Pennsylvania visit

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Apparently I acquired many things in Virginia because when I tried to check in my suitcase, it was 20 pounds over the weight limit. Oops. Mom is going to mail some to me instead. 

Clarissa did well on the flight to Philadelphia. She was again disappointed at the lack of TV. But I gave her a new activity book so she was fine. 

After the flight, a lady stopped me to ask how old Clarissa was and then asked me how to keep a toddler happy on a long flight. I wrote a post on that once so I need to go back and update it. 

On Wednesday, Clarissa, Omi, and I went to the Bloomsburg Children’s Museum. It only cost $6.50 per person for admission and it was excellent. We stayed two hours, but we would have stayed longer if it wasn’t closing time. 

There were two floors of interactive exhibits. The top floor was more geared toward preschool and lower elementary aged kids. There were life size dioramas of animals that live in Pennsylvania. There were even models of the animal homes. Some animals had crafts as well.  They had several matching games, a huge bird’s nest with bird costumes to wear, an Eastern Woodlands Indian longhouse, live turtles, giant teeth, cars with a race track, a boat, and a play house. 

The bottom floor was geared toward elementary and middle school kids. They had some dress up clothes, food pyramid activities, ancient Egypt, a one room school house, a coal mine, and dinosaurs. 

On Thursday we had lunch at the park where Tim and I were engaged. We didn’t get all the way to the marina because Clarissa was distracted by the playground. 

We went to the thrift store in the afternoon to get Clarissa some snow boots and snow pants. I was excited because we found both as well as black boots, brown boots, and some skirts for me. On the way home we spent some time with uncle Matt and aunt Anne. 

On Friday, we woke up to snow. Clarissa was so excited that she really wouldn’t eat her breakfast. Once outside, we tried to make a snowman and taught Clarissa how to have a snowball fight. 

We even went sledding which I had never done before. 

It was fun to walk around the yard and see how different things look in the snow. 

We spent the evening at Aunt Anne’s for a family dinner and a play date with her granddaughters. When it was time to say goodbye Clarissa went from “but I like it here” to “I want to go back to my homeland for Daddy to hold me for real (instead of Skype).” 

Saturday was one of my favorite days. Omi put in an old Sunday school music cassette tape and Clarissa loved it! She spent at least an hour dancing around the room. Then she spent a few hours playing Legos with Pop before making some jewelry with Omi. 

After dinner we went to Aunt Anne’s for a Jordan Essentials party and a play date for Clarissa. 

Sunday morning, Omi opened her birthday presents. Then we headed south to meet Tim’s kindergarten teacher who always sends Clarissa presents for holidays. We headed to Philadelphia to meet up with some other aunts and uncles before we headed to the airport. 

When we moved to Korea, we flew through JFK and had to change terminals and go through security again. I assumed it was because we switched airlines… We had to do that again this round. I was so glad we had a long layover because the trek between terminals and security took over two hours. 

We were able to Skype Tim before our flight. The flight wasn’t full so they changed our seats to give us our own row of 4. Clarissa fell asleep within 20 minutes and slept about 8 hours. Due to the increased space, I actually slept 4 hours on the plane, which never happens. 

We are on our train to Daegu now. Clarissa and I are so excited to see Tim. 

Visiting the homeland 

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Last summer, Tim and I were watching DVDs from Devoted and I knew that I wanted to come home and go to the conference in person for 2017. Two years is a long time to keep Clarissa away from the grandparents anyway. 

The obstacle was paying for the flights. But I got around that by signing up for two airline credit cards. The sign on bonuses gave us enough points to pay for my and Clarissa’s flights. While we definitely saved money this way, I don’t necessarily recommend this method. The flight times were not what I would have chosen. 

We took the train from Daegu to Incheon Airport in Seoul. Thankfully we made a new friend on the train which made getting on and off the train with a stroller, suitcase, and 3 year old so much easier. Plus we had a friend to eat dinner with at the airport. They had a cool play area to teach about an emergency water landing. 

We had an overnight layover in Dallas so we booked a hotel. Jet lag is always interesting and Clarissa slept about 6 hours on the flight so we only slept from about 9pm – 1245 am. 

We had chickfila at the Dallas airport and then flew to Philadelphia. Clarissa was disappointed that there wasn’t a TV on the plane but she did very well. 

