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Sunday, December 27, 2015

TGBKA: Christmas 2015

Despite how "behind" I always feel, we seem to make the event lovely and memorable. Christmas Day was glorious! We started when we felt like it (read: the kids let the parents sleep in!!!), we ate cake for breakfast (it is Jesus' birthday you know), we sipped on coffee (because nothing of substance happens in our house until a cup is downed), and we opened our presents. Before we got started in the kitchen, we played some board games as a family. Then Sweet Baboo took The Elder to Walking District while The Wee and I got the place ready for guests. Here is the day in photos:

The Wee got the very hat she was eyeballing! Her sister distracted her while I made the purchase. It was a team effort!
Hand warmers are all the rage this year. At least, in our house they are!
Because... are your hands really warm if you're not shoving them in odd spots inside your stuffed animals?
Sweet Baboo got a little stool to sit on when he comes home and needs to take off his boots. 
This was a big deal. In Korean homes, you do not enter until your shoes are removed. In our lease, we have agreed to not wear shoes that have been worn outside in the house. But when Sweet Baboo comes home, with his arms full of Army stuff, and boots laced up to his shins, the removal process has been tedious. We got him a stool to make the process a bit easier, and he was thrilled!
The big dilemma this year was Mal vs Evie.
When the Descendents movie came out earlier this year, The Elder and I were hooked. I'm so glad that I have an excuse for watching cheesy Disney movies; but if you've known me long enough you'll know that my love for Disney movies, television shows, soundtracks, theme parks, etc. runs deep. (When Sweet Baboo and I were dating, I had over 150 Disney soundtracks on cd... and those were filed next to their DVD or VHS movies in my room. It's amazing he found me "adult" enough to date!)  

When Disney started merchandising the movie, The Elder was deep in her own quandary. The dolls were $25 each, and earning enough money to get just one doll would take her a month. Doubling down on that effort seemed to take an eternity to a 10 year old! I advised her to put the dolls on her Christmas list, and she wasn't getting that she could ask for both. Rather, every time we went to the Post Exchange (PX) she would stare at both dolls and say, "Mal or Evie? Evie or Mal? Which one should I ask for?" Sweet Baboo and I loved that she was absolutely tormented over this. She didn't feel like she could ask for both. And when she opened both dolls, her first words were "but that was a lot of money!" We chuckled and told her that we had saved our dollars to get them both for her. She was very thankful and loved the gifts.
I got the coolest gift by far! Who wouldn't want a Christmas Bunny hat/scarf/gloves combo?
And I rocked that crazy thing to the mail room the next day. It was most definitely appreciated!
The Wee got a Mickey Mouse Tool Set. 
She immediately went to work around the apartment.
This is the year that The Elder wanted clothes and jewelry as much as she wanted toys. Our little girl is becoming a little lady.
She is so excited that she gets to wear dangly ear rings. And her daddy got her a pretty purple jewel inside of a white gold heart necklace. 
Then, Sweet Baboo took The Elder to Walking District in search of the fleece lined pants that he was in deep desire of owning, but I was incapable of getting for him. To our surprise, Walking District was a-buzz of activity on Christmas Day! The Wee and I stayed behind to get food cooking.
I was treated to fairy dancing!
I almost burned down the apartment.
The Lounge was peaceful
We learned Life lessons (like pay the $100K for college so you can get paid more in the game).
For the record: I stomped the family at Life. My net worth at the end was $4.9 million. Sweet Baboo ended up with just under $4 million. Of course, we both paid the $100K for college at the beginning. The girls didn't spend the $100K, and ended up with just under $1 million and $1.2 million. Later that night, I played Life against some of the Soldiers. We all went to college in the game, and I still won. #winningatthegamecalledlife
We had a great crew over!
Some people were excited to come over when we gave them the invite. Others thought they wanted to stay in their barracks room and sulk... while drinking. We respected both decisions, but made sure the drinking sulkers knew they could come over if they changed their minds. We had some mind-changers, and I'm glad to have brightened the Christmas day for many geo-bachelors.
Wii-U was played by many
Silly hats were modeled. Just because.
And passed around to other models.
Soju was consumed, games were played, and laughter abounded. 
I say this every year, but it's absolutely true: This was the BEST Christmas ever.

