Video games can be good for your marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Two very beautiful, but very different girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?