She fell asleep on the next flight before we got to the runway. We were second in line to take off when they closed the Philadelphia airport. I was glad that Clarissa slept because the plane shook a lot during the storm. I think she would have been scared. Plus it was fun to have her snuggle/sleep on me. She is so tall now that she doesn’t really fit easily anymore. 

By the time we arrived in Norfolk, she had been asleep 5.5 hours so she was ready to play. That made for some fun playtime with Grammy and Pappy before bed. She eventually kicked me out of the bed at 4am because she wanted Grammy instead. 

Sunday was fun. My sister and her husband came over to celebrate my dad’s birthday. Clarissa was so tired that she fell asleep sitting up while playing behind the couch at 4pm and slept until 6am the next morning. 

On Monday we headed to the Virginia Aquarium. It was pretty cool in that most of the plant and animal life is indigenous to Virginia. There are two buildings with a pretty cool nature walk in between. Clarissa loved it. Then we checked some things off my bucket list with trips to the Full Cup, chickfila, and Target. Clarissa tried to play in a fountain outside and was very confused when we explained that in America, you are not allowed to play in fountains like in Korea. 

On Tuesday, we headed to the Virginia Zoo. Apparently there is a storytime every Tuesday at 11am called Zoo Tales. It was pretty cool. They read two books and Clarissa was able to touch a leopard gecko. I think if we still lived in Norfolk, we would attend regularly. 

After the zoo, we went to the Book Exchange for some free books and then headed back to my parents’ house to see my two aunts that came to town. Clarissa took a little nap so she lasted until 5pm that day. 

Wednesday one of my girlfriends drove up from Raleigh. We went to Mt Trashmore for a walk and then had a girls group reunion with some other friends at Plaza Azteca and Starbucks. I randomly ran into one of my Kentucky girls and then had dinner with another family from KPC. 

By Thursday Clarissa started asking when we would return to her homeland (Korea) to see Daddy for real (instead of Skype). She asked that question every day for the rest of the trip. 

On Thursday morning, we had a visit from another friend before we went swimming with Pappy. Clarissa really enjoyed the pool. Bow Creek Rec Center has a great kiddy pool with fountains and floats. It is also wheelchair accessible. You can pay for a day pass if you are not a member of the rec center. 

Thursday night was the first time I drove this trip. It took me a few minutes to realize that I was not in Korea and therefore reasonably safe while driving before I enjoyed driving by myself while listening to the radio. I really enjoyed hearing Darlene Zschech speak for the first night of Devoted

Friday was a full day of the the conference. As always worship was amazing and the teaching was great. In person is way better than just watching on DVDs. 

During the break on Friday afternoon, I came home to see my brother in law’s sister and meet her baby. Clarissa had a great time playing with her. 

Friday Clarissa also had a party with my parents. We have been in Korea for her last two birthdays so they wanted to have a Clarissa celebration. 

Saturday was the last day of Devoted and I was able to visit Josie during the break. I think she remembered me and she let me sit next to her and pet her. 

Saturday night we visited with an aunt and uncle that had come to see us. We also watched Hidden Figures which was an excellent movie. 

Sunday morning we went to church with my parents. Clarissa looked sad during worship and when I asked her about it she said, “I want to dance.” She danced for a few songs before she got tired and fell asleep. 

Then we had lunch with my family. Mom and I watched the latest Anne of Green Gables movie. It had different actors so we didn’t like it as much. 

On Monday, Clarissa was invited to try a gymnastics class at the Little Gym. She absolutely loved it. She did a decent job of following directions too. The parents were even invited to participate in the last ten minutes of the class. 

After class we headed to Norfolk to have lunch with Joe’s mom and grandma. Then I had a fun visit with another of my Kentucky girls and had dinner at Bangkok Garden with Shannon. 

Tuesday morning we started the trek to see Tim’s parents in Pennsylvania.

Pearl Harbor and the trek home

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Friday morning,  Clarissa and I headed to Pearl Harbor.  Parking was free but packed, so we ended up parking at the marina instead.  I read that strollers weren’t allowed in most areas,  so Clarissa had to walk I carried Clarissa most of the day.  Halfway through the parking lots there was a sign that said no bags or purses so we had to bring our diaper bag back to the car.

I saw plenty of strollers in the parts we visited (the free parts) so I could have brought the stroller. Oh well. Clarissa likes to cuddle anyway. I thought the memorials, models, and exhibits were interesting. Clarissa especially enjoyed the torpedoes, big guns, submarine, and the models of boats and planes in the museum.

