Video games can be good for your marriage

Standard

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

Standard

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.

Name Meaning Gifts Review

Standard

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

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

Standard

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.”

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

Standard

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.

Clarissa’s birthday museum adventure

Standard

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!

Standard

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.

0711191106_hdr3128776399111379334.jpg

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.”

0804190931_hdr5752457096683601771.jpg

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?

 

Happy Third Trimester to me!

Standard

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)

Standard

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

Standard

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.

s10

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…

Standard

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.

0526191247_HDR.jpg

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.

0526191753_hdr4234080122799379889.jpg

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

Standard

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.

IMG_20190522_130638.jpg

 

Taking your pet home from South Korea

Standard

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.

That was three years ago. Clarissa was two and Mittens was less than two months old when she came to live with us. They have grown up together like sisters. Mittens sleeps in Clarissa’s bed every night. Though we still haven’t seen how she manages to jump to the top bunk on her own.

In the fall, I knew we would be heading back to America sometime in 2019. I began researching the process of what it takes to bring a cat from South Korea to America. It’s actually not as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I joined a facebook group by one of the pet shippers, thinking it would help me to know what to do. And to a certain extent, it did. But it also really stressed me out because he would post horror stories about how pets were denied boarding for silly little things (and bigger things) and he had to rescue the pets and ship them home later.

The difficult thing about military or GS life overseas is that you don’t always know where you are going until right before you leave. Some places require more preparation than others. For example, to go to Japan, your pet needs a FAVN test 6 months before you leave Korea or your pet will be in quarantine until the end of the 6 months when the pet arrives in Japan. Hawaii requires a similar schedule. To go to Europe (the EU), you need 3 months of FAVN or your pet can’t even enter the country. But to go from South Korea to mainland USA, your cat just needs a health certificate and a current rabies shot.

Our DEROS (date of estimated return from overseas) was April 30 and we had no idea where we were going by January 1. I knew we were going to America, but that could mean Hawaii and so I decided to get Mittens updated on her rabies shot early so that she would have two rabies shots and would be able to receive the FAVN test immediately if we found out we were going to Hawaii.

I was relieved to find out in February that we had a tentative offer for a job in the Washington, DC area because it meant that Mittens didn’t need the FAVN test. We could also take a direct flight from Incheon (Seoul) to Dulles (Washington DC) which would make life easier for the humans and the cat.

Right before we left, Tim heard about a different pet shipper that someone from work had used with good results. Once we finally had orders, I decided to talk to her. Gina was wonderful! She advised me to book the Delta flight with Korean Air code share because Korean Air is excellent with pets and doesn’t have a flight time limit (Delta normally only allows pets on flights under 12 hours). Doing this, Mittens was able to be on our flight as excess baggage instead of manifest cargo. Her treatment was pretty much the same. However, we only had to pay the airline $200 instead of paying a pet shipper between $1500-$2000.

Once our flight was booked, I was supposed to call a phone number to book Mittens on my flight. My phone would not call the Korean number for some reason and when I called the American number, I was on hold so long the phone call hung up on me. So Gina called them for me on her phone to book her spot on the flight. Then I had to take Mittens to the vet less than 10 days before our flight in order to get a health certificate. You don’t want to do it 10 days out because if your flight is delayed for any reason, you will have to start over. Then within 3 days of your flight, you need to visit the quarantine office to get a special health certificate from them.

That part was pretty stressful for me. I knew Mittens was healthy and her rabies vaccine was current. But the vet wasn’t available until the Friday afternoon before we left. Tim sold our car that morning, so I had to bring Clarissa and Mittens from Osan to Humphreys by taxi. And for some reason our taxi driver refused to actually go onto Camp Humphreys. So he brought me to the main gate and we had to switch taxis to get to the vet. The vet was done with Mittens and handed me a health certificate within 15 minutes. I then called another taxi. This guy didn’t speak any English and couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to go, even after I talked to dispatch. So after driving around for a bit, I made him bring me to where Tim was on Camp Humphreys so we could go together. Once the guy figured out how far we needed to go, he refused to take us.

We then went to the USO, where the lady at the front desk translated the address into Hangul for me with directions. She advised us to take a taxi from off post because they were usually willing to go farther. So we called another taxi to take us from One Stop to the front gate. Then, we got into a new taxi who was happy to take us to the Quarantine Office at the Port of Pyeongtaek. This guy didn’t have amazing English either, but our translated copy of the address made it super easy for him to know where we needed to go.

After we arrived at the building, we asked him to wait for us so that we would have a taxi back to our hotel at Osan. We walked in to the building and took the elevator to the fourth floor. From the elevator, take a left and go through the double doors. I presented the worker with my health certificate, rabies certificate, and flight information and filled out a form. In about 10 minutes, he handed me a health certificate for the Quarantine officers at both the Korean and American airport. I was instructed to bring Mittens to this place, but the worker didn’t look at her, just the paperwork. The taxi driver then took us back to Osan Main Gate so we could get to our hotel.

The next hurdle was to get to the airport. Osan offers a bus from the air base to Incheon Airport. However, pets are not allowed on the bus. I tried talking to a pet taxi, but he wasn’t convinced that he could carry the three of us, our luggage, and Mittens in his van. It was the same crazy price to just send Mittens with him as to send all three of us with our luggage.  The day before we needed to go to our airport hotel, a friend of Tim’s offered to drive us to the airport hotel in his van. We fit comfortably in his huge Japanese van and had great conversation along the way.

At the airport, I was worried that there would be a problem with our paperwork or that they would say Mittens didn’t have a spot on the flight (because of all the things I read on the other shipper guy’s facebook page). Gina assured me that Mittens should be fine, but if for some reason they denied her on the flight, she would send one of her workers to get Mittens and she would ship her to me later in the week. So I at least had a back up plan going into the morning of the flight.

When we checked in for our flight (you can’t do online check in with a pet), I told the check in lady that we had a cat. She asked for my rabies certificate and health certificate. I then had to put Mittens on the conveyor belt for her to attach paperwork and stickers to. Her crate had metal screws and a water bottle attached. There were puppy pads at the bottom of her crate to absorb any messes and make her more comfortable. I also had to write Live Animal with arrows (like this side up) on the crate and attach some cat food to the outside of her crate.

Then the check in lady called someone who came to get Mittens in her crate and put her on a cart. They immediately took her to our plane to load her into the cargo area (the other pet shipper guy said they just fling the crates with the luggage and you never know what will happen). After we finished checking in our suitcases, she gave me a note to pay the $200 at a different counter to pay for Mittens.

After our flight, at US Customs, the border patrol agent asked us about Mittens. He just wanted to see her current rabies certificate and didn’t care about her health certificate at all. From what I was reading, health certificates are required by many airlines but rabies certificates are all the USA requires to enter the mainland. We then went to pick up our suitcases and saw that they had put Mittens off to the side in a different section. We showed them that our baggage tag matched Mittens sticker and they let us take her. That was it.

Please note that to bring your pet from the United States to South Korea, the requirements are completely different. This post explains the process we used to bring our cat from South Korea to the United States in May of 2019.

What a PCS really looks like for a civilian

Standard

Monday was our third move in four years. This is pretty normal for an active duty military family, but we are civilians. Some of the process is the same, but other things are very different, so I thought I would share some of our experiences.

In the military, they often tell you where you are going and how long you will be there. This can change, but at least you have an idea of how long you will be in a place before the military moves you again. The military will pay for you, your family, your personal belongings, and a vehicle to get to your next duty station. You are usually authorized a week or so in a hotel before you leave your current duty station and when you arrive at your next duty station.

Government civilian life is very different. First, if you land a federal job in the United States, it is usually permanent. So you can do that job (unless they decide your position is no longer necessary) as long as you want. Theoretically, you could do the same job or at least move up in the same organization your entire career in the same location. However, there are rules about moving overseas. Most jobs are two or three year contracts and you can extend after that for a total of five years overseas before you have to return to the United States. At which time, you must complete two years in the United States before returning overseas.

Generally, if you have a job overseas, the government will pay for your move, just like they would an active duty service member. You receive a document called “orders” that tells you what you are authorized. Generally, the government will pay for the employee, spouse, and dependents under age 21 to travel to the new duty station as well as to ship one personal vehicle, household goods, and unaccompanied baggage. You can even use nontemporary storage at the government’s expense. There are also allowances for hotels before you leave your home of record as well as temporary lodging in your new location. There is a transportation agreement so that if you leave this position before a full year, you have to repay the government for the cost of your move. They did change the rules recently so now you will be taxed on the move however.

The process that went the most smoothly was the first move from Norfolk to Daegu. I really think the reason is that the Human Resource people in charge of the move were in Korea and so they are used to dealing with this PCS (Permanent Change of Station- Move) process. Tim received a tentative offer and a list of things to do like paperwork and a drug test. Then about a month later, he received an official offer with a travel date about six weeks after that. I don’t remember how quickly the orders came, but we had plenty of time to get flights and movers scheduled. Other than it being my first overseas move and our first big move as a family of three, it wasn’t a mad dash to get everything done on time (unless you count the snow…).

The other two moves, from Daegu to Pyeongtaek and Pyeongtaek to Arlington have been more stressful. I really think that part of it is that Human Resources is in America and they don’t deal with PCS as often. They don’t understand that the government won’t book your flights or movers until you have orders and so you really do need them quickly if your start date is less than 30 days away. Either that or they don’t care. I’ve never met them in person, so I can’t speak to that.

A government PCS is really a lot of hurry up and wait. Tim has been applying and interviewing for jobs since June. For the job he starts next week, he interviewed around Thanksgiving. The tentative offer was at the end of February (on our four year anniversary of landing in Korea) and the official offer came April 4. At which point HR gave us two options for start dates, April 28 and May 12. We chose May 12.

When applying for a government job (usually through usajobs), there is a section that talks about relocation. Overseas jobs and some stateside jobs say that relocation can be authorized. Many jobs say relocation is not authorized, so if you want to take that job, you will need to move yourself there. Tim was only applying for jobs that said relocation was authorized.

We were told that when you move from overseas to a stateside job, the receiving agency is supposed to pay for certain moving expenses, like hotels when you arrive back in the United States. This job said relocation expenses were authorized so we weren’t worried about it. After accepting the offer, Tim immediately asked about how long it would take to receive orders and how long we would be authorized a hotel in the US. It took a week for HR to respond and say that they would not be paying for the move itself. So of the four weeks we had, one week was wasted.

Tim completed his full contract with this job overseas, so they owe us a pcs as described in our travel agreement. This means that Tim’s Korea job will pay for flights, shipping, household goods, and a personal vehicle back to our home of record which is Norfolk. They will also pay for hotels before we leave Korea. But that is where the money was supposed to stop. The gaining agency was supposed to pay for the PCS from Norfolk to Arlington as well as some hotel time in Arlington. Our Korea HR ladies were pretty confident that the new job would pay for this, as it is the common course of action.

Two weeks into the process, the new job said no. We still expect you to be here, but we’re not paying for anything. The posting says “may pay for relocation” so we’re not going to…Lesson learned. Before you accept a job offer, ask if they are paying for moving expenses. Just because it is listed in the job posting doesn’t mean they will actually pay for anything.

It got pretty stressful at the end of our time in Korea. Our lease was up on our Korean apartment on April 30 so we needed to move out before then, but we couldn’t schedule movers until we had the orders. The week before, Tim asked someone in HR about expediting his orders and the response was, “We process them in the order we receive them and it’s not fair to people who have travel dates before yours.” I was curious how many people were ten days out like we were.

April 30 was a Tuesday. Tim had unsigned orders the Friday before which let him tentatively schedule movers but the guy in charge wasn’t happy about it and wanted him to come back with the signed orders on Monday morning. He did have signed orders on Monday morning but they were incorrect because they said we were moving from Daegu to Arlington instead of Pyeongtaek to Arlington. But we were able to move out on time. The corrected orders came on Wednesday so we could book our flights. That gave Tim three days to run around on base getting all of the out processing done and sell the car. I had to take multiple taxis Friday to get all of the paperwork done for Mittens to fly with us (I will post more about that process next week).

By the time we knew we were moving, the hotel at Camp Humphreys was full. It was really hard to find a pet friendly hotel near Camp Humphreys so we ended up staying at Osan for the rest of that week before we left. It was kind of fitting to end our time in Korea there because Tim was actually stationed on Osan Air Force Base from 2005-2007, so that is where his Korea dream began. Tim had his favorite Thai, Sawatdee, three days in a row before we left.

IMG_20190501_160241.jpg

Pictured is Tim standing where is old dorm room was when he lived on Osan.

Then we had to figure out how to get to the airport. There is a bus that will take you from Osan to Incheon, but it doesn’t allow pets. I tried hiring a pet taxi, but he wasn’t sure that he could fit the three of us, Mittens, our suitcases, and her crate into his van. Plus he didn’t have base access so we were going to have to take multiple taxis to the main gate to meet him anyway. So the day before we left, we found a friend with a van (who actually used to work with Tim in Daegu but is at Humphreys now) who took us from Osan to our hotel near the airport. It was a little tricky because hotel check out at Osan was at 11, but check in at Incheon wasn’t until 2 so we spent a while moving our six suitcases, three carry ons, the car seat, Mittens, and her big crate from where we were staying to the hotel lobby so that we could be in air conditioning while we waited for our friend to come.

