Sunday, June 28, 2009


Twice the cuteness with two babies.
Grace and Francisco, born a couple of weeks apart.

Francisco is a little bundle of energy. His parents couldn't believe how calm Grace is. I didn't really think Grace was that calm until I met Francisco. But he's a happy, cute energetic, not grumpy. His hair is so awesome. It's long and curly in the front, but the back has completely fallen out. His daddy says little Fancisco is a big hit with the ladies while out and about in Korea.
This was an exciting playdate because the babies actually noticed each other. They looked at each other curiously...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Uijeongbu it is

We've settled on a place. It's only the second place I've looked at, but Sejin has looked at a bunch and I trust his judgement. He says the places I didn't see were pretty crappy. I'm glad I didn't waste my time going to see them all. Here's how this place rates on my criteria:

1. Accessibility. It's about a 5 minute walk from Mangwolsa station on line one. A little far from Seoul, but I can ride line one into Dongdaemun in about 45 minutes I guess. I'm sure there are buses as well.
2. Spaciousness. It's a bit bigger than what we've got -- 32 pyeong. I'm going to miss our current bathroom though. It's so bright and modern. The one at the new place is all right. It has a small bathtub. I'll get by.
3. Environment. The air is cleaner up there -- I noticed that while riding in on the train. The surrounding mountains (Suraksan and Dobongsan, I think) are very pretty. Our building is located a 2 minute walk from a small river with a bicycle/walking path, so I'll have somewhere to walk Grace, and perhaps get some exercise myself. I may buy some rollerblades next spring, who knows. I hear there's also a swimming pool nearby.
4. Job prospects. It's a big complex with 900 units, and another huge complex right next to it, so we'll see.

Another good thing is that the owner is going to put up new wallpaper and install new flooring at his own cost. We would have had to do that ourselves at the Bucheon place.

It's kind of exciting! That was only the second time I've been to Uijeongbu in seven years! I'm kind of looking forward to getting to know a new area. I'm sure there are lots of Western restaurants and conveniences downtown near Uijeongbu Station because of the American base there.

Hopefully the deal goes through officially. Sejin goes to sign the contract and put 10% of the cheonse down on Tuesday. As I've learned in Korea, a lot can happen in that short period of time, so fingers crossed...I don't want to keep looking.

Moving day will probably be sometime in early August. We want to move as soon as possible because we go on vacation to Canada August 11. But the current tennants don't want to leave 'til August 5. Then the wallpaper and floor installation. We may be just moving in and then heading to Canada a few days later. Moving is never easy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Choosing a new home

This is never easy, no matter where you live or how much money you have. There are so many factors to take into consideration. Living in or near Seoul, there are even more criteria. For me in my situation, the things to consider are:

1. Accessibility. We don't drive, so it would be nice to live near a subway station and/or major bus stops
2. Spaciousness. I'm a Westerner. I like a big home.
3. Environment. It would be so nice to live near a park rather than an ongoing construction site. Also, since we don't have a car, nearby shopping, like a Homeplus or Emart, would be excellent.
4. Job prospects. We're thinking or using our tutoring licenses to start a home school. We need to be in an area with lots of families and schools for this to work.

There are other things of course, but these are the biggies. I've tried to put these criteria in order of importance to me, but it's really hard.

Yesterday we looked at a place in Bucheon, near Yeokgok Station. This place rates poorly in accessibility. You have to get out of the station, walk to the bus stop, take a maul (village) bus (about 5-10 min), get off near the complex and walk up to the complex (about 5-10 min). I could see myself just opting to stay home a lot, especially in really cold or hot weather. It's also old. The flooring and wallpaper would have to be replaced. The cupboards should be changed too, but I'm not sure that's in our budget.

The up side? It's the biggest complex in Bucheon, containing 3000 units. It's huge. It could be a goldmine for teaching opportunities. Sejin's aunt lives in this complex and says that word travels fast through such places and she's confident we could get a lot of students.

Here's another one. Sejin saw a brand new officetel near Bucheon Station. New, spacious, modern, beautiful. 5 minutes to the station, fitness centre inside, etc. Downside: location. There are not a lot of schools in the immediate area or apt complexes nearby. Not enough potential students.

This is the dilemma. It seems we just can't have everything -- you need serious money to have that. I'm afraid of taking a place in the middle of nowhere so that we can get students and end up hating living there because I feel isolated. On the other hand, we could take a nice place, like the officetel, and then find that life is inconvenient because we have to travel to find students rather than have them come to us.

