Our first year with Tiffany Grace

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Tiffany Grace is delightful and fun to be around. She makes us laugh daily but is not afraid to make her opinions known. The other day after an interaction with our sassy seven year old, I said to Tim, ” I hope she doesn’t have an attitude by the time she’s seven.” He smirked and said, “She already has one!”

She started army crawling in May and crawling on her knees in August. She walks while holding on to furniture now and has stood unassisted for about 10 seconds. She can also climb our stairs (14 steps).

She will say, “Mum mum mum,” to get my attention. She does a lot of pointing and grunting to get her point across. But she does not have any real words yet. She loves to blow raspberries though.

Tiffany is a great eater. She has always been excited about her food but we’re about done with purees at this point. She would rather eat off of my plate. She loves fruit so she has strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, or grapes every day. She will munch on whatever kind of bread or rice is on my plate. She cried today when Clarissa didn’t want to share her graham cracker, so she had to have her own.

Tiffany has 5 teeth so far. I can see that one more is getting ready to come in on the top.

Sleep has been all over the place. The past week or so, has been getting a 6-8 hour stretch without nursing at night. During the day, she can’t decide if she wants to take two shorter naps or one long nap. But she does consistently nap at least once per day in her crib.

I used to think that Tiffany was really outgoing and friendly when she was younger. I think as a product of staying home due to COVID 19, she doesn’t see other adults very often. She will look at you and even smile, but Mommy and Daddy are the only ones she lets hold her for an extended period of time.

Just like her big sister, Tiffany loves books. She’ll put a book in front of her and flip the pages. Then she starts whining at me until I come over and read it to her.

She is also very excited about Mittens. Unfortunately, since she is not very gentle, the feeling is not mutual. We try to keep her away from Mittens as much as possible. Thankfully Mittens seems to understand that she is a baby and does not retaliate.

Tiffany also enjoys the playground. She likes the swing, mary go round, and the slide. She also tries to climb anything she sees Clarissa on. Clarissa cracks her up all the time. If Clarissa is not doing something to maker her laugh, Tiffany is probably trying to pull her hair.

Tiffany was great at her well visit today. She weighs 21 pounds 6 ounces (74th percentile) and is 30.5 inches long (90th percentile). She also spent a great deal of time shaking her head no every time the doctor tried to tell her something. “I am going to check your heart now.” No! It was so cute.

 

Clarissa Day in Boston

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In the fall, we decided that we wanted to attend at least one day of PAX East 2020. Held in Boston at the end of winter, we had not been since Tim won tickets when I was pregnant with Clarissa in 2013.

Eight hours plus stops is a long time to drive with a five month old so we decided to stop halfway in New Jersey. We had lunch at Shady Maple on our way through Pennsylvania. Then we spent the night with Tim’s Aunt Paula.

We deemed Friday Clarissa Day and did several activities that we knew Clarissa would enjoy. The high was in the 30s for the day and very windy, so we put Tiffany in her snowsuit every time we went outside.

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We went online to LAZ Parking and reserved a parking spot at the Dock Square Garage. We then walked a couple of blocks to the New England Aquarium where the Northern Fur Sealswere outside. This guy was asleep but the rest were awake and ready to greet us.

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The aquarium was good. But we have seen better ones in Asia. There was a live presentation at the coral reef at the top. We did see a lot of different tanks that were clean and vibrant.

Clarissa was able to touch a sea star, sea urchin, hermit crab, horse shoe crab, and oyster upstairs. She also got pretty wet touching some sting rays. The sharks never came by for her to pet. She wasn’t super impressed with the gift shop so she did not buy anything there.

We chose our particular parking garage because Hard Rock Cafe was on the first floor. We ate there for lunch. The service was okay but the food was great.

Next we headed to Assembly Row to check out Legoland Discovery Center. We have been to the Tokyo location, but Clarissa was two and doesn’t remember. There was free public parking for up to three hours so we decided to do that.

I was impressed that Clarissa chose to do a ride. She enjoyed it so much that she did it twice, once with Mommy and once with Daddy. She liked the VR roller coaster as well. I think we all enjoyed seeing the major sights in Boston as a Lego city. Clarissa and I took a class while Tiffany napped in the stroller and made a Lego panda. We also made Lego race cars and actually raced them on a track. There were a couple of play places and also a big clock where every half hour a dragon would pop out and sing “Rock Around the Clock.” Clarissa really enjoyed that and would dance every time.

We contemplated visiting Carlo’s Bakery on our drive but saw some interesting reviews and decided to skip it. Instead we headed to Mike’s Pastry which is supposed to have the best desserts in Boston. We had them pack a box for us of like 15 different things that we wanted to try. It will take us a week to eat it all, but they have all been pretty good so far. I’m not sure that it’s the best dessert that I’ve ever tasted. But if you want pastries in Boston, I would check out one of their locations.

We ate at Legal on the Mystic for dinner. Clarissa had a cheese pizza but Tim and I enjoyed some excellent seafood.

We ended the day at Burlington Mall. Clarissa has been wanting to try Build-A-Bear and so we decided that vacation was the perfect time to check it out. There was a sale of buy one, get one for $10 so Clarissa ended up with both Toothless and Luna. The girl that worked there was great with Clarissa. She got to help stuff her dragons, kissed the heart that went inside them, and give them their first bath.

Video games can be good for your marriage

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When I met Tim I was quite arrogant. I overlooked ignored all the things that annoyed me because I thought that once we were married, I could change him. Because he was the only one that needed to change, right?

One of the things that I thought needed to change was his playing of video games. Obviously married men have no need for video games, right? It seemed childish to me. And a waste of time. I didn’t understand why Tim would want to stay up into the wee hours of the morning playing video games. Weren’t there more productive things to do? Like sleeping?

Ten years into marriage, I have a completely different view of video games. I have actually learned to appreciate them. Video games allow Tim to have an adventure, see the world, and learn about different cultures for way less money that it would cost to actually go that place in person. Playing video games can also be a stress relief because he can shoot things or blow things up in a video game without actually being destructive in real life. He can also play online with friends and use a head set so that they are having a conversation while they are playing the game. Tim can keep in touch with some of his friends from our time in Korea this way.

There are a few games we have played together over the years. We spent many hours playing Risk Factions and Guitar Hero early on. It gave us something to do together. Clarissa and I currently enjoy Just Dance

I have learned that women like to talk when they spend time together. Men are usually more willing to talk when they are doing something next to each other. I have heard this described as shoulder time.

Tim and Clarissa have a lot of shoulder time together playing video games after dinner. They call it “Daddy Daughter Time.” And although some people may think that they should be doing things unrelated to screens, I see the value in what they are doing. They are having an adventure together, having great conversations, and making memories. Currently they are playing a game set in Japan and they can see downtown Tokyo and some of the places we have actually been to on vacation.

There are set times in our schedule where Tim has time to game. Usually during some down time on the weekend, after the girls are in bed and after we have had some time together in the evening. It allows him some stress relief so that when he is with his family, he can be more present and happier. So you could say that video games make Tim a better person and are therefore good for my marriage.

I am not saying that husbands should come home from work and just play video games and ignore their families. But I see nothing wrong with video games being a hobby. 

 

Two very beautiful, but very different girls

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When I was a kid, I thought the definition of fair was that my sister and I got the same thing or were allowed the same privilege at the same age. As a teacher, I saw that different children need different things. As a mom, I can’t get over how different my girls seem to be. I am sure that in trying to give each one what she needs, I am going to hear a lot of “That’s not fair!”

Four months in to life with two girls and I can already see so many differences between them. Thankfully, Clarissa and Tiffany seem to love each other very much. Clarissa has already said that “being a sister is better than having a best friend” and I am pretty sure that Tiffany agrees. I pray that as they grow, they will always be best friends.

Their pregnancies had some big differences. But they were both very active the entire time. Labors were long and hard with both and Tiffany’s ended in a c section.

At 7 pounds 2 ounces, Clarissa was born a decent size baby. At her first check up, she was in the 90th percentile in height (20 3/4 inches) and weight. But it was short lived. At her next appointment, she was in the 75th percentile. By her two month appointment, she was in the 50th percentile, where she remained until we moved to South Korea at 18 months. I stopped keeping track after that because the Koreans don’t keep track and I think I did the metric conversion wrong because when I Googled it at 2 years old, she seemed to be in the 10th percentile. At her 6 year check up last summer, she was in the 28th percentile for height.

Tiffany ended up being too large to fit through the birth canal. At 8 pounds 11 ounces and 22.5 inches long, she was too big to fit on the growth percentile charts when she was born. Four months was the first appointment where she is on the chart for both height and weight. She is currently in the 94th percentile for height (25 3/4 inches) and the 98th percentile for weight (18 pounds).

Clarissa had more hair than Tiffany does. Clarissa’s hair was dark when she was born and got progressively lighter so that it was pretty blonde by the time she was two. Tiffany’s hair was lighter to begin with and we honestly thought it looked red. But it looks more brown now. Her cheeks are more pink than Clarissa as well. It will be interesting to see what her eye color turns out to be.

Tiffany knew the difference between night and day from the beginning and would let me get several hours of sleep per night, even in the hospital. I don’t know if that is because I took melatonin during my pregnancy or because she was born at 7:15 PM so she was set up for a better schedule. Clarissa was born at 12:47 AM so we would not have tried to put her down until at least 4 AM. That may have contributed to her day and night confusion.

Tiffany is already sleeping in her crib in her own bedroom and napping during the day. Clarissa did not nap in her crib until about ten months when I sleep trained her, though I will say that I was working part time when she was Tiffany’s age and that her naps were longer than Tiffany’s.

I also don’t remember how old Clarissa was when she started sleeping through the night. I remember for a really long time, she would go to bed at 10, wake up to nurse about midnight and then sleep until about 10. Tiffany’s schedule isn’t completely set yet. She will kind of nap and nurse all evening and then go down for the night sometime between 10-1. Then depending on how many times she wakes up in the middle of the night, will wake up for the day anywhere from 7-10.

Their personalities are very different too. I remember Clarissa being pleasant during the day and wide awake at night. Evenings were rough and she would scream a lot. I had to keep a food log to figure out what the problem foods were.

Tiffany is a very happy baby. She used to projectile vomit a lot. But it wasn’t every day. She was always still happy right before and after. She would throw up in the middle of nursing and then want to nurse again. The doctor said she was fine and didn’t have any allergies. But about a week after I stopped doing dairy, the vomiting stopped.

I think Tiffany is more of an extrovert than Clarissa. Clarissa would let me put her in the swing or her play mat during the day so I could make dinner or clean. Tiffany would not go into the swing until the last month or so. She preferred to be held. She will also last longer without being held if there is music on and a person is within arms reach. She likes to chat while she sits there and plays. She also loves to be in the carrier whereas Clarissa hated it.

Clarissa loved her car seat the first few months. If I could not get her to sleep at night, we would just put her in her car seat and take a drive. She was probably asleep by the time we left the neighborhood and would stay asleep for a while at our new destination. I just had to leave her in her car seat.

Tiffany on the other hand, hated her car seat for the first three months or so. We had to upgrade to a bigger car seat so that she had more space to wiggle. The music has to be on. Her diaper has to be fresh and a full tummy is helpful too. She is starting to last longer in her car seat now. But she still usually gets upset if the car stops.

Neither girl likes drinking from a bottle. Clarissa would eventually if it was warm. Tiffany has not had many opportunities to practice but doesn’t seem to be a fan so far.

Clarissa ate just about everything I put in front of her until she turned two (except green beans). Tiffany is still very young for solids but the pediatrician said we could start if we want to. So far she has not been excited about rice cereal or crackers.

I am excited to watch both girls grow up and be who God created them to be. Whatever that looks like for them. Even if it looks different than what other people think is normal. I would love for Tiffany to be excited about healthy food. But I also hope she will be kind and compassionate like her big sister.

Soaking in the baby life

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I was studying Tiffany this morning and realized that the little black hairs growing on the tops of her ears are gone. I didn’t even notice when that happened. So I thought I should write about my favorite things about Tiffany these first four months so I don’t forget.

Tiffany is a sweet, cuddly, smiley, chatty, active baby. She likes to move and also make her opinions known. When she starts talking, you can’t make her stop. And she can get really loud.

Clarissa is probably her favorite person. Life is just better when her big sister walks into the room. Sometimes she is inconsolable with me or Tim and Clarissa comes over. The tears instantly stop. She thinks Clarissa is hilarious and Clarissa is not afraid to do something crazy in order to make Tiffany laugh.

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I don’t have pictures of all of these things. But I should probably try in case she stops doing them.

  • When I change Tiffany’s diaper, she likes to lay there with her hands behind her head. She often sleeps this way too. Also, she kicks like crazy when I try to change her diaper. This is why Clarissa gave her the nickname “Squirmy Wormy.”
  • When I lean down and get ready to kiss her, she opens her mouth really wide, like she is going to eat my face.
  • When Tiffany smiles, she has a dimple under her right eye.

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  • Her hands are her favorite part of her body. She sucks on her hands if she is tired or hungry or bored… Her hands are usually in her mouth. She even tries to put her hands in her mouth while nursing and while sucking on her pacifier. Sometimes she puts her hands in too far and she throws up.
  • She has a cute way of sucking her thumb. She doesn’t put the whole thumb in her mouth, just the top part to the bottom of her nail.
  • Tiffany would not take a pacifier until we got home from our Christmas trip. Now I can give her a pacifier at naptime. The only trouble is that when the pacifier falls out, I have to put it back in. If it falls out after she has fallen asleep, she wakes up. Her daytime naps usually only last about 30 minutes for this reason. I tried giving her a pacifier with a giraffe stuffed animal attached, but when she played with the giraffe, the pacifier came out of her mouth. Now I give her the giraffe pacifier for her hands and put a normal pacifier in her mouth. Generally at night, she nurses to sleep so she doesn’t use a pacifier.
  • I have yet to be able to tame Tiffany’s hair. It seems curly after the bath and when I brush it down, it does not go completely flat. I originally tried brushing it forward so she didn’t look bald. But really, part of her hair just sticks up. All. The. Time.0127200843d1355197495079266315.jpg
  • She pulls my and Clarissa’s hair every chance she gets. I pretty much live in a pony tail for this reason.
  • As a general rule, Tiffany does not like to be alone. She gets frustrated if I put her anywhere and then take more than a minute to come back. When she was still sleeping in our bedroom, she would not go to sleep for the night until Tim was in bed snoring.
  • Sometimes when I rub her back, she tries to rub the back of my arm.
  • She doesn’t hate the car seat as much now as she used to. I have learned the formula. I have to nurse her within an hour of leaving the house and change her diaper immediately before entering the car seat. The music also has to be on and we can’t sit idle for very long so the highway is preferable to a route with many stop lights.
  • When she was a newborn and she was upset, she would get your attention by saying, “Eh, eh, eh.” Now she has a much wider range of sound.

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Also, Tiffany’s four month check up last week was the first time she was on the growth chart in all areas (she had previously been off the chart in height). She is now 18 pounds 2 ounces (98th percentile) and 25.75 inches long (94th percentile). Her head circumference is in the 97th percentile.

When your vacation turns into a history lesson

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We went to Virginia Beach for Christmas for the first time in six years. It is the first Christmas with relatives that Clarissa will remember.

We were there five days so we had some time for exploration. On Thursday, we headed to Fort Story to see the lighthouses. The general public can get on base by showing ID and getting a visitor pass for your car. Tim’s work ID got us on base without all of the extra steps.

Our first stop was to see the Cape Henry cross. When the settlers first arrived in Virginia in 1607, they planted a cross on the beach before heading to Jamestown. There is also a statue for French Admiral de Grasse who was very helpful during the Revolutionary War. We also went to the lookout to see the beach.

