Friday, July 24, 2009

The big fat thing I learned this week is that I should've scheduled all these measly doctor appointments looong before going overseas:

1. If you are getting new life insurance, then you are probably going to have to have a medical checkup (at least if you are going through American Family). They can come to your house or work, but this is something you'll need to remember to do early (2 weeks = not quite enough time, but it'll have to do for us!).

2. If you are going to get an annual physical or any other kind of checkup, do it right before you leave. Make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccinations. You can do this in Korea - that is, if you feel like dealing with culture shock, a language barrier, and new sociocultural conventions when it comes to health care all at once! Do yourself a favor and see the doc before you leave so that you have some time to adjust in your new country before doing something this stressful. But if you're go-with-the-flow enough, go for it!

3. Take care of said appointments before your car is gone. Maybe even before you list it. Otherwise you could be up the creek without a paddle, so to speak.

4. Take shot records and other medical records with you. I've switched hospitals so many times in the last 3 years that I don't have a coherent medical record at any of them. I don't think I've had a coherent medical record since I left home. Maybe I should work on that.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stuff o' the week!

Okay, let's count down the top five!

5. I made a list of stuff I need to do before the move on Monday, and I haven't looked at it since. Good thing I e-mailed it to myself.

4. I eat way. too. much. sugar. I'll be lucky if I don't get diabetes before I'm 30 at this rate.

3. Man, I'm really going to miss the support staff at my current workplace. It's a hoot making jokes to pass a slow afternoon. These ladies are terrific, and I can't imagine having more fun in a workplace again as long as I live.

2. Buying international plane tickets isn't as easy as I thought it would be, especially from an agent. It took about 6 days to confirm ours. At any rate, we got the ones we wanted, so we'll be getting to Seoul on August 1 at 4:00 in the afternoon. More details on that to come!

1. I'm supposed to move stuff to storage tomorrow, and probably only 2/3 of my stuff is actually packed! Way to go, me! I'm going to be up late tonight scrambling to get the last few things together.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer Vacation, Part 2!

We went to see PapaFish's family in South Dakota earlier this month. I took less pictures than I'd hoped to, but we still managed to get some good ones.

Here's TheFry with his Great Grandpa!

Here's TheFry eating some of Great Grandpa's 75th birthday cake!
Red Velvet, Yum!

He thought the table was rather tasty, too!

Here's TheFry with his Gramma! She has managed to pacify him after a tempestuous tantrum - Gramma skills, activate!

He likes chasing his cousin around, even though she avoids his overly-friendly nature!

After getting sick many times on the drive home, he finally falls asleep.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

After returning home from a vacation where he was held nearly every minute by a different person every 5 minutes in a different location every 24 hours with new foods and surroundings and an all-out barf-fest on the way home, TheFry PapaFish, for that matter. Clinging to MamaFish has been pretty routine for the last two months or so, but crying when PapaFish leaves the room, even though MamaFish is holding him, is something TheFry has not really ever done before.

Is this just normal separation anxiety, or is it related to our recent vacation, or both? How will we survive our move to Korea??! How long will it take him to adjust, never mind PapaFish?


Now it looks like we will need to get a sitter just to be able to pack a couple of boxes each night. Looking around our apartment, I realize how much work there still is to do, even though I feel like I've been working endlessly on it for the last two or three months.

Blech. It's 11pm, and I'm going to bed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I know people thought he was a girl, but this has gone TOO FAR...

The Korean Consulate in Chicago thinks my son is a girl. Okay, he kind of has eartails in his passport photo, HOWEVER, his passport clearly states that he is MALE, hence the "M" in the "Sex" column of the photo page of his passport.

However, when his visa was issued, he was listed as "F". Whattheheck?! So, after dozens of dollars in shipping fees and a week and a half of wait time, I still don't have a visa for my son or for myself. I'm calling the consulate tomorrow at 10am if I can possibly manage it.

At least PapaFish has his visa correct and in tact. Maybe they should issue proofs of the visas via e-mail before they stamp them in your passport to avoid the hassle. I have 2 weeks and 5 days to get this done. Actually, 2 weeks and 4 days, since the last day we'll be staying in a hotel before we leave for Korea.

In other news, we just got back from our week-long vacation to visit PapaFish's side of the family. The trip there was easy-peasy. Did I mention that TheFry loves to ride in his car seat? We are planning on buying him his own seat on the flight to Korea, and I am going to try and convince PapaFish that bringing the car seat is a good idea. Give me a holler if you've done this (bringing the car seat, that is) and what you thought of it. Was it more convenient to strap the little bugger in the seat for an hour or two so everyone could get some much-needed shut-eye, or was it just more of a hassle to carry it around?

