Name Meaning Gifts Review

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Amazing Names by CrossTimber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

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

The most convicting thing I read was probably this:

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

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

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

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

Some of my other favorite thoughts from the book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clarissa’s birthday museum adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clarissa is 6!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Happy Third Trimester to me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Settling in to life in America (reverse culture shock)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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