18 October 2011

20 Months

Twenty months of silence here on this lonely blog, but life here for our Munky family has been anything but silent. A quick recap to bring us up to now:

March 2010
After months of visits with several doctors in multiple cities, LMunk was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. She couldn't fully extend her left leg and it was pretty constantly swollen. She walked with a severe limp, and though she didn't complain, she tired out from walking pretty easily. We were able to be seen by the #1 pediatric rheumatologist and the #1 pediatric orthopedist in the country! LMunk began a course of medication that might help her condition, although there was about a 33% chance she might stay the same and about 33% chance she might continue to decline.

April 2010
GrampsH made a whirlwind trip to celebrate his and my combined 88th birthday. Fun!

June 2010
Our second trip to the rheumatologist in Seoul showed a bit of improvement in LMunk's JRA, so we continued with the medication.

July 2010
GrampsH returned with GramsH for a fun summer visit. We took a road trip down to some of the southern islands and saw some really beautiful parts of this country. GramsH and GrampsH got to experience a night in a traditional Korean house in an old island village.

August 2010
JMunk turned four and WMunk turned one, and somewhere between those birthdays we learned that baby VMunk was on the way!

The day before WMunk's first birthday we moved off-campus to a little one/two bedroom traditional beach house where we had lots of adventures in the year to follow, and that warrants its own post.

September 2010
I was asked to join the steering committee of Korea's first crisis pregnancy center. I've spent the last year working with the other officers and board members to get it up and running. They even gave me a title. I get to be the Director of Childbirth Education!I feel so privileged to get the opportunity to help women who have chosen life for their babies by ensuring they get a solid education in pregnancy and childbirth.

December 2010
We took a trip to Seoul to see the pediatric rheumatologist (Korea's very best) for a checkup on LMunk's JRA. We'd seen her doctor every three months since March and at the last appointment her test all came back clean. The doctor wanted us to continue with her medication in case her symptoms returned, but we'd been praying for God's healing, and I believed that if six months after her diagnosis her blood-work came back fine and she walked without a limp and hadn't shown any recent signs of discomfort, God must have healed her. So I stopped her medication. I didn't tell the doctor. At our December appointment, all of LMunk's labs came back completely normal! And her physical exam showed her to be perfectly healthy! God really did heal our girl, and even to this day she hasn't had any signs of relapsed symptoms!

December 2010-February 2011
After two and a half years, we finally got to return to the states for an eight week visit! We so carefully laid our plans, but as the Bible tells us in Proverbs 16:9, "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." We sure did have a sweet time with family and friends, and it was a blessing to be able to bring home so many rich memories.

February 2011
Big snows! For weeks we had snow storm after snow storm. For us southerners, it was a huge deal, and we just hunkered down for days at a time. The girls loved making snow angels and snowmen and throwing snowballs. They loved taking walks in the snow even though it was up to their thighs. WMunk and his 8 month pregnant mama took it a little easier and snuggled up to stay warm in the beach house.

April 2011
VMunk was due three days before my birthday. JMunk was born on her due date, LMunk was a day early, and WMunk was three days early. Since I already share my birthday with GrampsH (or he shares his with me), I wasn't particularly keen on sharing the day a third way. And I couldn't imagine that laboring on my birthday would be any fun. So four days before my due date, labor started. And then it stopped. And then it started. And then it stopped, again and again and again over a full week's time. Our due date came and went, and I woke up on my birthday pregnant, not in labor. DMunk took me shopping all day far from home. We got back in town late, had dinner out, then went home for cake. I got about halfway through my slice when contractions really kicked in. It was around 10:00p.m. - on my birthday! - and there I was, fully in labor. We got to the hospital near midnight, and my little VMunk had a very timely birth at 2a.m., the day after my birthday. At least that's what her birth certificate says. To her GrampsH, and to all our family, and even to me, her birthday will always be the same as mine and GrampsH's, because in the timezone I was born in, it was still my birthday for several more hours when VMunk arrived. And I don't mind sharing a triple birthday. It's more fun.

June 2011
GrampsH and GramsH returned! It was just a short visit, but we were so grateful and so happy to have them around! And they were great sports squeezing into our little beach house with us. Eight people living in a one bedroom house with a tiny living room, microscopic kitchen, and just one indoor bathroom was nothing short of an adventure!