PapaFish is leaning towards bringing the umbrella stroller to cart TheFry through the airports and we could possibly use our travel booster seat to strap him down for some time in his own airplane seat. I don't think that the flight attendants will let us do this because it is a flimsy inflatable booster seat and not a government-approved vehicle seat. Plus, I don't think that it would really hold TheFry down because the harness strap is not the most restricting thing in the world. Anyway, here is our travel inflatable booster seat and here is the car seat.

As for our trip home from visiting relatives, it was a 6.5-hour doozy! Usually the trip takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes, but TheFry barfed about 5 times (multiple heaves each time) and had a blowout diarrhea diaper towards the end of it. We changed his clothes twice during the trip. He was exhausted and, quite literally, pooped out. Apparently, he is allergic to bananas. We called PapaFish's mother in the beginning of the trip (after Barf #2, and about 25 minutes of driving) and she mentioned that PapaFish had also been upset by bananas in his infancy - he'd just had the opposite reaction. So there we have it. No more bananas for TheFry until he's old enough to clean up his own messes. Like, until he's 17 or something.

Oi. Right now I'm soaking the stains of various baby clothing items with OxyClean. I have so many things to do tomorrow that I can't think straight about it all. Here's what I have so far:

1. Go to work
2. Give 2-week notice at work
3. Get chip in windshield fixed over lunch break
4. Get car washed over lunch break
5. Call Korean Consulate in Chicago over lunch break
6. Get quarters from the bank after work
7. Clean out inside of car after work
8. Show car to potential buyer at 6:30pm
9. Do laundry
10. Go to bed tired

We'll see how it goes!

*UPDATE*: I got the car wash done before work to lighten my work day a little bit. I also called the Korean Consulate in Chicago, found out my visa is on its way to our local UPS Store, and that I don't need to mail in TheFry's passport again to get his "F" changed to "M". So there we have it. All that and a bag (*snap*, *snap*, *snap*!) of chips.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

First Haircut!

Within the last month, about 10 out of 10 people I met in the street would compliment me on "what a cute little girl" I have. "She's so precious!"

Thus, despite my love for TheFry's gorgeous red locks, and my denial that his hair had really been growing and getting longer, all the Fishies went to Great Clips on Sunday and got haircuts! Here's the damage:



Side View (while eating macaroni and beef)

Even without the baby dreadlocks and curly eartails, he still has that amazing toothless grin. What a toddler!

Step 1 to Korea: Gathering Materials

In just 3 weeks and 3 days, we will be in Korea.


It feels as though I’ve been working towards this for years, and really, I have. I returned to the USA from Korea in midsummer of 2004. My goal was to get my Bachelor’s degree and head back, teaching English, writing and traveling as I had done in China the year before. It is now 2009, with my goal only one year off. In the last five years, my live has changed to become far, far different from how I imagined it would be.

I had imagined having a boyfriend or two during college, but nothing serious. I imagined being nearly fluent in Korean. I imagined getting a job in Seoul and living alone, traveling and writing and perhaps finishing that novel I’ve had laying around for years. However, I managed to get married, study harder than I ever thought I would, switch schools once, get a full-time job and have a baby. Life is moving fast!

Getting a job in Korea is typically somewhat of a last-minute affair. Jobs are rarely posted more than 2 or three months out, and, depending on how prepared you are for the process, it can take that whole time just to interview, get the job, fetch the required documents, apply for visa, and obtain visa before your flight. Then you’ll get on your flight, and the day after you arrive will be your first day of work. Can we say “ouch!”?

Therefore, if you are considering moving to Korea in the near future (6 months~1year), it’s best to have a few things ready before you apply, and to have a few more things ready as you are applying. This is especially true if you are bringing any accompanying family members, or if you are considering leaving quickly.

1. Before even applying for a job in Korea, have a valid passport in your hand.

If you don’t do this, you may end up needing to rush order one, which can get costly. Since neither I nor my infant son had valid passports (mine was still in my maiden name), I had to rush order both of them. Rush ordering a U.S. passport slaps an extra $60 of fees onto the bill. Getting an infant passport also costs extra, because both parents/legal guardians/whatever have to be present and take an oath when you turn in your application (this is a measure to prevent one parent from kidnapping the child from the other). In total, it cost $135 in fees for my son’s passport, not including postage.