Next, we headed to Ford Island to check out the Pacific Aviation Museum. You need a military ID to enter the museum because Ford Island is an active Navy base. You can take a guided tour of the museum but it’s cheaper to just walk through yourself. Clarissa and I both enjoyed walking through two different hangars and observing all of the different kinds of planes. She seemed especially interested in the model of the Battle of Midway. I thought it was interesting to see the differences in the planes over time as well as from different countries.

Clarissa was disappointed that she was not allowed to climb into the cockpit of each plane. There was also a flight simulator, but she was too young for that. I learned that George H W Bush was the youngest naval pilot during World War 2.

We had another play date with our friends before heading back to the hotel. Once Tim finished work we headed back to the mall for Teppanyaki. The food was good but very expensive. The service wasn’t great. We opted to skip the fireworks at the hotel and instead visit Best Buy and Whole Foods on our last night in Hawaii.

I think that if we were living the United States right now, the trip would have looked a little different because we wouldn’t have spent as much time shopping. Two years in Korea leaves us with a list of things we miss being able to buy. This trip was also different than we expected because of the hours Tim had to work. Usually, he has more free time to explore. If we had known his work schedule ahead of time, we probably would have added a day or two to the trip. I am also really pleased with our decision to get a rental car this trip instead of relying on public transportation like we usually do. Clarissa and I would have had a completely different experience if we had to rely on the bus system. Though we would have only put my name on the rental car. Tim didn’t drive much and we paid a lot more for the second person.

Saturday was another long travel day. We lost a day because of the International Date Line and came home late Sunday night. Also, for some reason the flight from Honolulu to  Japan was three hours longer (planned) on the way back. It was a much bumpier ride so it must have something to do with the wind currents.

Honolulu Airport had a really friendly staff. The prices at the airport were more expensive than anywhere else I have seen. We played at a new play area at Narita Airport in Japan. Clarissa really enjoys the play areas at that airport.

We decided that we would leave our heavy winter coats in the car and just bring sweatshirts on the journey because we didn’t want to have to carry them to Hawaii. We were hot most of the way to Hawaii so we left our sweatshirts in our checked bags for the flights home. We landed in Daegu at about 9pm and it was about 27 degrees outside. They parked the plane far away and we had to wait outside for a bus to take us to the terminal. Thankfully, we gate checked the stroller this round so Clarissa could sleep in the stroller instead of having to carry her through immigration and customs. We ran to the car since we were so cold. Parking was ridiculously expensive. We had to park in the International Lot instead of long term parking, so it might be cheaper that way. Next time, I think we will have a friend bring us to the bus station. That way we can pay $10 per person for the bus instead of the 115,000 won ($97) we paid for airport parking.

A Terrific Thursday in Waikiki 

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For the first time ever,  Clarissa wanted to wear panties to leave the house.  That made me a little nervous since she has definitely been in a diaper the whole week. 

We met up with a friend that I used to dance with at church.  We are both moms now and were excited to meet each other’s daughters. 

As we were driving to meet them,  Clarissa said,  “We are going to z-zero-zero. That spells zoo.”  We spent the rest of the drive discussing the difference between the letter o and the number zero. 

We went to the Honolulu Zoo.  There are kiosks to pre – pay for parking.  It only costs $1 per hour,  but it is best to overpay.  They will ticket you for being late. Admission to the zoo is reasonable as well. Military adults pay $4,  children are $4.

It is a decent size zoo. Clarissa didn’t want me to bring the stroller.  I was thankful when I saw that my friend brought her wagon for the girls. 

There was a neat display with two volunteers who were explaining about different animal skulls.  Apparently an elephant gets a new set of teeth four times in his life.  The last set has teeth the size and weight of a brick!  The giraffe mouth was interesting too because they have a front set of teeth and a back set.  

There were several different sections of the zoo.  One section had African animals.  There was a bird sanctuary.  The playground was really nice.  There was also a small petting zoo.  

 We had fun swinging on the banyan trees before we left.  We hung out at the car a bit too so that we could keep playing but not get a ticket for being over our time. It was so hard to say goodbye. While we were waiting,  Clarissa decided that she needed to drive the car and climbed over the back seat and front seat to buckle herself in! 

After we got back to the hotel,  Clarissa and I headed to the beach.  Along the way,  Clarissa started picking up leaves.  She did not want anyone to step on them. 

She picked up a few shells in the sand.  Then I explained the rules for swimming at the beach.  She started walking to the water and freaked out when the tide came in so we went to the pool instead. 