After their departure, we realized that having two more in the house really did make it more lively, so the girls each got a Guinea Pig. JMunk's was Happy Merry, and LMunk's was Ali Kapali.

July 2011
Our one year sojourn into the "real world" came to an end, and we packed up and moved back to the university campus where we were so kindly afforded a THREE BEDROOM apartment! It feels like a mansion to us! Who ever knew that such a small (by American standards) apartment could feel so huge! The children were happy to be around many friends their ages and have lots of space to play outdoors.

August 2011
JMunk turned five! And we added some fish to our little zoo. When DMunk had his birthday a week later, we added Bo and Luke Duke to the zoo.  And some more fish as the month drew on. WMunk turned two, and was very excited to get his first train set!

For JMunk, August was a really big month. She started back to piano lessons in earnest (she'd taken about a dozen lessons over the past year) three times a week, and she really loves it. And we officially opened the Issachar Academy, where JMunk is our first kindergarten student.

September 2011
Happy Merry and Ali Kapali both ventured on to piggy heaven last month. The girls were sad, but they've got a pretty healthy attitude about the little creatures.

What made September exciting for us was the purchase of our very own PIANO! DMunk and I finally feel like grown-ups, and our apartment really feels like home. It's so wonderful to have live music filling our home every day! 

And now it's October, and we've got lots of fun in store!

20 February 2010

Family Vacation - Part Last

Day five - Friday was mostly uninteresting as it was a travel and rest day for us. We moved from Busan to Gyeongju (경주) that day and stayed at a hotel called the Dream Center. I think it would have been a really great place to stay in season, but in January, there just wasn't much to do. Even the indoor pool was drained. :( For in-season guests there was lots of fun outdoorsy stuff to do and even a science museum-type outfit.

The highlight of that day was our exquisite dinner at the Gyeongju Hilton Hotel's Da Vinci restaurant where we officially celebrated our three years in Korea. David had a foie gras salad and rack of lamb. I had a juicy steak with goat cheese and foie gras. It was all so tender and flavorful. And it may have been the very best meal we've had in three years.

Day six - Gyeongju World! Since we don't really get snow in Pohang and the little girls had been praying for some white fluffy goodness, we took them to Gyeongju World where they could sled and play in the man-made snow. We had a few fun hours there with some sledding and snowball fighting.

A few ways Korea is different from the U.S.:
-The climb up to the sledding area was completely iced over and people were falling like crazy.
-About twenty people would take off on their sleds down the small hill simultaneously. Some ran into each other, some fell over, and it was pretty much a big mess.
-At the bottom of the hill, everyone dismounted their sleds and made their way to the sides, but the next group of sledders were already on the way down!
-They let me sled down the slope wearing my five month old baby in a carrier and my 23 month old in front of me. I felt pretty safe about it, but I couldn't imagine any establishment in the U.S. EVER allowing that.
DMunk said that as an attorney, the whole thing just made him nervous. But really, these are the some of the things that make us love this place.

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DMunk & JMunk sledding. (They're to the left, she's in the white coat.)









I believe JMunk's favorite part was the giant Ferris wheel (that moved snail slow). She threw her hands in the air and screamed just like Fern (from Charlotte's Web). DMunk and I just breathed deep breaths and couldn't believe we'd entrusted our lives to this big rickety old contraption.



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On the Ferris wheel


Warning: Turn your speakers down for this one! It cracks me up, but it's an earful of little girl squeals.)

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17 February 2010

Family Vacation - Part 3

Day three of our vacation: Wednesday was a rainy day in Busan, so we took advantage of the yucky weather to spend a day indoors at the Busan Aquarium. While tit is pretty small and doesn't really compare to some of its American counterparts, it was pretty much perfect for our wees. The best attractions were the otters, sharks, and penguins. Interestingly, while there were plenty of live penguins swimming right in front of them, my girls were much more taken with 1) the little penguin statues on one side of the exhibit and 2) the video of penguins on the other side of the exhibit. DaddyMunk and I kept trying to steer them back to the real live penguins, but no dice. Huh. We went to see the shark feeding and happened to sit in front of a trio of ladies from Pohang! I'd say "small world", but this is a small country, so really, I guess it wasn't too unlikely. But we never meet people from Pohang when we're away.

JMunk and her favorite penguin.


In front of the shark tank

WMunk enjoyed the aquarium, too.