2. Once you have decided you are going to apply for a job in Korea – whether or not you are in a hurry to do so – it’s best to get your college transcripts together.

Because the way the transcripts were to be delivered were not completely spelled out to me from the beginning, I ended up having to order transcripts 2~3 times. I have attended three post-secondary institutions (one of them was just for one class I took for work, but still…), and so that added up to quite a sum of money in the end. Take the following extra precautions when ordering transcripts:

a) Get 3 sets of sealed transcripts for every post-secondary institution you have attended.

b) Make sure each set of transcripts is in its own envelope. Some schools will do this automatically when you request multiple sets of transcripts, while other’s won’t. Thus, it’s best to just go ahead and request it that way. I didn’t, and it cost me.

c) Also request that the seal of the transcript envelope be stamped by the school. Once again, some schools do this automatically, while other’s don’t, so it’s best to be on the safe side and request it as an extra measure.

3. Have your original diploma handy. You will need to submit the original diploma in order to get your visa.
A lot of people are uncomfortable with this. Ask your school if a notarized copy of your diploma will suffice. Some schools may be more stringent about this than others.

4. Obtain two copies of your criminal background check.
For married ladies: make sure you get this done in your maiden name AND your married name. They only did this in my maiden name and so when I submitted it to Immigration, it was denied. I had to go through the whole process of obtaining it, getting it apostille stamped, and mailing it again, plus 2 extra weeks of waiting. It was expensive and time-inefficient.

5. Find out where you can get your criminal background check apostille-stamped.

As for me, I got it done at the Secretary of State’s office in the state capital, but it might be different in other states and communities. This might be such a hassle for you that it’s not worth doing until the process is moving along, but it’s still good information to know.

6. Get passport-sized photos—about a dozen of them.

Seriously, you can’t have too many. Remember: you have to send these in with your application to Korean Immigration, to the nearest Korean Consulate for your visa, and you will also need them for your Alien Registration Card (ARC) when you get to Korea. I misplaced mine a bunch of times and ended up spending a load of money on these things. Plus, I needed them for my passport applications. Make sure you have these not only for yourself, but also for anyone who’ll be accompanying you and who will need a visa and/or an ARC. Accompanying family members, unless they are also applying for an E-2 visa, will probably need half as many photos as you do – but still make sure they have about half a dozen at least. You can get these taken cheaply at Walgreens (in the U.S.—$7.99/2) and at some Post Offices. Many places (except for Post Offices, probably) might give you a discount because the photos are so expensive.

7. Patience

Really, you can never have enough of this. The school is not in nearly as much of a hurry to get your stuff processed as you are. You may be running near the end of your lease, have already sold your car and have no way to get to work (or have already quit your job and have no way to pay your bills), but this is not a huge concern of the school. It’s not costing them anything if you can’t pay your bills and have no roof over your head for a couple of days before you fly out of the country. Some schools may be more sympathetic than others, but really they are concerned with the money you will be making them. Take it easy and go with the flow as much as you can. You will need this patience in dealing with a new culture and working in a different environment than you may have ever been before.

8. A really, truly, sincerely open mind

Things are going to be different. It may drive you mad some days and have you in love with life on others, while most days will probably be somewhere in between. Hold fast to your values, but be willing to take a critical look at everything, including yourself, giving equal evaluation to everything. If you can’t do this—that is, if you can only see through the lens you’ve got now in your comfort zone—you will have a very difficult time in Korea. The pace of life is different, human sociocultural interactions are different, the food is different, housing is different—heck, even the air is different! Try and evaluate how comfortable you currently are, how many of those comforts you could afford to give up and still be happy, and think critically about whether or not Korea is right specifically for you, and particularly at this point in your life.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, USA!

233 years ago, the founding document of the United States of America was signed. Out of that document was born a nation.

Fireworks are going off as I speak, and people are celebrating. Unfortunately for our little Fish Bowl, PapaFish is working tonight and so TheFry and I are home alone doing absolutely nothing. It feels pretty darn good.

We are deep-cleaning in preparation for our out-of-town vacation to visit friends and also PapaFish's side of the family out of state. It feels good to finally see the white lines on the glass stove top and to be able to vacuum up all that lint that TheFry keeps finding all over the floor.

