Monday, November 23, 2009

Elizabeth's first school evaluation

I am proud to announce that Elizabeth is doing well in all areas of study -- her report card rates things on a scale from 1 to 4, 1 being "far below grade level standard" and 4 being "proficient at grade level standard." All 45 points of evaluation are marked "4" from her teacher.

All the students rotate through five specialists throughout the week: art, music, Spanish, science, and PE. Each specialist has three or four different spaces to evaluate different areas (concepts, effort, behavior, etc.). She got a 4 in every space from every teacher except for one from her PE teacher (I'm inclined to call him a stinker for messing up her perfect straight 4's!) who gave her a 3+ for "physical development," whatever that means.

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about going into the conference on Friday because she's the youngest by far in her class, hadn't had the full kindergarten preparation that all of her classmates had under their belts, and has so far missed three weeks of school in her current classroom (the first two weeks were spent in kindergarten, and we were gone for a week on a cruise two weeks ago), but she's doing well. She's in the highest reading group in her class (somewhere between a upper 2nd - 3rd grade level) and can spell all of her first grade sight words (next week she'll be beginning the second grade sight words, and the teacher is sure that she'll fly through those as well). Her math skills are nothing to sneeze at either -- many of the things that I see that they will work on next trimester are still going to be review for her.

Yeah, I'm a proud mama.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A birthday party (written originally on April 7, 2009)

I found this post (written April 7, 2009) which I had forgotten to publish.  It's more than half a year since this brief conversation took place (and frankly I had forgotten about it!), but I still want to share this with you.


Eliz: Don't you want to come to a birthday party?
me: What birthday party?
E: A between-birthday party!
me: A between-birthday party? What is that?
E: It's between Abigail's and daddy's birthdays!

Abigail's birthday is 2/14 and daddy's birthday is 5/7, and today is 4/7, very much between their two birthdays.

Cruisin' -- Part 7 -- Friday and Saturday

Friday morning we were back in American waters.  We left the ship sometime in the morning after breakfast, and got back to the car.  We got our luggage and loaded it up into the minivan, hopped in, and prayed that it'll start.

Not a problem.

The problem was that Elizabeth was a bit carsick on the drive leaving Long Beach, which was unexpected, considering that she'd never complained of being seasick while on the cruise, and also hadn't complained of being carsick on the drive from Northern California to Southern California.

But after getting some fresh air, we were able to finally drive to BCD Tofu House in LA, where we celebrated our Koreanness by eating soon tofu soup, galbi, and bibim-bap, accompanied by spicy salted clams and kimchi.  Although we ate to our hearts' content and enjoyed all kinds of foods cooked to perfection every day on the cruise, nothing hit the spot quite like Korean food, especially when I didn't have to cook it.

Afterwards, we dropped off my parents at a car rental place at LAX so they could visit my gomo and my grandmother, and we went to see my husband's brother's family.  We got to hang out, and let the girls play with their son (who is less than a month older than Abigail).

I also found out that it take a couple days after the cruise for the floor to stop rocking.  :-S

The next morning my husband went on a long bike ride with his brother along the beaches, and after lunch with BIL's family, we picked up my parents and drove back home.

We had a great time.  But there's no place like home.  And I gotta get back to cleaning and the laundry.

Cruisin' -- Part 6 -- Thursday

Thursday was our "Fun Day at Sea."  We decided to take the girls swimming, so we went to the children's pool area, which took us a long time to find.  After a few wrong turns (no thanks to the incorrect diagrams at the elevators), the girls were splashing around in the "warm tub."  It was a little pool, about the size of a hot tub, and the water was warmed to about 92 degrees.  I sat right outside this pool, and was getting splashed left and right, and decided it would be much more comfortable to be inside than outside, so I hopped in to join them.  Unfortunately about two minutes later, some cruise employee shooed me out of the pool, pointing out a sign that I'd deliberately ignored which read "No adults in the children's pool" or something to that effect.  It was quite annoying that I wasn't allowed to be in there with my kids, and even more annoying that I wouldn't be able to "swim" with my kids (not that they actually do any independent forward propelling in the water on their own, mind you), but I suppose it's to make sure that the grownups don't hog up all the hot tubs on the cruise.  (There was another similarly sized hot tub about 25 feet away, and there were probably about 10 adults crowded into that one.  It was too crowded and too far from where my kids were playing, so I ended up just sitting on a lounge chair, watching them from a safe-but-not-too-far-away distance.  When my husband finally found where we were, I left him in charge of the girls and grabbed lunch for all of us from the buffet, and brought it back so we can eat poolside.

Afterwards, we went to a towel-folding workshop where we learned how to fold dogs and elephants.  (Quite interesting, but I'm nerdy like that.)

The rest of the day was homework (Elizabeth, under Daddy's supervision, at the library) and nap (me and Abigail).

A good day.

Cruisin' -- Part 5 -- Wednesday (revised)

Wednesday morning we found ourselves floating on Mexican waters at Ensenada.  We looked out our window and the first thing we saw was the harbor and a HUGE MEXICAN FLAG in the middle of it.  Yup, we were definitely in Mexico.

