Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Day 72 - New Nursery Friend

On Sunday Minjae helped us in the Canvas nursery and he became pals with this little guy, James. Minjae and James sat together for at least 20 minutes listening to the radio and playing with that stuffed cat. They were totally quiet and I almost forgot they were both there. Later that evening Minjae said to me, "I like that guy from church." It was very sweet and nice to see Minjae taking the initiative and engaging with the kids in the nursery.

It was Vikings/Packers rivalry weekend and lots of people at Canvas were wearing jerseys. Andrew had on his Vikings jersey and our friend Bo Bear had on his Packers gear. This was a cute moment of the two of them hanging out together.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Day 69 - Bowling League

Since Minjae came to live with us we have struggled to find an activity that he really likes and engages in. Don't get me wrong, he does everything we ask him to but he seems quite content to sit around and do nothing sometimes. We have continually encouraged him to try things. So he goes to Youth Group, he is going to play basketball at St. Dominic's, and now he has joined a local bowling league.

Minjae really likes bowling. He also likes hanging out with his friend Ethan who has been in the league for a while. Last night was Minaje's first time at league and he was really happy when I picked him up. I'll try and snap a picture at one of the next few nights he is there.

Day 49 - Halloween Highlights

Minjae had a great time trick-or-treating with a group of his friends from St. Dominic. He was excited about all the candy he collected. He has been snacking on it ever since. After trick-or-treating they all went back to one of the boys house and hung out playing Wii and going in the hot tub.

Minjae picked out this "Walking Taco" costume. Stephanie and the kids suggested a Sriracha bottle but he choose this one instead.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Day 52 - Time for a Trim

Minjae told Stephanie he needed a hair cut so she brought him in to Great Clips. Everyone was encouraging him to get different hair style but he wasn't too sure he'd like that so he asked for a cut similar to the one he had.

This is the result. I thought it looked a lot the same but Minjae was not happy with it. he kept reaching for his bangs and the were not there. Poor guy. Luckily for him his hair will grow back in no time.

Day 60 - Minjae Update

Life has fallen into a pretty good routine as fall has begun to transition into winter. Baseball has given way to basketball and our nights are now spent in the gym instead of at the ball-field. Overall we have been blessed in Minnesota with a very warm fall. Last year on this day there was a few inches of snow covering the ground. Today I did not even wear a jacket.

Life with Minjae has fallen into a routine as well. He continues to be a welcomed addition to the family. We have had some more conversations about life here in America and life in Korea. I'll try and get some pictures on the blog soon. Minjae had a fun time at Halloween and picked out a funny costume for himself.

At school Minjae has made couple good friends. The last couple Saturdays Minjae has spent time with them playing basketball at the YMCA, playing Wii, kicking around the football and eating pizza. "Americans eat a lot of pizza!", Minjae said. He likes pizza so this is fine with him.

Minjae is going to be playing basketball for St Dominic School. A few weeks ago Stephanie gave him some tips on his shooting form. He is doing well and it will be fun to watch him play.

We have been trying to get Minjae to be a bit more active. He has a tendency to gravitate to his iPad. This is not much different than our own kids, so Stephanie and I are trying to put a plan together to keep the kids busy and off screens. We have been playing some family games, going to the Y, and kicking the kids outside to enjoy the nice fall weather before the snow comes.

Last weekend I went pheasant hunting and on Sunday I made pheasant fajitas. Minjae tried the pheasants and liked it. he is still trying a lot of new foods. At Subway he likes to eat a Spicy Italian. His favorite pop is Mountain Dew. And of course, he liked getting all the Halloween candy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Day 45 - Parent-Teacher Conferences

On Monday our family felt the time-stretching impact of having another child. Andrew had basketball practice, Isabelle had her very first band concert and Minjae had middle school conferences. Since this blog is about our experience with Minjae I won't say anything about the basketball practice or the concert (Isabelle played the flute, and she played it very well).