Yesterday evening there were fireworks, too, and some tentants were lighting off super-loud bottle rockets in the driveway behind our building (near the garages). Thank goodness TheFry slept peacefully through it all. I've been concerned over the changing demographic of our apartment complex over the last year that we've been here, but that's something for a different post. Let's just say that there are about a dozen empty apartments available for rent and that our landlord begged us to stay. Perhaps it's the loud, annoying music, out-of-control children (the kind who are old enough to behave themselves - not babies like TheFry), or house parties going on until wee hours of the morning. Nevertheless, we've had a safe and happy year in our large, reasonably-priced apartment, and I'm sure we'll be missing it come August when the three of us are crammed in that little studio.



Thursday, July 2, 2009


Milestones, away!

TheFry is reaching milestone after milestone.

Two weeks ago, we started putting him in his Pack N’ Play to sleep. He sleeps most of the way through the night. Sometimes he wakes up early in the morning (5am-ish) if he hasn’t eaten very well before bed, but other than that, he’s good. The screamfest is somewhat unpredictable—sometimes he goes to sleep in less than 5 minutes, sometimes he screams for nearly an hour—but things are gradually getting better. It’s not a smooth incline of improvement (it’s more like stairs), but the overall trend is that things are getting better.

Just this week, he has learned to crawl “army style” and how to pull himself up on objects. Mostly he pulls himself up on short objects—like small boxes that are piled up in the living room, or on MamaFish when she’s sitting down, for example—but he nearly always falls straight back and hits his head, ending in catastrophe.

He is getting more and more adventurous with his crawling. Because he moves so fast, he can move from one room to the other in a blink of an eye. If I turn away for two seconds, he is halfway across the room, making a beeline for a power cord, electrical outlet, dead bugs on the baseboard heaters, a loose bit of string that no one noticed before, and other such potentially harmful objects. I’ve taken to scouring the carpet in the room for tiny shreds of yarn (left over from crochet projects) and little bits of shredded paper before I put him down to play.

Just yesterday I caught him in a “first”—the “first bug he tried to eat”. It was a ladybug. Good thing I was able to fish it out of his mouth. It was a funny moment, but PapaFish was none too pleased, as ladybugs are poisonous. I’m not sure how poisonous they are to humans, so I suppose I should look that up.

TheFry had his 9-month checkup yesterday, also. He is far below the weight curve. He has gained only a few ounces in the last couple of weeks but has grown several centimeters. In short, his weight gain is not keeping up with his height. The doctor was very encouraging, giving us some pretty simple (and cheap) advice about his eczema. I’m so sick of trying so many different things and finding that nothing really works very well at all. The decrease of redness and itching is very, very minimal, no matter what we do. I wouldn’t be concerned except I get so many questions about it by everyone I meet, and it puts me on the defensive, as if I am a neglectful mother. The kid’s got eczema, he’s not a burn victim, and he’s not going to die from it—end of story. I know people mean well and that they’re just trying to make conversation, but sometimes I get a little tired of answering the same questions over and over again. Maybe I should put the following on a T-shirt:

He is a boy.

He is 9 months old.

He has eczema. It’s better than it used to be, and we are doing everything we can to treat it, so don’t worry about it. He’ll be fine.

Yes, he is an extrovert. We have no idea where he got that from. Just be thankful that he’s smiling at you and not screaming.

One of the biggest milestones he’s reached that I am super happy about is that he can start eating finger foods and we can quit the purees. I am so sick of purees. They sit in the fridge and go bad because he never manages to eat that much of them anymore. It takes hours to make, and I have to do it once every 5 days. Now I can just feed him what I’m eating, which [I hope] will cause me to eat better. No more McDonald’s! I’m going to have to give that up soon enough, anyway.

So last night, I wanted restaurant food so bad, but didn’t want to eat out (because of the aforesaid reason), so I made my own restaurant food at home:

This is a plate just like you’d get at a Mexican Restaurant in any town in America. Beef enchiladas with refried beans, Spanish rice and a little bit of salad on the side. The recipe was super easy and I made it up out of the blue.


13x9” (or bigger) cake pan

enough aluminum foil to cover the pan

2-3 cans enchilada sauce

¼ lb ground beef

1 cans diced green chiles (about half the size of the enchilada sauce per can)

4 scallions

1 onion, diced

1 pkg Mexican-blend or Colby jack cheese

1 can refried beans

some romaine lettuce, spinach, or other kind of lettuce—whatever you like.

2 C long-grain white rice

3C water

1¼ C pureed tomato

1 pkg. corn tortillas

salt and pepper

For the rice:

Put 2C rice, 1C tomato puree and 3C water in a rice cooker with ½ t salt, ¼ diced onion, and ½ can green chiles. Stir and cook until done. Add more salt and crushed black pepper until it reaches the desired taste.