I was glad that we went to a hotel near the airport the day before. We had a morning flight so we wanted to be closer. Plus I didn’t want Mittens in her crate longer than she needed to be since it was already a 14 hour flight. We arrived to our hotel with all of our stuff, and they didn’t have a record of our reservation. Thankfully I had my reservation email from hotels.com. The hotel was actually pretty bad. The air conditioning was not turned on in the hotel yet even though it was over 80 degrees “because it’s not summer yet.” So we were really hot and the beds were Korea hard.

The hotel advertised that they had a shuttle to the airport. That was only half correct. There is a bus stop across the street that will take you to Terminal 1 of the airport. So we had to get our six suitcases, three carry ons, Mittens, her crate, and the car seat across 6 lanes of traffic…Thankfully it was 6 AM so it wasn’t super busy and there was a median. But it wasn’t an easy experience.

Once on the bus, someone took interest and said he would help us. He helped us cart our luggage from this bus to the next bus stop that took us to the bus for Terminal 2. He then helped us bring it into the building and then we parted ways. We found out he was actually former Korean Air Force and was a pilot for an airline now. I was so thankful for him. I don’t know how we would have gotten everything there on our own. It took 3 luggage carts and Clarissa had a hard time pushing it.

I was really stressing about Mittens being rejected for the flight, but she was fine. At check in someone came to get her and put her on the plane. We were allowed in the priority line through security because of Clarissa. The flight itself was pretty uneventful, just really long.

Once we landed at Dulles, I was concerned about how we were going to get everything where we needed to go. But the immigration line was really short and they had Mittens ready for us when we got there. She seemed pretty terrified but she was in one piece. One of the managers was like, “Do you need a big luggage cart?” and told one of the workers to help us. He carted all of our luggage to the rental car shuttles and helped us get on the rental car bus.

By this point, Mittens was crying because he wanted out of her crate. The ladies on the bus thought she was funny. Tim went in to pick up the rental car and Clarissa and I stayed outside with all of our stuff. I was able to move Mittens from the massive hard crate she hates into the smaller carrier and she calmed down.

We went to my aunt’s house to pick up some mail and sim cards for our phones. Tim’s worked fine but mine didn’t. Clarissa wanted McDonald’s so I went in to order her a happy meal. Happy Meals have different options here than they do in Korea and I had been awake for almost 24 hours at that point. The lady spoke excellent English but had an accent so I really didn’t understand her and had to keep asking her to repeat herself so I could order Clarissa’s food. I was so embarrassed. Tim and I had Chickfila for lunch and then we headed to the hotel.

The first day was the hardest. We lasted until almost 6 PM and then were up before 1 AM on Tuesday morning. We headed to Denny’s for breakfast about 2 and then were at Walmart by 3. People aren’t as judgmental about bringing a little kid out in the middle of the night as you might think. At least I didn’t see any dirty looks and no one said anything, even if they were thinking it.

We looked at a house on Tuesday that we really liked but decided that the commute would be too far for Tim. Wednesday we bought a car. It was actually going to be difficult because we don’t have a permanent address yet, but since we used USAA for our loan, it was fine. We saw two houses Thursday and applied for one of them. The rental application is tricky though because online applications want a bunch of information that doesn’t work if you’ve spent the last four years overseas. First of all, Korea isn’t an option for location and I don’t know how they would follow up with my Korean landlord anyway.

There are a few areas that we have been to multiple times and decided that we like to hang out there. There is so much to see and do. Tim finally started to get answers from the new job about how to report. You can’t just walk in to the pentagon…We’ve been asking questions for weeks and now that we’re here they just decided to call him to answer some of his questions.

“You can just let your daughter draw on the walls…”

Standard

I have been dreading moving out of this apartment. Not so much because I love this apartment. But because I knew that we would have to pay a lot of money in damages when we left.

Our house in America had painted walls. It was very easy to clean. In Korea, all of our walls have either been stone, concrete, or wallpaper. Only in Korea, it’s not just wallpaper. It’s called a paper wall. So you can’t just replace a small section of the wall. If you have a hole the size of a quarter in your wallpaper, you will have to replace the whole wall. The other reason for this my realtor explained is that Koreans are serious about the aesthetics of their wallpaper. So they make wall paper for a season and then it goes out of print. So next year, you can’t find this year’s wallpaper anywhere.

Mittens was very stressed by our move to Pyeongtaek and took it out on the wallpaper. She scratched the wallpaper near almost every doorway in the house. With the paper walls, that means that almost every room of our house needs new wallpaper. I told our realtor about this before our final inspection so that she could have someone come and estimate how much it would cost to repair before the move out date and they wouldn’t be surprised.

The estimator came and it actually will cost less than I thought to wallpaper most of the apartment. Apparently wallpaper is more expensive in Daegu! One of the walls that needs to be replaced was a Clarissa original instead of Mittens damage. While the estimator (who will be the one who comes back to do the work when we move out) was here, he said to me, “You might as well let your daughter draw on all of the walls that need to be replaced. Just don’t put holes in the walls because that will cost more to fix.”

Clarissa didn’t need to be told twice. She had some fun being allowed to draw on the walls. Though she understands that when we move out of this house, she will no longer be allowed to draw on the walls.

Thankfully, Mittens seems to have grown out of clawing at the wallpaper. But just to be on the safe side, as we are house hunting in America, we will be sure to look for a house without any wallpaper…

It’s a good thing Clarissa had a change of heart…

Standard

Until the end of last week, Clarissa was pretty adamant that she wanted a little brother. I was confused because she spent the past three years asking for a little sister. She finally told me why.

She doesn’t want to share her toys. An only child for five years gets used to having her own things. Clarissa assumed that if she had a baby sister, she would grow up to want to play with all of her toys. But a little brother would ignore her girly toys and play with his own. When I explained that a little brother would want to play with her toys too, she was very confused.

On Monday, the realtor asked Clarissa if she wanted a brother or a sister. She responded “both” and kissed my tummy.

We had an ultrasound on Tuesday. The doctor asked if we wanted to know the gender of the baby and we all said “Yes!” The translator said, “It’s probably a girl.” Clarissa was very upset, but not for the reason that you think. She said, “But is it a boy or a girl? Why don’t they know for sure?”

I guess Tim will name all of our children. The name Clarissa was his idea and it took a few days to grow on me. This time it did not take as long.

As we were walking out of the hospital, he said, “What do you think about Tiffany?” Tiffany means manifestation of God. Upon further research, Tiffany is a translation of the word epiphany and is often given to girls born on January 6. We actually found out that we were pregnant on January 6.

img_20190418_1440226482482497959463464.jpg

By the time we arrived at dinner, the three of us agreed that her name is Tiffany Grace so “manifestation of God and grace.” This is the perfect name for her. If we got pregnant when we first started trying, she would be due in June which would be either very difficult or not possible with our PCS (moving) date. This way, our furniture that will take at least 3 months to arrive to our new house should arrive in August. We will have plenty of time to get our new home set up and comfortable before Tiffany comes in mid September. We didn’t know the timing of any of this, but God knew. And it also fits with the word that God gave me in the beginning of the pregnancy that “mercy and grace would follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Tim also had a vision a while ago that this child would be in ministry.

We of course followed dinner with a trip to the px to find some cute little girl clothes. We each had a different favorite, so we bought them all.

img_20190417_101810834287526700233374.jpg

I think that the reason that we could not tell the gender at the last ultrasound was that four weeks ago Clarissa was adamantly against having a baby sister. Now Clarissa is very excited about her baby sister. I think it helps that she has a name now too.

We are officially “moving back home”

Standard

When we lived in Daegu, our way of life was just normal to Clarissa. We moved there when she was 18 months old and she didn’t really remember life in America.

A couple of months before we moved to Pyeongtaek, we went to Hawaii with Tim on a work trip and then Clarissa and I went to Virginia and Pennsylvania to visit grandparents. At this point Clarissa was about three and a half years old. She was fascinated and kept saying, “Mommy, they speak English here!”

At some point in the beginning of our life in Pyeongtaek, Clarissa started saying things like “I can’t wait until we move to America because we will have two vehicles and I will get a sister.”

Well, we are officially moving back to America but I am not sure that Clarissa will get either wish.

Tim will start a new job at the Pentagon in May. We are hoping to find a place to live that is near public transportation so that we can continue our one car lifestyle. Though in this case, I will be the one who usually has the car so I think Clarissa will be happy with that.

We should find out at my appointment next week if Baby Faust is a boy or a girl. However, at this point, Clarissa would be very disappointed if she is having a sister. She is adamant that she wants a baby brother. She even said, “If it is a boy, I will be a super hero, but if it’s a girl, I will be a villain…”

Our favorite things to do in Seoul with kids

Standard

I got a lot of feedback on our top 10 places to visit in South Korea with kids post so I thought I would add to the series with a top 10 places to visit in Seoul. During our four years of living in Korea, we have probably spent a total of two months in Seoul and I feel like we haven’t seen everything yet!

Just a reminder that Clarissa has been five and under the entire time that we’ve lived in South Korea. So our list may be different than a family with older kids, teens, or no kids.

Neighborhoods

There are two neighborhoods in Seoul that we really like and for different reasons. Hongdae (Hongik University Station exit 6) is very artsy and modern. You can buy lots of cute jewelry, art supplies, and gundam here in modern stores. On a visit there last fall, I got my ears pierced and we visited a bunny cafe.

My other favorite neighborhood is Insadong (Anguk Station or Junggak Station). It is another artsy area but very different. Here you can buy traditional pottery, silk scarves, wall paintings, and plenty of other Korean knick knacks. Some are in carts that only accept won and others are in stores that will take your credit card. While visiting this area, you can also let fish nibble the dead skin on your feet or visit a temple.

Palace

There are several different palaces in Seoul. Our favorite (and close to Insadong) is Gyeongbokgung Palace (Gyeongbokgung Station or Anguk Station). The palace grounds are huge and lovely. They even have a changing of the guard ceremony several times per day. The entrance fee is 3,000 won (less than $3 USD). If you want a different experience and to get in free, there are several shops nearby that will let you rent a traditional hanbok and walk around a few hours looking like a Korean princess.

Outdoors

Another cool place is visit is Olympic Park (Olympic Park Station or Mongchontoseong Station). You get to see all four seasons at this park so you may want to go more than once. There are several miles of walking trails, cool trees, monuments and sculptures, flags form all over the world, buildings from the Seoul Olympics in 1988, and even some playgrounds for the kids.

Mall and Aquarium

If you get hungry or want to walk around in some air conditioning Lotte World Mall is near Olympic Park and is our favorite mall in Seoul. This is our favorite mall because all of our favorite stores are there. Tim really likes the Hi Mart. Clarissa gets excited about the Toy Box, Lego, and Studio Ghibli. I really like Butter, Flying Tiger Copenhagen, and Miniso. But there are several floors of shops and restaurants in the mall itself. Also attached to the mall is Avenue L which is a higher end mall. Avenue L also has an art museum. Inside Lotte World Mall, you can take an elevator to Lotte World Tower and look out over Seoul on floors 118-122. There is also a kid cafe inside called Teddy Bear Zoo, which is pricey but Clarissa really enjoyed her time there.

Also located on B1 of Lotte World Mall is Lotte Aquarium. This is our favorite aquarium in South Korea. There are several large tanks with whales, sting rays, and even penguins. There is a spot where you can pay 1,000 won to feed a small tank of fish. Then you can feed carp with a bottle for 2,000 won. There is also a free touch tank. There are food stands within the aquarium as well as face painting and a craft area that you can pay for as well. Aquarium admission can be pricey, but if you show your military ID or American passport, you can get a discount. It should cost us over 90,000 won to get in, but we usually only pay 61,000 won.

Temple

Korea has a large Buddhist population so there are temples all over the place. Many of them look similar and have architecture much like the palaces you may also visit. But, if you are going to visit a temple while visiting Seoul, we recommend Bongeunsa Temple (Bongeunsa Temple Station or Samseong Station). It is one of the largest temples that we have seen as it is a complex instead of just one building. It is pretty much across the street from Coex Mall (did not make our top 10, but if you aren’t going to get to Lotte World Mall or if you need some lunch, it is an acceptable mall) which also has some shopping, good food, and a decent aquarium.

Zoo

Sometimes the zoos in South Korea make me sad. The animals don’t seem very happy in their small cages. But there are some exceptions to this. Our favorite zoo in Seoul itself (Everland Zoo is probably better but way more expensive) is Seoul Grand Park Zoo.Seoul Grand Park is a subway stop on line 4. The zoo is exit 2. But you can also get to the Science Museum at exit 5.

The parking lot brings you to the bathrooms and a place to buy tickets for the elephant train that will take you to the zoo. You can walk if you prefer. The guy said it was a 15 minutes walk. But the train was super cheap. Adults pay 1,000 won (about $1.00) and little kids like Clarissa pay 700 won. After our train ride, we bought tickets to the zoo. Adults pay 5,000 won (less than $5.00) and preschoolers are free. We thought we would also try the theme garden which also has farm animals which costs 2,000 won. A combination ticket for both was 5,600 won.

