We couldn’t wait until Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m not that in to beaches…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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.

I love my church!

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I love my church!

Forefront is the first church that my husband has been excited about in his life. The worship is great. Lots of electric guitars and loud drums.

The first week we went, the pastor walked onto the stage to do announcements with boxers on over his jeans to promote an event our church was supporting that provides homeless students in Virginia Beach with clothes (including underwear) and school supplies each fall. He had this crazy looking beard and several tattoos. I appreciated that during the offering, the administrator asked guests not to give but just to enjoy the service. The sermon was great. I don’t remember what the pastor preached on (sorry Jason!). But I loved his style. He told stories about his family and his life to connect to the Bible passage he was teaching on. He also gave practical application.

We started going to Forefront three weeks before Clarissa was due, so we’ve been there about a year.

Jason’s beard is a little cleaner now. I have just grown to appreciate this church more the longer I am there. I appreciate the heart of the leadership. They understand that they can’t do everything to please everyone. But what they do, they do well.

I love that this church serves the community. Each Sunday there are bins for donations for the Crisis Pregnancy Center, AidNow, and PIN Ministry. Also, there are snacks available. The donations from those snacks go toward the annual mission trip to Vietnam that trains teachers. In this house we are excited about Asia and I’m a teacher. So that trip is something near and dear to our hearts.

They have Sunday school for birth through high school. The nursery teachers are wonderful. They have all loved Clarissa so well. I am sure the other teachers are amazing too, I just haven’t met them yet. The family pastor is great at equipping parents to disciple their children. Before we could dedicate Clarissa, she sent us a few talks to listen to about the spiritual significance. They were super encouraging. Each week, Clarissa is sent home with a paper that gives me ideas about how to reinforce what the lesson was about that Sunday. There are also reminders posted on facebook.

The church has been meeting at Ocean Lakes High School. But, now we’re moving to a permanent location. I love the story behind the new location too. In the spring, the church put an offer on a building that another church was selling. The other church rejected our offer because it wasn’t high enough. Then a few months later, they called back to accept the offer.

Today was our last Sunday at Ocean Lakes. Saturday night, August 30, there will be an Open House at the new location from 6-9pm. Services start at the new location on Sunday, September 7 at 9:15 and 11 AM.

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If you’ve been thinking about going to church but have been afraid to try, I really encourage you to check Forefront out. We will definitely be 11:00 service people! Since the weather has been great, we’ve been packing a lunch and exploring random parks in Virginia Beach. You’re welcome to join us. Message me and I’ll save you a seat.