When Grace wakes up we're going to Uijeongbu to look at a place Sejin likes. In a complex, and a little more accessible than the other place, near a park, but not near any shopping. Maybe we should just get a car...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Warning: The following post may make no sense.

We've got a 5-month-old baby (that's the good part!), no jobs (well, just part-time non-permanent stuff), we've got to move in a month, we don't know where to move, we're going to Canada in August, we don't know exactly what to do when we get back, I'm getting tired of living in a small apartment in Seoul surrounded by concrete and construction, I haven't done much professional development in recent years, I have insomnia.

I've been having these panicky moments lately where I'm like -- OMG, I'm nearly 30 and I don't know what I'm doing with my life. And I reflect. I'm not one to toot my own horn, but I was once good at a few things. I was accepted into the music program in uni, major instrument saxophone, minor instrument piano. I won the technical award when I graduated high school for my work in architectural drafting. I received a letter from the Dean for getting the highest mark in my French program in uni.

Fast forward to today. I don't play the saxophone and rarely play the piano. I'm not an architect. I don't speak French at all anymore. I have a BA in English (with honours), and that's about it. Bugger All.

So I hate that I find myself in this situation. I have all these "I wish I would haves" and "I should haves."

I didn't intend to stay in Korea this long. I got my honours in English so that I could enroll in graduate studies when I returned to Canada some day. Then I met Sejin. It was the best thing that could have happened and I don't regret staying, but I think we should have set some clearly defined goals for the future. Instead we've just been letting the years pass by... Yes, years pass by inevitably, but I only wish they were more productive.

I suppose it's no use whining about it. It's just that the next several years seem so daunting because I feel like we are going to have to start from square one. Both Sejin and I need more education. We need to get good jobs, hopefully ones that we like. We need to make sure Grace is happy through all of this. We need to decide which country we are going to live in.

But which decision to start with?

This post is definitely not going to help my insomnia. I've got work to do...

I'll post a picture. I think this is pretty funny. Grace looks huge here. Last time we had her weighed she was 8.5 kg or 18 lbs 11 oz. I think her weight will level out soon. It has to. I was carrying her like this because it's a kind of stretching exercise for her torticollis.

Monday, June 22, 2009

House hunting in land of the morning jackhammer

There has been construction going on here for the past several months. It's almost sent me over the edge a few times. These days, the super huge jackhammer truck starts doing its thing both in the morning, and around 4:00 every day, right around the time Grace needs her late afternoon nap to get her through 'til bedtime. When this nap doesn't happen, bath and bedtime aren't fun and it's harder to put her down. She finally went to sleep just now, thankfully. Hopefully she's getting used to the constant racket around here.

Speaking of bedtime, we're majorly off schedule now. I'm so disappointed. For a while now, Grace has been doing wonderfully, going to sleep around 7:00, waking around 12am and 4am to eat, and up at 7 or 8am for the day. This gives me time to do my work at night and veg out. But we took an impulsive out-of-town trip the other day to go house hunting and didn't make it back home 'til 9:30pm. Surprise, surprise, she wouldn't go down last night 'til 9:45pm. Lesson learned: get your butt back home in time for bedtime, especially with a young baby. Even one night can throw them way off.

We've been looking at places in Bucheon. Housing prices are good and many places are new. It's a 1/2 hour bus ride in to Seoul Station. Lots of schools. Parks, too. We're also going to check out Ilsan and Uijeongbu, but we're leaning towards Bucheon mainly because of location. It's so close to Seoul. The Mok-dong area is very close, too, and there are tonnes of jobs there.

Sejin has the hard part of doing the actual hunting. He will narrow down the list of potential places and I will go and view them another day. Then comes the fun part of showing up and seeing whether me being non-Korean has any affect on our negotiations. In the past, owners have expressed concern over renting to foreigners, as apparently foreigners are irresponsible and noisy. Strange, as my current Korean neighbors (beside and above and below) are incredibly noisy, coming in at all hours, slamming doors, shouting in the hallway, cleaning house at 1am, etc, etc. Whatev.

Crap, she's up!! The fun begins. The question is, do I go about bedtime routine as usual, starting around 6pm, or work down from last night's 9:45 bedtime? Hmmm.