That night we ate dinner at a Japanese/Korean restaurant. We can get that kind of cuisine at home, but it was what we really needed that night. The special treat at that meal were the GIANT fried shrimp that came with JMunk's meal. I think they were as big as her head!


Day four: Thursday was our last full day in Busan, and we spent the first part of it looking for good Russian food in Chinatown. You read that right. There's a pretty large Russian population in Busan connected with the shipping port, and many of them have little businesses in Busan's Chinatown (every big city's got one, no?). We strolled down a pretty empty Texas Street and found lots of little Russian and Filipino eateries, but since it was early in the day every place looked pretty dead. (I will admit to being very silly and giddy and trying to convince DaddyMunky that nearly every Russian man I saw was a mobster of some sort. I had lots of fun inventing stories for them in my head.) We stopped at the tourist information booth for foreigners and asked them to point us to the best Russian restaurant. They sent us to The Tiger.

It looked a little sketchy and when we entered we were greeted by three women, presumably elderly mother and her daughters sitting at one of the five tables making blini. We weren't sure what we were walking into but felt like it was too late to back out. The menu looked pretty taped and pasted together. I really was unsure. We ditched the menu and DaddyMunk whipped out his Russian skills and ordered things not on the menu. What a delicious surprise! We feasted on the very best borscht and blini we've ever had, along with some scrumptious cabbage and meat dumplings. It may well have been the very best meal of our trip.




That evening we found a branch of my favorite American pizza chain, Papa John's. While it hardly measured up to our fantastic lunch, it was pretty tasty and one of those occasionally needed comforts of home.

06 February 2010

Two years of LMunk!

On the 5th we celebrated LMunk's second birthday. It doesn't seem quite possible that two years have passed since we welcomed her into our family, but it seems the last month or so has brought on a lot of growth and maturity in our girl, and I'd say two fits her rather nicely.

We started the day with birthday Skype visits with grandparents and my sister. LMunk was so happy to see everyone and tell them about her adventures in potty training (mostly just that she uses the potty now) and showing off her big girl panties. While talking with them on Skype, she got to open gifts that the grandparents sent , so we all got to share in her excitement together. Among favorite gifts: a bouncy blue dog made out of the same material as exercise balls. Also, we have our first set of Legos!

After our video calls we took the wees to a cute little restaurant in town called Little Star Kid's Cafe. The place is packed with play houses, slides, balls (the kind you play in), dress up clothes, baby dolls + accessories, grocery carts, play kitchens, and etc. They also have exersaucers and bouncy seats for little babies. And germs. The girls are wild about the place. Me, not so much, but for her special day I braved up, made myself forget about the icky little critters passing from child to toy to child, and happily took the girls for some fun play. LMunk found a sweet baby doll and carried her around almost the whole time. JMunk had more fun playing dress-up (especially as Snow White) and bringing mama loads of groceries in her shopping cart. WMunk spent a good bit of time in an exersaucer, and he really enjoyed it. DaddyMunk and I ate pork cutlet and tried to scoop bites of it and rice into the girls mouths as they passed by. When they were exhausted, we went back home where we all took a big nap!
The wee Munks at the Kid's Cafe




We woke up feeling festive, and good thing, because it was time for the birthday party! We celebrated with our friends who were kind enough to open their home to us, since our apartment is a bit tight for both of our families to fit comfortably in. They had decorated with posters and streamers and balloons, and LMunk was made to feel really special.


LMunk with her balloon doppelganger! She was so happy to take it home after the party.

For dinner we had pulled barbecue pork and chicken, homemade coleslaw, potato chips, and Fancy Macaroni (check out the recipe - it's something super special). For dessert I made a devil's food chocolate cake with ganache frosting. LMunk wanted a flower cake, so I threw some flowers on for her. The cake was good, but the frosting was just yum. (We definitely didn't eat it for breakfast for the next few days. That would just be disgusting. Mmmmmm....)

The flower cake

And again, 'cause my mama still likes to see my artwork.

JMunk may have gotten a jump start on blowing out the candles. I don't think LMunk noticed.

Itty bitty girl eats colossal piece of cake.