Next, we walked over to the “new” Cape Henry lighthouse which was built in 1881 and is still functional today. Across the street is the “old” Cape Henry lighthouse, which you can actually climb. There is an admission cost and you have to be 42 inches tall. You are not allowed to carry children up the 192 steps.

Clarissa really enjoyed our little field trip. Be careful where you step though. We all ended up with small brambles on our pants and shoes, probably from walking through the grass.

On Friday, we headed to Colonial Williamsburg. Tim and I wanted to see it decorated for Christmas and we were honestly disappointed in that regard. But Clarissa really enjoyed seeing the old houses.

The Governor’s Palace had a garden and a maze that Clarissa really enjoyed. She also enjoyed seeing the kitchen. You can only see the main part of the house on a tour, but after five minutes of waiting, Tiffany was losing it so we had to keep moving.

We headed to the art museums because there was an advertised craft event. We did not last there either as Clarissa was bored with the craft. She liked the art museum though. It was fun to see the old furniture and animals.

Veterans and their families can get in to Colonial Williamsburg for half off admission and active duty families can get in free once per year. Another perk to this kind of ticket is the Liberty Lounge. The information lady told us it was kind of like a USO. There were chairs to sit down (and nurse the baby), a bathroom, and hot drinks (coffee, tea, or hot cocoa). It was a blue house next to the Millery.

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Our Story : The Wedding

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We got engaged the same week as my sister and her wedding was three weeks before ours. Add to that the fact that the school system transfered me to a different grade level at a new school on October 1st. Needless to say, we had a very busy fall.

Another couple from our church got married the same weekend. Their wedding was at a different location on Friday night. Some of our musicians were in the other wedding so they could not attend our rehearsal. One of the pastors attended the wedding as well so he left our rehearsal early.

I like to do things very traditionally, but Tim does not. Our wedding day was Saturday, December 19th, 2009. Tim picked me up from my parents’ house about 9 AM and we headed to the church. That gave us about an hour to hang out in the Chapel before anyone else arrived.

At 10, I headed to the dressing room to get ready with my bridesmaids and Tim met up with his groomsmen. My friend Mary (who was 12 years old at the time) did my hair. Jordan (one of my middle school girls) did my make up. I was dressed and ready for pictures about 11 AM.

We were ready for pictures on time but the photographer was late. Sometimes December in Virginia Beach is 70 degrees and sometimes it snows. On our wedding day, there was snow in Pennsylvania and freezing rain in Virginia Beach. The photographer was coming from the peninsula which was flooded so she had to take a different tunnel.

By the time the photographer arrived it was almost noon. We wanted to take pictures before the wedding. Instead of waiting for Tim to see me walking down the aisle, our photographer took pictures of the reveal. I was glad that we did that. When Tim first saw me he said, “Your hair…is curly?” He had never seen me like that before and it took a few minutes for him to get used to it.

We had time to get pictures of the wedding party finished before the ceremony.

Tim’s mom, with the help of some of the youth group moms, set up the fellowship hall for the reception.

I would love to say that the ceremony was exactly how we planned. Or that even though it wasn’t, I just enjoyed every minute. Sadly, that is not what happened and I do regret my attitude about that the first few minutes of our marriage.

My dad walked me down the aisle and gave me away. My friend Mary did a beautiful dance to For My Love. Scott gave a wonderful and hilarious version of our love story and tied it in to the gospel. At the end, right before Pastor Nate presented us as husband and wife, I realized that there was supposed to have been a second song in the ceremony. It was the song that didn’t happen in rehearsal because those musicians were at the other wedding. But Nate said there was no way to bring that song back into the ceremony and pronounced us husband and wife.

So instead of being thrilled to be married, I walked down the aisle to the lobby very angry. Poor Tim. He definitely did not feel loved in that moment. I was so upset about a song.

After the guests had been dismissed to the fellowship hall to watch a performance by my Polish Folk Dancing group, we went back to taking pictures. The musicians did play my song, Chorus of the Saints, while we were taking the family pictures. After they played my song, I was happy and had completely moved on. But if I could do that day over again, I would not be upset about the mistake in the ceremony and just be excited to be Tim’s wife.

The reception was the best party I have ever been too. Tim and I had our first dance. Then I danced with Dad and Tim danced with his mom. My Polish Folk Dancing friends led the guests in several different dances from other countries. Tim wasn’t into the dancing. But I had the best time.

We had a rice krispies wedding cake since it needed to be gluten free. There was also a frozen custard bar with toppings to make your own sundae. There was plenty of other food as well.

After the reception, Tim’s parents had paid for us to spend our wedding night in a hotel. We stayed at the Hilton on the oceanfront. The view was beautiful and it snowed. They delivered champagne to our room, which I dropped, and it pretty much exploded. We had a really fancy dinner of filet mignon because one of Tim’s uncles gave him $200 at the reception and said, “Don’t tell your aunt…”

Our Story: Engagement

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About a month into dating, I bought the book 101 Questions to Ask Before you Get Engaged and we started discussing it. Question 5 was to tell 3 reasons why someone would want to marry you and 3 reasons they would not. Then we started talking about what it would look like to have an August engagement and a December wedding.

At this point, we saw each other a few nights per week after work. We did some kind of activity together on Saturday, went to church on Sunday, and usually had lunch with my parents before I went to Polish Folk Dancing practice on Sunday afternoon.

Towards the end of March, we started talking about engagement rings. Tim asked if I wanted a diamond or something like an emerald or sapphire? I told him that traditionally, the man should pick out the ring. He thought that was silly since I would be the one wearing it.

March 28, we were at the mall walking around and decided to “start” looking at engagement rings. We really liked the setting on one ring with two diamonds and a dark blue sapphire in the middle. But I really liked the lighter blue topaz on a different ring. The clerk at Helzberg convinced us to buy both rings and they could just switch the stones. Tim gave me the other ring as a promise ring until we were officially engaged.

The following week, Tim asked my parents for their blessing to marry me while I went to a meeting for my mission trip to Kentucky. The church I was attending was very conservative and it was common for the man to ask permission of a girl’s father before proposing. Tim thought it was silly but humored me anyway. He asked both of my parents because he thought it was weird to ask just my dad and he wasn’t really looking for permission anyway.

On April 10, 2009, We drove to Pennsylvania to spend Easter with Tim’s parents. I met his parents Friday night. We hit it off really well. They actually reminded me of my parents. His dad loves history and was very hospitable. He asked about me and my family. His mom has a servant’s heart and was ready to make all of Tim’s favorite meals and treats. She was easy to talk to as well and we talked about things like the house and food.

We did a lot of running around on Saturday morning. I knew Tim was planning to propose that day, I just didn’t know any details. So whenever we went somewhere, I kept wondering if he was going to ask me.

Eventually, we drove to Shikellamy State Park because we were planning to go to a scenic overlook in the trees where you could also see the Susquehena River below. But halfway up the mountain we discovered that the road was still closed for the winter! So we had to go back down. Then we went to a park in the marina below.

We walked around and held hands. I kept thinking to myself, “okay this is it,” every time we walked past something cool like a little shelter or a swing. Eventually, we got to the end of the island on this little pier thing. And the view was so beautiful! You could see the mountain we tried to go up, a really cool looking bridge, lots of trees, and the river was beautiful. So I was really excited and started taking pictures of the scenery.

After I had taken pictures of everything, Tim came up behind me, put his hand in his pocket, pulled out the ring and said, “Will you marry me?” And I, like a dork said, “You’re not going to get on your knee?” He kind of rolled his eyes at me, smiled, got on one knee and asked again. To which I replied, “Yes. Of course I will marry you!” He got up and hugged me. And then he gave me my first kiss! We asked someone walking by to take a picture of us together and then headed to the car to call family to announce our engagement.

Sunday we went to church and his mom didn’t know how to introduce me to people. I was her future daughter in law, her daughter in law to be, Tim’s fiance, and Tim’s future wife. All at different times. His Grandma came over for Easter dinner. I also met his brother, an aunt, and an uncle.

On Monday, we drove home from Pennsylvania. We stopped at King of Prussia Mall on the way home. It was huge. We pretty much held hands the whole drive home. Tim must have been sitting at a funny angle because by the time we got to my house his side was really sore.

Our Story : The Beginning

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It is hard to believe that Tim and I have been married ten years next week. I thought I would spend some time this month sharing our story. Also, how appropriate to begin our story on a Friday the 13th…

Before I met Tim, I was a fourth grade teacher. I spent my Friday nights at an International Folk Dancing class. I was the youngest by a decade or two but I really enjoyed it. Eventually, the people who ran the class invited me to join their performing Polish Folk Dancing group.

Our story actually starts in Richmond, the night after a dance performance at a Polish lady’s house. Somehow at the breakfast table, Donald and I started talking about my love life. Or lack thereof. Anyway, Donald is a fun guy, but he’s one of those guys that has a new girlfriend every week. At some point I said that I was waiting until I got married to have sex and probably until I was engaged to kiss. He was floored, but said he knew a couple of hard core Christian guys. Well, we left and I pretty much didn’t think anything of it.

Apparently, that night Donald went to a Super Bowl Party. He was talking about our conversation with a group of guys and was so amazed that there was a girl who just wanted a nice guy who loved Jesus. So he asked if anyone would be interested in a girl like that. Apparently two guys raised their hands and Donald picked Tim. Donald showed him my picture on Facebook.

Donald told me that a guy named Tim Faust was going to send me a friend request on Facebook. On Tuesday, February 3, 2009, Tim and I became Facebook friends. He then sent me a message and asked if there was another way he could reach me besides Facebook. So I sent him my phone number.

Two hours later, he called me. We talked for about an hour. During our conversation, he talked about the possibility of getting a new job in another country like Philippines or Afghanistan. On the phone we talked about how God is Sovereign, and so if He wants something to happen it will, no matter where Tim is. But when I got off the phone I prayed, “God, if you want me to be in a relationship with this guy, he needs to be local.” So the very next day, we’re on the phone and Tim says, “I can’t really explain it, but I feel like God is staying I need to stay here. And I think you might be a big part of the reason why.”

We talked every night that week for at least an hour and decided we needed to meet in person.

Monday, February 9 was our first date. I walked into Tropical Smoothie, and the first word out of his mouth is not “Hi.” but “Wow!” Apparently, I look better in person than in my Inspiration Awards pictures. We hung out for about four hours and set up another outing for Friday night. We talked on the phone every night in between.

On Friday, February 13th, we meet at the beach. We walked for four miles on the boardwalk. We talked about lots of random things. After our walk, I stood there, waiting for him to get out of the portapotty, staring at the ocean, and knew that I had never felt this safe or protected or loved before.

We then headed to TGI Fridays for some food where we decided we can officially call each other boyfriend and girlfriend. Then we went to my house to hang out. I introduced Tim to my dad as my boyfriend. What happens next is what I call Tim getting to know my parents. But Tim refers to it as the interrogation. That is the difference between introverts and extroverts I guess.

Saturday was Valentines Day and I already had plans. I was to see a play with my best friend and also attend youth group that evening (I was a youth leader at my church). We decided that we were not going to do anything for Valentines Day but Tim would meet me at church on Sunday morning.

On Sunday, he showed up with a rose. I said, “I thought we weren’t going to do Valentines Day?” to which he responded, “It’s not Valentines Day!” He met a lot of people at church that day and got grilled by half of them. But everyone who met Tim liked him.

Our first official date as a couple was the following Saturday. We went to First Landing State Park to what we affectionately called “The Hallway of Trees.”

He told me he loved me on Tuesday over the phone. I told him I wasn’t ready to say it yet and I wouldn’t say it on the phone. He thought I would say it Saturday when I saw him in person. At which point I told him I couldn’t yet and when I did say it, it would mean I was ready to marry him.

The next Saturday, we went to Lakewood Park. We’d had already had our first fight and he was really down because of work and stuff. So we’re on this bench under the trees talking and I asked God what I could say to make him feel better. God said to tell him that I loved him, even though I wasn’t sure if I wanted to marry him yet. I didn’t have to know that. So I told Tim that I loved him.

My last hesitation about Tim had to do with his faith. I spoke church-ese but Tim definitely didn’t so sometimes I wondered if we were on the same page spiritually. One morning I was asking God about it and then I read my Bible like I always do. It just so happens that in the book of Philippians (that I was reading anyway) there is a verse that says “Timothy has proved himself faithful to the Lord.” After that my mind was pretty much made up.

When Tim was a teenager, he was at Epcot with his family. While he was watching Riverdance he heard God say that his future wife would “have green eyes and be of Irish descent.” I just so happen to be Irish and have green eyes.

Easy Pumpkin Drop Cookies

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I have seen different forms of this recipe online and combined a few different recipes before I landed on this super easy recipe.

Ingredients
15 ounce can pumpkin
1 box gluten free yellow cake mix
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a bowl, combine all ingredients.
3. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
4. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto lined baking sheet.
5. Bake for 12 minutes. (We like soft cookies. If you like crunchy cookies, you will need to bake them longer.)

Makes about 20 cookies

What my c section taught me about rest (and asking for help)

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The first month or two of Clarissa’s life, I was pretty miserable. She would pretty much only sleep if someone was holding her, which was fun during the day but frustrating at night. Most nights about 3 AM I would question why I became a mom. I remember several mornings, Tim would wake up for work about 6 AM and walk by me in the nursing chair and I would say, “I have not slept yet!”

Then, magically at two months old, Clarissa learned the difference between night and day. By that I mean that she started sleeping consistently from 2 – 7 AM. Once I started sleeping, I was so glad to be a mom.

Some days in the first few weeks, I was really tired and sore so I spent most of the day on the couch watching Netflix with Clarissa and Josie. Other days I felt pretty good so I would vacuum and clean the house. I always overdid it so the following day was usually a couch day to recover.

Going into the end of Tiffany’s pregnancy, I planned to relax more. Tim was planning to be home for two weeks and then Mom was planning to stay with us for a week as well. I wanted to relax and heal the first two weeks and then hopefully do some fun things with Mom before I was home alone with two kids and getting used to our new normal.

I was really tired and sore towards the end of my pregnancy with Tiffany. My belly was huge so if I did a lot of walking, I really felt it and I also had some carpal tunnel. I was still cooking and doing laundry. But Clarissa and I were definitely watching a lot of movies and I was trying to give myself grace for not keeping the house super clean.

After about 44 hours of labor, Tiffany was born by cesarean section. That was not really on our radar. The original plan was for Tim to be in the hospital with me for our entire stay. That didn’t end up being what was best for Clarissa so they left shortly after Tiffany was born. They did not even get to hold her the night she was born.

Since I was on my own that first night, I really had to rely on the nurses to help me. I could get Tiffany out of the basinet when she cried but I couldn’t get her back in to the basinet. But the nurses were great so I would call them and they would swaddle her and put her back in the basinet for me.

The next morning, they did the usual blood work and decided that I needed a transfusion. Apparently I lost a lot of blood during the surgery and my iron count was at transfusion level. There was talk of a second transfusion, but we ultimately decided on iron pills instead.

The first two weeks that Tiffany was home, Tim was off of work. He entertained Clarissa and did the cooking, dishes, and laundry. I basically camped out in our bedroom with the baby and watched TV all day. It wasn’t how I originally envisioned my recovery, but a c section and stairs don’t mix. I went downstairs a couple of times per day to eat, but Tim carried Tiffany up and down the stairs for me.

My mom came for two weeks when Tim went back to work. She took care of the cooking and cleaning so I could continue to recover. She was available to drive to Tiffany’s appointments and to Co op so the girls and I were able to get out of the house some. But I didn’t last very long on my feet anyway.

Four weeks was the first time I was home alone with both Tiffany and Clarissa during the day. I was still really sore and was taking the stairs more so we ended up having a lot of movie afternoons and book snuggles on my bed. Tim took the laundry up and down the stairs for me after work. I started making dinner again. But that was about it for the next two weeks. My pain level actually got worse because I was doing more.