Monday, June 15, 2009


If Grace was big enough to eat ice cream she would definitely deserve it for how good she was today. We spent a good portion of the afternoon at the hospital. A few weeks ago, we went to St. Paul's Hospital, a big hospital near our place. There she had an ultrasound on her neck which confirmed that her neck muscles are indeed the same size. We saw a physiotherapist who obviously doesn't see a lot of babies. She didn't give me much to work with as far as exercises go. That visit didn't sit quite right with us, so we decided to try a bigger hospital today, Seoul Adventist Hospital.

The pediatrician at SAH also felt her neck and said the muscles feel fine. And I agree. Grace can lean her head right; I catch her doing it once in a blue moon...she just doesn't do it very often. This pediatrician said that there are usually three reasons for head leaning. 1-muscular (mostly ruled out) 2-vision (one eye isn't working properly so baby leans head to compensate). 3-mental (this doesn't seem likely because Grace is bright and alert).

So, we saw an eye doctor (actually two...they were a team since they too don't get a lot of infants!). They did some tests, like covering one eye at a time and getting her to follow objects. They also looked at her eyes. Their conclusion what that her eyes seem normal, but they also added that it's often very difficult to tell when babies are so young. They gave us some eye patches and told us to do the same sorts of things with her and see if we notice anything strange.

So, this is all very unsettling. She is obviously still leaning left, so what is the reason? I've been googling "torticollis" and "head leaning" and it seems there are other reasons for head leaning. We have not been referred to a bone specialist, strangely. I've read about a condition called Klippel-Feil Syndrome, where some of the vertebrae at the base of the neck are abnormally shaped, causing the spine/neck to curve. It can be treated. There is also hip dysplasia. There are many other things, according to this informative webpage from the Seattle Children's Hospital.

So it was another unsatisfying hospital visit. And worse, the longer I go with no answers, the more my brain gets carried away with thinking the worst. Today at the mention of vision problems I instantly thought of Sejin's poor brother who has a condition which has caused him to go nearly blind in one eye. But that's jumping to conclusions...

Next on the hospitals to visit list is Seoul National University Hospital. I think I'm going to push to get an X-ray, or even an MRI. I want to know what's going on.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

In progress

I'm making something great. It's a gift. I've been wanting to make this for a very long time, and I've finally started it. It's a big project. I hope I can stick with it!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Pognae

I recently ordered the Pognae baby carrier -- "the best comfortable baby carrier you'll ever wear" -- from gmarket. I decided to go with the Pognae because it looks exactly like the Ergo carrier, but is about half the price. Since I haven't been working for around 6 months, I save money wherever I can, and I had a good feeling about the Pognae.

My good feeling was correct. I've only wore it out once, but it is comfortable and sturdy, and I like the design. The plain ones are cheaper, around 40,000 won, and the graphic design ones are extra. The elephant one I chose was an extra 15,000. The print material is a very soft muslin type of fabric, and the print is not garish or cheesy. There are even zebra print and military print ones!
It's definitely an Ergo knockoff, but it has a few extra features. It comes with an extra head support that is attachable by velcro. There is also a flap where the baby's back is that you can roll down to reveal a mesh material to allow for air flow. One thing I really like is that on all the loose straps there is an elastic attached, so you can roll up all those loose ends so they're not flapping around. For an extra 6000 won, I got the sucky pads, which are quite thick and nice, and reversible.

So I'm pretty happy with my Pognae. It's the first carrier I've picked out for myself...all the others were lent to me -- the Moby, the Ergo, a Korean Baby Bjorn type carrier -- which was great because I got to try many out before purchasing one.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another torticollis update

Grace is getting stronger everyday. These days her obsession is trying to sit up. She is no longer content to sit back and relax in her infant chair, yet she cannot sit up by herself. This makes her frustrated. She loves it when I hold her hands and pull her up into an upright sitting position. Wish I could hold her like that all day, but we've got stuff to do.

So while she's sitting in her chair watching me do this and that (these days making her baby food!), she uses this handy little pillow. I just got it recently and I wish I would have thought of it before. I could have used it from when she was born. I also use it in her stroller and I'll bring it to Canada in August to use in her car seat. It's Kiddopotamus brand, available here on gmarket. Actually, even if your baby does not have torticollis, it's probably a good idea to use something like this if they spend time in an infant chair with no head support, like my Fisher Price one.

In my last torticollis update, I described the useless advice given to me by the physiotherapist. She didn't give me any concrete examples of exercises I should be doing with Grace. After some searching and posting, I was sent this site by a lady on Ravelry, in the "New Mommies" group. I love knitters. Torticollis kids is also very useful. This site is by far the most useful as it gives quite a variety of exercises.