We went to see pretty much what Ensenada is famous for:  La Bufadora, a marine geyser.  Basically as the waves pound into the coastline, pressure builds up in a particular cave, shaped in a particular way, and shoot up into the sky, 80 to 100 feet up.  On the walk there, we had to walk through a flea market, where the vendors sold all manner of trinkets and souvenirs, as well as tacos and seconds-old churros.

The girls were well-entertained on the rest of the cruise thanks to some magnetic bead necklaces that my mom had bought for them.  They'd wrap them around their wrists, loop them around their necks (loose per Mommy's orders!), and stick them to the walls in our stateroom on the ship.  Yes, those wallpapered walls were magnetic!

Unfortunately, there was one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad incident that occurred in Ensenada.  We finished the tour of La Bufadora and were waiting around for my parents to come back from shopping so that we could take the bus back to our ship.  While we were waiting, we saw a huge jump house for kids to play in.  We asked if we can let our girls jump around in there, and they said that's what it's there for, so we let them play.  Abigail was tired by this point, so she napped in my arms while Elizabeth jumped in there alone.  A few minutes later she was joined by about five other kids, who were all happily jumping around.  Four of the kids got out after a few minutes, and sat down to eat in an enclosed patio next to a bar, leaving Elizabeth and another boy, who looked to be about 8 years old.  Next thing I know, he grabbed her, tackled her, and BIT HER LEG.  I couldn't do anything because I had a napping Abigail, but my husband jumped up and almost ripped the kid's head off (don't worry, neither one of us laid a finger on him).  He got Elizabeth out from the clutches of this monster-boy (sorry, anybody who attacks my daughter and leaves toothmarks and scraped skin on her leg will get called monster-boy), and I ran around looking for his parents.  They were nowhere to be seen.  I went to him and asked where his mommy is, and that's when I saw that he had Down Syndrome.  And that's when he spit at me.  I asked again where his mommy is, this time in Spanish, and he spit at me again.

His mommy was still nowhere to be seen.

My daughter's leg had a huge bite mark on it.  I could count the number of teeth that he had just from a look at her leg.  And I could see two spots of scraped skin right where his incisors were.

I went up to the enclosed patio and finally saw a woman walking toward the stairs, and found out that it was her son in the jump house that had bit my daughter.  But at this point, what could I do?  I can't beat her up.  I can't get mad at her son.  I can't rip her son's head off.  All I could say was "where the heck were you?  You NEED TO SUPERVISE YOUR CHILD!!  I don't care that you need to grab a glass of water, YOU NEED TO SUPERVISE YOUR CHILD!!  If you have to leave the area, BRING HIM WITH YOU!!"  But what's done is done, and really, what could she do other than apologize up one side and down the other?  She did apologize, but it was quite obvious that she couldn't (or wouldn't) get control of her son.  She tried to get him out of the jump house but he wouldn't comply.  She tried for a minute or two, and then gave up.


Anyways, my husband washed off her leg, and I got some ice for her leg, and we tried to make the rest of our time there better.  And stay the heck away from that boy.

Well, about 10 minutes later, I saw a man trying to talk the boy out of the jump house.  What?  Is he the father??  Now I'm angry again -- two parents, and neither one was supervising their son??  I also saw that the boy had a similar wristband that my girls had gotten on the cruise.  Great, this boy is on our boat.  And who knows who'll supervise him (or not), and when he'll bite again.


Cruisin' -- Part 4 -- Tuesday evening

Tuesday evening was the formal dinner.  It had been ages since I'd worn anything fancier than "church clothes" and that's not saying much, considering a good population of our church wears all manner of jeans, shorts, and t-shirts to church on any given Sunday morning.  The girls, on the other hand, love dressing up, and do it every chance they get.  And my husband?  He can wear just a toga and he'll be dashing.  Unfortunately, the entire evening he was the one behind the camera, so you'll never know how handsome he looked.

After dinner (a few of the appetizers were stuffed mushrooms, pumpkin cream soup, and chilled strawberry soup, which tasted like cold melted strawberry ice cream-- yum!  And one of the entree choices was lobster tail and shrimp.  Mmmmm, seafood...)

we all went to watch the show at the Normandie Lounge.  A good time was had by all, but of course, it would've been more relaxing if the girls hadn't taken turns needing to go potty repeatedly.

And no worries, I'm fully dressed.  ;-)

Afterwards, we saw a stand-up comedian,  whose name I can't remember for the life of me.  He was hilarious.  My mom had graciously offered to babysit the girls so we could go and have a date night.  We had a great time, but I couldn't help but feel just a *teensy* bit bad that I was having a date night while my mom was babysitting, on a cruise that we had taken her on, to celebrate HER sixtieth birthday.

Happy birthday, Mom.  You're the best.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cruisin' -- Part 3 -- Tuesday

Tuesday morning we woke up on the Carnival Paradise.  Our room was clean and my bed was very comfortable -- I dare say it might be even better than ours at home.  It's a small room, about 10 feet by 10 feet, and they got four beds into there -- two pushed together side-by-side like a king-size bed, and two suspended on the walls, one above the head of the king-size bed and one on the other side of the room.  The thought of having the room permanently arranged like this was a bit overwhelming, but this is where the cruise housekeeping earns their gratuity -- every morning they'd straighten out the sheets and fold up the wall beds, in addition to replenishing towels and other hotel-y stuff, and every evening they'd turn down the beds, open up the wall beds and set up the ladders to climb up into them, and leave behind a short stack of mint chocolates next to an origami towel animal.

