Bullocks with Butterflie Wings

Here’s Your Sign

Posted in blogging, homeschooling, Korea, military, parenting by MommyTaco on 20 July 2013

I realize that I have not posted much (any) in relation to our new homeschooling venture. We decided, based on a plethora of reasons, for me to homeschool our son while we are stationed overseas. Whether this will continue when we go back to the States is still completely up in the air, just so you all know.

Our son is extremely bright, and he learns new things quite rapidly. I know that if his mind is not being challenged, then he is almost lost to me, from a concentration standpoint. I was thinking over the weekend what I could do to help expand his horizons -and talents- even further, and incorporate this into our homeschooling plans.

When he was a baby, we did the baby sign language “thing.” I can actually give my Mom full credit to this, as she is the one who started it. During my husband’s deployment to Iraq, I had the blessing of still living in my hometown. This meant I could keep working, and between an alternative work schedule and my awesome family, I did not have to use daycare for our then nine-month-old. My Mom is a PBS nut, and in turn, raised my sister and I into the same, so since she had the “morning shift,” she would watch Sesame Street and whatnot with The Boy. At the time, the local station was also airing a fantastic show called “Signing Time with Alex and Leela (sp?)” by Rachel Coleman. The show features two deaf children, and Rachel teaches themed words put to songs.

Now we’ve always been interested in signing, but never really studied it. I began to see the cool factor in being able to actually communicate with your child before they can speak with their mouths. I am now a firm believer in that it made an impact on our son’s early vocabulary growth, and even on into his ability to read at three-years-old.

I really don’t remember what brought it up, but he was asking me how to sign a specific letter over the weekend, so I showed him the ASL alphabet a few times. I decided that this is something to explore more and see how far we can go with it, so I printed out an ASL ABC’s and number chart to hang on the refrigerator. This was yesterday…and then to my delight, I walked into the kitchen and saw this…

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(practicing the letter P)

He was challenging himself to see which letters and numbers he had remembered! It was really cool to stumble upon, after only one day, and I definitely felt like a proud Mama!

I have decided that we are going to start using sign language with our spelling assignments. We’ll spell verbally and use signing during the week, then have our tests in written form like usual on Fridays. Once he has mastered the alphabet, we’ll start learning some other signs that corelate to either his weekly memory verse or poems. I am pretty excited to see how far we can go with this!

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Korean Scooby Snacks: Volume 1

Posted in blogging, food, Korea, travel by MommyTaco on 28 June 2013

Today, after I dropped The Boy off for his Hapkido lessons, I stopped by the local 마트 [“ma-tuh”] (mart) for some trash bags and an afternoon snack. I have really taken a liking to browsing these mini convenience stores for some tasty treats and hit the nail on the head with today’s finds. I decided that while I enjoy my snacks, and my hour and a half of kid-free time, I’ll share this moment of zen with you all.

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On the left, we have some cream-filled cookies. Pretty much your basic shortbread cookie, but the filling is PINEAPPLE flavored! YUM! I wish I could give an exact name for them, but all I got out of a Google Translate was 롯데샌드 오리지널 [“los-de-saen-deu o-li-ji-neol”] would be the brand Lotte Sand (sandwich cookie?), Original (flavor). They are pretty tastey and come with two small packs of 6 cookies inside. I find the packaging to be helpful, so that I don’t accidentally (HAHAHA!!!) eat all 12 cookies at once. Because you know I would.

In the middle is the famous (in Korea?) Milkis drink. You can pretty much find this all over the place, including the 1970s looking vending machines which holds super small (for American standards) cans of beverages. Milkis is a carbonated beverage that is made with a touch of milk. There’s a variety of flavors, and I really need to find the fruit flavored ones, but I am officially renaming this Korean Baptist Punch, because it tastes just like Baptist Punch!!! (!!!!) If you don’t know what Baptist Punch is, that’s because it’s another name I made up for “punch” aka frozen sorbet mixed with Sprite, which melts into this creamy delicious carbonated concoction. I don’t think it really has an official recipe name, so I call it Baptist Punch, because it is usually the default beverage at all events hosted by Baptists (baby showers, bridal showers, weddings and anniversary celebrations). On a side note: it is one of my favorite drinks, we even served it at our wedding and I make my own single servings of it in a glass every year for our anniversary. NOM! Now I don’t have to do that for the next two years, because I can buy it in a bottle!

The next item, on the right, are pretty much puffed potato sticks. That’s all I got. Sounds pretty boring when you compare them against the other two items, but they are lightly seasoned, and pretty tasty.