Stephanie went with Minjae to the conferences. Minjae is a very smart young man and there was not too much negative to say about his performance in school. Stephanie was concerned about one thing: Minjae doesn't seem to be getting challenged enough in math. When he does homework with his peers he completes the assignments much, much faster than they do. Unfortunately his teacher didn't really have anything to say that was real helpful regarding Minjae's situation. She encouraged him to show his work more and to try and get better at helping his peers understand the problems. We didn't like this because we feel the focus should be on Minjae should be getting more challenging problems, not on him improving his tutoring skills. We'd like to move him to 8th grade math but the middle school scheduling does not allow it to work with the St Dominic scheduling. This will be something for us to continue to monitor as the next months unfold.

In Minjae's other school work he is doing well. His English is good and he understands what is happening in class. He has made a few friends and seems to be recognizing more and more kids when we are out and around town. I am impressed with how warm and welcoming Northfield kids are. They are genuinely excited to see Minjae and they always ask how he is doing. At home we are working on developing and communicating clear expectations for Minjae (and our own kids) in terms of homework, book reading, and Ipad time. The KoAm people say that reading books is an important way for Minjae to develop his understanding and use of the English language so we need to make sure he is reading 30-45 minutes a day. This has been a good reminder for us that our own kids need to be spending intentional time reading each day also.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day 44 - Volleyball and Korean Pizza

Minjae with a big serve.
On Sunday we had fun as a family at Isabelle's Parent vs. Player volleyball game at St. Dominic School. This is the school where Stephanie teaches and where all the kids attend classes. Minjae jumped into the action and played on the parents team. He said he had watched volleyball before but had never played. He did a good job.

Minjae and Stephanie warming up.
After the game Minjae was also able to enjoy his favorite food - pizza! While we were eating I asked Minjae if they had pizza like Domino's in Korea. I apologized in advance figuring it was a dumb question. He said they do. They even have Domino's and Pizza Hut (you can check of the websites here - Korean Domino's and Korean Pizza Hut). "Same flavor as this?" I asked. Yes he said, it tastes very much the same. I asked about the different Korean pizza varieties and all he said was they have a potato pizza at Domino's in Korea. After looking at the websites it looks like shrimp is another very popular pizza topping.

Isabelle (5th grade) and I after the game.
Andrew (3rd grade) getting ready for action.
Andrew always performing.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Day 38 - Me and Minjae's Little Talks (pt #1)

Minjae and I have our best talks while we are driving. Tonight I was shuttling the boys to and from basketball practice and I had Minjae along with me. Here's a few of the things we talked about...

- how long the US President is in office
- what the Korean leader is called (she is a President)
- whether or not people workout and exercise a lot in Korea
- the fact that Minjae's dad likes to exercise and to run
- how tall Minjae's dad is (smaller than me, probably about 5'9")
- how old you have to be to drive in Korea (18 I think)
- how old Minjae was when he started riding the public bus (around 10/11 years old...4th grade)
- how Minjae is "worried" about his sister and her studies because she goofs around a little too much
- how his sister may transition into a music focused middle school

Friday, October 16, 2015

Day 36 - Sever's Corn Maze

I was not able to make the trip due to work, but since Stephanie and the kids had the day off, and since the weather was nice, everyone went to Sever's Corn Maze. If you have never been here before it is a fantastic place to take your kids. There are all kinds of activities including an exotic animal petting zoo, a ginormous corn kernel pit, a jumping pillow, a corn maze and many other attractions. Everyone has a lot of fun. Stephanie said Minjae's favorite part was playing in the corn pit.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Day 34 - Bowling

Since the kids are off for MEA break Stephanie decided to take them to the Jesse James Lanes bowling alley. They had a lot of fun. Minjae started off throwing the ball very hard and kind of 'high' instead of rolling it. Stephanie said he really liked bowling (which he had never done before) and that he was sweaty and wanting to keep going by the time they were done. Sounds like its an event we'll have to do again!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Day 33 - Chopsticks and Caterpillars

