Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sophie's First Easter

To me, the glories of warm weather, flowers, and new beginnings usually overshadow a candy-filled secular celebration of Easter. This year was no different. Since Sophie is still too young for egg-dyeing, candy, or hunting for her Easter basket (as I did every year growing up) there wasn't much to do to mark her first Easter as a special day. Still, we did have an Easter-themed playgroup last Wednesday and a fun-filled Easter weekend.

Our playgroup met at the apartment of a new friend, Mika, who has a daughter exactly one year older than Sophie and an older adopted son due to arrive from China later this year. She had her heart set on dyeing Easter eggs. The almost-twos were still a bit young for egg dyeing, so the adults dyed the eggs and then the kids put on Easter stickers after they dried. We all got a good laugh out of Mika's daughter Eloise's approach, which involved banging each egg on the table before or during the decorating. Sophie enjoyed holding her egg and examining it with fingers and mouth while Mommy tried to sneak a few stickers on. Mika had also thoughtfully prepared an "egg hunt" for the kids, using ping pong balls in lieu of plastic eggs. The little girls thought the bouncy out-of-control ping pong balls were hilarious and spent a lot of time hurling them around the room and laughing hysterically. Sophie was wide-eyed with amazement at all the hubbub. It was a really fun morning and was followed by a long, restful nap!

On the Saturday before Easter we were invited to dinner at an Italian restaurant to celebrate the wedding of our friends Leandra and Mario. I enjoyed the chance to dress Sophie up and to get dressed up myself - it's been a while!

All dressed up in our matching outfits.

The restaurant was an adorable, cozy little place, packed with the couple's Brazilian and Korean friends. Sophie was a bit overwhelmed with all the attention and noise and wanted me within arm's reach at all times. She did get a chance to crawl around a little and observe the antics of two little toddler boys who were having a grand old time egging each other on. We had a delicious mozzerella and tomato salad, followed by a plate of delicious pasta with cream sauce. Keegan enjoyed pork with veggies for the main course, and I had gnocchi. Leandra made an amazing strawberry cake for dessert. Sophie sampled a little of everything and was clearly quite pleased.

On Easter we got a chance to open a gift from Grandma in the morning.

My first Easter Peeps! Later stolen by Mommy.

In the afternoon the whole family went for a run with the help of our borrowed jogging stroller and then Keegan enjoyed a barbecue with some ABS friends and the Polish community while Sophie and I took a nap.

Ready to run!

Unfortunately, Keegan enjoyed a little too much vodka with the Poles and went to bed early, so Sophie and I had Easter dinner alone. To make things extra fun, I decided to let Sophie try spaghetti for the first time. Delicious and fun!

I hope all my readers had a wonderful Easter weekend, too!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Weekend Project

The ABS men of Kisan Harborview are always looking for ways to exercise their manly strength, use fancy tools, go to the hardware store, and get together to drink beer. This week, they found a way to do all those things by building a swingset addition to the existing apartment playground.

Tim did the initial groundwork for the project by buying several large pieces of lumber, and Keegan bought a plastic toddler swing at Home Plus. The men assembled on Saturday morning to start putting everything together.

Tim makes himself useful as a post.

By the afternoon, the frame of the swingset was erected, and the men set about digging holes to put the supports into. Unfortunately, the shovel we had was not up to the task of digging such large holes, and two guys were dispatched to the hardware store for a new shovel and some concrete to fill in the holes.

Sophie on the construction site, waiting for a stronger shovel.

Much hilarity ensued as the remaining men, impatient to keep making progress, attempted to continue digging with a severely bent shovel and to break up large rocks they encountered with a rubber mallet. Jokes about time on the chain gang abounded. Finally the new shovel arrived and the frame was properly secured.

By the time we returned from a dinner out with some friends, the toddler swing was mounted, and Sophie went on a nighttime ride. She loved it! We got to try it out again on Sunday afternoon, and once again it was a big hit.

The completed swingset, with swinging baby!

Mommy and Sophie are happy to have something new to do during the days, and the men were very happy with their handiwork. Numerous new project ideas are afloat - can't wait to see what they come up with next!

A Good-luck Pig's Head

Yesterday afternoon Keegan, Sophie, and I went for a hike in the mountains near our apartment. It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed seeing all the new leaves and mountain cherry trees still in blossom, but it was a mostly unremarkable walk. That is, it was unremarkable until we got back to Deokpo and saw a group of women sitting on the ground apparently having a picnic. They attracted my attention because one of the women was holding a long white cloth, which she was knotting in a careful way. I looked a little closer at the spread on the picnic blanket and saw that it was arranged like a good luck offering, with lots of fruit. There was a large, brown leathery object right in the middle which I finally recognized as a pig's head! That was a surprise!