The zoo was great. We saw monkeys, giraffes, zebras, elephants, rhinoceros, lions, tigers, and bears. There is also a petting zoo and insectarium. There are plenty of restaurants that sell Korean food as well.

Museums

There are a few museums worth taking your small children to. The Figure Museum was very close to the Apgujeong subway station and easy to find with the statue in front. There were six floors of exhibits with each floor having its own theme. All three of us really enjoyed the museum.

Another favorite was  Seoul Children’s Museum located in Children’s Grand Park (Please note there is a zoo here as well, but I do not recommend it…). Admission costs 4,000 won per person but children under 3 are free. It was well worth the cost. There were 4 floors of exhibits that all of us enjoyed. You could pretend to be blind and get on the subway, learn about animals or space, play dress up, build a house, or play with water. Most exhibits were explained in both Hangul and English. If we lived here, we would buy a membership. I think the museum is geared towards kids second grade and under.

 

Our favorite Easter books for preschool and young elementary

Standard

The two biggest holidays on the Christian calendar are Christmas and Easter (Resurrection Day). I feel like Christmas probably gets more press time than Easter. But we still have a list of books that we read every year in the weeks leading up to Resurrection Day.

img_20190323_1854204339840030356360255.jpg

  • Peek-a-Bible The Easter Story is a great lift the flap book that tells the story of Resurrection Day. It starts with Jesus riding into town on a donkey, includes The Last Supper, the garden, Jesus on the cross, and His resurrection.
    The Easter Story is a cute little board book that tells the story with nice pictures and easy sentences.
  • God Gave Us Love is a long conversation between Little Cub and Grandpa about loving someone but not always liking what they do. At the end they talk about how God loves us so much that He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins.
  • God Gave Us Easter is another story about little cub. This time, Papa explains that Easter is even better than Christmas because Jesus died on the cross for us. He also talks a lot about how spring can point us to Jesus. I also really like that Papa explains what it means to listen to God and when Little Cub wakes up in the morning she is excited to report that she heard from God too.
  • Lily’s Easter Party has been one of Clarissa’s favorite books since we bought it when she was two. In this story, Lily invites some of her friends over for a special Easter egg hunt. At the egg hunt, the children are instructed to put the eggs in a basket on the table. Then once all the eggs are found, mom and dad sit down with the kids and open the eggs in order. Each egg has a small object inside that tells the story of Jesus and his Resurrection. This is a great book if you have resurrection eggs, but you can also read it on it’s own.
  • The Parable of the Lily is a story about Maggie who receives a present in the mail in the middle of winter. There were instructions to put the box in a cool dark place and plant it in spring. One day, Maggie accidentally made a mess in the cellar and threw her box into the yard and forgot about it. On Easter morning, she woke up to beautiful lilies in her yard. She was excited about new life. She realized that the gift was from her father and she learned a lesson in forgiveness.
  • Holy Week is a new one for us this year. It is a board book that talks about the names of different emotions and places them with a Bible verse and a picture to tell a different part of the Holy Week story.
  • In The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story, Brother and Sister Bear start the story really excited about all of the candy that will be in their Easter baskets but learn the real story of Easter in Sunday school.
  • We love Little Critter in this house, so Happy Easter Little Critter gets read too, even though they have an Easter bunny and do an egg hunt at the church picnic.

You can read our favorite books about Christmas here.

Poor Zacchaeus

Standard

When I was younger I learned a song about Zaccheaeus.

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed him by, He looked up in the tree. And He said, ‘Zacchaeus you come down. For I’m going to your house today. For I am going to your house today.’ ”

So what did I learn about Zacchaeus? He was short. I don’t know about you, but if someone is going to talk about me in 2,000 years, I don’t want the only thing that people remember about me is that I was short.

If you actually read the story in the Bible, there is more to the story than the fact that Zaccheaus was short. Luke 19:1-10:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of all my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

So we see a change in Zacchaeus during the course of this story. In the beginning, Zacchaeus was a tax collector who was probably not very honest because the people in this town didn’t like him. But Jesus didn’t care about that. Jesus wanted to go to his home because Jesus knew what Zacchaeus was capable of. And because of this, Zacchaeus changed. He wanted to give to the poor and pay back the people that he had stolen from. So when Jesus remembers Zacchaeus, he remembers his salvation and not all the bad things that he had done.

People may not be talking about my life in 2,000 years. But people will talk about me when I am gone. What will my children and grandchildren remember about me? Will they remember a mom who yelled too much or ate too much candy? Or a woman who loved hard and tried to show grace?

Our favorite books for babies and toddlers

Standard

I have been reading to Clarissa since before she could talk. At first, she chomped on the books as I read them. But eventually she learned to sit and look at the books. We had several favorites when she was really small. These are our favorite books for babies and toddlers.

  • Time for Bed by Mem Fox
    I loved the repetition in this book. “It’s time for bed little sheep, little sheep. The whole wide world is going to sleep…” Clarissa loved the animals in the book. I would say goodnight and call her a different animal every night.
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
    Clarissa really liked this one, I think because of the bunny. It rhymes and has decent pictures. As a bigger kid, she was confused about why they said goodnight to so many objects because “you don’t need to say goodnight to air.” But as a baby, she loved it.
  • God Made Me
    Clarissa loved this one because of all the animals. She liked to tell me the names of the animals in the pictures. I liked that she was learning that God made everything.
  • Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
    This is another rhyming book with wonderful pictures. I loved that this book taught Clarissa that no matter what, Mommy would always love her. And that even as a grown up she would know that she was loved.
  • On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
    Clarissa preferred this one because of all the adventures the animals had on the “wonderful, marvelous night she was born.”
  • God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren
    This is one in a series of books about Little Cub and her family. This one explains how Mommy and Daddy were excited that God was giving them a baby and some of the anticipation they had for baby’s birth and then what life was like when they brought baby home. She liked the bears.
  • Time for a Hug by Phillis Gershator and Mim Green
    This was Clarissa’s favorite book for about a year. She loved that the bunny and her mom had a hug like every hour of the day. I think she also liked that Daddy would hug her every time it happened in the book. This would also be a great book to teach little kids about a schedule.

ARTistic Pursuits Inc Review

Standard

Clarissa loves art. She is constantly creating art and craft projects. I was so excited when we were given the chance to review ARTistic Pursuits Inc because they have a full art curriculum that will teach Clarissa more than I can with their K-3rd Grade Art Level, Volumes 1-8. With eight volumes, there is something for every family’s needs.

img_20190312_1030253727462982130958292.jpg

For my kindergarten student, we chose Volume 1 Art for Children: Building a Visual Vocabulary. I was really impressed with it. There are 18 lessons included in this art curriculum. Some lessons require a DVD for instruction and others just have lessons in the book. But they are all lessons that I would not be able to teach her with my limited art ability and training.

There is a supply list at the beginning of the book. You can either buy materials at your local craft store, or you can order them directly from ARTistic Pursuits Inc with your art curriculum. If you are buying them on your own, you can choose to buy all of the materials at once or when you need them. For example, the first six lessons have to do with water color crayons so you would only need water color crayons, water color paper, water color brush, pencil, paper towel, and water container for the first six lessons. You can add your other materials later if that is better for your budget.

My daughter and I have really enjoyed working through this art curriculum together. The first lesson was a DVD lesson that taught us how to use the watercolor crayons and then add the water to make it look like a painting. I am not an expert at watercolor painting to begin with. But I never would have thought to use crayons first. The finished product looked so much better than if we had just tried to paint from the beginning.

The next several watercolor lessons are just from the book. There is a famous painting to look at and then a lesson about what artists do like: artists compose, artists imagine,  artists observe, and artists communicate. There was a specific assignment for each one. They each involved Clarissa finding something as a model and then drawing that on her paper and adding the water to make it a painting.

The next video lesson was about mixing colors. It was interesting to put the lighter color first and then add the darker color. It didn’t always look very mixed with the crayons. But once the water was added, you could really see the new color.

We are excited to continue on with this curriculum. We still have other mediums to learn about with construction paper and oil pastels in this volume. I am also looking forward to reading reviews from other families about the other volumes of the curriculum. I know that Clarissa would like to continue her art studies and I really like that this is a quality curriculum that requires very little knowledge or preparation from me. At $39.99 per volume, it is pretty affordable as well.

Kindergarten to Third Grade Art following History in Chronological Order {ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Clarissa’s announcement

Standard

When I was a summer camp counselor, we used to sing this song at mealtime.

“Announcements, announcements, announcements. What a horrible death to die. What a horrible death to die. What a horrible death to be talked to death. What a horrible death to die. Announcements, announcements, (begin obnoxiously long drumroll of kids hitting the table) annnoooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwncements. ”

And then a particular male counselor would always say,” I sold my cow…. ” and the program director would give us whatever announcements we needed to hear.

I was hoping to make a few announcements all at once. But an official offer for Tim is taking forever. And we have pretty much already told everyone our other secret. So we decided to announce them on the blog separately.

Clarissa has been asking for a little sister since she was two years old. For a long time she was adamant that she wanted a little sister, then it was two sisters (the backseat of the car can fit 3 carseats), and if it was a boy we should give him back. Last spring she started saying that she wanted a sister AND a brother. By summer, she was like, “I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl. Just ask God to put a baby in your tummy.”

Clarissa is finally getting her wish. Baby Faust is due September 21, 2019. At first, Clarissa was pretty adamant that she wanted both a brother and a sister- twins! In the beginning, I thought it might be twins because the day that I found out that I was pregnant God told me that “Mercy and grace will follow me all the days of my life.” So I figured we would have two girls with the middle names Mercy and Grace. Interestingly though when I looked up the verse it is actually, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6) But God doesn’t only speak in Bible verses so I am going to go with mercy and grace…

But there is only one baby in there. So now Clarissa has decided that she would prefer a brother. That way, she can be Eva when she plays Wakfu and her brother can be Dally…But if it’s a girl, we are allowed to keep her.

We are all excited about this new addition to the family. Well, I’m not sure about Mittens. Tim and I are happy and Clarissa is thrilled. She kisses my tummy multiple times per day and pretty much tells everyone we see in person, “Mommy has a baby in her tummy!”

We have some idea of where baby Faust will be born, but nothing is official yet. Our DEROS (the end of Tim’s contract) is April 30, so we will likely have ample time to get settled in and have our belongings from Korea arrive before baby comes.

Our favorite books for three year olds

Standard

When Clarissa was three, she started having opinions about which books we picked from the library. Instead of just choosing whichever book she could reach, she usually had something in mind.

She had three favorite series of books that she kept going back to.

Little Critter
I grew up reading the Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer. In fact, my mother kept several of my books for me and so Clarissa has some of my favorite books from when I was a little girl. She enjoyed Little Critter’s adventures and the funny things that he does. He is easy for little kids to relate to. “I made you a sandwich, but I got hungry so I ate it…” His responses remind me of Clarissa, so I enjoy his antics as well.

Gerald and Piggie
I had never heard of Gerald and Piggie before we started attending storytime at the library on post. Gerald is a very cautious elephant and Piggie is his best friend, a very fun pig. They are very different but have many adventures together. I like that each page is dialogue and the stories are funny. They are pretty predictable too and we read them more than once, so I have a few videos of Clarissa “reading” me these books.

God gave us series
Most of these books are about Little Cub and her parents. She has so many questions about things. I like that Mama and Papa explain things in a way that she understands. She learns about how much God loves her, how God made her just for her family, Christmas, Easter, how God made the world. She even learns about things like heaven, angels, and sleep. There is also a wolf pup who learns about being thankful and how God gives us all different families.

Girls Trip to Seoul

Standard

I have never been to a Broadway show. And I never pass up an adventure with the ladies at my church. So when we started talking about going to see Lion King Live, I knew I wanted to go.

We met up at church at 3pm and the eight of us piled into Jen’s van for our hour and a half drive to Seoul Arts Center Opera House. I was glad to be a passenger instead of the driver. I hate driving in Seoul traffic and there were many u-turns to find a parking lot that actually had spaces available.

We did make great time and decided that we would try the restaurant at the opera house because it was easy to find. The food was actually really good and reasonably priced for a venue like that. I was able to get a classic burger and french fries for 11,000 won (like $10) and the pizzas and pastas were between 20,000-30,000 won ($20-$30). Everyone enjoyed their food.

Then we had about an hour before the show so we stood in line to take pictures. It was very cold outside and they didn’t have the heat on in the hallways so we were in our jackets for all of our pictures. There were programs for sale, binoculars (which they called opera glasses) available to rent, as well as a coffee shop and a vending machine for drinks.

Photography was forbidden in the auditorium itself which was actually a very comfortable temperature. We bought the cheapest seats (60,000 won so like $50) so we were on the fourth floor in the last two rows of the theater. But we could still see and hear everything that was happening on stage. The theater wasn’t sold out either which surprised me.