Unfortunately LMunk's big present from the family didn't arrive until just before party time, and as it required assembly, she didn't get it until the morning after her birthday. LMunk always wants to help me in the kitchen, but unfortunately I don't have enough stools to let both girls climb up with me at the same time, so they have to take turns. So for this birthday, LMunk got a very fun and very colorful kitchen of her own (which she of course is happy to share with her big sis =) ) so she can be in her kitchen, in my kitchen, working with me. It only took me about two hours to put together, and the look of glee on her face when she came out of the bedroom in the morning was priceless.


JMunk helps LMunk break in the new kitchen by making (real) sandwiches for the two of them.

We praise God for two fun and adventure-filled years with our darling little LMunk!

30 January 2010

Overheard

As I was waking this morning, JMunk was next to her brother singing a song she'd composed herself about our friend's new baby:

"You're a good baby, Luke,
You're a happy baby, Luke.
You're a gracious little king,
Baby Luke, baby Luke."

Other fun things I that came out of her mouth this morning:

"Oh no, Daddy spilled shower all over!" (We have no shower curtain. Sometimes the bathroom gets a little drenched.)

and

(while watching one of my old dance performance videos and seeing fairies dancing)
"Oh mama, they have angels on their back!"

28 January 2010

Family Vacation - Part 2

Day Two: The girls were anxious to get on to the most anticipated part of the trip: The Tiger! After a huge buffet breakfast of "western" food (fried potatoes, scrambled/fried/boiled eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, endless pastries, cheeses, sugar cerals, etc.!) we set off for the day.

In Busan's Lotte Hotel there is a live tiger kept in a habitat where those willing to pay upwards of $9 for a cup of coffee can sit and observe to their heart's content. We were seated, ordered the special set of two *small* cups of coffee and two scoops of Haagen Dazs on a waffle, before we realized that the tiger was locked up in his cage due to some sort of work being done in the habitat. Boo! JMunk was able to get a pretty good look at the beast, but poor little LMunk just couldn't quite find it in the mangle of bars and stripes. We certainly would have liked to have seen more of the critter, but the girls didn't seem too terribly disappointed, and the coffee was actually okay.

Since the temperature was mild, we took advantage of the sunshine and some much needed vitamin D. We visited the United Nations Memorial Cemetery. We got a few good photos of the Colombian flag and graves of Colombian soldiers, thinking of LMunk's namesake.


WMunk & LMunk with Colombia's flag


Headstones of Colombian soldiers killed in battle in Korea

At the memorial was a wall similar to the Vietnam Wall displayed in Washintgon, D.C.



After some time exploring the memorial, we went back to the hotel for some lunch and a nap. When we were all awake and rallied, and as it was still a bit early for dinner, we took a stroll on the boardwalk and really enjoyed the early evening air. JMunk tried tirelessly to count all the stones she stepped on, but as it was impossible to step on just one at a time, she eventually gave in and enjoyed sprinting to and fro.

Our first choice for dinner that evening was at a Thai restaurant called "Hello Thai." We love Thai food, and the closest we can get to it in Pohang is what I concoct in my kitchen (which is pretty good, but not great), so we'd been eagerly looking forward to this dining experience. The only trouble was, it appeared Hello Thai must have gone out of business, because it most definitely wasn't where all the maps and descriptions of its location had landed us. That was strike one. So we went in search of a second Thai place, Mango Tree, that was farther from the hotel and required a taxi ride, but certainly worth it in our minds. That night we must have picked the only taxi drivers in Busan without GPS. Our first driver had no idea what we were talking about, so DaddyMunk did his best to navigate for him. Riding with that driver became frustrating, so we finally insisted that he let us out and found ourselves another driver. Again, no GPS, but this guy got directions from a local shopkeeper before we all piled in. He took us back to the same street DaddyMunk had directed the first driver to, but again we couldn't find the restaurant. So our kind driver got out and asked a parking attendant where it was. Closed for good. Strike two. We had passed an Indonesian place on the way, so we had the driver return us to that restaurant. It looked pretty quiet, and when we got to the seventh floor where it was located, it was dead. No one was there, the lights were mostly out, although the door was unlocked. As we were about to load back up in the elevator, a woman somehow related to the restaurant came running up the stairs, oohed and ahead over the wees, but offered no explanation (in fact she looked kind of blank, as though we had just come by to say hello). So we got back on that elevator, then walked a few blocks to flag down another taxi. Strike three. During our cab ride we decided we'd learned our lesson: call first! As the taxi dropped us near our hotel, we remembered a British place that serves fish & chips, and we had very specific instructions on how to find the place. Another taxi ride later we were a block away. Up that hill and down we searched, and the closest we came to Dave's Fish & Chips was a Korean chicken & chips place, most definitely not British, and not what we wanted. Strike four. Obviously we should have been out long before then, and obviously we hadn't learned our lesson. As I was starting to get rather hungry imagined everyone else was, and as it was nearing 8:30, I started to pray that God would help us to find something that would really make us happy, something we couldn't find in Pohang - a real treat. Just then we saw a pair of Canadians walking toward us, so we stopped them and asked them what the deal was with non-Korean food in Busan. Bingo! They told us Mango Tree had closed a few months ago, as had Dave's Fish & Chips, *but* Hello Thai was still up and running, we just hadn't been on the right street! They drew us a pretty detailed map on a scrap of paper, and sent us off with a few other recommendations. Twenty minutes later we were filling our bellies with a much anticipated Thai feast!


