Okinawa Shopping and Food

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Our hotel sits right off of Kokusai Street. I didn’t realize how great of a location it was when I booked it. Plenty of shopping and food, plus the Naha Bus Terminal and Asahibashi monorail stop are a five minutes walk. I think we will end up here for dinner every night. Our first night we were tired and hungry but found plenty of cool things to see. I got some Christmas shopping done and Tim and Clarissa found some really fun things as well.

We read that Blue Seal was really good ice cream specific to Okinawa. There are shops everywhere so I think we will try a few flavors over the course of the week. I tried pineapple sorbet and Tim had a royal milk tea ice cream with vanilla soft serve on top. We both really enjoyed it.

We also went to our favorite Japanese grocery store, Don Quiote to buy some drinks and water for the week. So we splurged on fun things I would never buy at home like a cardboard sword full of m&ms and carmel apple cups (think reeses with carmel inside).

One night, headed back to Kokusai Street for dinner and ate at Hokkaido. The food was wonderful. There was a seat fee of 300 yen per person, but it was so worth it. They kept bringing out appetizers. Our main dishes were also delicious.

On Monday, we headed to Aeon Mall Okinawa Rycom. We took express bus 152 from Naha Bus Terminal until it ends at the mall. Our Okica subway card works on busses too. Clarissa’s favorite part was the large aquarium in the lobby.

I forget that the rest of the world doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving so they start decorating for Christmas after Halloween. Well, Japan and Korea do anyway.

It was a nice mall. As usual, Tim had a specific list of stores to visit and things he wanted to find but he didn’t find anything he wanted and Clarissa and I found plenty of fun things. They had a toys r us as well as a Pokémon store, Studio Ghibli store, and Sanrio store. Plus several stores that I had never heard of but I found some cute silicone cups to make muffins in a different shape and some stationary type things. I bought the rest of our stocking suffers today.

They have a nice food court and several sit down restaurants. We had lunch in the food court. Tim always likes to try Subway in Japan because they have different sandwiches then on post. I had been reading that taco rice was a thing here so I ordered that. It was pretty good. I actually used to make something similar often for dinner.

They had some stores next to the mall as well so we checked out a bookstore (no English books though) and a Daiso (think five below). There was also a sign claiming an ocean view. Technically, you could see the ocean. But it was a couple of miles away and there was a construction site and random other things in front of it. Needless to say, I didn’t take any pictures.

We headed to the outlets in Ashibinaa on Tuesday evening. We discovered a Yamada across the street (electronics store) and Tim was thrilled to find something on his list. He said the store was great, reminded him of Sofmap in Tokyo. Clarissa and I headed to Daiso. Then we crossed the street and ate dinner at Bikkuri Donkey. The food was wonderful! They had the hot plate where you cook the rest of your steak that is fairly common in Japan. Also, the fresh squeezed juices are lovely. It is reasonably priced as well. (Please note that they only accept yen, not credit card)

Then we headed to the actual outlet. I really liked the Christmas lights outside.

We only had about 45 minutes before the outlets closed (8pm), but I was impressed. It reminded me of the outlet mall in Williamsburg, VA. There were several fancy stores like Gucci and Prada, but they also had an Adidas outlet, gap, and Columbia. We found a few things at great prices.

Wednesday morning, we decided to head to Mihama American Village. You can take either bus 20, 28, 29, or 120 to Kuwame stop (directly after US Naval Hospital). Honestly, we were not very impressed. There were little shops for American things and a 100 yen shop (dollar store). There was also a bowling alley, a giant ferris wheel, and several restaurants.

Our favorite part was the beach. I had read that we were out of season and the water would be too cold for swimming so I didn’t pack bathing suits for this trip. But I thought we could just put our feet in since it was so pretty. Clarissa had other plans but I always pack an extra pair of clothes for her so it was fine that she went swimming.

We had lunch at Jai Thai. The food was really good. But the prices were high for the portion sizes. The kids meal was great though. Clarissa actually ate the fried rice (rice with scrambled egg and no sauce), French fries, and jello. I got the pineapple fried rice and Tim ordered red Curry.

Seoul Grand Park Zoo

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Today, Clarissa and I took the monthy CYS trip to Seoul Grand Park Zoo with some friends. I had never been to this zoo before and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Seoul Grand Park is a subway stop on line 4. The zoo is exit 2. But you can also get to the Science Museum at exit 5.