I had never been to a Broadway caliber production before and I was actually very impressed from the beginning. The giraffes came out first which were dancers on stilts. They must have needed very strong abdominal muscles for that. They were all in sync with each other’s movements. There was a live orchestra and drums. The costumes were great and the sets were simple but I really liked them. I was actually very impressed with the caliber of actors, dancers, and singing in the show. The show was mostly in English with what was probably an African song or two in the mix but there were Korean subtitles on a large screen off to the side.

The story was very true to what I remember of the movie, except that Rafiki the crazy monkey was a girl in the live show. But all of the usual songs were there. There were a few Korea specific jokes in the show. For example, they talked about going to Dongdaemun Market and Zazu said “don’t send me back to Everland Zoo!” Also, Zazu sings “Let it Go” to Scar instead of “It’s a Small World.”

One of the ladies said she was going to come back with her kids. I think kids would enjoy the show and there were actually several in the theater. Lion King is in Seoul until the end of March and then it moves to Busan, so there is still time to go see the show.

fb_img_15497278185328973051666073478059.jpg

After the show, we headed back to the car so that we could go to our next location, Dongdaemun Market. I guess we didn’t really do our research on this one because the night market is closed on Sundays (which actually means Saturday night). So we went to Doota (a big department store type mall) which had cute stuff but department store prices. The better deal would have been the outdoor market, but it wasn’t there that day. There was one small section of outdoor shops in yellow tents so we went there. I had some street food (chicken kebab) and a few of the ladies found hats and things to buy. It was only about 20 degrees outside and the usual Korea wind so we didn’t last super long anyway.

We left Dongdaemun a little after midnight and went to a 24 hour McDonalds on the way home since ladies were hungry again. It was a wonderful adventure. Maybe will try Dongdaemun again in the spring when it is warmer.

Ideas for keeping in touch with long distance relatives

Standard

We moved to South Korea when Clarissa was eighteen months old. I felt bad taking the only grandbaby on both sides to the other side of the world. But I also knew that there were things that I could do to help Clarissa keep in touch with her extended family.

  • Care Packages
    I hang up Clarissa’s artwork in our house when she creates it. A few times per year, I take it down and mail it to the grandparents. We try to send care packages with art (and now that she is older, samples of her school work) at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, and Christmas. This way, I don’t have to throw Clarissa’s work away and the grandmothers appreciate samples of her work.
    We often create special cards or paintings specifically for the packages. Especially when Clarissa was younger, we would create something with her handprint or footprint so that the grandmothers could see how much she had grown. We have made footprint butterflies and mermaids, and handprint flowers among other things.
  • Photo gifts
    I use Shutterfly a lot for gifts. It is easy to make calendars and photo books. For a while I was sending photo books at different times and everyone was on a different schedule. Now I have switched to making one for the year and everyone gets the same one. I can also send mugs, notebooks, bags, and calendars with Clarissa’s pictures.
  • Visits
    How often you visit depends on how far away you are. A flight from Korea to America is expensive (and the thirteen/fourteen hour time difference is brutal) so we’ve only been home once in four years. At about our halfway mark in Korea, Clarissa and I did a solo trip to visit both sets of grandparents. She was so young when we left that she didn’t really have memories of them in person, just over Skype. I assumed that if we could go to America and make some memories, she would interact with the family members better when we did Skype. I was correct.
  • Facebook
    We have a special facebook group for our extended families. I try to regularly post pictures, videos, and funny things that Clarissa says so that they can see her often. Sometimes they post videos with messages for her as well or pictures of the animals in Omi’s yard. I also make videos whenever someone sends Clarissa a package in the mail. This way they get to “watch” her open her gifts and see her reaction.
  • Skype
    Skype is free and we use it regularly. The grandparents can talk to Clarissa (and Tim and I) in real time. There are also copies of books that Clarissa owns that each of the grandparents have so that they can read her a book over Skype and she can follow along. And they often request that she opens her presents over Skype so they can interact with her while she opens them.
  • Blog
    I had a blog before we moved anyway but it was mostly a recipe blog. Once we moved, it morphed into a what we’re doing in Korea and travel blog. I don’t have a big following, but my family enjoys reading about our adventures. I also like that one day Clarissa will be able to look back and see our adventures in picture and story form.

We’re planning to move back to the United States in the spring. Clarissa is excited that she will get to see her grandparents and new baby cousin in person. She is hoping that we will live close so that she can see them “whenever I want!”

The day Clarissa decided she wanted to be baptized

Standard

Clarissa and I talked about baby Jesus a lot in December. We talked about his parents, his birth, the shepherds, the wise men; all of it, when we did Truth in the Tinsel.

This month, Clarissa and I are going to memorize the Lord’s Prayer and learn how to pray. Before we do that, I wanted to review some of the things we learned about Jesus. So one day we looked at the pictures in her Bible about Jesus’s dedication at the temple (at 8 days old) and about when His parents couldn’t find Him because He stayed at the temple (at 12 years old).

 

I wanted to move on to Jesus being baptized and our conversation took a very interesting turn. When we looked at the picture of Jesus being baptized, Clarissa said, “So when Jesus was being dedicated at the temple, it was like he was being baptized. That’s how babies are baptized. And then they get baptized as an adult too.” So we stopped to talk about it.

I explained that when babies are dedicated to the Lord, it is really about the parents. The parents are making a decision to raise their child to know who God is. The parents want their child to love Jesus so they pray that their child will love God. When an adult is baptized, it means something very different. When an adult is baptized it means that they want to show other people that they love Jesus.

 

Clarissa immediately said, “Oh. I love Jesus. I want to be baptized.” I explained that usually our pastor baptizes people in a river so we need to wait until it is warmer outside. But she was very adamant that she wanted to be baptized. Immediately. Right now. I told her she needed to wait at least another half hour until Daddy came home.

She agreed to that and got to work making a sign. “Mommy how to do you spell Baptized?” Then she put on her bathing suit and asked me to fill up the bath tub. She got impatient waiting for Tim so she decided to baptize herself. “Mommy, I did it!” What?

 

 

Then Tim got home and we talked about what happened when John baptized Jesus. And Clarissa was like, “I already got baptized, you don’t need to do it again…” She didn’t want us to dunk her.

I’m not sure this counts as her official baptism. I’m sure she’ll want to do it again when she’s older and understands it a bit better. But I so appreciated her heart and how she wanted to do it right now.

Our favorite books for four year olds

Standard

Clarissa has always been a reader. I have pictures of her looking at books sprawled out on the floor before she could walk. She asks to visit the library often and requests that I read to her several times per day. If I am not available, she says “okay,” and then walks into her room, closes the door, and starts “reading” to herself. These were some of her favorites when she was four years old. Again, we have a lot of series of books on this list. Thought there were a few that were favorites by themselves.

  • At four, Clarissa was pretty much obsessed with Magic School Bus. She watched the show on netflix everyday and has several different books to read. Her favorites were Inside the Human Body and Time of the Dinosaurs. But we pretty much read any Magic School Bus book that we could find.
  • Gigi, God’s Little Princess is a wonderful series of books by Sheila Walsh. Clarissa says that Gigi “reminds her of Fancy Nancy, except that Gigi loves God.” She’s your typical five year old girl who has some crazy adventures with her best friend Frances. She has a cat named Tiara and a dog named Lord Fluffy. Gigi is also very into the color pink.
  • Usborne has several books about the human body. Clarissa really enjoys the lift the flap ones.
  • Gerald and Piggie books by Mo Willems were another favorite. Elephant Gerald and Piggie are best friends but they are so different. Piggie is fun and exciting and Gerald is a little more cautious but they have great adventures together. I also like that all of the books are written entirely in dialog.
  • Little Critter was one of my favorites when I was a little kid. Clarissa loves Little Critter and the crazy adventures that he has with his family. I like that he has a great family and that he is your typical kid. “I tried to make you lunch, but I got hungry…I didn’t forget to use soap, I just don’t like it…”
  • We bought Clarissa Lily’s Easter Party a few years ago to go with her Resurrection Eggs. She pulls the book out several times per year. I can’t put it away with the Easter things. She likes the story of friends having and Easter egg hunt. I like that she is learning more about the different parts of the Resurrection story.
  • I wrote a review about the Planet 316 Bible last year. It is Clarissa’s favorite Bible. She loves that she can use my phone to make the stories come to life. I like it because she is excited about reading Bible stories.

I need to write separate posts for Christmas and Easter because we have so many favorite books for those seasons.

A new tradition for January

Standard

I am a planner. Drives me crazy. I like to have a plan. Then something changes and I have to change the plan. But the plan is always there.

I have tried long term plans and short term plans. Google calendar and a wall calendar worked for a while. Last year I tried a planner. I tried a few and then had other lists for planning things like my blog or homeschooling.

Right now the bloggers and podcasters are raving about planners and power sheets, goals, and things they will accomplish in 2019. Sounds good for a planner like me, right?

But it’s not. I have no idea what I want 2019 to look like. I have no idea when we are leaving Korea this year, nor do I know where we are moving. This also means that I don’t know if we will live somewhere where I will homeschool or if I need to go back to work.

What I need to do in in 2019 is trust. To trust that God has a plan for our family. That He knows what is best and will direct our steps. I also need to enjoy this season of life. Clarissa will only be 5 once and we will only be in Korea for a few more months. I need to enjoy it now because when we move back to the US, life will be different. It does not mean bad, just different. I don’t want to look back on the end of our time here and regret not being fully present.

So for January (we’ll starting now really), I want to turn off all the voices. I took Facebook and my podcast app off my phone. I want to spend more time with the people in front of my face and take some time to write. And spend some extra time with Jesus.

Bringing Your Kids Alongside you to Serve Others

Standard

As Clarissa grows, one of my goals is for her to have a heart that wants to serve others and not just herself. At first it seemed hard to find ways for her to serve others since she is only five. But I have found that one of the best ways to do this, is to just bring her alongside when we serve.

Some ways that we do this in everyday life:

  • Meals
    If someone we has a baby or needs surgery or something like that, there is usually some kind of meal train. We sign up and take a meal to that family. Clarissa might help me make the meal. But she always wants to make dessert. So she helps me bake something for the family and also usually comes with me to deliver the meal.
  • Babysitting
    Living in an army community overseas, there are not usually family members around to help. Friends become that family for you while you are here. If a friend has a doctor appointment or a job interview, we can watch their children. Clarissa isn’t old enough to be in charge, but she can play and share her toys with the children at our house.
  • Sunday School
    If I am teaching Sunday School, Clarissa can help me prepare. She helps me choose materials for her class. On Sunday morning, she goes with me to set up the supplies before class starts.
  • Sponsor a Child
    Once a child is three years old, they are eligible to be a sponsored child for Compassion International. On Clarissa’s third birthday, we went on their website and found a list of a three kids who were born on her birthday. I thought for sure she would choose the little girl, but she was adamant that she wanted to choose a boy. She helps me write letters and draw pictures for our sponsored child. We pray for him and his family. We talk about what the money we send does for his family. I think she is still disappointed that we have yet to meet him in person but hopefully we’ll get to do that someday.
  • Responding to Needs
    Facebook can be a helpful tool. A few times we have seen posts on our community pages that describe a specific need. For example, one time there was a woman whose brother’s house burned down and his family lost anything. She was asking for donations of clothes for the children and one was a little girl Clarissa’s size. We have more than enough so Clarissa and I went through her things and found clothes, shoes, books, and toys that we could send for the little girl.

It is getting closer to Christmas so families are often looking for ways to serve. There are plenty of holiday specific things you can do.

  • Operation Christmas Child
    In America, this is one of my favorite things to do. I collect things all year like toothbrushes, toothpaste, and small toys to put in our shoeboxes. There aren’t any drop off points in Korea, so I was sad that we would not be able to participate here. But there is an online option. For $25 per box, we can assemble a shoebox online. Clarissa and I can choose gender, age, and specific items in each category for our shoebox. We can also enclose a family picture and write a note. Then we pray for the child who will receive our shoebox. It is one of Clarissa’s favorite things to do.img_20181025_1140496001063227302204537.jpg

 

  • Angel Tree
    Angel Tree is a program that gives children with incarcerated parents gifts for Christmas. Many churches or community centers participate in this program. You can find a child’s ornament on the tree and buy gifts for that child to bring back to be distributed. Some churches do their own version of this. In Korea, the chapel did something similar with children at a nearby orphanage. Clarissa enjoyed going with me to the px to buy some clothes and toys for the child.
  • Christmas gift for Jesus
    On Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Some families do a birthday party for Jesus complete with cake. We also choose some gifts for Jesus. Several ministries send out a gift catalog in the fall. This year, Clarissa looked through the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Catalog and spent several days deciding what we wanted to do. She wanted to give more than our budget so it was hard to choose specific items. She kept wanting to do the feeding people and medical gifts. We ended up choosing a goat since that would feed a family for a long time. She also chose sending winter coats to kids. When she is older and has an allowance, it will be interesting to see if she is willing to pay for these things herself. But for now, she is learning about the needs of others.
  • Soup kitchens
    This is really something that you can do all year, but many people only think about it during the holidays. There are several people in your community who don’t have a place to stay or enough food to eat. You can go as a family to serve them a meal.