I didn’t start driving again until after Tiffany was 6 weeks old. I did reach a point a few days after the six week mark that I started to feel much better. I went from taking ibuprofen every 4 hours to once or twice per day.

Clarissa and I didn’t start school again until the six week mark either. It took a few days to find a groove with Tiffany. Eventually I learned to wear her while Clarissa and I did school.

Tiffany is two months old now and we are still trying to find our new normal. Thankfully she is a great sleeper. But I do spend several hours per day nursing. So between nursing, trying to give Clarissa attention, and school, I am back to mostly doing cooking, dishes, and laundry like I was before she was born. Thankfully I can drive now, but we wait for the weekend to run most of the errands with Tim.

If I had delivered Tiffany vaginally, I think I would have felt the need to keep up with the housework. I would have asked Tim to help, but not to the extent that I did. The pain level from a c section in addition to my anemia from the blood loss, left me unable to do many things so I had to ask for help. And I learned that people usually want to help you, they just don’t know how so you need to ask.

I am also learning to have grace for myself (and my family) for needing to rest. Sleep and down time are important. I am still only about 10 weeks out from major abdominal surgery so my body is still healing. It will take a while to be completely pain free and have the stamina to be active all day like I could before.

Salmon Bowl

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I have been making salmon for dinner since this summer. Recently Tim had the idea to make it seem more like how we ate in Asian restaurants by serving it in a bowl over rice. It tasted great.

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Ingredients
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp gluten-free bread crumbs
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp oregano
Pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup rice
Broccoli
4 salmon filets
Water

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Put 1/2 cup of rice and 1 cup of water in a sauce pan on high. Once water boils, turn to low until all water is gone.
3. Start steaming broccoli.
4. In a small bowl combine yeast, bread crumbs, garlic powder, oregano, and pepper.
5. In another small bowl combine olive oil and lemon juice.
6. Place salmon filets on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
7. Cover salmon filets with olive oil/lemon juice mixture.
8. Coat salmon filets with spice mixture.
9. Bake salmon for 10 minutes.
10. Fill bowl with broccoli and rice. Place salmon on top.

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Veteran’s Day Fun

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I appreciate that there is a federal holiday to celebrate my husband. Tim served in the Air Force for four years as active duty and has worked for the Department of Defense as either a contractor or federal employee almost every job since.

His first choice for his free lunch today was Texas Roadhouse. But when we got there, there weren’t any parking spots and the line to get in was outside. We headed to Buffalo Wild Wings instead for his free wings and fries. We were all pretty happy with our meal.

Our next stop was Fair Oaks Mall. We had never been before but I saw on Facebook that veterans and their entire family could have free entry to the Children’s Science Center. I am so glad we decided to check it out.

There were several different exhibits and stations. In one room, Tim and Clarissa were able to create a hovercraft, make slime music, and play with Legos. There was a room for children 5 and under that had a large fish tank, life size light bright, fort building, and books. A different room had a place to learn about wind turbines and forces. We really enjoyed all three of those rooms.

Then there was an announcement that the kids could learn about animals and watch the staff clean an animal tank. Clarissa and some other children could get really close to an axolotl. The staff were really great and talked about fresh water vs salt water tanks. They explained adaptations and talked to the kids for about 20 minutes.

The last part of the museum was science experiments. There were three to choose from and you are allowed to do all 3 if you want to. Clarissa chose to do two of them. She learned about acids and bases with putty and also studied some rocks.

In the science experiment room, there are a few more fish tanks. Clarissa enjoyed the seahorses, lobster, and hermit crab. Before we left, a staff member asked Clarissa if she wanted to see some land animals. She invited her to get closer and she was able to see snakes, a lizard, cock roaches, and a scorpion. The staff member was very knowledgeable and answered all of Clarissa’s questions.

After we finished at the science center, we decided to check out the mall. Santa is already there, and while we don’t usually do Santa, they had a really cool display. Clarissa was able to make a badge that allowed her in to elf training. The staff members walked her through and she got to see how tall she is, and dance in a virtual elf costume. She got to press buttons and choose Santa’s route and load the sleigh. There was even snow! Then, her badge let her have a visit with Santa. It’s genius really because the badge puts her name on the screen so that Santa knows her name. Clarissa really enjoyed it.

At the end of our mall visit, we decided on Coldstone for some ice cream before we headed home.

Name Meaning Gifts Review

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Amazing Names by CrossTimber

We think a lot about names and meanings in our house. Both of our girls have specific names for a reason. Clarissa knows the story of her name, but I thought it would be cool to have a gift specifically about her name. I had never heard of CrossTimber- Name Meaning Gifts before this review. When I showed Clarissa the promotional video for Your Amazing Name- Personalized Adventures for Every Name! she was very excited.

In order to personalize a video, CrossTimber emailed me a form to fill out. I was able to send back a letter to Clarissa about why we chose her name, a photograph of Clarissa, and a picture that she drew. After about two weeks, I received an email with a link to Clarissa’s personalized video as well as a pdf of ten pages of activities and name writing practice.

The video is 28 minutes long. I had originally planned to watch the video with Clarissa but ended up needing to feed the baby so she watched it and I listened to it. I really enjoyed the message that God had a plan for Clarissa and really knew her. Benjamin the Pencil says and spells Clarissa’s name several times. I also really enjoyed that there was so much scripture used throughout the video.

The first time that Clarissa saw the video she wasn’t thrilled. She thought the video seemed babyish. I think the main problem was that she was upset about her picture. She didn’t like that the pencil drew on her picture and folded it into a rocket ship. A different day, I was able to sit down and watch the entire video with her. She liked it much better the second time and said it was funny. She really enjoyed Mr. Owl and all of his puns.

I thought the animation was well done for a kid’s video. Clarissa’s first name and last name were both spoken and written on the video several times. Her name was written both in print and cursive, which she isn’t super familiar with. Some of the scripture is written as well. A younger child will not be able to read the scripture independantly. But most of the scripture is also spoken, so they will still benefit from hearing the words.

Clarissa really enjoys receiving mail in real life. She thought it was cool to receive mail in her video. There was a letter to her written by Mommy and Daddy. Mr Owl brought it to Benjamin the Pencil for Clarissa. The envelope had the sender in the upper left corner and also had her full name and address in the middle right, just like a real letter envelope would. I like that it was helping to teach her the way a letter would be addressed. The letter was read with expression and she enjoyed it. I think she would have preferred hearing the letter read in either my or Tim’s voice though.

This would be a great gift for kids eight and under. I don’t think older kids would appreciate the animation. CrossTimber offers several personalized name gifts in addition to the video. You can read about what other families thought of their name gifts here. CrossTimber is also holding a giveaway for a free Amazing Name Video or DVD.

Your Amazing Name - Personalized Adventures for EVERY name! {CrossTimber - Name Meaning Gifts Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Kregel Book Review

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Clarissa and I read books together everyday. Usually I read them aloud to her and later she will go back and “read” them to herself. She has a great memory and she is learning to decode words so she does a decent job with the books we have already read together. I follow several different book lists and am always looking for something new. I especially like a book that is fun to read but also educational so I signed up to review The Goldtown Beginnings Series by Kregel Publications.

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I like that both books are easy to read. They are marketed for ages 6-8, and I feel like emerging readers could actually read these books independantly. The chapters are short. The font is easy to read. There are some black and white pictures on a couple of pages of each chapter. I also like that there are some nonfiction text features in this book, even though it is historical fiction. The beginning of the book has a table of contents as well as a page of new words that kids might not know (glossary). I really liked that the vocabulary words were in the beginning in of the book to be introduced before the story instead of at the end. At the end of the book, there is a short section about the history.

The first book in the series is Jem Strikes Gold. Jem (Jeremiah) is almost 8 and his little sister Ellie (Ellianna) is almost 6. They live with Mama and Pa in a tent by the river where they have a gold claim. Pa works with an old neighbor named Strike to pan for gold. But Mama makes more money selling pies and doing laundry for people in town. The rich boy in town named Will causes trouble for Jem a few times in the story.

Clarissa wasn’t really excited about the story until the dog showed up and then she didn’t want me to stop reading. In the book, Mama was adamantly opposed to keeping the dog that Strike found until the dog helps Jem with his problems with the rich kid, Will. I liked that Jem and Ellie came from a good, Christian family. The siblings got along well and worked together to help their family. The book also brought up some great discussions about The Gold Rush, why someone would live in a tent, poverty, a one room schoolhouse, and what a dog needs to eat.

The second book is called Jem’s Frog Fiasco. Nugget, the dog, has been with Jem and Ellie for a few weeks now. The family is still poor so it is a struggle to feed the dog. Jem decides that he needs a job so that he will have enough money to buy meat from the butcher to feed Nugget. The cafe owner in town tells him that he wants to add frog legs to his menu, so he will pay Jem five cents per frog he catches.

Jem and Ellie have a fight while catching bullfrogs at the pond because Jem thinks Ellie is too loud and scaring the frogs away. Jem tells Ellie to go home and she leaves. Jem has a very successful afternoon catching frogs. When he gets home, he finds out that Ellie never made it home. Everyone goes to look for her. Eventually, Jem finds her in a coyote hole with help from Nugget, the dog. This story would be a great conversation starter about money, responsibilities in a family, and sibling relationships.

When we finished the second book, Clarissa asked if there were more. The next two books in the series are scheduled to release in March. The publisher website also provides enrichment materials in the form of activity guides, lapbooks, and coloring pages to go along with these stories. You can read about what other families thought of the books here.

Jem Strikes Gold & Jem's Frog Fiasco {Kregel Publications Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Clarissa’s last adventure as an only child

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The Wednesday before Tiffany’s due date, Clarissa and I went on one last adventure. We were up early to drive Daddy to work so I decided that we should go somewhere before my ob appointment. We decided on Hidden Pond Nature Center in Springfield. It was Clarissa’s favorite so far as she has asked to go back at least 5 times in the past month.

We arrived about the time the visitor center opened at 10. Clarissa was not interested in the animals just yet when she saw the huge playground near the parking lot. She was the oldest kid there since it was a school day but she didn’t mind. She played there for an hour before we headed to the visitor center.

The visitor center was small but nice. There was a restroom, small play area for babies and toddlers, as well as several small reptiles to look at. Clarissa really enjoyed looking at the turtles, snakes, and frogs. Her favorite part was probably touching the snakeskin.

We then headed outside for a nature walk. There were plenty of insects and birds among the plants. The pond was great too with several turtles. Clarissa enjoyed looking out on the pond from the dock. She made up some rather loud songs and even made a new friend.

After the pond, we spent some time on a nature trail with our new friends before heading back to the playground. We finished our adventure at McDonald’s for a happy meal before my last ob appointment.

Channie’s Review

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With a new baby in the house, I was looking for school type things for Clarissa to work on that would not require a lot of supervision from me. Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks allowed us to do just that. We chose to review Channie’s Dry Erase Flash Cards for Sight Words and Neat Numbers.

We used Channie’s Dry Erase Flash Cards for Sight Words for our reading practice this month. Each flashcard is fairly large and has room for the printed sight word as well as a place to trace the same sight word. The paper is sturdy and can be reused several with a dry erase marker. Clarissa would read the word. If she didn’t know the word already, I would tell her what the word was and she would repeat it to me. Then, she would use a dry erase marker and trace the sight word. Finally, she would read the word again. She has learned quite a few sight words this way and I think we will continue to use a few cards each day. With 100 sight words to choose from, it gives her a solid foundation in reading.

The second item we requested was Neat Numbers, which we planned to use for Math. You could call this a workbook or a paper pad. The front part of the workbook has a page, front and back for each number 1-20. The front of the page is for tracing. The back is for writing the numbers on your own. The next section is adding or subtracting with pictures. This part was frustrating for Clarissa because each side of the page was the exact same problem. She was bored easily with both of these sections. Though she did appreciate that there were several pictures of animals in the book. The third section was just addition and subtraction without pictures. It also had several different problems on the same page so Clarissa liked that better.

In addition to the two items we requested, Channies also sent us Big Block Alphabet to try. There was a piece of cardstock with a printed alphabet on one side and a cursive alphabet on the other. Clarissa was actually very excited to trace the cursive side. The workbook itself was really just a pad of paper to practice writing letters, which Clarissa did a couple of times.

Channie’s Dry Erase Flash Cards for Sight Words were Clarissa’s favorite of the three items we used. She thought the other two were a little babyish and they may have been too easy for first grade (they are listed as PK – K). I think if you have a child who needs the repetition of copying letters and numbers, this would be a great product though. There were several products available to review. You can read about the experience of other families here.

Alphabet, Number & Sight Word Dry Erase, Neat Numbers & Page a Day 2 Didgit Multiplication. {Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math workbooks Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Huntley Meadows Park

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One of the problems of moving to a new area in the summer, is that sometimes it’s too hot to explore. We had planned to visit Huntley Meadows Park a few times, but never got around to it until the weather started to cool down in September.

The park was really nice. There is a visitor’s center with displays of plants and animals that are in the park. There is a gift shop as well as some classrooms as well. We are going to have to go back another time to check out some of the homeschool classes this fall. The visitor’s center is closed on Tuesdays but there is a portapotty in the parking lot.

We had a great time on the trails. We walked on the boardwalk (dogs and bikes are not allowed on the boardwalk) and then through the woods as well. The whole thing took less than an hour to walk through and it is mostly flat other than the overlook that has steps. It is perfect for families with small children. There is another side to the park with a different entrance that has a trail as well, but we didn’t get over there on this trip.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls Review

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I heard author MJ Thomas on a podcast this spring and I was really excited about what he had to say. When one of his sons was in about second grade, he had to write a book report but couldn’t find a book that he was excited about. He asked his dad to write one for him. So MJ Thomas set out to write a book that would not only entertain his son, but teach him about his faith through making Bible stories come to life in a historical context. Thus, his series, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls was born. I was disappointed that my local library did not carry these books, but I put it on my list of books to read with Clarissa.

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I was so excited to see Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5) and Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) of the series published by WorthyKid Books as an option to review this fall. The timing wasn’t great because it was during the time that Tiffany was born. But I read the description to Clarissa and she was really excited about the books. I knew that we would still be reading at bedtime, so I asked for them. I am so glad that I did!

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5) follows siblings Peter, Mary, and their dog Hank as they spend a month with their Great Uncle Solomon who is an archeologist. They travel through time to explore the story of David and Goliath. On their journey, they have to follow clues to solve a message given to them by the angel Michael. They only have four days to solve the puzzle!

I love that Clarissa was able to see some of the historical context from the Bible story and that the actual story seemed true to what the Bible says. It also brought up some great discussions for us. For example, David originally told Mary that she could not go with him and Peter to deliver food to his older brothers. The reason was because Mary is a girl and girls are not allowed on the battlefield, which was surprising to Clarissa because we just spent four years on an army base where there were definitely female soldiers. Also, in the book David had sisters living at home, which I had not really thought about before since the Bible focuses on the brothers. David also talks about a poem he wrote (Psalm 23), which I thought was great because that is on our list of things to memorize for November. So now Clarissa has a context for that as well.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) was also wonderfully written. This time, Peter, Mary, and Hank go to ancient Babylon. They land in a temple of the Babylonian God Marduk. There is a statue (idol) in the temple and the high priest tells Peter and Mary that they need to bow down and worship the idol. Peter and Mary refuse because they will only worship the One True God. This makes the high priest (and his pet raven) very angry. They have to escape being captured with the help of the angel Michael.

The book teaches about architecture (ziggurat) and history (7 wonders of the ancient world) along the way. Peter and Mary escape to the hanging gardens where they meet Hannah who also refuses to worship idols. Hannah also happens to be the granddaughter of Shadrach. While visiting her grandfather’s spice shop, Peter and Mary heard the story of the fiery furnace in person. They also met Daniel. I always forget that Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den is several decades after the fiery furnace. In this book, Peter and Mary eventually get thrown into the lion’s den too and they, along with Daniel, are protected by their angel friend Michael.

