Sunday, December 28, 2008

5 days

Down to 5 days. Funny, I found the 2-week mark kind of shocking. Five days is less so. I just feel like this is going to go on forever...

It's a lazy weekend. I didn't do much yesterday except wash up the last of the baby clothes and sterilize the baby items and put them in the cupboard. Today, Sejin and I have just watched a documentary (Who Killed the Electric Car) and we'll probably watch some more TV soon. I'm not a big TV person, but it doesn't take much energy, which I like these days. I may finally photograph the mittens I made and start a new knitting project. It would be nice to squeeze in one or two more projets before baby arrives and I have no time to knit anymore.

As of my last appointment (39 weeks), the doctor was disappointed to see no progress and hinted at getting out and doing some walking. Not going to happen today. I may venture out this week though since I've had an itch to go shopping.

Christmas was so uneventful I didn't even notice it. Some friends, J and S, came over and we went out to VIPs buffet for early dinner. S is also pregnant and just a few weeks behind me, so it was nice to talk about baby stuff and preparations. They brought over a DVD called The Happiest Baby on the Block, which is all about baby soothing. The narrator claims to have all the answers to calming crying babies. I'm skeptical though. If it's as easy as he says and makes it look in the video, why doesn't eveyone know these secrets? Oh well, I'm willing to take any help I can get, so I took mental notes of the techniques in the video.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Single digits

Now we're in the single digits. Even the hours are flying by.

It's a very gray day here in Seoul. I actually didn't even realize it was Christmas Eve until sometime this afternoon. That's the way it is here, though. Not a lot of hype. But my good friend, Y, came over to visit, and then A dropped by with a gift for the baby. It's nice that friends have been coming around to see me. Yesterday, R and I spent the afternoon together shopping at Homeplus. I bought snacks for my hospital bag. Tomorrow, J and S are coming over. I sure have a lot of good friends around.

I finished the mittens I've been working on, but have been too tired to post pictures. Now I'm trying to think of what to make with the remainder of my Noro Silk Garden yarn.

Well, I'm going to watch Rudolf or something because I keep forgetting it's even Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Waiting Game

Since baby is now full term, it's just a matter of waiting. Waiting can be good or bad. On one hand, I'd like the baby to hurry up and get here so we can start getting used to each other and I can stop going to the bathroom every 30 minutes, but on the other hand, I've been getting some good knitting done. I finished Braidy for Sejin, which I'm really in love with. I made it in record time for a scarf. Scarves usually take me a long time because I get bored with them being so repetitive. I think I'm going to make an identical one of these for myself.Also, I crocheted up some cute snowflakes to put on my tree. They were really quick and I think they make my sad little tree look better. I used a mixture of glue and water to stiffen them.
Now I'm working on a pair of mittens that may or may not work out. The pattern is written for working in the round on double pointed needles, but I don't have the right size needles. So, I'm trying to work them flat and then seam them up. This is my first time doing this and I'm nervous about the result. They may get scrapped. Trouble is, I can't find another mitten pattern I like for bulky yarn.

So that's (aside from some work I'm finishing up) how I've been playing the waiting game.
Oh yes. Toto's boyfriend, Moxie, stopped by yesterday for a visit. She was excited to see him at first, but was then a little put off by how quickly he made himself at home. He stole her throne by the window and went for a nap. She couldn't believe it!
Toto - cautious:
Toto - ticked off ... "Who does he think he is?"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NOW I understand...

It's always been a mystery to me why 90% of the Korean English teachers I've worked with in the past have been such poor English speakers. I thought it was amusing how they were entrusted with teaching people how to speak English, when they weren't even sure how to themselves. How did they get hired? Now it's all clear.

My husband has been looking for work in the ESL field. Since we're having a baby soon, he wants something stable, with less hours. His English skills are top notch and he enjoys teaching, so why not?

So far, he's gone for around seven or eight interviews at hakwons (private institutes or academies). The conditions of these jobs are insulting to say the least. Most require a 6 day work week (full eight hour days) and offer laughable salaries.

His most recent interview was the funniest yet. It was at Jung Chul English, one of the biggest hakwon chains in Korea (I worked there around 6 years ago actually). They told him to prepare a teaching demonstration: a listening lesson based on a CNN video clip. So, husband spent this afternoon prepping for the interview. He arrived to find out there was no Internet available, so he could not use the clip or his lesson. He was told, "Ah, just forget about it." Instead, he was handed "The Frog Prince" and told to teach. Sure, CNN news clip on the economic recession in America and "The Frog Prince" -- can totally see the connection...