Holiday traditions that point kids to Jesus

Standard

A few years ago I read a book called Christmas is Not Your Birthday by Mike Slaughter. The point of the book is to be giving to others and serving Jesus instead of just wanting gifts for yourself. That’s what I want for Clarissa (and myself). For her to understand that Christmas is not just about her receiving gifts. Two books this year that have really helped her to see that: The King’s Christmas List and The Three Gifts of Christmas.

We have a few holiday traditions this time of year to point Clarissa to Jesus instead of just ourselves.

  • For Thanksgiving, Clarissa and I memorized Psalm 136:1. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.” We spent several days talking about the things we are thankful for. Clarissa wrote them down inside the turkey that she drew.

img_20181212_2309505582454082088968834.jpg

  • We read a lot of books about Christmas and Jesus.
  • We do Truth in the Tinsel. This is a 24 day curriculum where you read a Bible story each day and focus on a different part or person of the Christmas story (Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, etc). Each day in addition to the Bible reading there is some discussion and a craft to make. This is our fifth year and Clarissa and I  both really enjoy doing this together.
  • We like to bake in this house so we make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve.
  • We also like to choose some birthday gifts for Jesus. We really like both the Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog and the Compassion Gift Catalog. Clarissa, Tim, and I each get to choose a project to give to. Clarissa often will choose clothes for children or providing a family with some kind of animal. I like to give towards educating mothers either to read or some kind of skill that they can use to provide for their family. Tim likes to find technology projects.
  • A couple of years ago I kept a blessing jar. I would write down blessings on a sticky note through the year and put them in the jar. At the end of the year, I would pull them out and read them. It was fun to remember God’s faithfulness through the year.

But the Fruit of the Spirit is… peace

Standard

At church, Clarissa has been learning about the Fruit of the Spirit. I did the lesson on peace and thought I would share since it was already typed anyway…

—–

What do you expect to see when you pass an apple tree? Apples right. And what about a ginko tree? Ginko. So when you are following Jesus, there are certain things or “fruit” that other people should expect to see in your life. These things are called the Fruit of the Spirit. Things like love, joy, and peace. The Bible says,

“But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

After Jesus went back to Heaven, He told the disciples to hang out until He sent them the Helper, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit living inside of us, and is like our helper. No matter where we go, the Holy Spirit is always with us. Without the Holy Spirit inside of us, following Jesus would be impossible. God wants us to be filled with His power so that we can live for Him.

Choose a volunteer. Give volunteer balloon. Ask them to toss it into the air to see how long it stays up. Then have them inflate the balloon and hold the end tightly (but don’t tie it closed). Toss the balloon in the air and watch as it screams across the room.

Ask: Which balloon stayed up longer? Even when thrown as high as our volunteer could throw it, the balloon didn’t stay up very long without air in it. Without the Holy Spirit, we’re like the empty balloon–we don’t have God’s power inside of us. But when we receive the Holy Spirit, we’re able to do great things for God. The Holy Spirit helps us follow Jesus.

The Bible says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem (Pyeongtaek), and in Judea and Samaria (Korea), and to the ends of the earth (all over the world).” Acts 1:8

So once we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, our life should be different. Has everyone asked God for the Holy Spirit in your own life?

As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, we can live for God everywhere– when we’re at work, with friends, or at home. When we’re living for God, we can learn some characteristics that the Bible calls the Fruit of the Spirit. The kids have been learning about the individual Fruits of the Spirit and I wanted to talk about peace today.

What is peace?

  • Feeling at peace. We don’t have to be afraid of ANYTHING. Jesus is bigger and more powerful. Demons have to leave in Jesus name. You can be healed in Jesus name.
  • We can live in peace with people.

What are some things that you need more peace about in your life? Either in your heart or with other people? What are you afraid of? What are you mad about? You don’t have to tell me about any of it. Write it down.

We’re going to listen to some music and give it all to God. I am providing a link on youtube as well as the lyrics. You can play the music and give it all to God or just sing the words as worship. I have also included some Bible verses about peace if you want to look at those

—–

Tremble by Mosaic

Peace, bringing it all to peace
The storm surrounding me
Let it break at Your name

Still, call the sea to still
The rage in me to still
Every wave at Your name
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus, You silence fear
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus
Breathe, then call these bones to live
Call these lungs to sing
Once again, I will praise
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus, You silence fear
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus, You silence fear
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus
Your name is a light that the shadows can’t deny
Your name cannot be overcome
Your name is alive forever lifted high
Your name cannot be overcome
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus, You silence fear
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus
Jesus, Jesus
Jesus, Jesus
Your name is a light that the shadows can’t deny
Your name cannot be overcome
Your name is alive forever lifted high
Your name cannot be overcome
Your name is a light that the shadows can’t deny
Your name cannot be overcome
Your name is alive forever lifted high
Your name cannot be overcome

Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus, You silence fear
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus

Oceans by Hillsong

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David Helser

You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
‘Til all my fears are gone

[2x]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again to my family
Your blood flows through my veins

[4x]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the Father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears are drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
You drowned my fears in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.

Yes, I am
I am a child of God
I am a child of God
Yes, I am
I am a child of God
Full of faith
Yes, I am a child of God
I am a child of God

[3x]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

—–

“But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:4-7

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock Eternal.”
Isaiah 26:3-4

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
Isaiah 54:10

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:25-27

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone…’If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good”
Romans 12:17-21

That time we were the only people at Anseong Farmland

Standard

The last time we went to Anseong Farmland was for a birthday party. It was a Saturday at the beginning of September so it was pretty crowded. We had a great time and Clarissa has been asking to go back for two months. Today I decided the air was clean enough and it was still warm enough to go. I am so glad I did.

We went arrived on a Wednesday afternoon about 3pm. The website said that they were open every day from 10-6 so I figured we would be okay. There were only four cars in the parking lot so I was a little concerned that the place was closed. We walked up to the ticket counter and purchased a farm horse ticket (12,000 won for children and 17,000 for adults gets you general admission to Anseong Farmland plus a horse riding experience).

We walked over to where the horses were and realized that it was time for people to get horseback riding lessons. Either that or there was a school there on a field trip. We were willing to wait. A man came out and said, “Uh. We’re full right now.” I asked if we should come back later and he said, “Um. No. Come with me.” He proceeded to take Clarissa and I to a different barn where the ponies are kept. He took out a pony on a leash, showed Clarissa what to do, and let her walk around with the pony. Meanwhile there were at least 10 other kids with a Korean teacher having a class.

 

He then took us back to the barn and told us to wait while someone warmed up a different horse for Clarissa to ride. So we watched as a tall horse and a smaller horse warmed up and trotted around the arena. Then it was our turn. Clarissa went first. The trainer walked Clarissa around the circle five times. During her ride, Clarissa learned that her horse was actually also a five year old girl. She was thrilled. I had my five laps around the circle too but there aren’t great pictures from my ride.

During my ride the trainer asked where we traveled from. I am pretty sure that they assumed we were on a trip from America and not Americans who live in Pyeongtaek. I don’t know if everyone else will get the same experience. But we had a wonderful visit!

Our next objective was to feed some animals. Last time we were there on a Saturday so there were people selling animal feed everywhere we went. On a Wednesday afternoon we were the only ones walking around and that was not the case. We got to pet bunnies, but there was no one selling carrots today.

img_20181128_1542266119334541419743305.jpg

Thankfully there was actually an attendant selling food with the farm animals. Usually, you pay 1,000 won for a small basket of food. He gave us a heaping bowl for the pigs and then when we asked for food for the sheep, he gave us 3 baskets for the price of one and said, “service” (that means free). Clarissa had a great time feeding sheep, goats, pigs, deer, and cows.

Then we went up the hill to see the donkeys. The man came out of his shack and gave us four carrots for free when he saw us looking at the donkeys. We walked around a bit and then saw the horses. So we went back to the man and I was prepared to pay for more carrots. Last time, we paid 1,000 won for two carrots. This time I gave him 1,000 won and he gave us 8 carrots!

On the way out, I noticed there were two houses for birds. In the first house, we went in and birds kept landing on me. At one point I had one on my head, one on either shoulder, and two on my arm. None would go near Clarissa. There was a machine to buy bird food, but you needed to have 500 won coins. So we only bought one container of food.

img_20181128_1622384240848553577356160.jpg

Then we went to the other house. There was an attendant there cleaning. Clarissa wanted to look at the birds more closely. He said, “Do you want to feed them?” and proceeded to pour birdfeed in Clarissa’s hand. When the birds didn’t come, he put some in his hand, whistled, and brought her closer. They came to him and then he moved his hand next to hers and they started eating from her hand.

Clarissa and I had a wonderful afternoon. We were at Anseong Farmland about two hours. I highly recommend going on a weekday. There wasn’t a tractor ride though so if you want that you probably need to go on the weekend. But we so enjoyed having the place to ourselves. Clarissa loved our first trip but kept saying this was so much better.

Our Favorite Thanksgiving Books

Standard

If you’ve been around a while, you know that we love books in this house. I have special books that we only get out at certain times of year. Though Clarissa knows where they are so sometimes I have to go hunting for them. This year we found a new favorite at the library as well. There are so many books available to teach kids the history of Thanksgiving, but these are our current favorites.

  • An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving
    In this story by Louisa May Alcott, the mother and father get called away suddenly because her mother is sick. So the older daughters are left in charge for Thanksgiving. They make dinner but they don’t do it quite right. But the extended family comes home and has a wonderful evening together, complete with apple slump for dessert. The recipe was in the back of the book, so you know we had to make it. It was delicious!

  • God Gave Us Thankful Hearts
    I wrote about this book a few years ago when we first discovered Little Pup. It leads to great discussions about all the things we can be thankful for.
  • Berenstain Bears Give Thanks
    Papa makes a new table and chairs for Farmer Ben. His payment is a big turkey named Squanto. Sister Bear falls in love with Squanto and so they don’t end up eating him for Thanksgiving dinner. But Sister and the other cubs do put on a play about the first Thanksgiving.
  • The Littlest Pilgrim
    Mini is the smallest pilgrim in the village and gets frustrated because everyone says she is too small to help. This part frustrates Clarissa. But at the end she makes a friend so she likes it. I like that you get to see many of the chores during colonial times so Clarissa gets to see what life was actually like for a pilgrim girl like Mini.
  • Thank you, Sarah
    This is the story of how Thanksgiving became the national holiday that we celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November. A woman named Sarah Hale actually wrote letters for thirty eight years before Abraham Lincoln said yes to her idea of having a set day for Thanksgiving so that everyone in the country could celebrate on the same day. We like it because the book refers to her as a super hero. So she is a girl and her super power is writing. Both things are of value in this house.
  • Being Thankful
    At the beginning of the book Little Critter complains about everything. Then, he goes to visit his grandparents on their farm and learns about being thankful complete with a new thankful rock. He comes home and teaches his sister what it means to be thankful. (Clarissa painted thankful rocks for everyone in our house after reading this book…)

Our favorite books for five year old girls

Standard

Clarissa and I read A LOT. We read as part of our school day, at bedtime, if Clarissa’s mood is out of control, or just because she wants to read. If she gets sent to her room, she just looks at books until I tell her she can come out.

img_20181119_1530108595758329727776527.jpg

When she was younger, we could read the same book several times in a row for days at a time. Now we may repeat a book later in the week. But we have shifted to reading books in the same series instead of just reading the same title.

Some of our favorite series right now:

  • Fancy Nancy
    Fancy Nancy is hilarious. She is your typical six year old girl. Super girly and proper but still quite silly. Her idea of fancy is using big words. Clarissa loves her crazy adventures. I like that Clarissa learns new vocabulary. Nancy also comes from a great family so you see family dynamics including a good relationship with her little sister and she has some other great adults in her life.
  • Anything by Mo Willems
    Mo Willems is a wonderful children’s author and illustrator. He writes several series of books. We have been reading Gerald and Piggie for a few years. The pigeon books are growing on Clarissa as well lately. But her new favorite is his Knuffle Bunny series (pronounced k-nuffle in Dutch). The books are mostly written in short dialog which makes them funny but also great for new readers.

img_20181120_1352363123366595659099755.jpg

  • Magic School Bus/ Magic School Bus Rides Again
    The original series has been around long enough that there are picture books, early readers, and chapter books to talk about many topics. So far I have only seen chapter books for the Magic School Bus Rides Again but they are well written and have a few pictures throughout the book. Clarissa doesn’t ask for these everyday like she used to. But we still read Magic School Bus at least once per week. Especially if she is in the mood to learn something or if we talk about something during our lessons and she remembers she has a book about it.
  • Zoey and Sassafrass
    In these books, a young girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras meet some magical creatures who ring a doorbell on her scientist mother’s barn office. Each creature has a problem that needs to be solved. Zoey (sometimes with help from her mom) use the scientific method to figure out what is causing the problem and how to help the creature. There are some black and white pictures, so it is a good bridge for kids who are used to reading picture books. The story is so engaging that Clarissa often makes me read the entire book (95 pages) in one sitting!
  • Berenstain Bears
    I used to read Berenstain Bears as a kid. In fact, we still have some of my books in Clarissa’s bookshelf. I like that the stories come from a pretty conservative worldview. Clarissa likes that they are a family of bears and that Sister Bear wears pink. I also like that they have several Christian books now so she can read about Jesus, Christmas, Easter, and prayer while reading her favorite characters.
  • Skippyjon Jones
    Skippyjon Jones is a cat who thinks he is a chihuahua. He goes on crazy adventures in his closet where he goes to places like Mexico and outer space. He’s pretty crazy and his books are funny. But they don’t really have any moral lessons included in them.