I like that at the end of both books there is a list of chapters in the Bible that correspond to the story so that you can compare the book to the actual Bible story.

We have only read books five and six in the series so far. The stories stand alone, so you can read them out of order. Clarissa really wants us to get the first four in the series because she enjoyed them so much. While reading these books, book 7 was also published. I am excited to announce that the publisher is running a giveaway. You can enter to win signed copies of all seven books in the series by clicking here. There will be three winners.

We did these books as a read aloud, but I think they would be great reading for a younger elementary student who is a confident reader. The books are marketed for ages 6-9 and claim they are written on a first through third grade reading level. I think a first grader would have a hard time reading this independantly though. There are a few black and white pictures in each chapter to help engage your younger readers.

Depending on your curriculum goals, these books could be used for Bible, Reading, or History. These also provide some great discussion starters about Bible stories and imagining what it would be like if we went into the Bible story or which stories we would like to become a part of. I am excited to read the rest of the books. I look forward to being able to read book 7 near Christmas time since it is about the birth of Jesus. You can read about what other families thought of the books here.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd's Stone (Book 5) & The Lion's Roar (Book 6) {WorthyKids Books Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Brain Blox Review

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With anticipation of a new baby in the house this fall, I was trying to find things for Tim and Clarissa to do together while Tim was home for paternity leave. They really enjoy building things and playing games, so I thought that Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks by Brain Blox would be a great choice to review this month.

The day the Brain Blox arrived in the mail, Clarissa wasted no time. She opened the box immediately and got to work building different structures and pictures. She started with some suggestions from the instructions and then began creating things from her imagination. She worked for two hours straight and was upset when I told her that she had to stop for bath time. She was also upset that I would not let her bring the Brain Blox in the bathtub with her.

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As the days have progressed, Clarissa has continued to enjoy creating her own pictures. She has also enjoyed creating structures illustrated on the website.

The Brain Blox website has some amazing suggestions. There are pdf downloads of structures and pictures to make. There are also logic puzzles included where the puzzle shows where to start and then suggests moving a certain number of blocks to create something new. There are also a few curriculum idea downloads, especially for math.

My mom was surprised that Brain Blox were simply wooden blocks, they do not interlock like other systems. But Clarissa does not seem to mind that. She just likes the freedom to create what she wants. She was also excited about the suggestion in one of the downloads that she is allowed to decorate her Brain Blox so she can for example, create different characters to act out a story. I think she will be decorating some of her Brain Blox with faces in the near future so that she can use them to act out stories better.

For the most part, Clarissa really enjoyed Brain Blox. Some of the pictures were difficult for her six year old self to recreate so that was frustrating to her. But she really enjoyed the ability to make up her own creations. I think this is something she will use for several years. I would like to try some of the math and reading suggestions once Tiffany (the baby) is a little older and we are in a good groove with school again. We will probably use the Brain Blox to spell sight words and as math manipulatives. You can read about how other families used Brain Blox here.

Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks {Brain Blox Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Our favorite books for six year old girls

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One thing that has been consistent for Clarissa over the years is that she loves books. When she was 2 and 3 years old, she would tell me that she could not go to bed or turn out her light yet because “I’m still reading!” She is actually starting to read books on her own now, but for the most part, I still read to her at least a half hour each day. These are some of her favorite books right now.

  • Clarissa still enjoys the Berenstain Bears. We like that there are so many different books so you can read based on the season or whatever we are working on in school and not get bored.
  • Fancy Nancy is still a favorite as well. She likes that Nancy is in first grade like her and has a little sister. She also likes that Nancy uses fancy words and wears costumes like she does.
  • One of the books we earned during a summer reading program this summer is The Princess in Black. It is a series of six books (so far). Princess Magnolia has her own castle and friends. But she also has a monster alarm ring that goes off and tells her when the monsters leave Monster Land to attack the goats. She has to rescue the goats and send the monsters back to Monster Land. None of her friends know that she is the Princess in Black, they are just confused about why she randomly leaves events. It’s a cute series.
  • Another new discovery this summer was Katie Woo. Katie Woo has great adventures with her friends Pedro and Jojo. She’s just an everyday kid with friends who goes to school and does normal stuff. But Clarissa really enjoys these books as well.

I thought your second labor was supposed to be faster than the first?

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In some ways, Tiffany and Clarissa’s birth stories are very similar. But there are also some ways that they were opposite. I went into labor with Clarissa about 10 pm two days before her due date. Tiffany’s started about 11pm on Thursday, two days before her due date. Both times, I didn’t realize it was labor immediately. With Clarissa, I realized I was having back spasms at regular intervals. With Tiffany it felt more like intense round ligament pain at regular intervals. I was honestly thrilled not to have back labor because I thought for sure that my labor would be faster and easier that way.

When I was pregnant with Clarissa, Tim and I took a class. The teacher said that warm baths were great for pain relief so I took several during my first labor. But really, the baths helped to stall my labor. I would get consistent contractions, take a bath, and the contractions would stop for a while. With Tiffany, I was determined not to stall my labor. I tried to relax and let the contractions come. I watched a lot of TV while waiting for the ac repair man.

As long as I was sitting or laying down, the contractions kept coming. If I started walking around or cleaning, the contractions slowed down. At about 3pm on Friday, my contractions were consistently 4-5 minutes apart. This was the only day that one of my aunts wasn’t available to watch Clarissa. I had another aunt to take her to but I had not packed Clarissa a bag because I really didn’t think I would need it that day. I called the ob, talked to my uncle and my neighbor, and then we frantically packed our bags for Clarissa and the hospital.

All of the running around stalled my labor again so after we dropped Clarissa and all of her things next door, I realized I had not had a contraction in about 30 minutes. So I sat down to rest a bit and the contractions started up again. It was Friday rush hour in DC, so we decided to go to the hospital anyway.

My contractions picked up in the car. They were between 3-4 minutes by the time we arrived at the hospital. But after we parked, got out our bags, and walked to labor and delivery, my labor slowed again. They monitored me in triage for about an hour. I was only dilated a centimeter. We had a choice. We could stay and try walking a bit to see if it would help, or we could leave and come back. It was after 730 pm at that point and we were starving so we decided to leave.

We kept Clarissa where she was and headed to Maggianos for one last dinner date. Of course my contractions picked up in the car, stopped for a bit while we walked into the restaurant, and then came back while we were eating. The food was wonderful, but I didn’t eat much of mine.

By the time we got home, it was after 11 and I was exhausted. I was going to try to go to bed without a shower but decided against it. After my shower I noticed thicker brown discharge on my underwear but didn’t think much of it because the nurse said that might happen since she checked my cervix.

At that point, I tried going to bed. My contractions were noticeably more intense and getting closer together. They had also moved to my back. By the time, Tim came to bed about 2, I was really struggling but determined to get some sleep. My goal was to make it to 6 am.

By 430, I decided that I needed to try a warm bath to see if that would help me relax. It didn’t help at all. But while drying off, I looked at the towel from my earlier shower and realized that my water had broken. Oops. (Something similar happened in my labor with Clarissa.) After the bath, I decided to start timing my contractions again. Four in a row were less than 3 minutes apart so I decided to wake up Tim and call the ob, even though it was only 530 am.

This time, walking around to get ready, my labor got more intense. We went from being sent home the night before to being worried we would not make it to the hospital in time. Thankfully at 6 am on a Saturday, there wasn’t much traffic.

We didn’t start in the parking garage this time. Tim put his four ways on near the entrance. I was barely through the door of the hospital when I had to stop for another contraction. There was a nursing instructor there with her students. She introduced herself and helped us get to labor and delivery. I had three contractions before we got there and she told the ladies at the desk, “We need a wheelchair!” That made the admission process easier. Plus I had already filled things out the night before so they didn’t need to explain much, I just had to sign again.

Triage didn’t take long this time. I was at 6 cm dilated and my water had broken so they didn’t wait for the doctor to admit me. She had already called them anyway. They wheeled me down the hall and I met my labor and delivery nurse who was just coming on shift. The nurses from the night before were leaving as I came in. Jeanine was wonderful! She put in my IV and the order for the epidural before my doctor even got there. She had a nursing student that day as well, so she was introduced. My doctor arrived a little before 8 to go over something I had to sign and then she left because her on call was over at 8 am.

Dr Rohn came in right before my epidural. The anesthesiologist was great. He explained everything before and while he was putting in the epidural. Then there is a button to press if you need more epidural. I don’t remember that with Clarissa. My epidural was good though. After about 10 minutes, I couldn’t feel anything and I could barely move my legs. I did throw up though.

With Clarissa, I got to 10 cm pretty quickly after my epidural, so we settled in and thought Tiffany would come pretty quickly. I took a nap. By 10 am, I was at 9 cm, but my cervix was still really high and my contractions were slowing down. We decided to start a pitocin drip to get me to the end. I didn’t protest the pitocin because I already had the epidural so I knew I would not really feel it.

We tried the peanut ball next. I had to lay on my side with the ball between my legs. It was supposed to open up my pelvis. I was able to sleep some, which was great because I really had not slept much the previous two nights. Two hours later, we switched sides. At this point, my epidural was becoming less effective so I pressed the button for more and started throwing up so they gave me something for the nausea. By this point, I was at 10 cm, but my cervix was still pretty high.

Tiffany had turned herself to be sunny side up like Clarissa was. My ob tried to rotate her both ways but she kept going back to that position. For whatever reason, that is my body’s default position for labor, even though Tiffany didn’t start labor that way.

Next we tried the princess position. The hospital bed was pretty cool. It sat me straight up and then lowered my legs. It was supposed to use gravity to lower the baby into the birth canal. An hour later, my cervix was still high. I pressed the epidural button and started throwing up again. Clearly my body does not like anesthesia, at least not on an empty stomach.

We even tried pushing through a couple of contractions to see if that would push her head lower.

By 5pm, Dr Rohn said there were two more things we could try to make my cervix do what it needed to do. The first was trendelenburg, which is where they lay you back and put your head lower than your feet.

During that time, my aunt who was watching Clarissa called because Clarissa missed us and wanted to come home. I tried to explaining that Tiffany wasn’t here yet and also tried to convince her to stay one more night and come home in the morning after Tiffany was born. She wasn’t having it. Tim and I decided to change our plans. Tim would go home with Clarissa after the birth and Tiffany and I would stay at the hospital.

Tim did a great job during my labor. He got the puke bucket every time, brought me water, and helped position me each time I could not move myself.

When Tim called my aunt back, my doctor came in to check me again. There was one more thing to try but if that didn’t work, we needed to do a caesarean section because Tiffany’s heart rate was all over the place. Tim and I had already discussed a c section and so I told the doctor we would just do that. This way, Clarissa could just come to the hospital, meet her sister, and still go to bed at a decent time. I was concerned about being by myself in the hospital for recovery but decided that I would just have to depend on the nurses at night when Tim and Clarissa went home.

The preparation for a c section really doesn’t take as long as you would think. We decided on the cesarean about 630 pm. Dr Rohn explained what she was going to do and asked if there was anyone I wanted to call to be in the operating room since Tim was not going to join me for that. The anesthesia nurse came in, introduced himself, and explained his role. The nurse shaved the site of the incision. Everyone put on scrubs and we headed to the operating room.

They put up a cloth screen and did their prep while the nurse gave me more anesthesia. I, of course, started throwing up again and shaking until they gave me more nausea medicine and a heated blanket. Once my body calmed down a bit, the doctor did the surgery pretty quickly.

Tiffany Grace was born at 7:15 pm on Saturday, September 21. She was 22.5 inches long and weighed 8 pounds 10.6 ounces.

I heard her cry and they showed her to me briefly before they took her to her corner of the room to do their thing. I was vaguely aware of them doing a lot of suction and things in between my throwing up, shaking, and falling asleep. I couldn’t see much from the angle I was laying, but when I asked if she was okay, they said yes.

They then wheeled Tiffany and I back to our labor room where Tim, Clarissa, two of my aunts, and my uncle were waiting. Everyone was able to see Tiffany and Clarissa touched her, but she was laying on me for some skin to skin. I was falling asleep and was so worried that Tiffany would fall off but the nurse assured me that she would not.

After the family left, my wonderful recovery nurse helped me nurse Tiffany. Then they moved us to our postpartum recovery room.

My next nurse was great too. I couldn’t really get out of bed, but I still had a cathedar so it wasn’t a problem. I could get Tiffany out of the basinett but I couldn’t put her back in. The nurses were great about coming when I pressed the call button so they would put her back and swaddle her for me.

On Sunday, they did some blood work and decided that I needed a transfusion because my iron was very low after my c section. After my transfusion, they took out my cathedar and I was able to start getting out of the bed.

Tim and Clarissa came to visit for the afternoon. I woke Tiffany up so that Clarissa could interact with her. But Tiffany was fussy so Clarissa wanted to leave.

Monday was a pretty chill day at the hospital and then Tuesday we went home. Clarissa has decided that she likes Tiffany now. She has tried calming her down when she cries and tries to make her laugh. She likes to hold her sometimes too.

My labor with Clarissa was about 51 hours. Tiffany was about 44 hours but ended in a c section. Tiffany was much bigger than Clarissa, so I think pushing would have been a problem anyway. If my ob with Clarissa had been as attentive as this ob, I probably would have had a c section the first time as well.

The nurses and staff at this hospital were way more friendly and attentive. So although I had a c section and I was by myself for the majority of my hospital recovery, I think this was a way better experience than my first labor and delivery.

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

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I heard Kristen Welch on a podcast once. She and her family run a nonprofit called Mercy House that helps pregnant girls in Africa and provides jobs for these women through their Fair Trade Friday program. She has also written a few books. I recently read Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. Kristen wrote this book with her thoughts about how she is trying to do this with her three teenageers and has some great thoughts.

The most convicting thing I read was probably this:

“As uncomfortable as it sounds, parents who want less entitled kids have to be less entitled themselves, and parents who want to raise more grateful kids need to start by living more grateful lives.”

My kids aren’t going to learn to be thankful from watching tv or hanging out with their friends. They are going to learn it (or not learn it) from me. I need to get back to my blessings jar or thankfulness journal and help Clarissa do something similar.

She quotes Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane, “The only thing a child is really entitled to is his parents’ love. Not to keep up with the Joneses. Not a brand new bike or iPad. Just love. Every child deserves to be loved by his or her parents. If a child has your unconditional love, he has the greatest asset in the world. If we as parents can realize that it’s love that our children need most, and not things, we will stop trying to buy our children’s happiness with possessions.”

We all want to give our kids good things. The struggle for me as a mom is figuring out how much is too much. I want to bless my children, but I don’t want them to be spoiled brats either. I want them to be thankful for what they have and want to help others.

Some of my other favorite thoughts from the book:

  • “All children need to be bored… Because that’s when they will discover they don’t need stuff to fill their time. They don’t need a plan for entertainment. They can create their own.”
  • “I believe one of the ways children learn submission to God and doing what He says is by being taught to submit to the authority of their parents. So yes, require it, but do so with love and grace because deep down, I think our kids want rules and guidance and the structure obedience brings.”
  • “The bottom line is this : All the right from wrong teaching, character building, faith instilling, intentional parenting that you’ve made a priority in your home is producing children who do not fit into the mold our society has deemed normal. And it leaves us with children who sometimes feel left out, different, alienated, and even alone. But this doesn’t mean we have failed them. It’s through this kind of struggle that their own faith is forged and deepens and their relationship with us – – bumpy days included– grows. But mostly, it makes them aware of the costs of following Jesus.”