Next came the details.

Interviewer: We have positions at the Gangnam, Yangjae, and Jongno campuses.

SJ: Jongno would be best for me.

Interviewer: Well, that's out of our control. There are two shifts - morning and evening. That's out of our control, too.

SJ: What are the hours and salary?

Interviewer: Eight hours, five days a week. 1.5 million won per month. But if you bring in more students, you'll get bonuses.

SJ: (...)

SJ: My wife and I are expecting a baby very soon. If she has the baby during working hours, will it be OK if I leave work to go to her?

Interviewer: No, you have to stay.

Sounds like a great position, huh?

About the leaving work for baby thing: I recently heard that it's law in Korea for men to get three days off to be with their wives if they have a baby (not much, but at least it's something). I have to look into that and see if it's official. But if a huge chain like Jung Chul isn't honoring that rule, I can't imagine too many others are.

So anyway, I have finally solved the mystery! Koreans who actually speak English well don't accept these positions! They move on to something better or do their own thing.

We have a lot of thinking to do.


That darn baby countdown widget on the right there seemed like a good idea at the time, but it's starting to freak me out now -- 23 days!?!? That can't be right....

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Nice weekend

An unusually social weekend for me. Saturday I had a bunch of girlfriends over for a little crafting. We mostly chatted, but I managed to teach Amy the purl stitch and it was just nice to catch up with everyone. We also enjoyed some tasty treats: Lindsay brought Tim Horton's chai tea and Toblerone, Hayan brought a walnut cake, and Amy brought some Korean cookies. It was a nice relaxing day.

Sunday, today, was the moms' lunch. We met in Myeong-dong and had late lunch at Seven Springs. We had a great turn out -- I think there were 12 adults and 2 babies. It was really nice to exchange information, stories, and support...and eat of course! It's nice to know that there's a number of other expat moms out there who I can call up if I need to later on. And later later on, we'll probably be able to have playdates with our babies.
The lunch was great, but it was also really great and refreshing to get out of the house. Myeong-dong was busy, but today I was totally able to deal with it. I went to Kosney and bought a baby book and a few baby scrapbooking stickers I found, and bought a few makeup products at Innisfree. I can't believe how long it's been since I've been out shopping! Being cooped up indoors sucks, but I think I've saved a bundle of money as a result...I used to love strolling around Myeong-dong making a purchase here and a purchase there. Anyway, today I spent some money on myself for a change and it felt good.

So another quiet evening tonight. I'm pretty tired from today's outing, actually. I'll probably work on my newest project tonight, Braidy. I'm making Sejin a scarf because I realized that I've never actually finished anything for him and it'll be good to take a break from baby projects. The braid in the scarf, though, is pretty intense...more intense than I thought it would be. Luckily the pattern only calls for two braids, one at each end. I'll probably throw a few extra in for kicks, because it looks cool.
I recently finished Baby It's Cold Outside. Not so sure about crocheting anymore. Great for doilies, not so great for garments. We'll see next year how useful the cardigan is.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Some knitted cuteness

I like projects that knit up quickly! These little guys will hopefully be useful and cute. The hat took me just two evenings of leisurely knitting. The socks took three days, and were a little more involved. Kind of reminded me why I'm not a fan of sock knitting. I think it's cool the way you can knit them all in one piece, but the turning of the heel is not always that magical, at least for me.
Newborn hat:
Infant socks:
That's all for tonight. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, so hopefully I'll have an ultrasound pic to upload!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A good Monday

Today I was really sleepy, but it was a good day nonetheless. My friend Karen came over with her son, Ian, and we had a nice chat over some deopbap and manduguk. She brought me a tonne of Thanksgiving leftovers, which I really appreciated. It's been a while since I've had turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie! I just finished eating a few minutes ago and I'm even more sleepy now, of course! Thank goodness for good friends!