Books that aren’t in a series that we read often:

  • Amazing You
    Last year, Clarissa was very interested in the human body. We have all of the Usborne books about the inside of the human body. This summer we spent some time talking about appropriate touch and private parts. She still asks to read this one often.
  • There are No Moose on This Island
    My aunt sent Clarissa this book for her birthday last year. A boy and his dad go on a trip to Maine and take a ferry to an island. The dad is very interested in his guide book and insists that there are not any moose on the island. But the boy definitely sees one. The moose and the boy spend most of the day trying to convince the dad that the moose is real. He finally sees them as they are on the ferry going back to the mainland.

This year I was introduced to Sarah Mackenzie who has curated book lists for just about everything.

Our first apple picking experience

Standard

I don’t think they have apple picking where I grew up. I know they do a few hours away but we never went. Obviously, if I haven’t been, Clarissa yet to go apple picking either. So we were excited when the homeschool group decided to go apple picking together.

We went to Yesan Apple Wine (in Waze), about an hour away from Camp Humphreys. Waze made it pretty easy most of the way. The last mile or so, you just follow the big red apple signs.

If you make reservations, you can do an apple making experience at 2:00pm. They had a really great system in place. Everyone signs in and pays for the number of personal pies you are making (7,000 won each). Then there is a classroom set up. The teacher comes in and demonstrates all of the steps. Find your name on a table and follow the steps. The teacher walks around during the process to remind you things like to put the egg wash on your pie.

While you wait for everyone in your group to finish, there are sliced apples to eat. They were delicious. Sweet and juicy. Then, we went downstairs to tour the winery (in English). The process to make the wine takes three years. The brandy takes longer. They make a few different apple wines, blueberry wine, and apple brandy. The adults got a taste test at the end.

Next, we went outside to pick apples (5 for 10,000 won). We were instructed to pick a basket. Then our tour guide showed us “a good apple.” The apple should be red with no yellow on it if it is fully ripe. Clarissa had a great time picking the apples off the trees. She picked a few for me too and wants to go back again.

By the time we finished picking apples, our pies were ready. So we sat down to eat them. They don’t offer utensils though so we ate one almost like a big cookie and then brought the other one home for Tim.

The whole process was about 90 minutes. Our entire group enjoyed it. I highly recommend it for families. In the parking area there are also chickens to see. There is a “gift shop” near the entrance as well if you want to buy additional apples, apple wine, or apple jam.

Books for teaching kids about their bodies and appropriate touch

Standard

Teaching Clarissa about her body is one of my jobs as a mom. She’s known the correct names for a while and we’ve talked about who is allowed to touch her and where. I have found a few books on the subject of body parts and appropriate touch for young children that I thought I would share.

img_20180717_1527222818344555473195442.jpg

Amazing You! by Dr Gail Saltz, geared toward preschoolers, is currently one of Clarissa’s favorite books. She loves learning about the human body so she was very excited to learn about private parts and what their functions are. This picture book is easy to read and has illustrations that are appropriate for little kids. It says, “When a man and woman love each other and decide that they want to have a baby, a man’s sperm joins with a woman’s egg. From the egg and sperm, a baby will grow.” But that’s as detailed as it gets about reproduction in this book.

img_20180717_1527162411202686920554283.jpg

The Story of Me and Before I was Born are the first two books in a series called “God’s Design For Sex.”

The Story of Me by Stan and Brenna Jones says that it is geared towards age 3 to 5. I think that is pretty accurate. The book talks about giving babies to married people to raise. It talks about a baby growing inside a mommy. The story introduces terms like womb, uterus, and umbilical cord. It also discusses vaginal birth, c-section, and breastfeeding in a way that little kids understand. They even introduced the idea of good touch and bad touch.

Before I was Born by Carolyn Nystrom is written for children ages 5 to 8. This book focuses on the physical differences between boys and girls. It says that God made them different and He said it was good. The book introduced the idea of sex being a gift for married couples and how a baby is made. It also discusses how a baby develops inside his mother.

img_20180717_1527128787455229129201240.jpg

Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr by Kristen Jenson introduces the idea of pornography and talks about what you should do if you see something that you should not see. This one reads a little awkwardly out loud but led to great discussions.

wp-15393141482668451671945016641799.jpg

My least favorite was I Said No! A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private by Zack and Kimberly King. I appreciate what the book was trying to do. It was about a boy who went to a sleepover and his friend wanted to show him his private parts. Reading the words as they were written was very awkward. I found myself paraphrasing to to appease my ears. But it did bring about some great discussions between Clarissa and I.

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines Review

Standard

This month, I worked through the Balancing Diapers and Deadlines course from Lisa Tanner Writing. As you can guess from the title, it is a course about work-life balance, specifically for the work at home mom. But I think it is beneficial for all moms because we have to balance marriage, kids, and a house whether we are working or not.

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines

There are eight units in the course that you can work through at your own pace. Each unit works through a different area of your life; making goals for your business and getting your family on board, laundry, chores, meal planning, growing your business with kids underfoot, and boosting productivity. Each unit is broken into a few lessons and each lesson has an action step. Early in the course, one of the action steps is to do an email check in with Lisa. She actually responded to my email within 24 hours with encouragement and specific, actionable ideas for me.

She has several ideas for both laundry and meal planning. If you don’t struggle with those areas, you can skip those sections of the course. But if you are feeling overwhelmed in those areas, she has some wonderful suggestions. She has 5 years of annual meal plans available in the course. I like her idea of planning lunch. I always think about breakfast and dinner and don’t plan lunch so we end up winging it. This means that our meals in the middle of the day are not as healthy because it’s whatever I find. I also like her idea of a set time for certain chores. Morning chores are done after breakfast. Table chores are done after each meal.

Lisa has a lot of great ideas. She is a mom of 8 so all of the ideas work really well for large families. She gives suggestions for if you have fewer kids, but I really think this course is better for larger families or moms who feel overwhelmed with housework. Since Clarissa is my only child right now, some of it doesn’t really apply for me.

More than half of the course was really about getting your household running well with chores, laundry, and meal plans. The other units were about building your business. She talks about self care. “Learn what relaxes you, and make it a point to do that on a regular basis…even if it’s just five to ten minutes per day.” She has a great list of things you can pay other people to do so that you can focus on your business like grocery pick up, housecleaning, etc.

Lisa did inspire me to write more consistently on my blog. We are getting into a groove where Clarissa will let me write for a small block of time each day. Time blocking a to do list did help me to accomplish more in a day or at least have a more realistic expectation of what could be accomplished on that particular day.

Throughout the course, she has great downloadable lists for things like: chores your kids can do, what your kids can do during quiet time, and what a family writing time can look like. Each list is broken down into specific age groups to make it easy to find something for your specific kids. You can email Lisa again for another check in at the end of the course.

This course really did help me to find a focus for my blog and my writing. It helped me to really sit down and make some goals and plans for 2019. Due to the time constraints of writing this review, I feel like I rushed myself going through this course. I think I will go through it again slowly when Clarissa is a little older or if I do actually do need to earn an income from home. Fifty five women reviewed this course, so if you click on the link below you can read about their experiences as well.

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines {Lisa Tanner Writing Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

A Dad’s Role in Homeschooling

Standard

When I was an elementary school teacher, the school district set the curriculum and pacing guide. As a homeschool mom, the idea of planning my daughter’s curriculum was daunting at first. I thought about what I want Clarissa to learn before she graduates from our household. I asked my husband what he thought that she should learn before graduation and then we talked about what we thought was important for kindergarten. We also asked her what she wanted to learn this year. And then I prayed and made a one page outline of what I thought Clarissa could do each month for kindergarten.

Two months in, my husband thought I was spending way too much time picking out the “right activities” and planning lessons. He assured me that we had room in the budget for me to buy some curriculum to make life easier so I could actually enjoy homeschooling. I am so thankful for his perspective on this. It has really helped me to just relax and do the next thing. There is still time for reading books we are excited about and we can stop when she loses interest without worrying if I’m doing enough.

One of Tim’s biggest roles in our homeschooling has been cheerleader. He doesn’t just finance our adventures and field trips. He values the time that homeschooling gives us as a family. He likes that Clarissa’s biggest influencers are her parents and not someone else.  The three of us are in agreement that we enjoy the homeschooling lifestyle and we don’t want to stop it anytime soon. We have also found that as a homeschooling family, mom isn’t the only one who leads learning. Dad has a role too.

As a kid, Tim really enjoyed geography. He looked at maps and read books about other countries. We live in South Korea so our daughter gets to experience another culture regularly. The last time we went on vacation, we wanted to visit a really big English bookstore in Tokyo. One of our main goals was to find a great atlas. We found a few books that we were excited about with maps and also how kids live around the world. Now that we are home, Tim enjoys looking through these with Clarissa in the evening. Before we go on vacation to a different country, Clarissa learns about the culture and geography of that place. We have a lot of great discussions on vacation as well.

Another thing that Tim and Clarissa enjoy doing together is science experiments. This summer, they grew crystals from a kit, and also tried to grow trips and fairy shrimp. I like that Clarissa is getting some hands on learning and it is something that they enjoy doing together. Then we find books from the library to learn more about these topics.

They also enjoy building things together. We recently bought a stool from IKEA that we had to assemble so they built it together. Legos are a staple at our house. Clarissa also likes to watch Tim build Gundam models.

They recently subscribed to the Steve Spangler Science Club. It will be interesting to see which science experiments they receive in the mail each month. Clarissa enjoys receiving things in the mail and it will give them something to work on together consistently.

Reflections on turning 35

Standard

When I was in middle school, I won an essay contest. The topic was 50 years in the future and looking back at what your life had looked like. I found my essay a year or two ago and showed it to Tim. His was response was, “Pretty sure of yourself huh?” I had definitely named myself the first female President of the United States and had been an Olympic gold medalist in addition to being a mother of six children (some of whom were adopted), an author, a teacher, and a lawyer.

I think that my middle school self would probably have been disappointed to see what my life looks like at 35 years old since I am not on track to doing most of those things. But my 35 year old self is learning to be quite content with exactly how my life is going. I have really reflected a lot about my life this fall.

I always thought that I wanted to be a teacher, from like three years old. But when I think back, I really enjoyed Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Christy, and Boy Meets World. Even now one of my favorite shows is When Calls the Heart. Most of those shows/books have a teacher in a one room school house. And even Mr. Feeny somehow managed to teach the same group of kids from sixth grade through college.

I really loved my students for most of the four years that I was a classroom teacher. I didn’t care for the politics or the emphasis on standardized testing. But, I enjoyed watching the students grow and change as the year went on and I liked to be able to keep in touch with them when they left my class. I also really liked teaching Sunday school or being a youth leader at church because I could be with the same group of kids for several years and really pour into their lives. So really, what I wanted was to be like the teachers in the one room school houses of long ago.

When school started again on post, I had a very emotional day. I questioned if we were doing the right thing keeping Clarissa home. I grieved that I wasn’t going to have pictures of her first day riding the school bus to kindergarten or meeting her kindergarten teacher. But she and Tim didn’t care about any of those things. Once I processed that, I realized that I love having Clarissa home with me during the day. We have so many fun adventures together, and half of them are on the couch reading books upon books! I appreciate that I am the one who will teach her to read. We get to learn about the Bible, history, science, and math together.

I have also really enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. I remember writing poems as an elementary student for the school newspaper. I won every essay contest I entered in middle school. And I was the editor of my high school newspaper. I also really enjoy research.

So I think that a homeschool blogger mom is probably my sweet spot. If I would just own it and not compare myself to other moms or other bloggers. I watched a movie recently called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Watching the main character, I was like, “Oh. I like to research things because I like to write…” I had so many thoughts and feelings during this movie. Really, I walked away from it more inspired to write. And enjoy MY life instead of worrying about everyone else’s.

I can’t believe that I have been blogging for 4.5 years. Sometimes it seems like forever and sometimes it feels so new. In that time, I have published over 350 posts. Sometimes multiple posts in the same day and other times a month would go by without a single word. This year, writing for the Homeschool Review Crew, I have gotten into a more consistent habit of blogging once per week. I think my goal for this year will be twice per week. I really have so many thoughts swimming around in my head, I think I would enjoy actually organizing and writing them. I have a few book ideas too.

Sometimes I also forget that we have lived in South Korea for over 3.5 years. We have had so many experiences and seen so many places that others will not. I don’t really know what to expect when we leave here. I don’t have a date for our departure other than that our DEROS (Date of Estimated Return from Overseas- the end of Tim’s contract) is in April. But I have no idea where we are headed. And I’m learning (well, I’m trying to anyway) to be okay with that.