M. O. M. – Master Organizer of Mayhem book review

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M.O.M. Master Organizer of Mayhem can be a quick and easy read. I was on the launch team and got behind so I read the whole thing over a weekend. It’s doable and there are some great suggestions in here. But, I don’t recommend reading it this way. Each chapter has an action step. When you breeze through the book, you don’t have time to do all of the action steps that will really help you organize things for your family. I recommend taking your time to get through this book so it is more beneficial. She gives great suggestions on decluttering, organizing, meal planning, laundry, and getting kids to do chores.

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Some of my favorite thoughts from the book:

  • “Being organized does not mean we have to have the perfect home, sterile and clean, at all times. Clean is good, but dust bunnies, crumbs, and spilled milk happen…organization is about increasing the efficiency in our home so that we can maximize our time with our family and for other priorities.”
  • You can’t have everything perfect all the time. Ask your husband what things are important to him. Focus on those things. (I need to ask Tim this again.)
  • Keep a master list of projects room by room to refer to instead of just reacting to problems you come across. Pray for God to give you a vision for each room.
  • “Creating efficiency in our home is all about finding the right rhythm so that our family can productively perform the tasks, chores, and routines that need to be done regularly.”
  • “The basic principle for toy management is that every toy in the house needs a home – and your child needs to know where that home is.”

 

Easy Grammar Review

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Clarissa really just started to read this summer, so we haven’t focused much on grammar yet for her schooling. Then I saw that Easy Grammar Systems had a first grade curriculum available for review. We decided to try Easy Grammar: Grade 1.

We received the Teacher Edition for Easy Grammar: Grade 1. There is also a Student Edition available, but if you only have one student you don’t really need the Student Edition, as your child can write in the Teacher Edition. If you have multiple children of the same grade level, you would need to buy the Student Edition for them to work in though.

The Teacher Edition was very helpful. It had several sections. The first part explains the different concepts that will be covered in each lesson: capitalization, punctuation, lesson, and sentence. The next section gives some suggestions for teaching each concept. Then there is a Scope and Sequence included for each concept. Each day also has a more specific lesson plan listed for each day. The Teacher Edition concludes with the answer key. The answers for each lesson are written out for you.

The Student Workbook is in the middle of the Teacher Edition (before the answer key). It has 180 days of work for each of the four concepts: capitalization, punctuation, lesson, and sentence.

There were several things that I appreciate about this curriculum. First, it is predictable. Clarissa knows that there are going to be four parts to each lesson and they will come in the same order each day. Second, it builds appropriately for the child’s development and grade level. At least for first grade, it starts off easy and gets more complex. The student has the option to trace the sentences and words in the beginning which is appropriate for the beginning of first grade. By lesson 50, the student needs to copy the sentence, which they should be able to do a few months in to first grade. In lesson 90, the student starts to combine sentences, which they can learn to do halfway through first grade.

Clarissa actually enjoys this grammar curriculum, which is great. I didn’t know what she would think since we have not really done much in the way of grammar before this review. She thought it was pretty easy to learn and each lesson was quick. The first few lesson only take about five minutes to complete so it builds her confidence and doesn’t take long. She was also happy that there were things to trace so she didn’t really have to think about how to write each letter. For a beginning writer, that is a big deal and makes the lesson more enjoyable.

Because Clarissa and I both liked this curriculum, we’re going to continue using it for the remainder of  first grade. There are 180 lessons in all so that will take us through the entire school year. Because Easy Grammar Systems makes multiple grade levels of this curriculum, this may be something that we can stick with for several years.

We worked on the first grade curriculum, but there were several other grade levels and other grammar curriculum available from this company. You can read about the experience of other families and grade levels here.

Easy Grammar, Daily GRAMS & Easy Grammar Ultimate {Easy Grammar Systems Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

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I was a senior in high school on 9/11. I was in my high school government class when the first plane hit the twin towers. I didn’t know anything had happened until third block when the principal made an announcement on the loudspeaker. At that point, the TVs went on and we started discussing what had happened in New York and the Pentagon.

I didn’t know anyone currently living in New York. I was sad for the people involved but never really stopped to think about all of the repercussions for everyone traveling that day since my life didn’t really change.

I was listening to a podcast this summer where the host recommended the book The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede. My local library had a copy and I decided to check it out. I was so fascinated by this book that I read it in a few evenings.

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

After the planes hit the twin towers, US airspace was closed for several days. I never stopped to think about what happened to all of the planes that were in the air at that time. Most of the planes heading from Europe to the United States were diverted to Canada. Several of them went to an airport in Gander, Newfoundland.

Gander used to be a big airport. Due to it’s location it was a very popular fuel stop for planes heading from the United States or Canada on it’s way to or returning from Europe during the World Wars. The runways are actually the biggest in the world because of the types of planes that would go through there. With the advance in technology, the airport isn’t used very often anymore because planes don’t need a fuel stop there on their way to or from Europe.

On 9/11 38 of the 250 planes that were diverted to Canada landed at the Gander Airport. There was one hotel nearby that slept about 500 and that was to be reserved for the pilots and flight crews so that they could be near the airport, rested, and ready to go at a moment’s notice once the airspace opened up. The passengers were bused (by school bus drivers who stopped their strike to volunteer to drive them) all over the island to small town churches, schools, and lions clubs. Each flight of passengers was sent to the same location. The population of the island doubled the day the passengers landed.

The people on the island were so hospitable to the passengers on these flights. Everyday citizens brought food, sheets, and towels to the makeshift shelters for these passengers that they had never met. The pharmacies donated the medications that the passengers needed free of cost. The local stores donated things like the toothbrushes, shampoo,and  diapers the passengers needed.

The book is divided into chapters based on each day during the week following the tragedy of 9/11. The passengers arrived in Gander on Tuesday and the last passengers left Monday morning. It chronicles several different people over the different days from a couple who was bringing their daughter home after adopting her from Kazakhstan to a couple on their way home from a trip to Ireland who had a son who was a firefighter in New York City.

I was fascinated by the stories of the passengers as well as how the town interacted with them. One plane was on it’s way from Europe to Orlando and several children were planning to go to Disney World for their birthday. When the staff of the school that those families were staying heard that, they set up a carnival for those kids, complete with a birthday cake and presents so that they still had a good birthday. Several families opened their homes to let passengers come in and take showers. People volunteered to drive passengers anywhere on the island they needed to go to run errands (think buy underware from walmart).

Most families in the book had a happy ending. They were incredibly inconvenienced but their lives mostly remained the same when they eventually made it home. There were a few stories of families who lost loved ones in the attacks but didn’t know for sure until they were home weeks later.

Say Kimchi: Tips and Tricks for Living in South Korea

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We lived in South Korea for four years and when new people met me they asked me so many questions. I answered the same questions all the time. There are many forums and facebook pages for military spouses. There aren’t as many resources for civilian employees and families. You can ask questions on the active duty pages, but the answers are sometimes different than what you need. People kept telling me that I should write a book. So I did.

Say Kimchi: Tips and Tricks for living in South Korea by [Faust, Suzanne]

Say Kimchi: Tips and Tricks for living in South Korea gives you the information you need to know before you arrive in Korea about things like insurance, schools, and what to pack. It also includes random things you wouldn’t think of like:

  • You need a VPN to watch Hulu (or American Netflix).
  • Don’t choose media mail for shipping unless you are willing to wait 6-8 weeks for your items to arrive.
  • Shutterfly pictures and Christmas cards ship by media mail, so you will need to order by the end of October if you want them to arrive early enough for you to send them out on time.

This book was written specifically for DoD Civilians (GS and NAF employees) but it also includes helpful information for active duty and contractor families. If you have a friend thinking about coming to Korea, show them my book. It’s easier than reading every blog post I have written about Korea; though they are welcome to do that too.

Download Say Kimchi Tips and Tricks for living in South Korea

Clarissa’s birthday museum adventure

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Every time we take Tim to work, we see the Washington Monument in the distance. Clarissa gets really excited and points and shouts, “Look! It’s the tall tower!” When we asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday adventure she said she wanted to see the Dinosaur Museum and the Tall Tower.

Her adventure day was rainy. And we told her that we could go and see the outside of the Tall Tower but the inside would not be open until next month. So she decided that we could skip the Washington Monument this time and go back in the fall so we could see the whole thing.

We started the day by taking the same bus that Tim takes to work every morning. Then we took the metro into Washington DC. Our first stop was the National Air and Space Museum. Clarissa loved it. She thought the space shuttles were amazing and she enjoyed the kid exhibits that taught about friction and flight. She was even able to climb into a cockpit and pretend to fly an airplane. Some of the exhibits in the kid section were out of order and they are renovating the museum right now, so we will probably need to go back again to see everything.

We crossed the National Mall and saw the Capital Building on one side and the Washington Monument on the other, so she did get to see the Tall Tower from a distance.

Next, we headed to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Clarissa was able to see her dinosaurs. But she also really liked both the mammal and bird exhibits to see real animals instead of just bones. She was really excited about the dioramas in the fossil section as well. We didn’t head upstairs to see the bugs because we were getting hungry, so I’m sure we’ll be back.

We went to Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. All three of us enjoy the food there so we knew it would be a good choice.

After lunch, Clarissa asked for one more museum. We decided to the try the International Spy Museum. I’m not going to lie. This museum is pricey. Clarissa was free because she was 6 but the adult prices are over $20, even with a discount. Clarissa loved it, so I guess it was worth it. But Tim and I would have preferred to go by ourselves to really enjoy the experience.

When you go into the museum, the staff hands you a lanyard that you scan into the computer. The computer gives you a secret identity. Then, they usher you into a room to watch a movie about being a spy before releasing you into the general museum. There were a few computers to get clues and work on your mission. However, it was a really crowded, rainy, Friday in the summer, so we couldn’t get near the computers. The exhibits were very informative, but Clarissa blew through them because it required a lot of reading and she just isn’t there yet. So we looked at some pictures and spy stuff, but didn’t really get the full experience.

The next floor wasn’t quite as crowded, so we did a little bit with the computers and reviewed some clues. Clarissa was excited to find her clue and scan her lanyard. The exhibits were very informative and had video as well as text on the walls. I think this museum is geared toward tweens/teens and adults. Clarissa wasn’t afraid of anything at the museum, but I think she would have gotten way more out of it if she was older.

After the third museum, the pregnant lady was pretty tired, so we headed back. We took the metro back to the Pentagon and then the bus back home. On the walk home she said, “This was the best day ever!”

We wanted to watch a spy movie but couldn’t think of one that was really appropriate for Clarissa (other than Bolt which she’s seen a hundred times) so we ended up watching some White Collar. She was really into it after the museum so we’ll have to find a spy movie for her.

Clarissa is 6!

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Most days, I feel like six years has flown by. But in other ways, I feel like we’ve lived so much life in those six years that it’s hard to remember life before Clarissa was born.

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The nice thing about having a blog (and Facebook memories) is that it’s fun to be able to look back and remember things that have happened. So I’ve spent some time reading Clarissa memories this week. Clarissa let me read some of them to her and she laughed at some of the posts. Some things I had forgotten about. Others I am surprised she still does. For example, I think that the list of foods she will actually eat gets smaller each year and she still says “back pag” and “sun scream.”

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But in other ways, Clarissa has really grown. We did actually do kindergarten at home  and this summer she started to read on her own. She really will only read during “school time” and prefers me to read books to her. She also refuses to sound things out when she is writing. She asks me to spell things for her so that they can be correct. But I’ll take it… She is looking forward to continuing first grade at home this fall after Tiffany arrives.

She is really excited to be a big sister. I think she will be a good helper. And the six year age gap means that they will be in different stages all the time so I think sibling rivalry will be less. She still loves her bunk bed but is adamant that she doesn’t want to share her room which is completely different than last year.

Clarissa still loves playing in water. In Korea, she mostly played in the bath tub. In America, there are more options. Our townhouse complex has some communal hoses that the kids use to spray each other or for sprinklers. She never experienced this in Korea and this is one of her favorite things. When we went to Virginia Beach, she loved jumping over the waves in the ocean. She has enjoyed playing in the pool this month with her new co-op friends. I think we need to invest in swimming lessons next year once Tiffany allows us to be on a schedule.

This is only her second birthday in America, though it is the first one that she will remember (we moved to South Korea when she was 18 months old). She spent the day at the pool with her new friends from co-op and all afternoon she kept saying to me, “This is the best day of my entire life!” Apparently when you are 6, swimming with your friends is important.

Clarissa has really been settling into life in America. We have been here about three months and she really enjoys the fact that most people speak English and that we have a car during the week to go on adventures whenever we want to. She has made friends with several neighbors and plays outside whenever she can. She makes a new friend every time we go to the playground. I am looking forward to fall when we have weekly park days to see the same group of kids each week to build deeper relationships.

Clarissa also is excited about being only a few hours away from each set of grandparents. She has already seen each set twice and has made some memories with them as well as her cousin.

Clarissa enjoys our new church. She has a few friends in her Sunday school class and looks forward to learning her memory verse each week. She continues to enjoy reading Bible stories and doing crafts at home. She is interested to know if our neighborhood friends love Jesus and will ask people outright if they love God or go to church. She even tried to baptize herself in the bathtub this year.

She isn’t as in to toys right now. She is all about her stuffed animals though. Everywhere we go, she needs to bring a backpack full of stuffed animals. They don’t always leave the backpack during the adventure. But they are available if she wants them. She tells people, “I have enough animals to make my own zoo!” And she’s probably right. She often takes containers and fills them with animals to make a zoo in her bedroom or the living room. The animals need to look real so they can’t wear clothes or have tags on them. The tags of new animals have to get cut off in the car. She also says, “I love all animals, ocean animals, and bugs infinity.”

Clarissa is also very into dressing up. While it’s true, she would rather wear a skirt or dress than shorts, that’s not what I mean. She often is in costume. If we watch a movie, she will often pretend to be the main character in the movie later in the day or the next day. She needs a costume and accessories to look like the main character. If the colors aren’t correct, she will get upset. She’s a bit of a perfectionist. She also gets very upset about being a princess. She says she is a warrior instead.

The funniest thing she says right now is “I am the mayor of Crazy Town.” I don’t remember exactly how that started. I think Tim said something to her once because she was being silly but she ran with it. She will tell you that she is the mayor of Crazy Town, Mittens is the mayor of Mewkins Town, Mommy is the mayor of Cooking Town, and Daddy is the mayor of Electronics Town. I wonder what Tiffany will be the mayor of?

 

A Pennsylvania Adventure

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We decided that it would be easier to visit Pennsylvania before Tiffany was born than to try to come to the big family Thanksgiving meal with a two month old. We knew we wanted to stop somewhere along the way to break up the trip. Tim had not had a meal at Shady Maple since before he went into the Air Force, so we decided to stop there for lunch as our halfway point.

I saw a billboard on the way that said that Shady Maple Smorgasbord was the largest buffet in America. I believe it. The building itself was huge. There was plenty of food. You stand in line and they seat you. The waitress asks if you have eaten there before and explains the four different grill stations as well as the salad, dessert, and drinks. Then you get to go through the line and serve yourself. You leave dirty dishes on the table and get new ones each time you go through the line.

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We all really enjoyed our lunch. Clarissa said we should go back to eat there again. There is a set price for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is a different price each night of the week because there is a different special. Clarissa was half price because she is 5.

There were several other attractions nearby. The Shady Maple also has a Farmer’s Market, a Gift Shop, and a General Store. We went to the gift shop which is located under the Smorgasbord. It was huge! There were so many different items for sale. There was a huge toy section, pop culture pictures (think Beatles and Star Trek), Christmas items, and a large selection of personalized items. As usual, there was nothing that said either Clarissa or Suzanne. But there were several items available for Tim and Tiffany. I couldn’t talk Tim into buying this mug though.