Tim got off on time today so that we could go to the Hale Koa Luau. It was such a cool experience.  There was like a happy hour first where they also had some experiences.  There was a guy talking about climbing coconut trees,  someone giving ukulele lessons,  and you could make a flower bracelet as well. 

Then,  we were ushered to our seats for dinner.  It was delicious.  I tried the traditional poi.  It tasted kind of sour.  

The entertainment portion was excellent.  The cast did dances from several islands including Hawaii,  Tahiti,  Samoa,  and New Zealand.  There was also a fire dancer. 

I appreciated that they took the time at the end to honor veterans in the audience for each war and also each branch of service.  The finale was special as the host asked anyone who had lost a friend in battle to stand and hold a candle as he sang “I am proud to be an American.” I highly recommend the luau. 

Pineapple and the beach 

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Today was the earliest Clarissa woke up on her own,  at 10:30. We headed to the Dole Plantation.  It was about a 45 minute drive and I can only listen to “Elsa music”  for so long.  But I had some great realizations during my drive. 

 I was thankful that we listened to advice from several friends and rented a car.  It made my life so much easier to just put Clarissa in her carseat and let waze direct us than to wait for a bus and try to navigate an island that I know very little about.  Also,  I think that by the end of the week,  I will have driven more in Hawaii than in the last two years in Korea.  I also think it’s special that we are staying in Waikiki.  My grandparents met in Hawaii and actually honeymooned in Waikiki so this place is part of my history.  Though I know it looked radically different in the 1940s! 

Then drive was pretty.  I didn’t take pictures obviously since I was the one driving.  We passed several military bases.  I didn’t realize that there were so many here.  At one point the sky was so dark,  I thought for sure it would storm but it didn’t. 

The parking lot was only half full. There is a massive gift shop the size of a department store.  There are ladies that tell you to choose a piece of paper to see if you win a pearl and give you a coupon.  Clarissa enjoyed picking the papers but I didn’t buy any jewelry. 

The Dole Plantation has three paid attractions.  The pineapple express is a 22 minute narrated train ride around the plantation.  You get to see where they harvest all of their crops and listen to some Hawaiian music along the way.  

Each pineapple plant is used to harvest three different pineapples over about 45 months.  

I did not realize that Dole had such a variety of foods.  They grow pineapple,  bananas,  cacoa,  coffee,  sugar cane, coconut,  and macadamia nuts on this plantation. 

After our train ride we walked down a path to get to the Botanical Garden there.  Along the way we paid for bird seed and fed the birds.  Clarissa was also very excited about a rooster and his “girlfriend.” I was interested in how far we were from other places.  It was almost the same distance to Seoul as it was to New York City.  We really are about halfway home this week. 

The Botanical Garden was beautiful.  It was paved so it was stroller friendly.  It wasn’t huge but Clarissa and I enjoyed it.  There is a mound on one side where you can see some harvesting machines and a mountain in the distance.  Clarissa had fun exploring.  It was hard to convince her to leave. 

They also claim to have the world’s largest Maze.  Clarissa wasn’t interested so we skipped it.  You can pay for each attraction individually or pay for a combination of the things you want to do.  You can do all three for less than $20.

We headed to the gift shop to try the pineapple whip. There was some sticker shock at first because the smallest one was $5.50 plus tax.  But it was a very large serving and we both enjoyed it.  They sold more substantial food as well. 

We walked through the gift shop for about 20 minutes because there was so much to see.  We ended up with two more souvenir pennies.  There was a kiosk where a man would tell you how to say your name in Hawaiian and what it meant.  He also sold leather bracelets that could be engraved with your name.  Clarissa got her English name in pink and I got mine in green. 

We had planned a palace and a museum as well this afternoon but traffic was bad and Clarissa was tired so we just came back to the hotel.  

The original plan was to have dinner with Tim’s work friends and it was already 4:00 so my goal was to avoid the pool.  We did some reading and coloring so it worked for about an hour.  Then I convinced her that the playground was an acceptable substitute. 

But then the sun started setting over the beach and it was beautiful so I needed to get closer to take pictures… Clarissa had a great time playing in the sand and the water.  She was so much messier than if I had just taken her to the pool.  

Some teenage girls walked by and they thought that Clarissa was adorable and offered to take our picture.  Then I had to convince Clarissa that it was time to go.  We did shower off on the way so it didn’t take as long to clean her up as I thought. I think she will request the beach over the pool tomorrow. 