I've been a little slow with knitting. I finally finished my baby bell bottoms. They turned out cute enough...but we'll see how practical they actually are. Far more practical is the baby beanie I made for Karen's baby. It turned out really cute, so I think I'll make one for my baby as well. The yarn I used for this was nice and soft.
Other than that, not much is new. I'm staying very close to home and spending less and less time at the computer. It's just becoming too uncomfortable for me to sit here for very long. Whenever I get up from sitting a long time I have a sore back for the rest of the day. It's hard to believe I'll have my 36 week appointment on Friday. Time is definitely flying, but I usually tackle a small project every day and I'm beginning to feel a little prepared for this baby.
Toto, on the other hand, has no idea what is to come.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The flu

Well, I've learned that being sick while pregnant is far worse than being sick while not. Started vomiting Sunday morning at 5:30 a.m. and continued without sign of stopping 'til 10 a.m. when I decided to head to the hospital. So I was there from around 11 a.m. 'til 4:30 on IV and some kind of anit-vomiting drip, and then on the fetal heart monitor to make sure everything was OK. It really sucked. Of course, this all had to happen on a Sunday when my doctor wasn't around! I was so sore and unable to get comfortable, and even a small sip of water would make me throw up. By the time I went home, I was able to keep down small amounts of liquids, but was still in pain and had terrible chills. I really believe that being pregnant made my symptoms worse - I haven't felt that bad or weak in a long time...

This was all done in the labor and delivery room, which was extremely hot. I know Koreans like to keep the temperature a bit higher than normal, but this was ridiculous. So now I have another point to discuss with my doctor about my birth preferences: since I'll have a private room, I want to be able to have some control over the temperature.

Luckily I'm feeling better today. Still not 100%, but worlds better than yesterday. I'm off to rest some more.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Too many cute things

When preparing for a baby, cuteness really shouldn't be a priority, but sometimes you just can't help it, especially when the stuff is affordable. I've been really good so far I think, considering all the cute kids' stuff there is out there.

Today Sejin picked up our crib sheet sets in Dongdaemun. We had them custom made because they're really hard to find here. One set consists of the matress cover, a top flat sheet, and bumper covers. When you go to Dongdaemun Shopping Town, you first have to find a seamstress (in the basement) who will sew for you, and tell her what you want. She'll tell you how much fabric you need to buy. One set requires about eight yards of fabric. Then you go shopping for the fabric, bring it back to her, and pick it up at the appointed time. All together, fabric + sewing, each set cost us 70,000 won, which I don't think is too bad to have custom made bedding. It's really cute fabric, too. I still have to wash it up and make the crib properly, but you get the idea:
Here is some other stuff I couldn't resist buying.
My doctor's appointment was good. I was told it's normal for me to be sore right now, so that's good; I like normal. I'm continuing to gain weight... so far over 30 pounds! Do I look impressed?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting there slowly

Baby preparations are coming along slowly. Most of the reasons it's so slow going is because I can't do much. If I try to do too much, I get sore and spend the entire next day on the sofa. I've learned my lesson. So I can only do very little at a time, and I give Sejin as much to do as he can handle.

Last Sunday Sejin's brother came over and helped us move stuff around. We got rid of one of our old wardrobes, moved all our newer wardrobes into the storage room, making it a walk-in closet, and moved the baby stuff into our room. It looks better already, but there's still a lot to get done.

I finished the Fantasy Naturale Top Down Baby Cardigan and I'm very pleased with how it came out. This would be an easy pattern to modify by changing the girly eyelet pattern to some ribbing or other edging.


Sometimes I brag about my Internet searching skills. I can pretty much find anything, in English or Korean. But I think this time I went too far. I scoured the Internet for days in search of a glider rocker. Finally found a site that sells them, only to find out that they are sold out and have no plans to get any more in.

So I scour for another few days and find another site. It's not sold out. Free delivery...awesome. I promptly have Sejin order the chair and pat myself on the back.

That was last week and no sign of the chair yet. Sejin called the "customer service" number on the site and it seems it's out of service. No emails are returned.

I think we were robbed of our 140,000 won ($140).

Here is the site:

At least it was only $140...but it still sucks to be a victim of such fraud.

I'm through looking for rocking chairs. I've got a comfy sofa and my nice new nursing pillow. That's enough.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A quiet visit

Well, mom left two days ago after a pretty low-key three week visit. Now the place seems kind of empty, but I'll get used to it again.

Mom in Dongdaemun:
Unfortunately, mom and I didn't get to do a lot. We did a few little shopping trips on her first days here, but one Tuesday morning I had a setback that no one was expecting. I woke up that morning and it was painful to walk, so I knew something wasn't good. So that afternoon we went to the hospital to find out that the baby had dropped (not good at only 30 weeks). The doctor ordered me to stay in and rest. So that's what I did. But I felt really bad that mom was here all the way from Canada and all we could do was sit around my apartment. The good thing is that we both got some knitting done and my mom did a lot of baking and cooking, which I really appreciated.