The kids have been enjoying some of the food and snacks that Minjae's mom sent him. They have even tried using chop sticks. They were not real successful. The boys did like putting white rice in some dried seaweed wraps. I have noticed Minjae's enjoyment of American foods is decreasing a little bit. It is getting tougher to find things to put in his lunch box each day. Some things he is turning down now are cheese balls, apple sauce, licorice, pita chips, and fruit cups. I feel bad because I am sure he is hungry after school since he is not eating part of what I send in his bag. Truth be told, my kids send plenty of food back home too so it is not just Minjae.

On a separate note, Stephanie shot this picture of Minjae in the nursery at church last week. We were volunteering and couldn't find him until we discovered he was hiding out on this stretchy tunnel thing, napping with his head on the mat behind him. We called his name and he sat up and said, "Yes?" We all started laughing because he looked like a caterpillar inching across the floor. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Day 30 - The End of Baseball

One thing the boys and I really enjoy is the game of baseball. Both of my sons play and I am their coach. This year was the first year we played baseball during the fall. For the past six Sundays Jacob (12 years old) has played games at 12pm and 4pm in Northfield. Here are some pictures of him and a friend from the team. Last Sunday was his last set of games. It was a lot of fun but we're looking forward to having more free time on the weekend.

Minjae has been drug along to many of the games. Sometimes he walks around or throws a ball against the fence but mostly he just sits on the bleachers behind home plate and watches the game. This would be one of the hard parts about being an exchange student and having to go to all the host families activities. We spend a lot of time at sports and so Minjae spends a lot of time watching sports. He did enjoy the food at the field though. Especially the pulled pork BBQ sandwich from Uncle B's Last Chance BBQ. He also liked chewing on Big League chew bubblegum. My son Andrew was really glad he had someone to hang out with at the field.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Day 29 - Skype, Snacks and New Friends

I talked to Minjae's parents this morning on Skype. It was 9:30am here but 11pm in Korea. Minjae's parents were very kind and friendly. They thanked me for writing this blog. I am glad there is a way for them to follow along, as I can't imagine how hard it must be to have their son away from home for so long. I had to laugh as I saw Minjae's little sister in the background trying to get her head into the screen. That is exactly what my kids do when we use Skype.

Minjae got a box at post office today filled with Korean snacks. Tonight he shared with us and we munched on some banana flavored puffs. They were the same texture as Cheeto puffs but banana flavored. Andrew said he they are good!

Minjae went over to a classmate's house today. He and a couple other boys had a blast playing football, American football and just generally goofing around. They even did some middle school math homework. Minjae's friend's mom told me Minjae was whipping through the problems incredibly fast. All the boys were laughing when I picked them up because they had so much fun. So much fun, actually, that a window was broken by a football! Oops!!

During the car ride home I listened to Minjae's friend Ethan asking him about Korea.

- Do you have a pet? yes
- What is your dog's name? Choco
- What does that mean in English? umm nothing 
- How big is your town? i don't know
- Like Northfield or Minneapolis? like Minneapolis

Friday, October 9, 2015

Day 28 - Homecoming Football Game and Punt/Pass/Kick Contest

Friday night was the homecoming football game for Northfield High School. On the practice field before the game there was a Punt, Pass, and Kick competition. Minjae and Jacob both participated. In a PPK competition there are three events. You punt the ball, your pass the ball, and you kick the ball off a tee. Minjae was very good at kicking the ball off the tee. I think he kicked it furthest in his age group.

After the PPK competition we went to the head football coach's house for some pregame chili. Minjae got to meet to some new friends and try a new food. He said the chili was very good. I agree it was. Way to go Mrs. Sullivan! Yum!