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After lunch we headed to Tim’s parents house. We hung out with them for a bit before we all headed to his aunt’s house for dinner and some pool time. There was also a birthday dessert for Tim and Clarissa.

On Saturday, we went to Knoebels. Most of Tim’s extended family (including himself) have spent many summers working at Knoebels as lifeguards and in food service. So it is kind of like a part of family history to be able to go there. Parking and admission to the park are free. Then, you pay for food, rides, and games. Veterans and active duty service members can get a free book of $20 ride tickets by showing your military ID or DD214.

At first, Clarissa wasn’t super excited about any of the rides. She did some of the games that require quarters like using an excavator or driving a car. She got excited about the trains so we rode the train twice. She was also really excited about the bounce house and the hand cars. The food was good and the prices weren’t awful for an amusement park.

After Knoebels, we took Clarissa to play at Fort Discovery in Sunbury. It was a wonderful playground and she would have stayed all day if we let her. It is located right next to a community center and baseball field, so there are bathrooms and parking available.

Next, we headed to Shikellamy State Park. Tim and I actually got engaged at this park ten years ago. He had originally planned to take me to the overlook to propose, but the road was still closed for the winter so he had to settle for the marina. We went to the overlook for the first time Saturday. The views were beautiful. And you can see the marina from the overlook so that was fun to be able to point out the spot to Clarissa.

On Sunday, we headed home a different way so that we could stop by Clarksburg Premium Outlets near Gaithersburg, MD. I read that there was a STEAM Fair that day so we thought Clarissa would enjoy the festivities. There were a few fun events and the shopping was decent too. We got some decent deals at Motherhood Maternity and Columbia.

Another nature center adventure

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In Korea, if they were going to cut the water off at the apartment for some reason, they might tell you the day before. Or an hour before. Or they may just shut the water off…At our new place, they have shut the water off twice for repairs. But they always give about a week’s notice and say the water will be off from 9-5, when it’s really only off from 9-12.

We needed an adventure day for the planned water outage on Thursday. I planned trips to two different libraries to return and pick up requested books. We had a few errands to run and I had an ob appointment in the afternoon. But we had this glorious three hour window to work with.

Clarissa and I decided to check out Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale. The parking lot is rather small, though there does appear to be some street parking about a half mile down the road. It was also really easy to find in Waze. There is a large brown sign right as you get off the highway as well that points you in the correct direction.

The Nature Center looks like it is in the middle of the woods. There is a butterfly garden sign as you walk to the building. We didn’t see any butterflies though.

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The outside of the building was really cool. It had several different birds and animals and their wingspan. The largest was a  Quatzalcoatalus (a type of dinosaur) and the smallest was a humming bird. Clarissa really enjoyed measuring her arms to see which animals she was bigger than or smaller than.

Inside the Nature Center itself were several small live animals (snakes, frogs, and turtles). There were also several stuffed birds and mammals around the room as well as interactive displays. Clarissa’s favorite was either feeling the mammal fur or the microscope slides of the insect parts. She really did enjoy the entire thing.

I thought this whale vertebrae was pretty cool. Clarissa was amazed that one back bone could be so big.

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After we looked around the Nature Center, Clarissa was able to choose a prize. We had a coupon from completing the summer reading coupon that said you could pick a prize at the nature center. She chose a plastic bug (they also had spider rings and magnifying glasses).

We brought a picnic lunch and went exploring for a place to eat. There was a playground on the property, but it honestly looked pretty old and dirty. There was also a place with benches for a campfire area. We also found picnic benches really close to the Nature Center. But we ended up eating near the pond and play area behind the Nature Center. Clarissa enjoyed climbing on things and looking at the water.

After lunch, Clarissa had a choice between walking on one of the nature trails and playing with the toys inside the Nature Center. She chose the toys. She spent about a half hour playing with costumes and puppets. We also noticed some educational toys at the end with puzzles and stories.

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Clarissa said this Nature Center was better than the other one we went to and says we should come back a lot. I informed her that there are about ten of these within a half hour of our house so we need to check out the other ones before she can really choose a favorite. Hidden Oaks is only about twenty minutes from our house, so I’m sure we’ll be back at some point anyway.

The Nature Center is open from 10-5 during the week (except they are closed on Tuesdays) and from 12-5 on the weekend.

Memoria Press Review

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Clarissa and I love books. There are three summer reading programs in our area that we are eligible for and we completed the reading requirements for the entire summer of reading in less than two weeks! So I was very excited when we were given the opportunity to review a literature program. We received The StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key and the More StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key which is the entire first grade literature curriculum from Memoria Press.

I will say that we did not use Memoria Press for kindergarten so Clarissa is at a different reading level than what is probably suggested. For the beginning of The StoryTime Treasures, which is the first grade curriculum, students should be able to read most of these literature books. We completed the first unit, which was four weeks of Little Bear. Clarissa was not ready to read this book on her own. So for our review, I read aloud the book to her and she completed the activities that went along with the story.

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Clarissa really enjoyed the story of Little Bear. She was frustrated that the curriculum wanted us to take so long to finish the book as she would rather read the book in one sitting, even if it is 63 pages. She didn’t like breaking it down into one chapter per week. So if your child would rather read the entire book in one sitting, this curriculum may be frustrating for your family.

I did like that there were several activities for each chapter of Little Bear. The activities were also similar from week to week so that Clarissa kind of knew what to expect before I explained what we would do that day. On the first day, there was come copy work. Even though Clarissa could not read most of the words on her own, I would read them to her, she would repeat them, and she would still write them down for handwriting practice. The second day had comprehension questions about the story. I would ask Clarissa the questions and transcribe her answers in the student guide.

Day three was a section called Let’s Talk, which had some great open ended discussion questions to help Clarissa relate the story passage to something in her life. For example, “Have you ever had a surprise party? Talk about a time someone surprised you.” I liked that it was something to make her think instead of just recall questions. Day four was Let’s Learn and had some kind of grammar lesson. During Little Bear, we learned about capitalization and punctuation marks. Day Five was Just for Fun so there was usually something to draw and write about.

I also appreciated that the student guide was spiral bound. It made it easier to flip pages and not have to tear pages out and lose them. The teacher edition was helpful because it had a picture of the student edition on the lesson page. There were also helpful hints, phonics ideas, and words to introduce to your child listed on the lesson pages. I did really like the activities that went along with the story so I think I will go back to this in the winter or spring when Clarissa is a more fluent reader. The list of books is great and filled with classics like Make Way for Ducklings, Frog and Toad are Friends, Stone Soup, Miss Rumphius, The Story about Ping, and Caps for Sale.

Several lessons reference Classical Phonics as well as Phonics Flashcards which are on the list for Memoria Press Kindergarten. So if I were actually going to purchase The StoryTime Treasures, I would purchase Classical Phonics and possibly the flashcards as well. I am interested to read the reviews about the other grade levels to see how they compare to first grade. Read the reviews of other crew members here.

First to Tenth Grade Literature Guides {Memoria Press Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Library and Educational Services Review

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When I saw the write up for this vendor my eyes got really big. If chosen for this review, we would get to choose one Lifehouse Theater CD, one title from the Who Was… series, and $60 of whatever books from the Reinforced Hardcover Nonfiction Library Binding we wanted from the Library and Educational Services LLC website. This review really was a homeschool mom’s dream. It was hard to narrow down our favorite choices.

 

We listened to The Emperor’s New Clothes for our Lifehouse Theater CD and really enjoyed it.

I read this story as a kid, but Clarissa had never heard it. This version of the Emperor’s New Clothes definitely had more Christian values than I remember from the book that I read as a child, which I really appreciated.

Ned is raised by his Christian aunt and uncle who make him see the king and confess that he has stolen/eaten pomegranates from the king’s trees. As a punishment, Ned must work for the king as a page boy. In order to make himself sound more important the king changes his own title to emperor. He doesn’t ever remember Ned’s name and is constantly calling him something different. Eventually, some royal tailors come to town and promise to make the king new fashionable clothes but “only those who are very intelligent or fit for their jobs can see the special magical cloth.”

Naturally, the king and all of the advisers keep saying that they can see the wonderful clothes when they can’t because they don’t want to appear foolish. But Ned knows the king looks ridiculous because he isn’t really wearing any clothes. In the end, Ned is promoted to Royal Truth Teller because the king can trust his opinions. The king even writes letters to the nearby kingdoms to warn them about the tailors so that they will not make the same mistake that he did, even though he may appear foolish.

Clarissa and I had some great conversations about this story. It was nice to be able to pause the story to explain things to her. At first, she thought it was too long so I would recommend breaking it up into smaller sections for younger children. It would be great to listen to on short car trips while running errands. But in the end, she really enjoyed the story and wants to explore some of the other stories in the series.

Since we moved to Northern Virginia this summer, we chose Where is the White House? for our Who Was…? selection. I wasn’t sure if Clarissa would be super interested because it seems like it would be way above her reading level. However, as a read aloud, she loved it! She would have been content for me to read the entire 108 page book in one sitting, but since it was broken up into chapters we read it over several days.

There were several black and white illustrations sprinkled throughout the book. She also thought the stories about who decorated each part of the White House were interesting. Several sections of the White House have been rebuilt because of fire or because someone wanted a change. For example, during the War of 1812, Dolley Madison saved the portrait of George Washington before escaping the British. It was almost dinner time when they arrived, so the soldiers actually ate the dinner prepared at the President’s table before setting fire to the White House. Now we have to make a field trip to the White House this fall so that we can see what we read about.

The last part of the review was the hardest to decide. Library and Educational Services LLC had so many resources to choose from. For review purposes, I was to choose up to $60 of books from their Reinforced Hardcover Nonfiction Library Binding section. But they also offer paperback books and other resources at wholesale prices. You really do get a lot of books for the price that you pay. The website was laid out very nicely in that you could look up books by either subject, grade level, or type of binding.

Because I have already made a tentative plan of what Clarissa and I are going to study for first grade, I was able to go to the first grade books and choose books based on our intended curriculum. Otherwise I think that there were so many choices that it would have been hard to choose what I wanted. They had joke books, biographies, general social studies, animals, and general science available for first grade. Each grade level had quite the selection.

Clarissa was so excited to receive these books in the mail that we have already read most of them before we are studying these topics. She was really excited about the books about American landmarks. The books were actually written on a first grade level so they had simple words that made it easy for her to understand the material. There were actual photographs in the books so she could easily recognize what was happening. It was just enough information to get her excited about the topics. We have since been to our local library to read more books about landmarks because she was so excited about these books.

I found the Good for Me series about food groups in the second grade section so the words are a little bigger and the text is more complex. But I really like the way the books are laid out. They have photographs, charts, bold words, and headings so it is easy to teach the different parts of a nonfiction text.

I am excited to read the reviews from the other crew members to see which books they ended up with for their students. I think that we will order books from Library and Educational Services LLC in the future.

Wholesale Books for Your Homeschool {Library and Educational Services LLC Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

We couldn’t wait until Christmas

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We came to Virginia Beach for a visit Memorial Day weekend. It was nice to travel as a family, especially since Tim had not been to Virginia Beach in four years. We said goodbye and planned to return for Christmas. But after our weekend trip, Clarissa and I still felt like there were other things that we wanted to do before Christmas.

Last week, Clarissa and I took the train from Alexandria to Norfolk to visit my family again. We had a great trip.

On Monday, Grammy, Clarissa, and I went to the Virginia Beach oceanfront. There was a parking lot next to the 31st street garage that charged $10 to park all day and was practically empty when we arrived about 11.

We almost didn’t go because it was so hot outside and I didn’t think that Clarissa would last long. But Clarissa had the time of her life in the water. We taught her how to jump over the waves, though it required some assistance from Mommy or Grammy when we went deeper. But she loved it and never wanted to leave.

On Monday evening, my best friend and my mom threw a baby shower at my parents’ house. It was fun to see some out of town relatives and a few close friends. Clarissa had a great time with one of her best friends as well (a perk to your friends having daughters of similar ages).

Tuesday we got to play some with my niece and then met my friend and her daughter at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. It was super hot and humid outside but we had a wonderful time. We took the tram to the children’s garden and the girls played in the splash pad there. There were bathrooms nearby as well as a yurt that had a changing room.

Once they were sufficiently wet, we explored the different sections of the children’s garden. There were several sections, each with a different continent. Each continent had indigenous plants as well as a scavenger hunt where you could search for 1-3 of the animals listed. There was a paper near the bathroom that explains the scavenger hunt. When you find the animal cut out, you stamp your paper with the stamp provided at each continent. When you finish, there is a tent with a worker who will give you a prize. You get to plant a seed in a biodegradable cup and bring it home to plant at your house. The girls really enjoyed that activity.

There was also an alphabet garden that showed plants that started with different letters. Several had signs that said “please touch” which was a pleasant surprise. Most of them were herbs and plants that smelled good.

We then walked to the butterfly garden and butterfly house. There was also a butterfly maze but it was almost 100 degrees outside so we skipped it.

The butterfly house was not at all what I expected, but it was great. It was not air conditioned as it was pretty open with mesh around it, almost like a green house. There were plants inside as well as caterpillars, butterflies, and a mother/son volunteer team who were wonderful! They helped the girls hold a butterfly and explained things about butterfly life cycles. We learned a lot and really enjoyed it. If you live in Hampton Roads, she recommended a Monarch Butterfly Tag and Release event in September. She said come to the early morning session though because it is very crowded by afternoon.

Tuesday evening two of my aunts came to dinner. We had a great visit with them. Clarissa had a blast learning to play “telephone.”

On Wednesday, Clarissa got to play with the sprinkler and the hose at my parents’ house. She had a great time getting all wet.

Wednesday night, I got to have a dinner date with Shannon at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

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Thursday was more low key. We spent the day with my parents and my niece watching movies and playing games. Thursday night, Pappy got out his guitar and Clarissa got to dance around. So many memories of my childhood were spent dancing around that living room so I am glad Clarissa was able to experience that too.

We took the train home on Friday and had a rather uneventful ride. We made sure not to sit in the quiet car this time so it was more enjoyable.

Taking an Amtrak train

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Since moving to Northern Virginia, we have maintained our one car lifestyle. The big difference is that in South Korea, Tim had the car most of the time to get to work and Clarissa and I took public transportation. Here, Tim takes the bus to work and Clarissa and I keep the car during the day.

Clarissa and I went to Virginia Beach this week to visit my family. We didn’t want Tim to be stranded without a car all week so we took the train. It was pretty easy to go online and book tickets. The train is pretty cheap too. It only cost $138 total round trip for the two of us.

If you are taking the train from Alexandria, there is hardly any parking. There are a few spots you can pay for and two spots for 30 minute parking. The station does have a bathroom but there isn’t a screen to tell you where to go. You can sit inside or outside. A few minutes before the train arrives there will be an announcement on the loudspeaker that tells you the train number and where the train is going.

There are not assigned seats. You simply pay for a reserved seat in either business class or coach. Then when the train comes, you find an open seat and sit there. You are responsible for your luggage. But the conductor did carry mine up the steps for me. There are racks at the front of each car or above your seats to place your luggage or carry on. Once the train starts moving, the conductor will come by and scan your electronic ticket and put a piece of paper above your seat so that they know when you are supposed to get off the train.

Apparently there is something called a quiet car on an Amtrak train. Often it is the train right behind business class but it can be located anywhere on the train. If you choose to sit in the quiet car, you have to be quiet the whole time. No talking on your cell phone and no using electronic devices without headphones. I didn’t see any signs about this when we sat down but we were informed by another passenger that we were sitting in the quiet car and so we had a quieter trip than I anticipated. There are small blue signs on the ceiling as you enter and exit the car but I didn’t see them until later when I was actually looking for them.

There is a cafe car on the train that sells food. You can buy things like personal pan cheese pizza ($7), hotdogs ($3.50), chips ($2.50), candy ($3), and drinks. The prices are not awful but definitely more than you would pay at the grocery store. You are allowed to bring your own food and drink on the train but they cannot refrigerate or heat up food for you that is not bought in the cafe car.