Multidirectional scarf I sent home for my sister:
Baby cardigan (one year size):
Saartje's booties (maybe six month size?):
Cable baby hat (3 month size?):
My mom baked this pie in my little convection oven:
Another good thing about staying in was that I had time to think about what baby stuff I needed, and I ended up doing a lot of online shopping. I got some serious deals on gmarket...far cheaper than what I'd found even in Namdaemun. Onesies for 2,900 won, sleepers for 7,000. Stuff like that. I couldn't even find onesies in the baby malls in Namdaemun and the sleepers I saw there were 10,000 won and up (some over 20,000). So the baby stash has been growing and I haven't even gone that crazy, money-wise. My list of things to get is growing smaller, which puts my mind at ease.

Baby stuff is piling up. Still need to make a place for it all...

I washed up all the cute little onesies and sleepers:
Anyway, I had a follow-up appointment a week later and I guess the rest paid off because the baby had moved up a bit and things appeared to have improved. I'm still supposed to take it slow, but it was reassuring to hear that things looked good. I've only been working about 2 hours a day while making sure to take rests here and there between work, laundry, cooking, etc.

I also received lots of gifts from Canada, which came over in my mom's suitcase. My sister sent me lots of goodies and my mom made a bunch of stuff, including a quilt, an afghan, two very nice receiving blankets, and plush baby blocks. I didn't expect all that stuff! I'm hungry. Wish mom was still here to make lunch!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good times ahead

Currently trying hard to procrastinate, so thought, 'why not post on the blog?'.

The first half of this month has gone by super fast. Feels like it was October 1st yesterday and I was thinking, I have lots of time to get done book one, fix up the place, and have time to spare until mom gets here. Well, she arrives tomorrow.

I'm not too worried about having to do too much work while she's here. I'll have to take a few hours here and there to do some work, perhaps when she's taking it easy, or if she's napping due to jet lag. Luckily, the new series for preschoolers I'm working on isn't too hard on the brain, and can even be enjoyable at times. I've also canceled most of my classes for the time that she's here.
I haven't planned too much for me and mom to do. I'd like it to be a laid back visit. If we feel like doing some shopping or seeing a movie, we can do that. Or, if we feel like staying in and knitting, we can do that too. It will be quite different from her 8-day whirlwind visit to Korea 3 1/2 years ago for the wedding!

At Gyeongbokgung, the day after our wedding:

At the Icheon ceramics festival:

So, before she gets here tomorrow, I have to finish writing book one (just the student book), clean up the place, and get a few groceries. Food is going to be interesting. I don't cook much and I don't think she likes Korean food. Also, most western food in Korea is expensive and unhealthy. I guess we're going to have to be creative.

During my July 2006 trip home. We visited the Canadian Rockies.

Near my parents' summer trailer on Lake Nippissing:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Toto's Training

For over three years now, Toto has been our baby...She's slept with us every night, right in between us on our pillows. We're not sure whether she considers herself human, or she considers us cats. Whatever the case, she's pretty attached and feels she can do whatever she pleases.

Up until now this hasn't been a problem. She's a pretty laid back cat -- she doesn't jump or climb around like a lot of cats, thank goodness. We've never seen her on the kitchen counter or island, and she won't eat human food. She sleeps most of the time and always goes in her litter box. Pretty low maintenance. But emotionally, I'd say she's high maintenance. When I get home from an outing, she goes a little crazy, kind of like a dog, jumps on me and rubs her face against mine, purring. It's cute, but I won't be able to afford her this attention three months from now.
So, in order to make it easier on her in the long run, we've started a three-phase training program.

The first phase is trying to eliminate the risk of injury to the baby. This can never be fully eliminated with any animal, of course. But I think Soft Claws help a lot. We put these little plastic caps over her paws and she can't scratch anyone or anything. So far, so good. She's had them on for over a month with no complaints. When one falls off (when her nail sheds), we just replace it. Very easy and much kinder than declawing.

Toto Jo's grade for phase one: A+
The second phase is banning her from our bedroom. The baby will sleep with us for a while because it will be much easier this way, and we really don't have another room to properly fix up for him/her. So, that means Toto has been displaced. Of course we can't risk her cuddling up too close to the baby, even innocently, and also, we just don't want her hair shedding in that room anymore.

Last night, history was made when I closed Toto out of our room. It was really sad, but we have to start somewhere. She scratched and meowed at the door for about 5 minutes before giving up and going to sleep. I got up around 6am to use the facilities and get a snack. She didn't look very pleased with me, and tried her hardest to slink into the bedroom with me. She scratched and meowed for a little longer that time, but eventually gave up. So, she deserves credit for sleeping her first night without us. I was pretty happy with her performance because I thought she'd get upset and pee somewhere out of spite.