Friday, December 25, 2015

TGBKA: Christmas Eve 2015

Two days before Christmas Eve, I was at the Battalion HQ speaking with the BC about the upcoming winter formal. The units are on half-day schedule, and I have been running around trying to not interrupt their hectic attempt to get everything done so they can head home and get some much-needed rest. But I have had things to do, and needed to get answers before they could get their rest. So I made my rounds.

The first person I needed to speak with was the Company 1SG, but he wasn't at the company. Then I wanted to get Sweet Baboo's boss' attention, but he wasn't at his office. Almost ready to give up, I headed into the BC's office to ask about vector files and found success! Upon leaving his office, however, I literally bumped into 1SG as he was leaving CSM's office. He mentioned that the companies in the battalion were coming together in a last-minute effort to provide some jackets and food for a foster home in Area 1. He had a list of children who were in desperate need of a jacket that fit them, and was running out of the CSM's office to go shopping. I asked him if the FRG could use some of the funds we had raised in our gift-wrapping efforts to purchase the food. We decided that we would gather resources, seek out Soldiers who wanted to participate, and chat the next day.

By yesterday, Sweet Baboo had found two guys in his office who wanted to donate time and money to the effort. I found three Soldiers from the company who wanted to do the same. 1SG was teaming up with another company in the battalion to gather the rest of the goodies. We agreed to meet today (Christmas Eve) to take everything to the children. Here are the photos from the event:
We were able to get fifty pounds of rice, 20 pounds of fresh meat, 10 pounds of beans, and other foods. We also got jackets, a tv, a PS3, and a couple of video games!
Before we could give out the gifts, we were treated to a little concert inside of a church.

This young man is about to go to university, and gave a spectacular opera-style performance!
Then the two 1SGs were invited to the front to talk, and they asked myself and another woman to join them. I was unprepared to talk, just to give.
Then, we got to bring in PILES of jackets! It was wonderful!
And donate this getup for the children to enjoy.
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Figuring out which jacket would fit each child was a bit of work, and it was quite chaotic...
...but the children were quite happy with their gifts.
We grabbed a quick group photo before we left.
We left to head to the Mitchell's Club on Camp Red Cloud, but that ended up being a miserable experience. I actually let that experience put a damper on my night for a quick stint. I cried, and said "My Christmas Eve is now ruined." And I regret saying those outloud because the kids hear it. And typing this now, I realize how silly I was for letting that creep into my heart for a minute, and how foolish I was for letting the girls see it. Because while I will only give any money to the Mitchell's Club in dire extreme situations, I didn't have to choose to let their poor planning and terrible customer service ruin a single moment in my world. 

We recovered quite quickly, and headed over to Hoolala Chicken (a restaurant just outside of our apartment complex) for a stellar Christmas Eve Dinner. Then, we headed home.
When we got home we realized that we haven't wrapped the first present to go under our tree!
So I put on my Santa's Helper hat and got to work.

We put the presents under the tree and Sweet Baboo headed to bed.
When he headed to bed, I was just to excited to even think about sleeping. So I sat on the couch and looked at our tree. I couldn't help but have that moment where you see everything in front of you as a huge blessing. We weren't supposed to be in Korea for Christmas. We were supposed to be CONUS, fighting the heartache that Sweet Baboo was here without us. 