The parking lot brings you to the bathrooms and a place to buy tickets for the elephant train that will take you to the zoo. You can walk if you prefer. The guy said it was a 15 minutes walk. But the train was super cheap. Adults pay 1,000 won (about $1.00) and little kids like Clarissa pay 700 won.

After our train ride, we bought tickets to the zoo. Adults pay 5,000 won (less than $5.00) and preschoolers are free. We thought we would also try the theme garden which also has farm animals which costs 2,000 won. A combination ticket for both was 5,600 won.

The zoo was great. We saw monkeys, giraffes, zebras, elephants, rhinoceros, lions, tigers, and bears.

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A lot of Korean zoos near Daegu were sad. But this zoo was actually very good. The animals had similar enclosures to what I see in the US. They had maps in English and Chinese in addition to Hangeul. There were also signs throughout the zoo in English. The names of animals were in English and several directional signs were in both English and Hangeul.

There are several restaurants for lunch. Plenty of Korean food but they also had a Lotteria and a Nazar Kebab. The Lotteria does not sell French fries but most of the normal menu was available. The vegetable bibimbap was good. The price for food was what you would see in town instead of inflated prices.

There was an insectarium that was pretty good. It was two floors and I really liked the layout because you could only flow in one direction. There was stroller parking outside. Clarissa really enjoyed the insects, spiders, and frogs.

There was a section on the map for a dolphin encounter and marine life so we walked all the way to the end to see them and apparently they had been released. I guess I should be happy for them. But the girls were pretty disappointed.

Thankfully, we found crocodiles, snakes, and lizards on the way back.

There were plenty of random animal statues for the girls to look at and take pictures with.

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We had to get back to the bus so we didn’t have time to do the theme garden or the farm animals. But we really enjoyed our time at the zoo. I am sure we’ll go again.

For my Camp Humphreys friends : CYS does a family field trip to Seoul every month. For $10, your family of four ($15 for families of 5 or more) rides the bus from post to the location of the field trip. The bus leaves the old CDC parking lot (across from the helicopter statue) at 9 AM and returns at 5pm. You can go anywhere you want from the location in Seoul, just be back in time for the bus. For example, last month the trip was to Lotte World. We rode the bus and then walked down the street and did Lotte World Mall and the aquarium instead. You are responsible for admission, but taking the bus is worth it to avoid traffic and parking.

My Favorite Podcasts

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Last fall, I subscribed to the Focus on the Family Magazine. I really enjoy reading the articles about faith, marriage, and parenting. Towards the end of every magazine, there is a list of upcoming Focus on the Family Radio Show topics. At some point, I decided that I really wanted to listen to one of the shows (I don’t remember what the topic was). I found the Focus on the Family App for my phone and started listening pretty regularly while I was making dinner.

I got out of that habit before the move to Pyeongtaek. But, after listening to the Online Homeschool Convention in May, I decided that I really liked listening to something while I was making dinner and doing the dishes. I remembered the Focus on the Family broadcast and thought that I might be able to find a few different things to listen to. I downloaded the Stitcher app for my phone and found several that I enjoy. One thing that I like about this app is that I can make a list of my favorite stations (podcasts) and when there is a new podcast added, the app will notify me.

I still listen to the Focus on the Family Radio Show. I just use the Stitcher App now instead of the Focus on the Family App.

I have two favorite podcasts. The first one is God Centered Mom with Heather MacFadyen. She is a Christian mom with four boys. I like the way she interviews her guests. I find out about really cool books and speakers from her podcasts. Her heart is for moms to know that they are worshipping Jesus just as much while they are washing dishes as when they are in church.

My newer favorite is Cultivating the Lovely with MacKenzie Monroe. A Christian homeschool mom of four, she has great guests as well. She just seems very real. And she reminds me a lot of my friend Mary back home so that’s a plus.

I also seem to be in the mood to listen to Dave Ramsey about once a week. Sometimes his guests ask crazy questions. But I like his no-nonsense answers about finances. I also appreciate that he comes at personal finances with a biblical perspective.

 

Online Conference Season

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As I mentioned before, I have really gotten into online conferences in the past year or so. I like that I can find life giving information that I can watch at my convenience. Most of the time, it’s even free!

When we lived in Daegu, the PWOC always did two simulcasts each year. Beth Moore in the fall and Priscilla Shirer in the spring. They were my favorite days of the year. I enjoyed a full day of “girl time” where I also had a chance to worship God and hear teaching without distraction (read- they are always Saturday so Clarissa stays home with Tim).