Dinner with friends was rescheduled for Friday and we decided to eat at one of the hotel restaurants.  We ended up at Bibas for some Italian food.  I had my first adult beverage in a restaurant since Clarissa was born.  It was called a rainbow.  It was pretty and actually tasted good too. 

Fun day with friends 

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Two of my church friends from Virginia Beach currently live in Hawaii. We got to have a play date with one of them this morning at the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center

There are several awesome exhibits on two floors.  The first floor has real life things for kids to play with.  You can dress up on stage,  run the spotlight for the stage,  be a news person,  or a camera person.  There is also a restaurant to make food,  a bank,  fire station,  recycling center,  a construction area, and auto shop.  One room is even set up with body parts.  For example you can go inside a giant mouth and brush teeth or walk through a stomach. 

The second floor has rooms for several different countries.  You can play dress up and see what kind of food they eat or what the houses look like.  They have India,  Portugal,  Philippines,  China,  Japan,  and Korea,  as well as Hawaii.  There are books in each room so Clarissa wanted to read.  The cool thing was that the book in Hawaii was about a monk seal and we watched a training session with a monk seal yesterday at the aquarium. 

I definitely recommend the museum.  With my military discount it was $10 each (normally 12). The kids played well together.  Clarissa tried to get in their van when it was time to leave.  It was so good for my heart to see someone from home and just catch up. 

On the way home Clarissa and I went to the US Army History Museum Hawaii.  Any history buff will love it.  There was a section about how Hawaiians helped in each of the wars in the 20th century.  There were rooms about weapons and people.  One room was about World War 1, another about World War 2,  the Korean War, and  Vietnam.  I don’t remember if they talked about the Gulf Wars. 

There is a wonderful gift shop.  I was able to find some neat things for the veterans in my life.  

After the museum,  we made some more friends at the pool.  When Tim got back,  we headed to the mall for dinner.  We ate at Islands Fine Burgers and Fries.  The food was great.  I was so hungry that I forgot to take pictures… 

Change of plans 

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Tim had to leave for work at 630 this morning.  Meanwhile,  at 11 I tried to wake Clarissa up.  I said,  “Don’t you want to ride the pineapple train today?”  She said,  “Yes but I want to sleep a little bit longer,” rolled over,  and went back to sleep.  Jetlag always hits her the hardest.  Going to bed at midnight didn’t help,  I am sure.  

The Dole Pineapple Plantation is the farthest thing I am planning to do without Tim,  so we need to leave earlier in the day.  I decided to catch up on some reading and let Clarissa sleep so we can have a fun time with friends tomorrow. 

She did finally wake up about noon.  We spent some time playing with her new Hawaii Legos and then she said she had to bring her Gigi books to read to the fish at the aquarium. 

We drove to the Waikiki Aquarium and found a space in the very small lot.  The aquarium was small but fun.  With my military ID admission was only $8 (normally 12)  and Clarissa was free.  There were several small tanks and one large one.  

Yesterday’s submarine ride saw several of the same fish,  but due to the water depth,  we didn’t see the colors.  It was nice to see the colorful fish and coral today.  I also really liked that each tank had a small platform for kids to stand on to see better. 

Outside was a volunteer with sea urchins and hermit crabs you could learn about and touch.  Also,  there was a sea lion. Clarissa was very excited to make a souvioneer coin.  For 51 cents you could squish a penny.  There were 7 designs to choose from. One side had an animal and the other side said Waikiki Aquarium.  Clarissa chose a shark,  a clown fish,  and a sea lion. 
As we were finishing our coins there was an announcement that there was a training session for the sea lion.  We decided to check it out.  Clarissa really enjoyed it.  We ended up standing next to a family from Korea.  They definitely looked at us strangely when we greeted them in Hangeul.  Clarissa was very excited,  “Mommy they speak Korean!” 

After the aquarium,  we decided to check out the Army History Museum.  I forgot that they are closed on Monday.  But we had a picnic lunch on a bench and enjoyed looking at the war machines outside. 

We decided to go back to the hotel and head to the pool until Tim got back home from work.  Clarissa made a friend and we got to watch the sunset from the pool.  It was beautiful.  The pictures on my phone do not do the colors justice. 

We headed back to the mall for dinner.  They have a large food court so we were each able to get what we wanted. Clarissa had her French fries,  Tim had Chinese,  and I had Mexican (the closest I’ve had to my favorite in almost two years).