There is also a restroom in each train car. They are a decent size and fairly clean as well. Our train starts in Boston and goes all the way to Norfolk. We got on in Alexandria so someone must clean the train as they go because I thought it was clean for our entire trip.

Not all of the train doors open at each stop. You have to listen to the announcement to figure out which car to go to. There is also an announcement at each stop that will tell you the current stop, the next stop, and how many minutes until you arrive at the next stop.

Will we ride Amtrak again? Absolutely. You can eat, chat, and go to the bathroom whenever you want and it doesn’t add time to your trip. We will just make sure we do not sit in the quiet car. Though I will say that Clarissa did very well. The same passenger that was upset with us in the beginning walked by as he exited the train and said, “Your daughter is very well behaved.”

Bible Letter of the Week Review

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Clarissa really enjoys Bible stories. She also gets really excited when we do crafts or activities about these stories. I was debating what I wanted to do with her as far as a  Bible curriculum for first grade. I was excited to see Bible Letter of the Week Curriculum Notebook on the list of choices from Crafty Classroom.

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Bible Letter of the Week Curriculum Notebook is marketed as a preschool curriculum. There are 26 weeks of lessons, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each week has four days of lessons with several activities to complete each day. There is a Bible story theme for each week as well as a Bible verse to memorize, practice writing each letter, activities to practice each letter sound, as well as some math activities for each week.

Clarissa has really enjoyed reading and discussing the Bible stories, the coloring pages and crafts, games, and math pages. She is also practicing her handwriting. I started off by supplementing this to our reading program and using this twice per week so that she would not be overwhelmed by the amount of work that was expected of her. Halfway through the letter A, she told me that she wanted to do this program every day instead of twice per week so we changed what we were doing.

Clarissa was most excited about the Alphabet Quilt. Each week, there is a square that shows the letter of the week, a picture of the Bible story, and even the Bible verse. She is excited to build this quilt as the year progresses. I like this aspect of the program because it will be a good review of what Bible stories and verses we have studied throughout the year. At one point she said to me, “Can we keep this quilt forever?”

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I like that the activities are similar each week so that Clarissa knows what is expected of her. She builds confidence with the repetition and also feels like she can do it herself without as much prompting from me. I like that the numbers get bigger for the math as the year progresses. So it makes sense to complete the weeks in order so that your math builds. I also was able to plot out the school year so that “J for Jesus” will fall in December for Christmas and “R for Resurrection” can be in April for Easter so it would make sense to do this curriculum over the course of an entire school year.

I think this would be a great curriculum for families with multiple children because you can pick and choose which activities to do with each child. You can do the main things the same with the Bible stories, crafts, and letters. But you can pick and choose the other activities (there are about 20 activities for each week to choose from). So the older kids can be included in the weekly Bible stories and memory verses. Your younger elementary kids won’t be completely bored with the math or the handwriting and letter activities. Your preschoolers and kindergartners would probably love the whole thing but you can pick and choose based on their developmental level.

The Crafty Classroom offers several different curriculum including reading, math, and even US geography. This may have been Clarissa’s favorite program that we reviewed all year so I am interested to see what other families thought of the various curriculum that they reviewed. I think we will be using Crafty Classroom in the future.

Hands-on, Low-prep and Ready to Go Learning - Tots to 3rd Grade {Crafty Classroom Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

National Cathedral

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We met up for Thai food with some old friends for lunch. After lunch, we decided to check out the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

We bought Clarissa a camera for her birthday so she was really excited to use it for this trip. She kept saying, “This is so beautiful!” and “I’m so glad I have my own camera so I can take pictures of whatever I want.”

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Tim and I had been to the National Cathedral before, but it was before Clarissa was born. It was also before the earthquake in 2011 so it cost more to get in now and I felt like the atmosphere was completely different. Adults pay $12 and children (ages 5-17) pay $8. Parking was really expensive too, so it would have been better to take the metro.

The cathedral itself is beautiful with the stained glass windows and arched architecture inside. Clarissa kept saying, “Wow!”

There were several different chapels located inside. One of them looked like it was set up for a wedding. There is a lego build right now where you can pay for some lego pieces and help to build a model of the National Cathedral. The proceeds go toward the restoration project from the damage of the 2011 earthquake. The girls thought it was really cool. The volunteer said that when finished it would be the largest amateur build with instructions.

We also walked around outside and saw the gardens. There were bunnies, butterflies, bugs, and fish around as well.

The gift shop was surprising. It already had Christmas trees set up with nativity sets (in July). They were also selling Buddha statues and coexist stickers, which doesn’t make sense to me in a church. It felt more like a museum to me.

It is worth going if you like looking at pretty architecture or are looking for more of an indoor activity to get out of the weather. But it wasn’t a super spiritual experience.

Learning Dynamics Review

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Clarissa and I did kindergarten together at home this year. She loves math and wants me to read to her all day long. But when it comes to learning how to read she gets excited about a new program for about a week and then gets frustrated that it is too hard and wants to stop.  We have tried a few different programs without success. So I was excited to try the Learning Dynamics Reading Program produced by Learning Dynamics.

The program recommends 15 minutes per day, at least 3 days per week. It starts pretty slow by learning one letter sound each in the first five lessons before you review them together in lesson 6. Even though Clarissa already knows most of her letters and sounds, I chose to start at lesson 1. I thought this would build her confidence, and I was correct. She actually really enjoyed the first few lessons and would ask to do more than one per day.

Each lesson had a few different components. There were three different flash cards for each letter. She enjoyed looking at those and collecting the small cards. Though eventually she invented her own games with them. There is an alphabet song that is supposed to be played at every lesson. Clarissa isn’t very big into kid songs, so halfway through, she had her hands over her ears. The same thing happened with each individual letter song so after the first couple of lessons, I didn’t bother with the songs. She was really excited about the letter hunts at the end of each lesson.

M was the first letter. At the end of that lesson, we were to walk around the house and find things that start with the “mmm” sound. She received an M&M for each word she found. The same thing happened with p for popcorn. She also enjoyed coloring the words that started with the correct letter. I think she also appreciated that it was only one page of written work each day. She had to write one row of lower case letters and color a few pictures so it was quick and easy.

By the end of the review period she was getting frustrated with the coloring page. She wanted to color in all of the pictures. So I made her tell me which words started with the correct letter before she started coloring. Then she would tell me which sound the other pictures started with.

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The program comes with four sets of books: blue, red, yellow, and green. She was excited to read those books before we got to them. So we definitely previewed each set of books before she was supposed to read them herself.

I am excited to report that we finally found a reading program that Clarissa enjoys! She said to me at one point, “I like reading now!” and she is getting to be a better reader everyday. After lesson 6, there is practice with blending words each day. She is pretty good at blending the three letter words now. She will read the simple books too. The first couple of books were single words on a page. It took a few books before she was supposed to read sentences, which was great, because by then she was ready.

I appreciated that each book had a list of words at the beginning of the book. In this way, we were able to practice the words before we actually tried to read the book. Clarissa already was familiar with most of the words before she saw them in the book so she didn’t have to spend as much time sounding out each word in the book. She enjoyed reading more that way. There are also comprehension questions to ask at the end of each book to make sure that your reader understood what they read and didn’t just sound out the words.

This video is book 7 of the blue book series. She has only completed lesson 18 of 41 in Lesson Manual one.

The lesson manual spells out which books you are supposed to read with each lesson. Books 1-13 are for lessons 9-33. Lessons 34-42 are two vowel lessons, where you will finish reading the blue set of books (books 14-23). Then there is a second part of the lesson manual that goes more in depth with advanced sounds and the other three set of books. I think it will take us several months to finish this program.

I am excited that most of the pieces of this program are reusable. The only part I will need to replace is the student workbook when I need to teach my second daughter to read in a few years. You can read about what other families thought of the program here.

Learning Dynamics Reading Program  {Learning Dynamics Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Our first visit to the National Zoo

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In May, the National Zoo had a special on annual memberships. If you bought a membership in May, you would get two free months free so your membership would go until July 31, 2020 instead of May 31. Admission to the National Zoo is free, so at first I questioned why a family would need to pay for a membership.

Then I read about the zoo. The zoo is located between two metro stops. But each metro stop is about a half mile walk uphill to the zoo, where you will do a lot of walking anyway. There is parking at the zoo but it costs $25 for the day. So if you leave in the DC metro area and plan to go to the zoo at least three times in the calendar year, you break even with parking alone in addition to the discounts you receive for food and gift shops inside the zoo.

Clarissa loves animals. If you meet her in person she will tell you, “I love all animals, ocean animals, and bugs infinity.” The zoo is about twenty minutes from our house so I figure, even with baby Tiffany coming, we’ll go to the zoo at least three times this year. Today was our first trip to the National Zoo.

I had read that although there are five different parking lots for the zoo, and they fill up by  10 AM, so you want to get to the zoo early. We arrived about 8:45 since it is a holiday weekend and we thought it would be crowded. The parking lot was pretty empty at that time. We parked in lot D so we were walking up hill in the morning and walking downhill at the end when we were tired.

The website says that the zoo grounds open at 8 AM and the exhibits open at 9 AM. We arrived about 8:45 so by the time we walked into the zoo and went to the bathroom it was almost 9:00. There was a worker at the entrance selling memberships and giving kids dinosaur hats. The barn animals are at that entrance as well as a bumble bee playground so there is plenty to see right there. You are allowed to touch the cows, donkeys, alpacas, and goats, but they weren’t close enough to reach on our visit. Clarissa still enjoyed seeing them.

The first building we passed was Amazonia. It was a few minutes after 9, but that building didn’t open until 10, so we kept going. We walked through the American animals and got to see sea lions, a grey wolf, and an American otter. We even got to watch them feed and talk about a harp seal.

When we got to the top of the hill, the elephants were not outside so we kept walking. At the top of another hill we saw the Elephant Community Center and went inside. We finally got to see elephants and learn some things with the interactive exhibits.

At that point, we had been outside less than an hour but had been walking up hill on a very humid day with no breeze. Clarissa was asking to go to the gift shop (she earned a treat this week) and go home. We walked to the visitor center after 10 AM only to discover that the gift shops don’t open until 11.

We walked down the hill and stopped by the small mammal house to see the Fennec Fox she was so excited about. We all really enjoyed the animals and that the building was air conditoned. I convinced Clarissa to walk by the pandas and cheetahs since it was on the way back to the car. But neither one was outside because it was too hot out. We did however find all six of the animatronic dinosaurs, so she was excited about that.

We left by 10:30 and the parking lot was almost full so I do recommend arriving early if you are planning to park. But if you want to buy anything at the gift shop, you need to stay past 11.

While the National Zoo is a great zoo, we will do things differently on our next visit in order to enjoy it better. First of all, we will wait until the fall when kids are back in school. Then it won’t be as crowded and we can probably arrive closer to 10 AM. All of the buildings and gift shops will be open if we come a little later. The lower temperatures will also mean that most of the animals should be outside so that we can actually see them.

After the zoo, we headed to Doodlehopper 4 Kids in Falls Church for Clarissa to pick out her stuffed animal. I didn’t take pictures since we were just in there for a stuffed animal. But I will say that it looks like a great toy store. There were plenty of stuffed animals, puppets, educational toys, books, and costumes. I know we will be back.

Then we headed to lunch in Fairfax at a place called Masala Wok, which was recommended by one of Tim’s friends from work. There are Indian dishes as well as other Asian noodle and rice dishes. Tim and I really enjoyed our food. Clarissa just ordered naan, but was quite content with hers as well. We even got to watch part of one of the Cricket World Series games. I don’t think I have ever watched cricket before. It was interesting.

Happy Third Trimester to me!

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Today marks the beginning of the third trimester in Tiffany’s pregnancy. In some ways, I am so ready to meet her. And in other ways, I am glad she has a few months before she joins us. I think I would feel more ready if our furniture from Korea was in our current house. Soon enough. With about twelve weeks to go, the house will be ready in plenty of time for her arrival.

At Clarissa’s twenty week ultrasound, they had a few concerns. There was a small hole in her heart and she had a “bright bowel.” They had concerns about things like Down Syndrome and Cystic Fibrosis. This was terrifying for a first time mom, but the blessing in it was that they sent me to EVMS (the local medical school) for further testing and ultrasounds. I got to see extra clear pictures of Clarissa at 22 weeks and 28 weeks and then another set at 35 weeks. By 22 weeks, the heart in her heart had closed and by 28 weeks her bowels were fine. She just wasn’t “ready” at the earlier ultrasound times.

With Tiffany, the ultrasound schedule has been completely different. While we were in Korea, they did an ultrasound at every appointment. We have been looking at things like her brain, spine, and liver since the beginning. We left Korea at about 20 weeks so they didn’t get to my anatomy scan before we left. My only ultrasound at my American doctor was at 24 weeks and I had to ask for that since I missed the 20 week anatomy scan that most people get. Her ultrasound showed that everything was fine, so that was the only ultrasound my ob plans to do this pregnancy.

On the one hand, I was glad for this. Tiffany is healthy. There are no concerns. On the other hand, I was sad. I got to see clear pictures of Clarissa’s face all the time. And we still had not really seen a great picture of Tiffany’s face. We decided that we would go to a special place that specializes in 4d elective ultrasounds. We went to InfantSeeHD in Fairfax.

Maria, our ultrasound tech was wonderful! She was super excited to see our baby. She had me move around in different positions so that we could see more. Tiffany had one of her feet in her face pretty much the entire time, but Maria was able to move around so that we could see her whole face anyway. She also said that Tiffany already has a full head of hair. We also got to watch Tiffany practice sucking on the placenta.

I’m not going to lie. There was a little bit of sticker shock when we saw the price for the ultrasound packages. Because there were concerns with Clarissa, insurance paid for all of her extra ultrasounds so I had no concept about how much these things normally cost. But we did get a full video recording of the thirty minute session and 84 still images on a jump drive.

Then, I wanted to celebrate. So we decided to check out Happy Tart, a gluten free bakery, in Falls Church. We parked in the garage for Pearson Square and it was really easy to find. The prices were reasonable for gluten free treats. Cookies and macaroons were $1.75. Cupcakes were $4.50 each. They also had bags of English muffins and drinks for sale. Clarissa loved her cookie. Tim and I thought the cupcakes were delicious. We will definitely be back!

Then we finished our evening with dinner in Shirlington. Since it was my choice, I chose Guapo’s for a Mexican dinner. I pretty much always love my Mexican food. The impressive part was that Tim enjoyed his dinner too.

Settling in to life in America (reverse culture shock)

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In some ways, life in America is like our life in South Korea. Tim goes to work during the day. Clarissa and I are home with Mittens. Homeschool is back in session. We think we found a church to attend. Tim’s days off are for exploring. We are still a one car family.

But in some ways, life is very different. Sometimes I think the transition from America to Korea was easier than the transition from Korea to America. I wonder if it’s because of the differences or if it’s because we were looking forward to moving to Korea for so long that it made things easier?

Before moving to Alexandria, I had only ever lived in Hampton Roads or South Korea. In Korea, most families are only there one to three years. So everyone is either new, or remembers what it is like to be new and attempts to help new people. We don’t live near military housing here, so there isn’t an influx of new people all the time that need to get plugged in (at least not the way it was in Korea). So when Clarissa and I go to a new place, people don’t seem eager to include us or invite us in to their group. The exception to this being our wonderful neighbors.

I consider Hampton Roads to be pretty conservative socially. It wasn’t quite southern with the large military population, but there were definitely likeminded people around. Before we left, the LGBT stuff wasn’t a big thing. Gay marriage wasn’t legal in most states before we left. Four years later, and in Northern Virginia, it is definitely more liberal. (Granted we arrived right at the beginning of Pride Month, so this may not be how things normally are?) But, Clarissa and I have had some interesting conversations about cashiers and why they are dressed like a girl but definitely look like a man or why we see men kissing each other at a restaurant.