Happy JMunk





Happy LMunk

25 January 2010

Munky Family Vacation - Winter 2010

This weekend we celebrated the third anniversary of our move to Korea. On 23 January 2007 we left our first family home in Fairfax, Virginia to start our adventure in the East. We arrived in Seoul on 24 January and finally arrived at our new home in Pohang on 25 January. Realizing that in three years my sweetheart hadn't taken a single week's break from work, we set off on our first family vacation, and we had a fantastic time!

Since this has the potential of being a monster post, I'm going to break it up so I can freely share stories, pictures, and videos (particularly for certain grandparents who never tire of them).

Day One: M
onday we headed to Busan (부산) where we would spend the bulk of our time. Our first stop was at Bexco, a convention center where the wee Munkys got to jump and play in all kinds of moon-bounce things. The little girls were apprehensive for about five minutes, but all bets were off after that. They bounced and slid down all sorts of slides. JMunk, being more cautious, opted for the smaller slides she could handle alone. Little LMunk got a bit gutsy and traveled down a huge Bob the Builder slide with her mama.

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JMunk surprised us when she got very excited about the trampoline bungee jump. It didn't occur to her to be scared or anxious about it, so we stood in line for about twenty minutes so she could take her turn. I was so proud! I got a little adventurer after all! Not wanting to miss out on anything fun JMunk does, LMunk joined in last minute.

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Hmmmm...so maybe it wasn't all they'd hoped it would be, but I was happy JMunk gave it a good try.

What they loved most were the water bumper boats. They had a blast "driving" and would go on to ask to do it again all week.

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We had a lot of fun in the "nerf" ball area where we could shoot soft little balls from air guns all over the place. Unfortunately, those nifty air cannons weren't so precise on the aim, so MamaMunk took a fantastic shot and hit a nice man square in the back of the head. I whipped out my best Korean skills to apologize, then geared up for my next shot. Bam! Another bulls-eye shot to that very same head. Oops! I called it quits and let the DaddyMunk and girls have at it. After about two hours of bouncy fun and laughter, we left Bexco behind and headed for the hotel.

We stayed in the Haeundae Grand Hotel, right on the beach. Our room was ondol style, which means we slept on pads on the floor, just like at home. DaddyMunk quickly fashioned a fort for the girls to sleep in so they could keep their regular bedtime and we could keep to ours. After a good nap, we all headed to the hotel pool. It turns out that swimming with three children, three years old and younger who don't know how to swim, isn't such an easy task! We kept juggling little ones trying to make sure each child had proper supervision at all times. We managed to mostly all stay above water. LMunk knew no fear, so she trotted around the pool like she owned it. She took one nose dive but recovered splendidly within seconds and was back to exploring the depths of the kiddie pool. JMunk, however, wasn't feeling so brave and was much more cautious. We ended in our swim with a stint in the hot tub, and WMunk was the happiest and most relaxed we've ever seen him. He laid back and cooed and would have been happy to sleep there if we'd let him.

To end a perfectly happy day we broke bread, or naan, rather, at an "authentic" Indian restaurant just around the corner from the hotel. The food tasted like any authentic Indian food I've ever had, but the place was fully run by Koreans. No matter. We had curries of chicken, lamb, and lentils and naan until we could eat no more. The meal was divine. This mama was supremely happy and we all slept well that night.