What I didn’t think much about before was that the simulcasts were also available to individuals. In April, I planned to have the Priscilla Shirer Simulcast be my last hurrah in Daegu, but the movers changed my plans. I was devastated that I missed the time with my friends and Priscilla. So I googled it and I found out that I could pay $20 and have access for a whole month on my own. So I spent some time each night of hotel life listening to the Simulcast. I was able to enjoy the worship and the teaching so I got a lot out of it. I did eventually get my girl time in as well.

I went to my first simulcast at Camp Humphreys on Saturday. You can still hear Beth Moore talk about vision until October 16 here.

The other thing I have really enjoyed is online conferences. These have all been free. The catch is that they will post a few sessions per day and they are only available for 24-48 hours so you have to prioritize what you listen to. Each session also usually has a website or some kind of freebie from the speaker. But it is possible to get your favorite sessions in for free because each session is less than an hour long and you can start and stop as you need to. And if I wasn’t really interested in a session once it started, I could just stop. They also have a paid option where you can have access to all of the sessions forever. Though I have really enjoyed the conferences, I have not tried paying for them yet. I spent a lot of time listening to things as I made dinner or washed the dishes Also, let’s be real. Clarissa didn’t complain about getting to watch extra movies on those days either.

Last year, I really enjoyed the Mom Conference. It was only three days and I listened to sessions about getting your kids to eat healthier/teach them how to cook, organizing your life, budgeting, marriage, and even traveling as a family. The Mom Conference is happening again soon. You can sign up now and the conference will be live October 17-19, 2017. It looks like some of the same sessions from last year but some new ones as well.

In May, I listened to the Online Homeschool Convention. I really enjoyed this one. It lasted most of May. It had 3-4 sessions per day that were available for 48 hours. I usually only listened to 1-2 per day. But it was really encouraging to hear from people I really connected with and just really encouraged me in my thinking. It was also helpful to hear from people I didn’t agree with to think about what I really want for our family.

There was an overlap for a Homeschool Summit during May as well so I didn’t really get to listen to most of this one. That one was mostly about curriculum. There is going to be another one that focuses on teaching from October 16-21, so I am going to try to listen to some this round.

Once I got into a rhythm of listening to these things while making dinner, I decided that I really liked that routine so I started listening to podcasts. I think I need a separate post for that though.

What we do for preschool (part 2)

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Since we have moved to Korea, I have paid more attention to when my friends get to go to conferences and conventions. I didn’t do a lot of that when we lived in Norfolk. Probably because I was either working or Clarissa was really young. But I have also discovered online conferences and conventions. Many of them are free!

In May, I spent most of the month listening to speakers from The Online Homeschool Convention while I was making dinner or doing dishes. It was pretty cool to be able to pick and choose what I wanted to listen to. And to be able to turn something off in the middle if I wasn’t really feeling it.

One thing that really resonated with me was just letting kids play when they were small. Let them learn by doing. Make learning fun. You don’t want to ruin school for them when they are small because once you lose your love of learning, it is hard to get it back.

I bought a curriculum to work on with Clarissa when she was four and for a few days, I really struggled with if I was going to do it or not. But she kept asking for school. We started God’s Little Explorers in July. The curriculum has lessons for four days per week. There is a big Bible story, theme, and letter each week. By starting in July, it gives us two weeks to do each theme so we can really take our time and have plenty of time for play.

The first week set a fun foundation to work from. We learned about the letter X. I hid all of our school supplies and put a sticky note with the letter X nearby so she could find them. She had a great time!

Clarissa has been very excited about our Bible stories. She likes that we read them multiple times and from different Bibles (The Jesus Storybook Bible and the Beginner’s Bible). She also likes that there is a theme to the books I get from the library each week. For example, when we learned about the Creation Story, our letter was G for garden so we read books about plants. There is also usually a shape to focus on and some crafts. The part Clarissa is not excited about is writing. She wrote big G just fine, but “didn’t like little g. Can I write s?” When we were talking about A for Adam and Eve, she wanted to do the letter C.

I have decided that I’m not going to push the writing at this point. She just turned four. She doesn’t have to be able to write the alphabet in order to read. So we’re just going to keep going with our curriculum since she likes most of it (and I really like it too). When she wants to write, we will. When we learned about Noah, I was able to get her to do some “rainbow letters” for C. Sometimes she will also trace words if I draw a picture first on the dry erase board.

Another component to this curriculum is learning to help around the house. Clarissa has been pretty good about bringing her dishes to the sink and putting her dirty clothes in the hamper. Since starting this curriculum she has started cutting bananas and cheese, making peanut butter sandwiches, and peeling carrots. She also wants to decorate her own pizza. I recently made a chore chart for Clarissa. She likes moving the magnets when she finishes her chore. She has actually complied with the, “you have to do these chores before you can ___” part also.