And despite all of the struggles, all of the difficulties, and all of the odds that were against us so far in the short 10 years we have been married, I am amazed that I'm still in a fantastic marriage with an amazing man who loves his family dearly. I looked at the tree and noticed that the girls had hung their Christmas Lists on the tree for Santa to double-check. I went over to check it out and see how we did...
The Elder's Christmas List
The Wee's Christmas List.
As usual, they didn't get everything on the list... but we hit the high notes. I had a few more things to take care of before heading to bed, and was more than happy to do so. There was not one bit of tired in me at that point. As I went into the laundry room to tend to the turkey, The Elder woke up. She had been in bed, awake, waiting to go potty. 

The way we keep the girls from sneaking out of bed while we're prepping for Christmas morning is by telling them that if they see Santa, then Santa keeps the presents. Poor thing was waiting until the noise in the house died down before she moved to go to the bathroom. I let her out of her room, and as she scurried to the bathroom she glanced at the tree. On her way out, I called her over to the couch to sit with me and snuggle. The moment was precious. We looked at the tree, and all of the gifts beneath it, making comments on what we saw, and guessing what was inside all of the little packages. The Elder asked if we could wake up The Wee and Sweet Baboo so we could open presents right then. I looked at the clock: 0240. I'll admit to thinking about it for a few moments, but decided that we should get some sleep. She wanted to sleep near the tree, so we made a bed for her on the couch:
She had the best view in the apartment that night.
We had an amazing Christmas season, and the grande finale was yet to come!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

TGBKA: Unit Adopt an Orphan Event, the Big Day!

In my previous post, I discussed all of the many projects I have already taken on in Korea. And I honestly couldn't feel more appreciated! For a person who deeply appreciates words of affirmation, I thrive on positive feedback. I also thrive on thoughtful and constructive criticism, so the words don't have to be all about how amazing I am. Words are powerful, and the use of them (or the neglect to use them, or even the fake use of them) is noticed. But I digress. I keep hearing how much I am appreciated here, and it only makes me want to work harder to keep the praise coming.

One of my projects came to an end this past weekend and my heart is kind of sad about it. Earlier this month we went to the orphanage to meet the orphans the units in Area 1 adopted. This past Sunday, we got to spend the afternoon as a big group on post with our orphans. Here is how the day went in photos:
The whole gang from B Co that showed up to show Ae Jin some love.
When most of the people here are either single Soldiers, or they are geo-bachelors, the time can drag on. I loved seeing so many faces want to take time out of their weekend to come support this wonderful event, especially since it was completely out of their own pockets. What a fantastic group of Soldiers I get to work with!
Before we got to spend time with the orphans, they put on a little talent show for us!
The little girl in pink is 19 years old. I'll let that sink in for you... every orphan at Noah Rehabilitation Center has an incapacity that keeps them from being adopted, and later in life they will probably not leave NRC.
When Ae Jin came out, we got first hugs!
She spotted us from the stage before we saw her. I noticed her because she was wearing a red jacket (surprise, surprise... the red), and she was waving with all of her might at us. My heart jumped for joy at her excitement!
Before they opened the buffet line, two orphans were asked to cut the cake. Ae Jin was one of them!
They were given a small sword and told to smile for the camera, turn, and cut.
After dinner, we had to wait for everybody else to finish their food.
We were the second table to get to go through the food line, so we finished our meal relatively quickly. In waiting, cell phones were brought out and games were played. At one point The Wee showed Ae Jin the Elf Yourself App on her daddy's phone. That brought many laughs (we each took a selfie to contribute to the craziness).
We finally got a half decent (at it's best) cup of coffee.
The military does not move without a half decent cup of joe first. So when we were dining at a facility on post that didn't immediately have coffee on hand after a meal, Sweet Baboo and I were a little freaked. But one brave soul went into the kitchen and asked what was up. He was offered a single cup of coffee, and made the mistake of walking by our table. Sweet Baboo and I jumped up and immediately interrogated him as to the whereabouts of the source of the caffeine fountain. Eventually, we were able to order a cup. Glorious.