The good news is since she's getting stronger, I'm noticing her leaning less. This makes me happy. Even so, she still does lean and I've decided to take her to a different hospital tomorrow just to make sure we're making progress.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Expat Parents in Korea

The forum is up and getting off to a great start. I really hope this helps people stay connected beyond the EMCK blogger blog. The thing I like most about this forum is that it is private. Of course there are other Korea forums out there for parents to connect on, but they are open to the whole internet. Users have to register and be approved for this one and I am going to closely monitor the interaction to make sure people play nice! I think it's going to be great though.

I got some work today! Met with a former coworker today at her office in Gongdeok. She now works for one of the biggest education publishers in Korea. Seems I have something to do now rather than surf the internet in the evenings! yeah!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Dungeon

Some of my online blogger/messenger/facebook buddies probably can't believe the speed at which I reply to emails and comments. Well, the reason is because I'm confined to this room after the baby goes to sleep:
Our apartment is kind of small, so if I were to do anything louder than surf the internet or knit, she'd wake up. So, every night, here I am, typing away to someone. Or knitting something -- but these days usually typing.
The room is not that messy anymore. I cleaned it up recently, but it will regress to that state very soon.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Expat Moms in Korea

I started up a private blog for Expat Moms in Korea last December. I would often get emails from women saying something along the lines of, "I'm glad I found your blog. I'm moving to Korea soon..." I also knew some moms in Korea through Ravelry, and just some moms I had met along the way. Then I met mamaseoul, who gets a tonne of hits to her blog from people searching things like "pregnant in Korea." After a successful lunch with about 6 moms in November 2008, I thought, why not stay connected online? That's how EMCK started.

Since then our little group has grown to between 70 and 80 members. I had no idea there were so many expat moms in Seoul. Many people post often, some just read, and some just come out to events. It's been so nice to see this group grow and watch the amazing exchange of information. I've met some good friends and I hope I have helped others make friends, too. I think I have. That makes me happy.

But since blogger can only accomodate up to 100 blog authors, we now have to change formats. I'm now working on making a forum for expat moms and dads in Korea. It's hard to say whether people will take to it or not, but I'd like to help people stay connected. There is already a board for moms and dads over at, but it's not very active. Anyway, if my forum doesn't work out, I'm still happy because I can still keep the friends I've made. But I'm hopeful that it will be successful. I have a few good ideas in store...

One thing I am a little worried about is the dynamics between the moms and dads. I liked that EMCK was moms only, but I think it's time to branch out a bit. When I think of the expat dads that I am friends with, I know that the interaction will be postive. But it's the people you don't know that you have to be careful of. I've learned that lesson before.

Here's hoping the transformation goes well! I'm off to work on the forum!

Monday, June 1, 2009


Been doing the Baby Whisperer stuff for 5 days now. Sometimes I think Hey, this is working! Sometimes I don't think I can deal with one more nap time.

Basically, I've been trying to break the association between eating and sleeping, so I'm putting her down awake to fall asleep on her own. This hasn't been easy. I do not let her cry (if she cries, I pick her up and comfort her), but I do not let her fall asleep while eating.

It's really hard to say whether anything is happening because something like this could take serious time, depending on the baby. Grace was very dependent on nursing to sleep, so I figure it's going to take another week at least for her to feel really comfortable going to sleep by herself. To her credit though, she did fall asleep by herself for her morning nap, and tonight at bedtime. A bit of babbling and squealing, some whimpering, then sleep. But I'm hesitant to get excited about it because in the past I have been too quick to declare success.

Do I seem obsessive about this? Well, I am. I really want to know that when I leave the house for work or whatever reason, Grace will know how to go to sleep without me. These days if I have to go out, she keeps herself up basically until she crashes. Not good.

Speaking of work, some decent part time positions have come up, but unfortunately, I can only work temporarily since we are going to Canada mid-August for 5 weeks. Should I just withhold that information and spring it on them last minute? It's really not my style -- I hate lying...but it seems I may not get anything otherwise.
I knitted this summer top for Grace, and yet again, it doesn't fit. Well, it does fit, but probably for about a week or two! I think I'm going to stop knitting baby stuff altogether. I seem to have serious sizing issues! That or I'm only going to knit things in toddler sizes so I know they will fit eventually. My sister got me this book of kid size knitting patterns. Think it's time to get that out.