valentines Day silently fuming as I prepare Valentines for my kids and friends.  One could say that I don't yet have a valid reason to fume, but that is like one saying you don't have a valid reason to buy a swimsuit because you live in Northern Ireland where the sun doesn't exist 355 days of the year.   One would be right - in either case. But it is times like these that my completely rational mind is assuming that my dear husband isn't going to get me anything and I will be sad.  (Which goes against every womens-lib thing I've ever been taught, which makes my sadness turn into bitterness....you see the cycle?) So then usually the night before the big day he FINALLY asks me what's wrong and I FINALLY accuse him of all of the anti-Valentines Day things he hasn't done wrong yet (because, it is the next day, ya know?)
Then he rushes off to the grocery store to buy some flowers.
And I go to bed feeling like a real tool for even bringing it up.
But then the next morning I wake up before anyone else and stumble into the kitchen bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived.  In front of me I find all sorts of goodies that he had been hiding away....INCLUDING the elusive red Valentines-y box of chocolates I've had my eye on for 32 years.
This, my friends, is how you win the heart of an emotional, hormonal, anti-Valentines Day convert.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Saturday, February 9, 2013

You should have been there.

You graduate from college and get married.  The two of you move to a new town and act like adults. You buy a house that is love at first sight, despite the laundry list of problems it has.  You find that you love broken things.  You sit in the evenings and contemplate your new life and congratulate yourself on having it all. 
One day you can feel a tugging emptiness in your home.
You convince your husband that you need to fill it.
He's easy to convince.
You drive to the local pet shelter one Saturday morning with cups of warm coffee huddled in your hands.  You walk down the aisles slowly, taking it all in and looking for the perfect fit. You pet dog after dog, trying hard to only fall in love with one of them.  You look for the ideal balance of friendly and calm.  You're looking for a companion.
You walk out with a family member.
You go for walks; try to teach him fetch.  You give him a new name that seems perfect for the character in his soul. You fall in love. You congratulate yourself on choosing the best one. You come home from work to tail wagging.  He just wants to be in the same room as you.  A silent presence that grounds you and warms your insides.
You bring home a ten month old baby from Korea and worry about his reaction.  You watch as he  sniffs and nuzzles the little boy.  You can see the love light up your son's eyes as he stares in awe.  Their's is a love at first sight.
You listen for his toenails on the hardwood floors at night as he paces back and forth, protecting his family.  You watch him watch you as you dig in your garden or play in the sandbox.  You feel his sigh as he rests his chin on your knee.  Your heart swells.
You pull out the vacuum for the fifth time that week.  You curse the marks he leaves on the floor and the mud he tracks in from the backyard.  You nudge him out of the way as he gets underfoot for the millionth time that day, and you try hard not to lose patience. You deep sigh and wonder how he can annoy you and adore you at the same time.
You decide that your family has to leave, and you have to leave him behind.  You dread the idea of abandoning him because you know his soul is sensitive.  You know he won't eat for days. You feel sick at the thought of saying goodbye for 2 whole years, but you find someone who will love him and take good care of him.  You whisper your goodbyes in his ears and you tell him that you'll be back for him soon.  You pray that he understands your words.
Your life goes on in a land far away, but your thoughts go back to him often.  The first thing you do is print a photograph of him with your son and frame it so you can see it everyday. You tell your kids stories about him so that they'll remember him and love him like a brother when you return. You have another baby and wonder what he'll think when they meet.  You picture him pacing the floors and waiting for your return. You hope he's happy.
Then one night you wake up to feed your newborn by the glow of your ipod.  You shuffle through emails and messages, falling on one that makes your world shift.  Your heart beats out of your chest as it shatters into a million pieces. You're frozen with sadness, not knowing what to do.  You tell your husband, knowing that, if it's possible, he will be even sadder than you.  You cry.  You cry and cry.  You call your mom because she's your mom and will know your sadness. 
It was cancer.
You feel stupid for being so sad about losing a dog when you should be thanking God the rest of your family is so healthy.  You feel stupid, but it doesn't matter, because he was more than just a dog.
You think about his final thoughts and you wish away any pain he must have felt.  You try to push aside the feeling that he must think you never came back for him.  You feel jealousy for the people who got to say goodbye to him before he closed his eyes.  You know that it should have been you.
The next day you wake up and try to imagine a new life when you return home.  You try to look at the bright side over your coffee as you remember that you don't have to come home to an empty house, because you have no house.  You realize that the absence of his pacing steps at night won't feel like a silent sentence, because there are no floors to pace.  You shudder between sadness and relief, knowing that he didn't suffer long and was well loved during his final days.
But you wanted it to be you.
You wanted to be the one to hold him when he said goodbye. You wanted to kiss his forehead as he shook with fear at the vet office. When he left the world. And your life.
You should have been there.

Your friend said one time that when someone chooses to bring a dog home, they are automatically choosing to have their heart broken. These creatures we choose to love will rarely outlive us - the ones that love them most.

You wish she wasn't right.
You should have been there.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Superbowl Sunday

I am not an American football fan.  (Or any kind of football fan for that matter.) Outside of watching the entire series of Friday Night Lights in a single summer, and still claiming it to be the best television drama series ever created, I don't really watch football.  If football is on the television I will most certainly turn it off. (Unless Tim Riggins is the one doing the tackling - love that guy and his dangerous attitude.)

But, I love Superbowl Sunday.  I love 10 different dishes, all made with Velveeta and something to dip in it.  I love everyone showing up in their jeans and sweatshirts.  I love the sound of beer bottles being opened and kids playing in the other room.  I love that no matter who was playing, we would most definitely feel the warmth of our friends all in one space.

I can picture it now.  Becky would talk through the whole game, but nobody would care because her conversation is what makes us us...  except for her brother Ben - who may be the only one there that is taking the game seriously.  He would be sitting in his leather reclining sofa with a cup holder for his beer and the remote in his hand so he has control over the volume.  I would inevitably ask who was playing after the first quarter, and Dustin would roll his eyes at me and wonder why he had to marry the only person in the world that didn't know who was playing in the Superbowl before we got to the party.  Mark would say something funny that would make me laugh, and Andrew would follow it up with his quiet humor that I love.  That guy laughs with his whole body.  The other Becky would bring snickerdoodles, and I would eat about 5 too many.  Marissa would have a whole spread of food out on her dining room table upstairs.  Her cat would huddle in the corner threatening to attack my feet the minute I let my guard down.  Our kids would be behind us in the toy room playing.

Is it any wonder why I love Superbowl Sunday?  This is what I envisioned while I tucked myself into bed last night. This is what I dreamed was happening back in Illinois as I tried to explain to people here how I can ignore football, but love this game.

There are times when I forget where our home is.  Then I remember Superbowl Sunday.