We taught Ae Jin about hand slaps...
...because nothing breaks down cultural differences like hitting each other.
She understood it was a game, and loved playing it! 
She even made her way around the room and taught some of her friends from the orphanage the new game. We may have started something that the orphanage isn't going to appreciate, but fun sure was had!
There was a magic show... and The Elder levitated!
The show was only about 30 minutes, and some of his tricks were easily figured out, but I'll admit to being stumped by a few of them. The Wee was seriously concerned about the safety of her big sister, and The Elder was visibly relieved when she got off the bench.
Lots of selfies were taken
And lots of photos from "back home" were shared.
Have you ever had that moment when you realized that your children had more in common (generationally) with your coworkers than you do? Yeah, these guys were a hoot to watch! And Sweet Baboo and I realized that we are officially the "seasoned" couple.
We gathered around Santa for a photo op!
Poor Ae Jin had to wait close to two hours before she was allowed to open her gifts. We weren't allowed to let her have them until after we saw Santa. But then we got a framed photo to give to her, one to take back to the company, and I got to keep one. The guys were able to sweet-talk themselves into getting a print (and some of them even got a frame as well!)

Presents were opened!
Ae Jin's list was so short that she basically knew what she was getting right away. She asked for a music album, some comic books, and that was it!
She got gifts she wasn't expecting, and she loved it!
Ah, boy bands. An international love of teenaged girls worldwide! So tossing a poster of a girl's favorite boy band into the pile of presents is almost always a win.
More group photos were taken.
More presents were opened (and appreciated)...
...and loved!
The comic books were not easy to find; she had the first year's books 1-4, but wanted any of the books between 5-10. I could only find book 5, and book 1 from the second year. I was so nervous that I would be disappointing her by not getting 6-10.
She didn't even have the slightest hint of disappointment. She had all hugs for The Elder.
I'm pretty sure she thought The Elder was responsible for picking up the books. And I don't even care. I was seriously choked up by the response to the presents. All of my anxiety over not coming through to my standards melted away and I was reminded of just how simply Ae Jin lives. She loved getting any one of the gifts, but was very thankful for every one of them!
We snuck in a quick family photo with Santa
Though I love the one with the entire group better. In fact, it may be the one I keep with the other annual Santa photos rather than this one.
Speaking of boy bands, we decided that the guys who joined us were forming one...
They don't sing. You don't want them to dance. But boy do they look like an international sensation! We had Korea, America, and American Samoa represented. And they were seriously posing like they needed to be put on a poster somewhere.
And they snuck in a group photo with Santa as well.
On the way home, Sweet Baboo mentioned to me that he didn't want that to be the last we saw of Ae Jin. In fact, since we weren't able to get everything off of her very short Christmas list, he wants to keep searching for the other books and take them to her (one per month) so we can develop a relationship. The girls excitedly agreed.

The following day, I bumped into one of the Soldiers who also attended the lunch with us. He said that some of the guys in the barracks saw the framed photo that we got to take home, and were bummed that they didn't get to go. They were asking if I could set up more time to go to the orphanage so they could give time and talent as well.

The whole situation warmed my heart and made me feel like I am already making a difference here. First, I know that the Soldiers who are here without their families are going home to a very quiet room. They are missing the giggles (or cries) of their children, they lack the routine of having to provide by day and getting to participate in family life by night. Many of them spend their spare time drinking and partying; that just has to get old at some point... right?

Some of the single Soldiers have approached me and asked if the FRG can include them, and my answer is "of course!" They have excitedly pointed out some service projects that they would love to participate in (serving food at the soup kitchen, handing out jackets to children in foster homes, gathering stuff for unwed mothers who have been ousted by their families, etc.). Their desire to serve this area beyond their call of duty in the uniform gets me all choked up and ready to hug each of them. I hear some in leadership positions complaining that these very Soldiers are lacking motivation and desire to do more than the bare minimum, I kind of wonder if living beyond the next "night out on the town" may be just what they need. I intend to find out!