I think it was also pretty common in Hampton Roads for moms to stay home with their kids, especially when they are younger. There were working moms too. My mom worked weekends when I was a kid. In my neighborhood, it seems pretty common for both parents to work though. When Clarissa and I go to the park, most of the kids her age have nannies from foreign countries. Or the moms that are there all have kids in private school uniforms and are hanging out together. I am having a hard time finding stay at home moms here. I am sure they exist. I just haven’t found them yet. When I looked online, it says that there were 91 elementary school aged kids in Alexandria who are homeschooled this school year. So these families do exist, but they aren’t a large percentage of the population.

The other thing that I am getting used to is having a car. We had one car in Korea, but Tim had it most of the time because he was working. Now when Clarissa asks if we can go somewhere that requires driving, it takes me a minute to remember that I am the one with the car and we don’t have to wait for Daddy to get home or for the weekend to go to the park or the library. It is also weird to be able to get the errands done during the week so that we can actually do fun things on the weekend.

The supply situation in South Korea was interesting on base. Many items from the commissary or PX came by boat, so if something was out, it might take a month to get it in. Then if there was an embargo on something, like poultry, you just had to go off base for the Korean version because the commissary just wan’t going to carry it. Amazon was the fastest way to ship things and it was great to get your item in a week, if you found a seller who would ship to an APO address. Here, I can go to multiple locations of the same store if I want to. But so far, most of the items that I want are in stock the day that I go shopping. Amazon is so fast. When we left, prime was definitely 2-3 days. But most things, if we order before midnight, will be delivered to our house the next day.

We have a great library system here. Because of our location, we are actually eligible for the library in a few different cities. In Korea, the army libraries were all connected on the same system, so I could request up to 5 books at a time from a different library. But because they were all in different cities on the peninsula, it might take 3-4 weeks to get the book I want. Here, the books are all located in the same city, so I can request multiple books from a different library, and it will be at the library that I want to pick it up in a day or two. We are also allowed to request like 20 books at a time!

The air quality here is amazing. In Korea, the air quality continually got worse while we were there. I don’t remember it being as much of a problem when we lived in Daegu. But in Pyeongtaek, especially the last year that we were there, the air quality was a problem. It would be  over 200 for weeks straight (healthy is 0-50). We often had to wear a mask outside so that we wouldn’t get a headache or sore throat from the air. I think in the five weeks we have been in Virginia, the air quality has only been over 50 once and it was 68 that day. The air quality this morning was 4.

Clarissa’s personality has been a little more outgoing here than in South Korea. She said to me the other day, “I can be more chatty here because everyone speaks American!” She has no problem walking up to a kid on the playground and asking if they want to play with her. At lunch the other day, she even asked if we could sit with a little girl and her mom because they were about the same age. She never would have done that in Korea, even on base. She still doesn’t like big groups of people though. The first playground we went to, I thought looked really cool, but there were a ton of kids there and she asked to leave about ten minutes later in favor of a less crowded playground.

How my second pregnancy compares to my first

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With six years between pregnancies, sometimes it’s interesting to me to think about the things that are different and the things that are the same.

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I was 29 when I was pregnant with Clarissa. We got pregnant very quickly once we started trying. I was surprised at how quickly I felt like I started showing. Most of my friends who were pregnant about that time were losing weight during their first trimester but I gained 8 pounds. I didn’t get that sick as long as I kept eating, which is why I gained weight in the beginning when everyone else was losing. I was so concerned that I was going to be huge by the time it was over, but I was fine. I only gained about 35 pounds total.

At 35, it took a few months longer to get pregnant with Tiffany. I feel like I started showing before I even knew I was pregnant (and I found out at 3 weeks!). I think I gained 12 pounds during the first trimester? But I weighed more before I got pregnant this time so I felt like I was way bigger. I was more sick in the beginning and I had to avoid certain foods or I would get sick. But in general, I had to eat every couple of hours. At 25 weeks, I have already gained 30 pounds so I anticipate that I will gain more than 35 pounds this pregnancy.

I am more relaxed this pregnancy.  Well, we did move to a different continent, so maybe peaceful is a better word. With Clarissa, I had several friends who had miscarried and I was so worried that I was going to lose her. That is why God told me early on that she would be “a little girl with great faith.” And even then, I was worried when things weren’t perfect on the ultrasounds.

With Tiffany, I had ultrasounds every appointment in Korea. That probably helped me to know that she was fine. I didn’t really have a word for her other than the day we found out we were pregnant God told me that “mercy and grace would follow me all the days of my life.” So when we found out we were having a girl, I really didn’t have any ideas for names right away.

I switched obs during both pregnancies. With Clarissa, I didn’t care for several doctors in the group that I was going to see. I wasn’t concerned at first because I really thought that we would move to Korea at that time. But when it became clear that wasn’t happening right away, I switched doctors. We did do a natural child birth class where the teacher talked about all of the natural things to do and talked about how bad epidurals were. I wasn’t really prepared for my 54 hours of back labor and really felt defeated that I got an epidural at like hour 45.

The reason I switched obs this round is that we moved from South Korea to Northern Virginia. It was harder than I thought it was going to be to switch obs. First of all, prenatal care is different in Korea than it is in America so my records were “incomplete” because they did different tests. And then there was the fact that some of my records aren’t in English. So it was difficult to find an ob to accept my records. Eventually they did when I went in person to explain my records.

They eventually were like, “Oh are you State Department?”

“No, but my husband works for the government.”

“So the government sent you to Korea for four years?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, then you’re fine.”

So basically, if we had been missionaries, English teachers, or just expats returning from Korea, they wouldn’t have accepted an otherwise healthy patient with insurance?!

I did get to do an anatomy scan at my 24 week appointment with the new ob since I hadn’t had the official anatomy scan. They confirmed that Tiffany is definitely a girl and everything looks great. And then they proceeded to ask me if I wanted to do genetic testing to make sure that everything was fine because ultrasounds don’t catch anything. I was like, “as long as insurance covers it, you can do blood work. But I’m not paying for anything out of pocket.” So the blood work people call and tell me how much it will cost if insurance doesn’t pay for testing but can’t tell me if my insurance will pay anything, even though they know what my deductible and copay could be…I declined the testing and they were surprised. With Clarissa I would have paid the ridiculous price just to have peace of mind. But this round, I am not worried about the baby. She’s fine. And even if she isn’t for some reason, she’s still our baby.

I am not dreading the labor and delivery process, per say, but I don’t know that I am looking forward to it either. If I have back labor again, I will not hesitate to get an epidural this round. I may get one anyway and not feel like a failure. Clarissa was healthy with an epidural. God has given us medical technology so there is no shame in using it.

Along the same lines, I tried to do everything naturally with Clarissa. I didn’t even take over the counter medications unless I absolutely had to. I tried to do neti pots and things like that instead of taking decongestants. This round, if it is on an approved list of medications, I take it without feeling bad about it. Especially when we were in Korea and I was getting headaches from the bad air.

I am interested to see how different Tiffany’s personality is than Clarissa’s. Clarissa is a mix of me and Tim, but more Tim than me. Tiffany is definitely really active in the womb like Clarissa was. But she is in a different position so I am hopeful that I won’t have back labor this round. I am also interested to see how this 6 year age gap plays out in their relationship. And what it will be like to be a mom of two. But I look forward to the challenge and know that God will guide Tim and I as we raise these beautiful girls.

I’m not that in to beaches…

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Clarissa and I had not been to Virginia Beach in two years. Tim had not been back since we moved to Korea four years ago so we decided that we would all visit for Memorial Day weekend.

My goals for the weekend were pretty simple. I wanted to see my family, my best friend, and my dog. Tim wanted to visit some of his favorite restaurants. Clarissa was just along for the ride.

We drove down on Saturday morning and made decent time. We got to see my parents, as well as my sister and her family. I was able to hold my 8 month old niece for the first time. We were having so much fun that Clarissa didn’t want to leave to see Josie (the dog we rehomed before we moved to Korea).

Tim did get to have dinner at his favorite Japanese restaurant. While it was fine, it wasn’t the amazing quality that we expected.

After Clarissa went to bed, Tim and I tried to decide what to do on Sunday morning. We originally thought we would go to the beach, but forgot that the water was only 60 degrees this time of year. So we came up with a few options. When Clarissa woke up in the morning, I asked her what she wanted to do.

“What do you want to do today Clarissa?”
“I don’t know”
“We could go to the beach”
“Ya let’s go to the beach!”
“Or there is a petting zoo”
“I’m not that into beaches…”

So we opted to go to Hunt Club Farm. We had a great time and the price was great. Entry was $6 per person but they had a buy one get one free deal for the holiday weekend. You could buy animal feed for $5, bird feed for $1 (but we had a coupon for free bird food), and pony rides were $5.

 

They also had special deals where you could buy a season pass to come all summer to the petting farm. If we still lived in Hampton Roads, we totally would buy the season passes. Though I will tell you that it is better to put the animal feed in your hand instead of just holding out the cup of feed to the animals. The llama totally stole the cup out of my hand, ate the rest of the food, and tossed my cup. The worker said that sometimes they have signs up, but the llama takes them down. Apparently, “he is 15 years old so it is too late to change his bad habits.”

Hunt Club Farm also has a country store. You can buy ice cream, cold drinks, homemade preserves, stuffed animals, and plants, among other things. Clarissa talked us into buying her a stuffed chicken because “I don’t have a chicken yet!” I am excited to try the pumpkin butter and strawberry preserves as well. The ice cream was also delicious. Though Clarissa was adamant that she wanted cheetos instead.

We stopped by Josie’s house on the way back to Grammy and Pappy’s. Josie is 9 years old now so she has mellowed a bit. But she is still a wonderful, playful dog. Clarissa had a great time playing with Josie and the hose.

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We had more playtime with my parents and then had dinner with my sister and her family at Tim’s favorite Thai restaurant. The menu changed so his favorite meal that he has been looking forward to for four years wasn’t available anymore. Again, the food was fine, but not what we were expecting.

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I finished the evening with a visit from my best friend. And then we went back to our hotel. We left early Monday morning and definitely beat the traffic. It took less than 3 hours!

Ah life with a car

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When we moved to South Korea in 2015, we didn’t bring a car with us at all. My 14 year old car got totaled the day we got the official offer. And Tim’s car had recalls on it like every other month. So we ditched the cars and thought we would do public transportation in Korea. And we did, for the first year.

There is a one car rule in South Korea for Americans. In Daegu, it is pretty easy to get a second car approved if you live off post. At Camp Humphreys, it was harder. So while we bought a car in January 2016, Tim had it most of the time because he was working. I could use it after work or on weekends. But for play dates and events during the week, Clarissa and I either got a ride from a friend or took the bus somewhere. It wasn’t a big deal in Daegu because there were like 1,000 different busses and a subway system. Plus all of our friends had two cars. Pyeongtaek was harder because the one bus only went one way to AK Plaza and most of my friends were stranded without a car during the day as well.

During our time in Pyeongtaek, Clarissa would always say things like “I can’t wait until we move to America because we will have two vehicles!” So when we found out we were moving to Washington DC area I had to disappoint Clarissa and tell her that we would still be a one car family. However, she is happy about it because instead of Daddy taking the car to work and us taking the bus everywhere, Tim takes the bus to work and we get to keep the car for the day. I forgot how nice it is to have a car and be able to run errands during the week or just to be able to go on a random adventure because we feel like it.

So on Wednesday, Clarissa and I went on an adventure. We decided to check out Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center in Alexandria. It was an easy ten minute drive from our house. At first I thought I missed it because it is attached to an elementary school building. We really enjoyed it and plan to go back!

There are several small animals in tanks and aquariums inside. Clarissa got to see snakes, lizards, bugs, turtles, and birds. There were also cool things to look at under a microscope and a different magnifier. We saw most of those things in about twenty minutes.

Then, Clarissa went to the play area. There is a puppet stage, puppets, stuffed animals, plastic toys, and plenty of books to read. We stayed there for almost an hour. Clarissa would have stayed longer if I let her.

Next to the Nature Center is an entrance to Dora Kelley Nature Park. From the parking lot, take some stairs through the trees down to a paved path by a small river. Clarissa kept saying, “Are we in the woods?” We could hear animals and bugs but didn’t see many in person. Clarissa really enjoyed walking around and “being in nature.” There were a few different paths that you could take and there are multiple entrances so if you go to the right one and stay on the paved path, it would actually be stroller friendly. The entrance we went to is not because there were at least 25 tall steps to go down to get to the path.

On our way home we stopped by the shopping center near our new house to check it out. We had lunch at Duck Donuts which was new to us. And then we found some fun things at Michaels to work on until the rest of our stuff comes. There is even a small kid store called Robcyns that has clothes, educational toys, and books. Clarissa has been asking for a stuffed snake for about a month and we finally found one here! We also checked out Fresh Market for the first time which reminds me of a smaller version of Whole Foods.

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Big Bible Science Review

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Clarissa loves science, especially if it has to do with animals or experiments. Big Bible Science by Christian Focus lets us learn about both. I really appreciate any science curriculum that Clarissa can get excited about that also teaches from a Christian perspective.

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There are several ways that a family could use Big Bible Science. It could be used as a supplement for an elementary science curriculum or as a curriculum itself. There are 21 different experiments on several topics including: gravity, friction, chemistry, plants, animals, water cycle, space, and the human body.

Each experiment has it’s own short chapter in the book and includes scriptures or Bible stories, some background on the science topic covered in the experiment, materials needed, and several activity choices for each topic. I could see using this book as a stand alone science curriculum and moving through it at the pace of one chapter every 1-2 weeks. You could spend time focusing on the scripture and background and do a different activity each day for several days. Or you could use this book as a supplement to any science curriculum, pulling the experiments as they fit in with your current curriculum. I also think that this book would be a good fit for families with multiple children. You can assist younger children and let the older children do more on their own. There is even a list of which experiments children would be able to complete without adult assistance.

In kindergarten, I don’t have a formal science curriculum for Clarissa. Several experiments in this book were appropriate for her to work through. For the purpose of this review, I simply listed them for her and let her pick her favorites. Of course, her favorite was the experiment 13 on animal classification.

We started by learning about the five different classes of animals. Then we read the creation story and focused on Genesis 1:20-25. We were instructed to describe the five classes of animals in the creation story. The second activity was to write the class of animals on the top of an index card and describe their characteristics. For kindergarten, she drew them instead. Clarissa then cut and glued animal pictures to the correct card. The last activity was to create a venn diagram comparing two different classes of animals. She chose animals and reptiles. I simply recorded her responses as we compared the two different classes. I had planned to do this in several days but Clarissa really enjoyed it and so we completed all of the activities in one afternoon!

We will go back to this book later. We usually end up doing unit studies and I think that the experiments in this book are going to be great activities to add to our unit studies for first and second grade. I appreciate that most of the materials needed for the experiments are either things that I already have in my house or are really easy to access. It makes science so much easier to plan and execute.

There were four titles to choose from for this review. To read about other books from a Christian perspective check out the other reviews here.

Big Bible Science, Elizabeth Prentiss, God is Better than Princesses,  God is Better than Trucks. {Christian Focus Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Taking your pet home from South Korea

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One of the most stressful parts of our move (for me) was making sure that Mittens could come to America with us.

Mittens, our cat, was born on the roof of a building on Camp Henry in Daegu, South Korea. At least, that is where someone found her and her brothers and sisters. Said person brought her to the Camp Walker vet, who nursed them for a few weeks before adopting them out to families on post. It just so happened that we were in the market for a cat when I saw a posting that the vet had free kittens available.