ImageFinally, I thought I’d also show you what I got for The Boy for a post-hapkido snack, so you don’t think that I’m keeping all of these treats to myself. So here is a picture of 바나나우유 [“pa-na-na u-yu”] (banana milk). The u-yu (milk) here is delicious, so far I have found pa-na-na (banana) and dal-gi (strawberry) flavors. I am not sure if they have any other flavors, but there are also these really cute miniature bottles that are like yogurt smoothies. When I say little, I really mean little. I’ll try to get some of those for the next Scooby Snacks post. So the u-yu comes in containers that you don’t actually open. It has a foil seal on the top, and you get a small straw (aka glorified coffee stir-stick with a pointy end…er…not far off from a Capri-Sun straw) and jab it through the foil. Pictured with it is the other/second pack of “original flavored cookies” that I was good and did not devour.

Sweaty Cash

Posted in Korea, military by MommyTaco on 20 June 2013

ImageHere’s a ridiculous picture I took of me fanning myself off with some Korean money. I just got home from exchanging some cash (the exchange rate is higher today than usual!). While sweating it out on the walk home, I was feeling quite proud of myself with my new found language skills. I can successfully ask for a 50,000₩ note (o-man won)  to be changed into five 10,000₩ notes (man won)! Actually, I can also ask for a 1,000₩ note (il-ch’on won) to be changed into ten 100₩ coins (paek won), too. I took my mad Korean Language Class skills that I learned from the class at ACS (Army Community Service, for those non-Army folk) and put them to good use a few weeks ago. Around here, you never want to go to the market with a 50,000₩ bill, because you’re not likely to find someone who can make change for it when you’re just paying a few thousand won for an item. They also seem to find it a big inconvenience. So I try to keep the big money for the bills only.

So…it’s getting hot here, and quite humid, as you’ll also note from the layer of sweat shine on my forehead and nose. Monsoon season is upon us, so we’re pretty much going around with a constant feeling of yuck on our skins. Remember all those times I said I was tired of living in the desert? Well I take it back, for the next couple of years. Until we retire in the glorious mountains of either Colorado or Washington states, I doubt I’ll ever stop complaining about the type of weather we’re living in.

That’s all of the big news around here for now. I’ve had other things I want to blog about, but at the time the idea comes up, I either am busy doing something else, or busy doing something else. I get about 1.5 hours of free time each day during the week, thanks to the joys of homeschooling. That is dripping with sarcasm like my husband’s PT shirt drips with sweat (gross!). Really, I suppose the homeschooling is going well…I haven’t given up yet…but there’s a long way to go for us figuring out our routine. Unfortunately, I’m a person who wants instant results, and the rollercoaster good days vs. bad days does not encourage me one single bit. But I am still completely sold on the decision to be doing it, and am looking forward to the options I have for tweaking our routine up for the summer time.

Mail Call – *MY* Side of the Story

Posted in blogging, Korea, marriage, military, parenting by MommyTaco on 29 March 2013

I started to post this on Facebook, sharing a photo my husband uploaded today, but it got to be so long of a post that I decided I should just turn it into a blog. I haven’t blogged in a few days either….two birds, one stone. Also, this is one of those moments we will both look back upon and laugh with each other. Guaranteed….

There is never a dull moment for our family. This morning, we walked to post to catch the Saturday mail room hours, PX and Commissary. Taco hit the mailroom while Sid and I did the shopping. We found him at the bus stop next to Gate 4 pissed off at me with two giant boxes (The Boy’s homeschool materials already arrived!) and a Priority mail box (thanks, Mom!) and showed me where, for carrying sake, he had already opened my box of Scentsy Scent Paks and had shoved them in his pants, along with a DVD from his parents. Judging by the look on his face, he was pretty pissed at me, but all he said was to order in moderation from now on, and he’s never picking up mail for me again. When asked why he didn’t call a taxi, he said “it’s just down the street” to our house. So I struggled with a power transformer and two full hands of grocery sacks down the street with The Boy complaining that his bag from the PX containing his newly purchased DS game (bought with his own money that he has been saving from his allowance) and a bottle of water was getting too heavy. Apparently we are going to have to start some type of muscle building routine into his Homeschool/PE time.

Taco was offered a ride from one of his fellow Soldiers who saw us coming out of the gate, but declined as, “it’s just down the street.” We each stopped a few times, to readjust the weight around and give our arms a break, and I got far enough ahead of Taco that I couldn’t really see him anymore. Just as we reached the street corner of by our house, I met up with a new acquaintance – the pastor’s wife for a church that we have been invited to attend for Easter Service and potluck lunch. So I chatted with her for a while about the predicament and assured we’d see each other tomorrow morning. As I climbed the stairs to our house, I decided that it would be very kind of me to drop the groceries off inside the kitchen and return to help my struggling husband. One of these boxes weighed nearly 50lbs, and they were really big and awkward. I really did feel bad.