After eating we went to watch the American football game. For the first quarter I was explaining to Minjae about football and how to understand the scoreboard. The stands were packed with people and so I also explained what it meant that everyone was there for 'homecoming.' I told Minjae it means "all the former students 'come home' to see there old friends and teachers." Speaking of friends, after the first quarter Minjae ran into some of his friends at the game and he left me to go and hang out with them. I thought it was neat that he was able to connect with other kids and have fun apart from our family.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 26 - Youth Group and Laughing Fits

Jacob and Minjae have been going to the Center Youth Group (part of CANVAS Church) for the last few weeks. They seem to be having a fun time. Last night they had root beer floats. Actually they were soda floats. A funny thing happened. Jacob told me Minjae was going to make a float but before he did the soda bottle he was going to use got shaken up. Minjae either didn't realize it or didn't know what would happen, because when he unscrewed the top of the bottle soda exploded all over the place. Both of the boys were laughing about it as they recounted the story to me.

It makes me laugh when the boys laugh together. Especially when Minjae gets laughing. He is usually pretty quiet but there are moments when something happens when he really starts laughing. A few nights ago Jacob said something about poop that literally had Minjae rolling around his bed laughing. And just yesterday I was downstairs reading when I heard the boys burst out about something in their bedroom.

It has been said friendship is something that cannot be forced and I agree with that. Therefore I am praying that our kids and Minjae would develop a friendship which would last much longer than our ten month hosting experience. I am hopeful that a cross-cultural bond will form and that they will be friends for a long, long time despite possibly living continents apart.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Day 23 - Household Role Reversal

Stephanie told me last week that she thinks Minjae has not quite figured me out yet. Ha! This isn't surprising; people I've known for years would probably say they haven't figured me out yet. Sometimes the confusion is because people can't tell when I am being serious or when I am joking. With Minjae I think it has more to do with my weird schedule and the role I play around the house.

At the Balvin house Stephanie and I flip a lot of the stereotypical roles. I don't really fix things or do house projects, Stephanie does that. I do more of the household chores like dishes, vacuuming and laundry. I also do a lot of food prep and cooking when Stephanie is busy at night.

Stephanie asked Minjae if he cooks at home. He said he does not. His mom does all the cooking he said. He also told us that his family eats out a lot. Stephanie then told Minjae, "Well, you better start cooking if you want something to eat around here!" Minjae laughed and thought that was pretty funny.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Day 22 - An International Friendship

It's been said that a dog is man's best friend, and apparently it is the kind of friendship that crosses international boundaries. 

Our dog Manny is a great dog and he and Minjae are becoming good pals. Minjae has always been kind and interested in the dog but I have noticed in the last week or so that he is playing with Manny much more. I hear him calling him, "Come here Manny." Minjae also likes to have Manny sit and shake.

On Saturday Minjae got a little taste of the negative of having a dog when I sent him and Jacob out into the back yard to pick up Manny's poops. Guess which kid did the most complaining about being given such a "crappy" (his words, lol) job? Hint...he is not Korean.....!!!

Yesterday I watched a pretty funny interaction between the two of them. Minjae was in the kitchen eating a salami sandwich (which he thought was pepperoni before I told him differently) and Manny was sitting on the floor right in front of him just waiting/praying for a crumb to drop on the ground. Minjae kept offering his hand for Manny to shake, and Manny kept "shaking" it hoping for a treat. I didn't want to interrupt the moment so I chucked to myself and walked away.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Day 21 - Minjae the Lumberjack

Tonight Izzy and her friends made a bonfire. Minjae had a great time throwing leaves into the fire. He never figured out how that made extra smoke. The boy next to him in the picture is Alex. He is an adopted boy who is also from Korea and lives down the street. Alex brought an axe from his house and he was teaching people how to split wood with it. Minjae must be a natural born lumberjack because he picked up the skills right away.

Before the fire Izzy, Josie and Minjae were all playing GaGa ball together. This is a popular kids game and it is an outdoor activity that Minjae enjoys.

Tonight Minjae told us his favorite food is pizza. Chips are a favorite snack food. He also likes to read Korea comic stories on his iPad.