Breakfast was buffet, with an omelet bar -- my favorite kind.  I was surprised to see how people had left their good manners behind on this trip though.  A few people ahead of me in line was a (large) man, getting food.  Right behind him were probably about five or six people waiting for their scrambled eggs and pancakes.  One of them got up a little too close while reaching for a ladle, and he suddenly yelled at her to apologize for having bumped into him.

Great, I'm on a boat with this guy.  Ugh.  Oh well, whatever.  I'm glad I didn't bump into him (quite literally) during the rest of the cruise.

Anyways, Tuesday we went to Catalina Island, apparently taking the longest possible route from Long Beach.  I estimated that if we traveled all night long, in a straight line without stopping, we would've had to go the breakneck speed of two miles an hour.

On Catalina we took a bus tour to the middle of the island.  We got to see some bison

and some crazy good views from high up on an island.

That's our ship!

We also got to hear some of the bus driver's punny jokes.  I'm a sucker for puns, and he had quite a few of them.

What did the mommy bison say to her son as he walked away?  "Bye, son."

What did the eucalyptus trees say when the tour bus scraped against the bark?  "You clipped us."

Cruisin' -- Part 2 -- Monday's adventure

Monday morning we woke up at 4am and left home at 5:30am to drive down to Long Beach.  It was a very quick uneventful drive, and we got down to southern California by 12:30.  We had to make a couple of pit stops at that point to pick up a prescription for me and to get my parents some swimsuits.  We got to Kaiser, and while I was waiting at the pharmacy, my husband was waiting in the car, listening to some music.  When I got back to the car, we discovered that the car won't start.

We drove 350 miles without incident, just to have the battery die on us right before the last 15 miles.

We got the car jump started, and after some quick thinking, we decided that it would be best to buy and install a new battery before we leave the car in the parking lot for five days.  We dropped off my mom at Del Amo to hunt down a couple of swimsuits, and then drove around looking for any auto parts store.  Not too far away we found one, close to a furniture store.  I took the kids into the furniture store to play on the couches and mattresses, and let my husband and my dad figure out the whole car battery thing.  After about an hour we came back out to the car, to find out that Dad and my husband had had a mini-adventure while we were killing time in the furniture store.  My husband had bought a battery and a monkey wrench to get the nut off the long bolt that was holding the battery into place, and went to work on the car.  The monkey wrench didn't work well, so he went back in and got a socket wrench.  Everything went swimmingly until they tried to secure the new battery into the car.  Somehow, the long bolt fell out of its place.  Fell.  Deep into the engine.  Too deep to try to reach in with the fingers, too deep to try to reach in with the wrench.  So they decided to try to shake the bolt out of the car.  By speeding over the speed bumps in the parking lot.   Stinkin' Honda Odyssey had too smooth a ride to shake anything on those speedbumps.  So he now went back into the store to turn in the dead battery, and came back out with a telescoping magnet.  It was a great idea in theory: extend the magnet to its full length, reach down and grab the bolt, and pull it up.  Unfortunately the entire car is magnetic.  The stupid magnet kept sticking to everything on the way down to the bolt.

And that's about when I came out of the furniture store, girls in tow.

I took a look at the situation, got a pretty good story from my husband, and decided to try my hand at fishing out this bolt.  So I took the telescoping magnet, extended it, flipped it UPSIDE-DOWN so I'm holding the magnetized end and the handle is deep inside under the hood, and knocked the bolt down to a hole in the underside of the car.  Then I went under the car and grabbed the bolt with the magnet, and handed it to my husband, who I'm sure was standing there dumbfounded.

Yeah, I felt pretty good about myself.  I fixed the car.  In front of my husband and my dad.

Well, after that, they got the bolt and nut back on, and we picked up my mom from swimsuit shopping, and got to the ship around 2:30pm.

Thankfully the rest of the day was a whole lot less eventful.

Cruisin' -- Part 1

November 6 was my mom's sixtieth birthday.  In Korea it's a really big deal to turn sixty.  The three traditional "milestone" birthdays are 100 days (baek-il), first birthday (chut-dol), and sixtieth birthday (hwan-gap).  No Sweet Sixteen, no rite of passage into adulthood, no over-the-hill.  Just a big fifty-nine-year gap between big birthday bashes.

It's normal for the children of the birthday-girl (or birthday-boy) to give a gift that puts to shame everybody else's gifts to their parents' sixtieth birthdays, and it's not unheard of to throw big dinner receptions, buy a luxury car, or send the parents on a trip, on the children's tab.  So when it became my mom's hwan-gap, my husband and I decided that we'd take my parents on a cruise.

So we went on a four-night cruise to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico.  We took the kids and my parents, and we had a great time for the most part.  The food was great, the entertainment was entertaining, and there was free(!) childcare until 10pm.