As I reached to put the key in the door, I saw a car drive up, it’s driver a Korean man smirking in what I assumed to be contained laughter. Then out climbs my husband from the passenger seat. He apparently was offered another ride home, and by then, he decided it was not worth declining a second time. As he unloaded the stash from his pants, I asked again, “why didn’t you get a taxi??” His reply, “because I only had two dollars in my wallet!!”

I had money on me, we could have called a cab at the bus stop, if only he’d said so before. But maybe he has learned now to always keep at least 4 Korean Won in his wallet at all times – it’s just enough to get you from post to our house.

I would also like to add that my husband knows how very much I love him and how very much I love to pick on him. Like my Granddad always told me, he most of all liked to pick on the ones that he loves most of all. 🙂

Never Give Up

Posted in cooking, food, Korea, military by MommyTaco on 17 March 2013

894900_10151281703917035_1691354965_oFor the most part, this past week was one of those that I’d prefer to forget ever happened, rather than write down in any type of journal. I was full of all types of emotional instability, sprouting from a difficult start on homeschooling on Monday. Add in the fact that my husband was gone all week with work, our first week in our new home, and a whole lot of feeling lonely and sorry for myself. I was badly missing my friends that would always be there to cheer me up whenever he was gone. I’m not going to lie to you, I flat out lost it on Monday. I was a mess.

Finally, on Thursday, good things had started to happen and I was starting to feel mostly better. I also had something to look forward to that day: Pie Day! (March 14th, 3/14, aka Pi Day) For Pie Day, I planned to use my new Korean oven for the first time and bake a cherry pie. It required minimal effort, minimal ingredients – all of which I can find at our minimal commissary – and resulted in a whole lot of awesome. I even went the extra mile and bought some vanilla bean ice cream to go along with it. Hey, it was a rough week, I definitely earned the extra treat.

Now let me start out by emphasizing the fact that not only are things different here in Korea culturally, but stuff flat out works differently. For some reason, I was having some severe issues getting the oven to stay on. I knew it couldn’t possibly be that the pilot light was out, because in Korea they have a gas line that you manually turn on/off to your stove when you are/not using it – for safety! So there is no way a pilot light would stay on when the fuel supply is off…it’s got to be an electric starter. On this oven, you push the temp knob just like you do starting one of the stove top flames. I could hear it click, I could hear the whoosh of the gas catching fire, but as soon as I let go of the knob, it went out. So frustrating!!

I gave up, paced the house in disappointment, and told my son we weren’t going to have pie after all. I’m not sure which of us was more disappointed. I tried once more on the oven, willing the stupid thing to work – and like a gift from God, it stayed on! I danced a jig in sheer delight and began my pie preparations. I had already thawed my frozen pie crust, so I grabbed my $3.99 can opener I’d purchased in the commissary along with the cans of cherry. It was one of those cheap metal can openers that practically cut your hand as much as the can when you crank that awful metal handle. I didn’t want to buy a regular one for $6.99 when I have a perfectly good can opener coming with our household goods in just a few weeks.

One crank on the can opener, good. Two cranks – SNAP!!! It broke. Naturally. The small piece of metal that causes the can to rotate when you crank it had gone flying across my dining room. It was now completely useless to me. Naturally. It just completely fit in with the crappy week I’d already had. I was devastated. I really didn’t feel like going out of the house again to buy a new one, but 1) I really wanted that pie and 2) I couldn’t just leave the can with a 1/4″ hole punctured in it.

So I started looking around for my husband’s trusty gerber, which I have been using in the past two moonths to knife open cans since I didn’t want to buy that $3.99 can opener in the first place. I couldn’t find the gerber anywhere, Taco was still not coming home for two more days, and I couldn’t call to ask where the gerber was. So I tested out a butter knife. I really didn’t think I’d have much luck, but I actually sawed 1/3 of the way around the can before I started to wonder if I was getting aluminum shavings into the pie filling. Also, my hand was starting to seize in a cramp from holding the butter knife like that for so long. I gave up, told my son to get his shoes on – we were going to the PX for a $6.99 can opener. And, not wanting to risk house fire, I turned off the oven, praying it would start up again when we got back.

We went to the PX, got the can opener, made a last minute decision on a bottle of non-ration-controlled wine that I was going to drink all by myself dagnabit, and headed home. Before we even left post, I decided that the frozen lasagna I’d planned for dinner could kiss my you-know-what and we were going to have chicken fried rice and cheesy ramen at our favorite Korean restaurant instead.

Afterwards, we went home and I started the oven after the 4th attempt. I finished the whole bottle of wine before the pie was done. By then, it was way past our bed time, I was too tired to wait for the pie to cool off and decided that we would just have it for breakfast the next day. It was, after all, still Pie Day in America.