When we got back to the apartment, several of our friends were outside having a barbecue. I mentioned the surprising pig's head, and the two Korean girls told me that it's not too unusual to have a small ceremony with a pig's head to pray for good luck when buying a new car or starting a new business. You should put bills in the pig's mouth, ears, or nose for extra luck. I asked them if it was expensive to buy a pig's head, and they said no. But when I looked for more information online, I discovered this article, which explains a bit about the ceremony and the recent difficulties in obtaining pig's heads due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Who knew? I love that I am still learning new and surprising things about Korea even after almost three years here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lovely Weekend

We had a really nice weekend with Nate and Eliza and Marriet again!

Marriet enjoys the bouncer and attempts to pet Sophie's crazy hair.

This time they came to Geoje to visit, and we enjoyed some really glorious weather. On Saturday we were able to go out to lunch with Matt and Sojung and Anna-Lynn. We found a great Korean restaurant about a two-minute drive from our house. We had delicious Korean seafood pancake, grilled duck, kimchee stew, and a really amazing noodle soup with walnut and sesame. Sophie ate her weight in orange pieces and managed to jam some handfuls of cabbage salad into her maw while Mommy's guard was down.

On Sunday Eliza and I left the babies with their Daddies and went into town to get haircuts. We met Sojung and Matt at their favorite salon and enjoyed being pampered. I had a scalp-tingling shampoo with mint fragrance and a head and neck massage, a cut, and the most meticulous styling ever, and it was only 15,000 won! I left a big tip. We got home to discover Sophie napping in her crib (almost unheard of!) and the men not too much the worse for the wear. We had a really beautiful afternoon out by the grill, with hamburgers, ribs, veggies, shrimp, and sangria!

Sophie tries out the slide.

Nathan enjoys a cigar.

Daddy and Sophie clown around.

Sojung and Anna-Lynn enjoy the party.

More weekends like this one, please.

I talked to Eliza on the phone on Monday, and we agreed that Mondays following such great weekends are extra-sucky. Thank goodness the weather has remained pretty and Sophie and I continue to spend lots of time outside!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Springtime at Last!

The weather is finally starting to warm up here, and we are enjoying every minute of it. Last week, we were able to go to the beach twice and just soak up the sun (still in jackets, but that's no problem!). We met a few new American families with young kids, and Sophie really enjoyed watching the other children playing. She also loved crawling around on the sand. I think it's wonderful for her to have a huge open space to explore without walls or furniture in the way. She can really motor around pretty fast, and dips and hills in the sand are only minor inconveniences. Mommy just has to keep an eye out for the old firecracker casings and bits of seashell that head oh-so-quickly into Sophie's mouth.

This past weekend we took a trip to Mokpo to visit Nathan, Eliza, and Marriet, who is now almost four months old. Despite Sophie's difficulties going to sleep at night and Marriet's struggles against taking regular naps, we managed to enjoy some time with our friends and the change of scenery.

Sophie and Marriet check each other out.

On Saturday evening, I had a chance to go for a brief jog with Sophie in Marriet's BOB stroller. I am horrendously out of shape, but I did enjoy getting out for exercise with Sophie. The stroller was great, and Sophie seemed to enjoy the (very slightly) higher speed transportation. She let out little high-pitched squeals when I picked up the pace. On Sunday, we went to a toy store and had an absolute blast picking out some new toys for Sophie. We got some alphabet magnets (Korean alphabet, Roman alphabet, and numbers), a push toy for the upcoming pre-walking stage, a shape sorter, a dump truck, and another set of wooden blocks. So far, Sophie likes the magnets, the dump truck, and the push toy. Mommy and Daddy have spent a lot of time playing with the blocks and the shape sorter.

In other news, Sophie has gotten much more interested in "helping" around the house. This involves unfolding the laundry after Mommy folds it, unloading silverware from the dishwasher and flinging it around the kitchen, and taking groceries out of our shopping bag.

"Hi Mommy! Ready to help!"

"This spoon needs to get out of my sight!"

"Don't worry, I'll unpack the peppers."

I think Sophie is also getting much more communicative. She's expanded her repertoire of sounds to include "d" and "g," and she babbles a lot more these days. She also noticed that she gets a good echo in the hallway outside the apartment, so she likes to make short, noisy squeals while we wait for the elevator. But she's really getting better with gestures. Just today she held her arms up to Keegan when he got home from work, asking him to pick her up. And she has started to offer us things that she is holding. She will hold a toy or her spoon out to us and place it in our hands, but she doesn't quite get the last step and usually refuses to let go of the object. We'll keep working on that. Seems like so much is changing so fast these days - who knows what she'll be up to by the time we head home in just under five weeks.