God knows exactly when we will leave Korea, where we will go, and how long we will stay there. He also knows what family life will look like when we return to America. I am so blessed that I have been able to stay home with Clarissa the entire time we’ve been in Korea. We would both love to continue that when we return to America. And we’ll see what plans God has for growing our family while we’re there.

 

Last beach day of the summer

Standard

We were invited to a beach day with some friends at the end of the summer. Korea’s official beach season is pretty short. It actually starts on Tim’s birthday (July 13) and ends on Clarissa’s birthday (August 20). Some beaches are open a little later, until the end of August, so we decided to go to Eurwangni Beach in Incheon.

Eurwangni Beach is about an hour and a half drive from Camp Humphreys. Tolls cost about 11,000 won each way ($11 USD). The beach itself is pretty small. The waves are very calm and it is shallow for a good part of the beach so it is a great beach to bring small children. The sand area is clean. There is a public bathroom, shower area, and free parking right next to the beach. There is also a small playground and a path to explore the rocks along one side of the beach. There are plenty of convenience stores and restaurants for when you get hungry.

We had a wonderful day playing in the water and exploring. The water was fairly warm. Clarissa started her own shell collection.

After dinner, we looked out to see the sunset over the water and noticed that the tide had gone WAY out. I have never seen the tide go out that dramatically before. It was really cool to be able to see all the little crabs and critters out in the wet sand. The sunset was beautiful to see.

Clarissa and I really enjoyed our day with friends. We both decided that we would like to live near the beach next. This is definitely our favorite beach in Korea!

 

What Clarissa has been teaching me about seeds

Standard

I think it’s easy to get frustrated with the people around me. Especially when I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time pouring myself into something for someone else and I don’t see much progress. Whether it’s helping a friend or trying to convince my five year old to eat an actual fruit or vegetable instead of a fruit squeeze and seaweed.

A few weeks ago, Tim and I were discussing Clarissa’s behavior. I said that I thought she would obey better when she was saved and actively following Jesus. Tim said, “I thought you said she was saved.” “Well, she says she believes in Jesus but I’m not really sure she understands sin and her need for a Savior.” Cue some interesting conversations with Clarissa that included, “So at gymnastics today one of my friends asked me what I was going to be for Halloween and I told her nothing. We love God.” I stand corrected.

Sometimes getting to church is such a battle on a Sunday morning and Clarissa says she doesn’t want to go. So then we finally get there, late as usual, and I get her all set up with her notebook to draw during worship time. Sometimes during the music time, she will tap me so I can look at her drawings. Sometimes they are polar bears hunting in Antarctica. But this week was different.

img_20180925_1320377562082115889199566.jpg

The first time she tapped me wanted me to see the Earth with all of the islands and that Jesus was in the clouds. The second time, she had added hearts and said that all of the islands love Jesus. At the end, she said, “This is me. I love Jesus. Can you please write at the top of the page: I am happy that Jesus exists.” What?! Little Miss “I don’t want to go to church” is having a real moment with God.

So I just wanted to encourage my reader. You never know what God is going to do with the seeds that you plant. It’s easy to get frustrated when you feel like what you are saying or doing isn’t going anywhere. But I was reminded this week that it’s not my job to make fruit happen.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

It’s my job to plant the seeds. It’s just my job to be obedient to do the things He tells me. God is going to do what God is going to do with those seeds. So keep plugging along with your kids, neighbors, and co-workers. We may not see the fruit of what we’re doing now. But God does have a plan for it.

The Read-Aloud Family

Standard

I was determined to only read the books that I already own this year (or at least the ones I can get from the library). But when The Read-Aloud Family was on sale for $2.99 on Kindle, I couldn’t resist.

In my elementary school teacher days, my favorite part of the day was read aloud time (and guided reading). Before lunch and at the end of the day, whenever we had time really, I would read aloud to my class. We always started the year with Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Even my more reluctant readers would beg for “another Wayside.” One year my class wrote the next chapter in the Wayside series, wrote a letter to the author, and only read books by the author, Louis Sachar. I have actually been looking forward to introducing Clarissa to the Wayside series since before she was born.

Reading has been a part of our routine from the beginning. Clarissa has always loved books, even if she was mostly eating them at first. We read multiple times per day and she even “reads” to herself. She has recently been adamant about starting kindergarten so that she can “learn to read for real.”

I have heard about Sarah Mackenzie on one of my podcasts, Cultivating the Lovely. I knew that if she was writing a book about reading to your kids, it needed to be on my wishlist.

  • She talks about reading books being the same thing as eating comfort food. “When we’re in a new city we’ve done nothing but meet new people, eat new food, have new experiences. And yet at the end of the day, whether in a hotel room or a tent or even on a plane, we can open up If You Give A Moose a Muffin or Blueberries for Sal or some other book we’ve read a hundred times, and it’s comfort food. It reminds us this is who we are. “
  • She talks about how reading with our kids gives them the opportunity to live vicariously through the storybook characters, giving them a more well-rounded childhood than we could ever accomplish in real life.”
  • “By the time our children leave our homes, we don’t want them to wonder whether their lives matter. We want them to know they do. If we tell them enough stories, they will have encountered hard questions and practiced living through so many trials, hardships, and unexpected situations that, God willing, they will have what they need to become the heroes of their own stories. “
  • “It is said that a person who reads lives a thousand lives, but a person who never reads leads only one. What better opportunity can we give our children than to live a thousand lives before they leave home?”
  • It is impossible to teach your kids everything they will need for life before they leave your house. You can help them to learn to think and process information by reading to them, even when they can read themselves.
  • ” A good education, then, is not one that results in high test scores, elite college acceptances, or the ability to read Virgil in Latin or War and Peace without Cliffs Notes. A good education teaches us – – and our children – – to love fully and to love well.”
  • If you read aloud to your children, just ten minutes every other day, it will add up to over 30 hours per year!
  • You don’t have to discuss every book you read. “Trust that a book can speak directly to your child, even if you never intervene with a conversation or discussion.” You still want reading to be enjoyable.

Sarah shares ideas for reading journals, conversations, and even reading lists for each age group in this book. Sarah Mackenzie also has a podcast where she regularly talks to authors about kids and books.

Tokyo take Three

Standard

We have less than a year left in Korea. We were thinking about one more trip for the fall, but since we don’t know when we’re leaving, we decided to go to Tokyo one last time for Tim’s birthday instead.

We planned a morning flight to give us an extra half day in Tokyo. I booked the flight on Orbitz with Asiana which I read great things about. So we arrived at Incheon and waited in line for Asiana only to be told that this flight was actually run by Seoul Air so we had to go check in with them which was a horrible experience. We were beginning to think they weren’t going to let us check in because we didn’t have an army leave form. Tim isn’t in the army…

Anyway, we got through security and immigration and to the other side of the airport just in time to board the plane. By this time we were very hungry. We took the 6am bus and our flight was at 10. Thankfully they served some fruit and a salad to hold us over until we landed in Narita. The seats were very comfortable. There was no in-flight entertainment but it wasn’t an issue because we brought our own electronics anyway. The flight attendants were nice. I don’t think we will fly Air Seoul again though.

We tried something different this time and took the Keisei Skyliner into town instead of the airport limousine bus. It cost more but took half the time, so I think it was worth it. As a side note, the reason that the skyliner worked for us is because Tim could handle the suitcases and I was in charge of Clarissa. If you have several bags or multiple small children, you are probably better off with the airport limousine bus because it is basically door to door service from the airport to your hotel.

The Skyliner ended at Ueno and we needed to switch to the metro to get to Shinagawa. We decided to have Hard Rock Cafe for lunch before heading to the hotel since it was already after 2pm. As usual our food was delicious and Clarissa picked some fun pins for our collection.

wp-15318091411385603293491955226175.jpg

After settling in to our favorite hotel, Tim headed to Family Mart to pick up his amazon order. This was something new for us this trip as well. Tim usually has a list of electronics items that he wants to find. This time, he found some on Amazon Japan ahead of time and had them shipped to a convenience store down the street. This eliminated some of the searching since we had a shorter trip this time.

It really can’t be Tim’s birthday trip without visiting Akihabara so we headed to there next. Tim found a few things at BIC Camera and Yodobashi. All of us enjoyed Kotobukiya, with Clarissa and I both finding some treasures. Another fun surprise on the way back to the train was the Square Enix Cafe which had some fun things to see as well.

I learned how to make kimbap!

Standard

I went to a church baby shower last week. I brought my usual veggie tray with hummus and some sugar cookies.

When I arrived the ladies were in the kitchen making kimbap. Kimbap is a traditional Korean dish, often used as an appetizer or side dish. I wanted to watch because I have never seen anyone make kimbap before. They invited me to join.

The ingredients were already cooked and cut. But basically, you need seaweed and sticky rice. Then you can add whatever veggies or meat that you like. We had spam, eggs, tuna, carrots, spinach, and radish available.

First, you lay two sheets of seaweed on the tray. Next, you add the sticky rice to the seaweed. You can fill the entire sheet of seaweed or do less if you want. Then you add whatever filling you choose. You might choose to make one with spam, carrots, and spinach. Another may have tuna with egg, radish, and spinach. The possibilities really are endless. Only fill about two inches of the seaweed.

Now it is time to roll the kimbap. You use the wooden mat to roll the seaweed over the topping, making it as tight as possible. Once you have rolled your kimbap, roll it again to make sure it is tight.

Once you are satisfied with your roll, cut it into pieces about as thick as your ring finger and serve.

Princess Cut Movie Review

Standard

Watchman Pictures

I love a good romance movie, especially one that doesn’t have any inappropriate scenes or themes in it. Princess Cut by Watchman Pictures, is one of those movies. The movie would be appropriate for elementary school students to see, but I think they would be bored with a love story. They use the word “intimate” instead of “sex” in this movie. There aren’t any kisses either. Someone tried to kiss Grace and she stopped him and said, “Not until you put a ring on it.” This is a movie that I definitely plan to watch with Clarissa when she is in middle school because it provides so many discussion points about relationships but also family dynamics.

Princess Cut The Movie

The movie is about Grace and her hard working, Christian family who lives on a soybean farm in North Carolina. At the beginning of the movie, Grace is kind of your typical college girl who just happens to be a Christian. She is so focused on her relationships with boys that she isn’t really paying attention to the people around her. She has two relationships before she realizes that something needs to change.

By this time, her dad has been encouraged by his pastor to study about the father’s role in his daughter’s relationships. He learns that the giving the daughter away during the wedding ceremony actually comes from Jeremiah 29:6. Grace and her dad have a conversation about how things need to shift so that they can do this God’s way. Her dad encourages her that “it’s not as much about finding the perfect person as becoming who God made you to be.”

During the second half of the movie you really watch Grace grow into this beautiful woman of God. She really wants to honor God and her family in the things that she does, including any romantic relationships. She goes to the library for some books about the subject and actually picks up some that I really enjoyed during that season of life, When God Writes Your Love Story and Boundaries in Dating.

A young doctor named Clint does get to know their family and asks for Grace’s parents permission to get to know her better before he even talks to Grace about it. When he talks to her he says, “Your heart is too precious a treasure to play games with.” That is the kind of young man that I would like to pursue Clarissa. I don’t want to give away the whole story. I will say that I really enjoyed it, which means it did have a happy ending.

There are so many good things that I will discuss with Clarissa when we watch this movie.

  • It’s not about waiting for the perfect guy. It’s about trusting God.
  • I want you to be able to talk to your dad and I about anything. God. Boys. Life. No matter how bad you think it is.
  • Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
  • Know what your boundaries will be physically before you start dating.
  • Not everyone believes that same things that we do, so you need to be careful about who you are receiving counsel from.
  • What kind of a friend do you want to be? What kind of friends do you want to have?
  • How should you treat your parents? siblings? How should they treat you?
  • What blessings has God given us that we can share with others?
  • How can we serve other people as a family?

I have seen a few “Christian” movies. Often you can tell they are lower budget than something that comes out in the movie theater. The actors were pretty good in this one. There was one scene that Grace was supposed to be crying and it wasn’t super believable. There were a few times when the camera angles were odd. For the most part, the acting and the sets were great.

Princess Cut {Watchman Pictures Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Trying to make Easter Real

Standard

I guess I need to work on how Clarissa discusses Christmas and Easter with other children. We celebrate both of these holidays with a curriculum. At Christmastime, we do Truth in the Tinsel and at Easter, we do Sense of the Resurrection. Both of them are written by Amanda White. I like them because they are hands-on ways for Clarissa to learn scripture and experience things with her senses.

Clarissa tells her friends all about what we are learning, which I think is great because she is trying to teach her friends what she believes about Jesus. The problem is Santa and the Easter Bunny. Especially Santa. When she sees a book with Santa or someone taking a picture with Santa she makes it a point to say something like, “Why is that man wearing a costume? Santa isn’t real.” Which is only a problem when one of her friends insists that Santa is real and Clarissa wants to argue instead of just letting it go.

