One day in Seoul and we’re already having food issues

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I don’t know what any of this is, but we ate it.

At about 3 am, I woke up in a cold sweat wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into. This was after arriving in Seoul yesterday afternoon, finding our apartment (first time in an airbnb), and mustering enough energy to wander around our neighborhood to find some dinner.

The cool thing about airbnb is we were able to find a much less expensive lodging option than any of the area hotels Rotary International had blocked for this annual convention, and locations much closer (as in a difference of an hour commute or more) to the conference center, to boot.

One downside: no concierge. No one to recommend a restaurant where there might be an English speaking waiter to translate the menu. No one to give you a heads up that you’re not in a section of town that caters to tourists, and there won’t be any helpful subtitles in English on directional signage.

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Twelve simple steps to the perfect thank you note

thank you notesWe returned from a trip recently to a stack of newspapers on the counter and a pile of mail, on top of which were three hand-addressed note cards for me.

It felt like Christmas.

Oh, the art and tradition of the hand-written note, sent by parcel post with a bona fide, first class stamp. Proof positive each and every one of us is more than just a random collection of cells that managed to drag itself from the muck and become capable of inventing such wonders as two-ply toilet paper with little flowers stamped on it.

There is nothing quite like putting together the perfect note, one which you know your friends will open with glee, and pause to appreciate you as a highly civilized person, regardless of the type of toilet paper you stock.

I happen to have a stack of thank yous of my own to write. But the thrill I experienced coming home to a few addressed to me inspired a procrastinative pause to compile a few, simple steps to crafting the perfect one.

Step 1: Stock up on pretty note cards to have on hand when the need arises. They can be simple, unprinted cards, or expensive monogramed things that scream so much business, the mere act of opening your note will likely obligate the recipient to lunch at the club. (more…)

Ten Realities of Family Travel

Airplane SafetyWe’re planning a family trip!

Okay, I’m planning a family trip and I’m periodically keeping people updated on details, which is sometimes how we do things around here.

In a couple of weeks we’re bound for a conference in Korea and taking the boys. Mike and I are currently getting mileage out terms like “Seoul Brothers,” and taking bets on which of our kids will be the first to freak out when he’s served kimchi.

We’ve traveled with the boys since they were really young and I can say without a bit of sarcasm that family travel is an area where teens win out over any other age.

Or maybe it’s just that our perspective’s evolved. First there’s the journey. If you’ve flown with babies and toddlers, everything else is cake. The only thing less fun than flying with a crying baby, after all, is trying to pretend you’re not the silly person who brought the baby on the plane. (more…)

Stress puppies in springtime

cry-62326_1920I told you about my chill child last week, and he is pretty chill most of the time. Except when he’s not. Like those days I pick him up from school and he’s got a scowl on his face and the conversation goes something like this:

“Hey sweetheart, how was your da – “

“WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO ASK SO MANY QUESTIONS?”

I swear there was some planet in retrograde for our entire household last week. The same morning started off with the other child slamming doors and books and throwing shoes around on his way downstairs.

“Mom, will you please, just —WHY ARE WE ALWAYS LATE?”

I happened to be waiting, keys in hand, to drive him to school. So I had no answer. At least not one that wasn’t going to get me yelled at. (more…)

Learning to parent with a little more chill

There are people whose mouths write checks their bodies can’t cash, whose bravado is bigger than their brawn. Who can be guaranteed to bristle at the slightest confrontation.

You know ‘em. People for whom the competition is a bigger deal than the actual feat, whose entire psyche is one, big button waiting to be pushed.easy-1030467_1920

You might think this is something with which I’ve gained familiarity by virtue of being surrounded by adolescent boys. Nope. If anyone around here is prone to chest-thumping smack talk, it’s me. I’m a big talker, and without anything in particular to back it up.

There’s something about suggesting I sit something out, or wondering if I have the chops for anything in particular that will inspire my most irrational behavior.