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Clarissa gets really excited to do school after dinner. Probably because she walks by where I keep all of her school stuff. So she will just pick out an activity to do. We have several dry erase books to work on letters or numbers. She has matching cards for opposites. We recently learned to play “go fish.”

Another thing I bought for her was a peel and stick dry erase world map from the px. When we read a book or watch something on tv where they talk about another place, we will walk over to the map and look for it. Sometimes the map gets pretty messy with drawings of penguins on Antarctica, Nemo near Australia, or pyramids in Egypt. And sometimes she just scribbles over it. But that’s the beauty of dry erase. And while she’s scribbling, she’s building her hand muscles so she’ll want to write more, in theory anyway…

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They offer both gymnastics and ballet on post, so I was planning to let her pick which one she wanted to do. For most of the summer, ballet was the frontrunner so she could wear her tutu. When it was time to sign up, she changed her mind. She said she wants to take classes when she’s 5. So we’ll wait on that for now. The beauty of military life is that you can register at any point during the year so we don’t have to wait until next fall if she decides she wants to take classes earlier. I did however register her for AWANA. She loves Vacation Bible School so I think she will like AWANA as well.

What we do for preschool (part 1)

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With everyone sharing pictures of the first day of school/preschool the past few weeks, I thought I would share what Clarissa has been doing for preschool.

Clarissa has an August birthday so she will always be one of the youngest in her class. For most of age three, she rarely woke up before 8 AM. Add to that, that I get to be a stay at home mom while we live in Korea. We decided to keep her home for preschool.

At three years old, I feel like it is really important that Clarissa gets to play and be creative. I bought some Usborne sticker books , wipe away books, and flap books to teach colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. We worked on them whenever she asked for “her school books.”

We read a lot of books! She likes to “read” me the stories too. At first, it was the stories that we had read a thousand times so she almost had them memorized anyway. But now she will pick up a book that we have never read before, look at the pictures, and tell me the story. Sometimes she even reads “in her head.” She often asks to go to the library.

Clarissa has a lot of toys that inspire imagination. We inherited a doll house and a play kitchen last year. She also loves to play with legos. She also helped me a lot in the kitchen with counting tablespoons or mixing things in the bowl. Cookie cutters and sprinkles are probably her favorite part of cooking though. For the first half of three she really liked to paint and play with play doh. Then she moved on to making pictures with stickers or by cutting and glueing.

Clarissa loves to go on vacation and to museums. We make sure to hit up the children’s museum and an aquarium or zoo every place we go. Science museums seem to be hit or miss, depending on if there is enough English for us to explain the science to her. But she loves to watch or read Magic School Bus.

At the end of the day, I want her to enjoy learning. She recognizes her letters and numbers to 12. She actually understands what it means to have six bears. I think social development is also a big deal in preschool. Clarissa has  playdates regularly so she is learning to share and play with others. She can follow simple directions.

I did buy a more formal curriculum to do with her while she is four. But even then, I plan to be pretty relaxed and take our time with it.

Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break

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My last Bible Study in Daegu was Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break. I only finished half of the study with my class. But I really liked it so I decided to finish it on my own once we moved.

I had never done a study by Kelly Minter before. I like the format of weekly homework with a short video to tie things together. The five days of reading each week wasn’t as long as some other studies I have done so it didn’t seem overwhelming. Two of the big themes in the study were service and obedience.

Some of my favorite takeaways from the study:

  • Nehemiah always prayed before he did anything. “When Nehemiah heard about Jerusalem’s tragic state he didn’t call a meeting, gather his smartest friends together for a quick think tank, or take a poll about what should be done…the first thing he did was pray” (16). He did things like pray for four months before we went to talk to the king.
  • Knowing the Word of God/scripture is important.
  • It is important to serve as a family and for Clarissa to participate in that.
  • Nehemiah chapter 3 lists a bunch of people and their jobs. My big takeaway from that was that God uses ALL gifts and there doesn’t seem to be a hierarchy. My calling is just as important as anyone else’s.
  • If I regularly record answered prayers, then I can remember the things that God has done in my life. It is faith building.
  • “Essentially we are just living as slaves when we’re not enjoying what God has promised to us” (130).
  • When God puts something on my heart, there is NO WAY that I will see the end game before I start walking in obedience. (Hebrews 11:8)