Usually, Clarissa really enjoys doing activities with her lessons. I was surprised that this time, she mostly wanted to read the story and talk about it each day. We had some great discussions at Christmastime this way, so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. She was excited to read her Bible stories each day. She would look at the picture for each activity and decide if she wanted to do it or not. We only colored one flag, so I guess we won’t need to print them next year.

We started by talking about how Mary anointed Jesus’s feet with her hair. Clarissa had a great time smelling my essential oils and choosing her favorites so that we could smell nice too.

The first time we did Sense of the Resurrection, we had a great time studying the Triumphal Entry, waving palm branches and dancing to worship music. This year was very different. She didn’t want to listen to music at all. She was excited about the donkey that Jesus rode on. So we talked about the time I got to ride a donkey on a mission trip in Mexico. We looked at my scrapbook and had a wonderful discussion about why we would want to help people or tell them about Jesus. I wonder what kind of mission trips our family will take together as Clarissa grows…

img_20180314_104119565980903.jpg

She always asks when it will be “foot washing day.” I think she really likes to play in the water. But I like that she is learning that Jesus was such a servant. He was God, but He still washed his friends’ feet. She actually washed my feet this year as well.

img_20180315_1208437315320.jpg

We talked about how there was an earthquake when Jesus was on the cross and made some noise makers to remember.

img_20180326_1227511945783608.jpgimg_20180326_1224561417979247.jpg

I think her favorite activity was putting Jesus in the tomb. We were supposed to make a place in our house that we could walk by for a few days that was shut in because when Jesus went into the tomb no one could get in and no one could get out. They even posted soldiers there to be sure. Clarissa decided that a dance party inside was the best idea. But we did talk about how Jesus was actually dead in the tomb and not dancing.

As usual, we had some books that we read on a regular basis. Our favorites are: God Gave Us Easter, The Peek a Bible Easter Story, The Parable of the Lily, Lily’s Easter Party, and The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story. New this year to our collection is The Miracle of Easter.

We usually do an Easter basket with a book and a small toy or two. This year, the things I bought didn’t really fit in the basket. Clarissa was most excited about The Come Celebrate Easter sticker book and her two magazines. We also gave her a God’s Little Princess Bedtime Devotional, construction paper, and stickers.

We went to church on Resurrection Day. It was fun to hear the pastor say that one of his favorite things about Korea is that “they don’t celebrate Easter. The Christians do, however, celebrate Resurrection Day.” So when you’re walking about Korea you don’t see bunnies or candy everywhere. The only place that Easter is commercialized is at the PX on base.

Since Clarissa and I have spent the past few weeks doing Sense of the Resurrection, we talked about the Last Supper as the pastor was explaining communion. She seemed to understand what was happening and how Jesus said his body was his bread and his blood was the wine. She said that she believed that Jesus died on the cross for her sins so I let her take communion. She definitely didn’t appreciate the wine…

Clarissa has been asking about s’mores since we studied tents and camping with Abraham. We can’t find gluten free graham crackers here, so my mom sent some in her Easter box. After church we decided to introduce Clarissa to s’mores. We roasted marshmallows on the gas burner of the stove and then put a piece of chocolate on the graham cracker. She really enjoyed it but couldn’t be bothered to roast marshmallows a second time so her second s’more she used a normal marshmallow.

On Monday, our friends invited us over to dye Easter eggs. Clarissa has never done this before. We tried a method that where we put dye in whipped cream. Clarissa really enjoyed rolling the eggs (and licking the whipped cream off her fingers).

On Tuesday, we finished our Sense of the Resurrection study with a picnic at the sand playground to talk about Jesus’s picnic on the beach with his friends.

img_20180403_124712177776603.jpg

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you order A Sense of the Resurrection through this post, I will make a small commission. However, it does not add to your cost.

Bee – bim-Bop!

Standard

Clarissa has been very literal with her books lately. If it’s in a book, we have to do it. One such book is Bee – bim- Bop! by Linda Sue Park.

We got this book from the library before our Hong Kong trip to learn a little bit about Korean culture. My favorite Korean dish is probably bibimbap so I thought it would be fun to read about it. In the book a little girl and her mom go to the grocery store to buy ingredients and then come home and make bibimbap together for the family dinner that evening. At the end of the book, the author lists her family’s recipe for bibimbap, with specific instructions for children and adults.

Clarissa asked if we could make it for dinner. I assured her that we would after we returned from vacation. She would not let me forget! The day after our return she demanded to go to the commissary to buy the ingredients. She fought with Daddy one night about dinner because Tim wanted pizza and Clarissa wanted to make bibimbap.

When it was time to make the bibimbap, Clarissa was excited to help. She helped measure the rice and the water. She measured the ingredients for the marinade and mixed it up. She even helped with the eggs.

At which point, we had been working for at least 20 minutes and she was tired of helping. She went to the couch to read some books while I sautéed the meat and vegetables.

I think they should charge more for bibimbap in restaurants! It is always less than $10 and it takes a while to make. We all enjoyed our meal and plan to put it in our meal rotation. Clarissa even ate eggs and carrots with her rice. I am hopeful that she will continue to try new things and enjoy the other vegetables as well.

img_20180312_174632203743347.jpg

img_20180312_175059492139213.jpg

Ingredients:

1 cup white rice
1 pound sirloin or other beef steak
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup mung bean sprouts (optional)
4 eggs
PAM cooking spray

Marinade:
2 teaspoons minced garlic
5 tablespoons gluten free tamari sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:
1. Pour one cup of rice and two cups of water into a saucepot. Cook on high until the water boils. Then switch to low heat until the water is absorbed into the rice.
2. Mix all marinade ingredients into a large bowl.
3. Slice beef into thin slices. Place sliced beef into marinade and mix thoroughly.
4. Whisk eggs in a bowl. Spray small frying pan. Pour egg in sections into . Cook like a pancake. Slice eggs into strips. Put into small bowl for serving.
5. Spray frying pan. Saute carrots until tender. Put into small bowl for serving.
6. Spray frying pan. Saute spinach until tender. Put into small bowl for serving.
7. Spray frying pan. Saute mung bean sprouts until tender. Put into small bowl for serving.
8. Spray frying pan. Saute beef and marinade until beef is cooked through. Put into small bowl for serving. Pour marinade into small container for serving as well.
9. Serve with rice in bowls. Each person adds the ingredients that they want to their bowl and mix it all up.

Zirrly Bead Review

Standard

*******Clarissa and I have seen some fun bead kits in stores over the past year. But they always need an iron to make the design permanent. We didn’t bring an iron to Korea (because I don’t iron). I even thought about buying an iron just to do these crafts with Clarissa. I was so excited when I found out about this Zirrly review! Clarissa and I get to create without needing an iron. We received the Super Beads Mega Pack because we couldn’t decide which individual projects we wanted to try.

img_20180309_1122531851382146.jpg

Our pack included beads, four plastic bases, a plastic tool, two water spray bottles, and some design sheets with directions. We were surprised that the beads didn’t come pre-sorted. It wasn’t a huge problem though. We simply got out some bowls and sorted beads into bowls by color. We didn’t do the whole pack, but enough to do a few designs.

img_20180309_1346372102292990.jpg

Next, Clarissa chose a pattern. She decided to try the apple. We placed the pattern design under the plastic base. We also put a pattern sheet next to our base so we could see the colors better. Then, we started placing the beads on the plastic base. It was pretty easy to do. Clarissa started with the green leaf. I did the outer edge and then we did the white inside together. Her little four year old fingers were big enough to do the job. She didn’t get too tired either.

img_20180309_1400501432393817.jpg

After we finished, it was time to spray the design with water. The directions say to spray the entire design, but don’t “flood it with water.” Clarissa and I were both spraying, so we must have “flooded” it. This wasn’t a huge problem, except that it took longer to dry. It said it would take 60 minutes or more. Some of the project was dry. But the rest was sticky, so we decided to leave it overnight. It was dry enough in the morning.

img_20180309_1411351690340969.jpg

While we were waiting for the apple to dry, Clarissa asked to do another one. This time, she chose the elephant. So we put a pattern under another base and started placing beads. She did the tail and then started to get tired. She did the white parts on the pattern and I did the rest.

We repeated our water spray with the elephant. Again, I think we sprayed too much. Clarissa checked on it before she went to bed and some of the beads were still sticky. Part of the tail came off as well as one of the white pieces. It wasn’t a huge problem, the directions say to just put them back on the base and spray again. We did that and in the morning both beaded creations were finished.

In all, we were really pleased with our projects. I am so happy that Zirrly came up with their Super Beads products. Now Clarissa and I can do bead projects without having to worry about an iron. I definitely recommend the Mega Pack that we received. There are also specialized packs you can order as well to make jewelry, 3D animals, or even cars and trucks. Feel free to click through the other reviews to see what others had to say about their individual packs.

Super Beads {Zirrly Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Parenting Made Practical Review

Standard

parenting made practical
This review is a little different. Most of the products that I have received to review so far have been for Clarissa to use. This time, Parenting Made Practical sent parenting resources for me. They sent me a DVD called Navigating the Rapids of Parenting and a book titled Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think. Both are great resources.

 Navigating the Rapids of Parenting is a DVD by Joey and Carla Link with two 45 minute sessions. The first session covers birth to middle school. The second session continues with middle school and goes through college age. They were easy to watch together in the same sitting.Navigating the Rapids of Parenting DVD

I appreciated this DVD series because it talked about how to parent children from a developmental standpoint but also used scripture to explain the Biblical perspective. I also liked how it progressed across different ages so that I can see what I should be working on now and what the goal is by the time Clarissa is 18. It provided several discussion points for Tim and I so that we can really talk about what we want Clarissa to learn before she “graduates” from our home as a young adult. I also appreciated how they encouraged parents to anticipate your child’s behavior, rather than just react to it. It takes some planning, but it will make life better for your family.

The main goal of the first phase of development (birth to 5 years old) is discipline. I want Clarissa to obey me and recognize my authority because then she will be able to obey God and recognize His authority. They talked about first time obedience. I want to work on Clarissa stopping what she is doing and coming to us when we call her. Then, we can give her an instruction. We tend to just start talking and get frustrated when she doesn’t do what we ask her to. Sometimes the problem is that she is busy playing and doesn’t hear the instruction. But if she has to stop what she is doing to come to us, she will definitely hear the instruction and be more likely to follow it. After we master this, we can move on to the attitude that she follows the directions. The Links said that at this age, the attitude isn’t as important as the obedience.

The goal of the second phase of development (the elementary school years) is training. This is the time to teach Clarissa our values and character. We should focus on things like the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and stewardship. They talked about how you teach these things in elementary school while they are still young and impressionable. If I wait until Clarissa is a teenager to teach her about modesty, she will have other influences fighting for her attention. But at this age, she is more likely to listen to me. I also need to explain why we believe these things so that she can understand them as well.

Once a child reaches middle school he starts to form his own belief system and question the authority of his parents. Carla and Joey recommend having your child read Growing Up Christian during this time to make them think through their beliefs. They also stressed that when a child enters middle and high school, youth group does not become a substitute for parenting. We should still be very involved with our children.

The goal of the third phase of development (high school/college) is coaching. This is a time for asking Clarissa questions instead of just teaching. We can have great discussions about what she is learning in church or her own quiet time. It may also be beneficial to be serving somewhere as a family or doing a mission trip together instead of just sending her on the youth group mission trip. This is a time to find ways for Clarissa to serve in ways that she is naturally gifted in. Some kids will exit this stage after high school. Some will be in it longer.

The Links said that once you become friends with your child, you have lost your authority. Don’t move them to friendship level with you until they can support themselves financially.

Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think Book

I started Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think by Joey and Carla Link on the flight home from Hong Kong. I realized on the plane that I do lecture Clarissa a lot and she does tune me out. So I was eager to read this book. I actually really enjoyed it and finished it the evening after we returned.

One main point of the book was to ask kids questions about his thoughts and behavior instead of just giving a lecture because it gets to the heart of why a child is doing a particular behavior. Another point was that giving an actual consequence (like taking away a privilege) instead of a lecture was more effective at changing behavior. The book also stressed modeling so that a child would know exactly what was expected of him.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “Pointing out what your kids did wrong makes them feel like failures, and they lose their confidence in their ability to do anything right” (19).
  • “Teaching your kids to do what is right is one thing. To hold them accountable is quite another… Giving your kids consequences is holding them accountable for their actions” (28-29).
  • “Trying to talk kids into the right thing doesn’t work because your words aren’t going to motivate them to change. Lectures aren’t consequences” (88).
  • “Ask God to remove our blinders where our kids’ weaknesses are concerned and help us see the areas we need to work on… Plan to proactively teach your children how to turn a weakness into a strength” (91).
  • “Reminding your kids to get their stuff done is the flip side of lecturing” (137).

Some of the specific ideas in the book are geared toward older kids (age 8 and above), so I won’t be able to use all of these ideas yet. But I plan to try a few. The book also referenced another of their books Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Behave? so I may need to read that one next as it is geared toward younger kids like Clarissa.

In previous reviews, everyone on the review crew has reviewed the same item. This time, are many products available for review from Parenting Made Practical so I would recommend checking out some of the other posts so that you can see all of the resources that they offer.

Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}Crew Disclaimer