I have two years of high school cross-country as evidence. I slogged my way through the first year, hating every step, to prove my dad wrong when he called me out for volunteering as team manager in order to earn a letter without doing any actual, athletic-ish work. I signed up for the second year to prove I don’t ever do anything to prove anything to anyone.

Then there were two seasons where I umpired my kid’s little league team even though I’d never actually even played baseball, or probably even watched a whole game. That particular behavior brought about by a team manager who shot off his big, dumb man mouth:

“I dunno, I guess a mom could do it.” (more…)

Ten times I overestimated my teenager

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Thought he could tell time. We have a big clock in the living room. The kind with a face and Roman numerals. I guess that could be hard to read on the fly. Too bad there are also only two to three additional clocks in pretty much every room in the house.

Our youngest child has apparently never learned how to use them. He’s always asking me what time it is.

Thought he knew how to tie his shoes. Not sure why that same child insists on running around with his laces undone more than half the time. Is it a fashion statement? Did I miss a memo?

Thought sitting outside on a bench in 65 degree, sunny weather for 20 minutes wouldn’t do him any harm. I was wrong. It nearly did him in, poor thing, having to wait while I picked up his brother across town. He got sweaty. He was bored. Things could have escalated before I finally showed. It could have been tragic.

Trusted that no homework on Friday meant no homework on Sunday. How is it that math assignments are always popping up out of the blue, inspiring panic and outrage the day before the school week starts again? I think I remember having a conversation about homework on the ride home from school Friday. There wasn’t any, then. Not a stitch.

I totally get this one. Math usually pops out at me unexpectedly, too. Ruins my day. Damn math. (more…)

Nothing against turtles, really, or hobos

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Future hobos: the early years. Kitchen demolition experts.

I recently subscribed to one of those services that delivers a box of ingredients and instructions for dinner to your door every week because:

True Fact #1: Parenting gurus say if you don’t sit down to a family dinner on a regular basis your children will one day be hobos.

True Fact #2: There are people around here who might not live to see hobo-hood, and the whole dinner process is part of the problem.

First there’s the whole question of what’s for dinner, to which the answer is usually “I dunno,” or “doesn’t matter.” But when we all gather at the table it will inevitably dawn on one or more of these people that it jolly well does matter and I somehow forgot that fish flambé or whatever I’ve fixed is expressly verboten, and that’s when the nightly Pouring Of The Cereal commences. (more…)

I’m with the groupies

treefortIt used to be that Spring break was just a healthy opportunity to exercise my ability to ignore what sounded like a passel of wild pigs mowing through my kitchen every five minutes, and people pawing at me with complaints about boredom, while coming to grips with the fact that we’re staring down the barrel of summer and a full three months of this nonsense just around the bend.

But NO MORE. Spring break is now also the kickoff of a good, solid reason to be jolly. Treefort Music Fest. For the next few days, something like 400 bands will be performing in about a dozen venues downtown.

For every one of the past five years of this event, we’ve taken time off, stocked the freezer with frozen foods, and I’ve organized what I’m going to wear around comfortable shoes. With apologies to my lovingly ignored progeny, Treefort is the single best thing to happen to Spring break. (more…)

A slacker parent’s guide to kids’ sports

umpire_2I talk a lot in this blog about running and skiing, but in the interest of complete disclosure, we’re not really a sporty family. Being a “meh” mom isn’t conducive to raising the next Carl Lewis or Shaun White.

Our experience with kid sports is miles wide and inches deep. This is because, while neither kid shows any phenomenal athletic ability, it feels like good parenting when whatever they’re doing doesn’t involve a screen and/or headphones. When someone shows half a mind to sign up for whatever’s in season, we’re supportive.

Track season just started again for our youngest, just as skiing season winds down. Before I tackle the three-page permission-slash-doctor’s-release-slash-fundraising-agreement Colin just handed me, I thought I’d share my parental perspective on various sports. (more…)