For the enchiladas:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Brown the beef in a pan with ½ of the diced onion, one can of green chiles, ¼ C tomato puree, and salt and pepper to taste until the beef is just done. Remove from heat.

3. Pour ½ can of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the cake pan.

4. Assemble enchiladas as follows: scoop two table spoons (or more or less—depending on how you like them) of the beef mix onto a corn tortilla. Sprinkle some cheese on top. Roll the corn tortilla and place crease-side-down in the pan. Squeeze the enchiladas in the pan and fit as many as you like. You will probably have tortillas left over and you might need another pan depending on how full you fill your enchiladas.

5. When the pan is full, pour the rest of the enchilada sauce on top of the enchiladas, using a spatula to spread around if necessary. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the sauce as liberally as you like it.

6. Cover the pan with the foil, shiny side up. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.

For the beans:

Empty the refried beans in a pan with what’s left of the diced onion and green chiles. Heat until the beans are a little more soupy, stirring constantly. Immediately remove from heat and place in a serving dish before the beans get stuck to the pan and become dry from overheating. You can try and add some chicken stock to see if that makes the beans more soupy (if you like it that way).

For salad:

Cut up lettuce greens in fine shreds and serve on the side of the plate in desired amount. Top with salsa if you wish.

Some people like to eat Tex-Mex with a dollop of sour cream, but that’s just not my style. Go ahead and do what you like!

TheFry enjoys carrots and enchiladas. The recipe is not too spicy. For a spicier recipe, add chili powder to the beef as it cooks (taste as you go!). He also really enjoyed the refried beans and Spanish rice, which I was able to form into little bite-sized balls for him to pick up and eat off of his tray. In this picture, I believe he is mashing a ball of beans in his fist.

Vacation in Colorado

Happy [belated] Flag Day, everyone!

And congratulations to my grandparents, who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary that weekend. They very graciously flew me out to see them (along with most of the rest of my side of the family), and I brought TheFry with me!

It was my first time traveling alone with the little guy, and man was he a trooper! Of course, I was pretty laid back about the whole thing (going there, at least—the trip home was another story, unfortunately…)

Here’s TheFry playing on the floor of the Denver airport. No, he didn’t stay on the blanket the whole time, but I tried. He’s wearing his official airplane-trip romper. It has a dinosaur on it and says “Cute-O-Saurus” but still happens to trip people up because of all the yellow. With that and his luscious locks, 9 out of 10 passersby told me I had such a “cute little girl.”

We shared lunch at a “Mexican” food place and I got a fish burrito. I asked for the second-hottest sauce they had, but it was still rather lacking in spice, so I shared some of the tidbits with TheFry. Specifically, he enjoyed the little pieces of shredded fish, black beans, tomatoes, and little clumps of rice. Seeing as how Tex-Mex was my #1 most-craved food through 2/3 of my pregnancy, this comes as no surprise to me.

And now, for the pics!

Here’s TheFry crawling about at my Grandma’s.

And rolling along, as usual…

With Grandma…

And flirting for the camera with MamaFish!

The trip home was nothing short of a nightmare, though we didn’t have the worst of it. The airline was horrible to us, but what do you do? We got home safe and sound, and were able to leave on a very early flight. God provided us a newfound friend who lives just down the street from us. She was able to drive us home so PapaFish wouldn’t have to wake up too early in the morning.

In other news, I tried a white cake recipe again, and it turned out pretty well:

I used the recipe for white cake at the Joy of Baking website. It turned out pretty moist, but I still think I over-mixed it. The taste was good, but I still like the one I made with the cake mix better. I think next time I will try either using cake flour, confectioner’s sugar, or both. Also, I like not having to use the egg yolks, as I think the cake is a prettier color without them. I’m afraid to get too adventurous, though, because I’m not nearly as good of a baker as I am of a cook (meaning, I can fly by the seat of my pants and still prepare an edible dinner, but if I do the same with a cake or a batch of cookies, it’s a one-way ticket to the trash can for those would-be confections).

The filling is a basic, generic-brand strawberry preserves. The buttercream is a Swiss Buttercream recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I found this blog via Google. I am amazed at all the wonderful cooks and bakers out there in Bloggerland. I think that blogs have become my new source for all kinds of amazing information—from networking with other parents, to cooking, to news, to news commentary, to history—people know so many things, and I am happy to share what I know if I can learn something from someone else!