Toto Jo's grade for phase 2: B+
(She did well for the first night, and I think she will improve slowly over the coming weeks)

Phase three is simply her keeping on good behaviour around the baby. It's impossible to grade her on this phase right now obviously. We will be keeping a close eye on her when the time comes, and if there is any sign of aggression, we'll have to think about other options. I'm pretty positive, though, that she'll adjust well. She's proven to be a pretty adaptable and easy-going animal, so I hope she continues to impress us.

Toto Jo's grade for phase 3: To be determined

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sax Solo

Thought I'd upload this video I took at the festival. This was Friday night at Jazz Island. Lots of people.

This band was led by Sadao Watanabe, jazz legend from Japan, who is still going strong at 75 years old!

The next day at the festival (but at a different location), we caught the Iiro Rantala New Trio, an experimental jazz band from Finland, and the Giovanni Amato Quartet, a very impressive combo from Italy. I think I enjoyed the quartet the most. They were truly masters of their instruments -- very impressive.

Here's a clip of the Iiro Rantala Trio. They were impressive as well. Notice there are no drums...One of the members does all percussion by beatboxing.


I've been meaning to post about our trip to Gapyeong last weekend, but the few times I've had some time to myself this week, I've not felt like sitting in front of the computer. But I did have a wonderful time last weekend and wanted to post some photos.

I brought up going to the Jarasum International Jazz Festival to Sejin about a month back and he did the smile and nod thing. Sejin isn't a jazz fan -- he was actually nodding off when we saw Branford Marsalis in concert a couple years back. But I've been really wanting to go to this festival, so he agreed, booked train tickets and festival tickets and I marked it on the calendar.

Then I remembered we had talked to Hayan and her boyfriend, Yungyu, about going away for a weekend. So, I thought, let's just all go to Gapyeong. And why stop there? We hadn't seen Christie and Wonsang for a while, so we invited them along.

Usually I'm not much a group travel person -- I find that traveling with a group usually slows you down, so I prefer to travel with only one or two people with a similar plan in mind, but this trip worked out well. Yungyu booked a nice pension (which we had neglected to do) and Hayan had the excellent idea of visiting Nami Island, which is quite close to Jara Island.

The train ride to Gapyeong was great. One thing to remember about traveling in Korea -- weekend traffic sucks. Last weekend was especially bad because it was a long weekend. The trains here (even the old ones) are awesome. They are quiet, comfortable, not very expensive, and best of all, as with all trains, you miss all the traffic. Hayan, Yungyu, Sejin, and I enjoyed a smooth 1 1/2 hour trip from Seoul to Gapyeong, having some good conversation along with some sandwiches and kimbap. Poor Christie and Wonsang. They decided to drive and we didn't see them in Gapyeong until dinner time -- their trip took them over 5 hours!
That evening we took a walk by the river, and had a barbecue outside our pension. It was nice to hear the peace and quiet, and fall weather was perfect. After dinner, we headed to the festival, which was very busy. We saw a couple of bands perform at Jazz Island. It was a bit chilly, but we had fun and headed back to the pension at around 11pm in high spirits where we celebrated Hayan's birthday.After cake we played cards. I found out Koreans seem to like seeing each other suffer, and so they took great care in thinking of a proper punishment for losing. The loser of each game had to eat a sizable chunk of raw onion. Luckily I didn't lose -- Christie said she could still taste onion the next morning. But to me, the entire table setting looked like punishment enough. As snacks, we had a strange assortment of strawberry birthday cake, tuna, dried persimmons, chocolate cookies, shrimp chips, and of course onions (see above photo collage). They were drinking soju mixed with plum juice.

The next morning we got up, had an equally strange breakfast (the assortment from the night before, plus ramen), and headed to Nami Island. Unfortunately, that Saturday was not a good day to go to Nami Island. I should have remembered, never visit any popular place in Korea on a long weekend! But it worked out well and Nami Island was quite beautiful. I think I'd like to go back on a less busy day to get some better pictures.

After returning from Nami and getting lunch (Chuncheon dalk galbi -- very good), Hayan and Yungyu headed back to Seoul, while the rest of us stayed to catch some more jazz.
Although we were only gone for two days and one night, it was a long weekend and we were pretty tired when we got in the door at 12am Saturday night. But it was a really fun trip and one I'll remember for a long time. It was so great to spend time with friends in the nice weather and scenery, since in another three months I'll be housebound with an infant! I'm hoping to fit in another trip or two before then.