His Mercy Endureth Forever Book Review

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I am always looking for ways to point Clarissa to Jesus and teach her about the Bible. Last year, I reviewed T is for Tree as part of the Homeschool Review Crew. The publisher reached out to me in the fall asking if I would be interested in reviewing another book and I accepted.

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I really enjoyed His Mercy Endureth Forever: Psalm 136. The book is as it seems. A reading of Psalm 136 in its entirety, written in the King James Version. I appreciated that it used the entirety of the scripture, word for word. The pictures were wonderful. They really made the words come to life.

This is a great way to introduce kids to God’s word. Kids like to read the same books over and over again and I think that this can easily become a favorite with the repetition of the words and the vibrant pictures. Children can easily memorize this passage as they read through the book. There is even a glossary at the end of the book to explain vocabulary that might not be as familiar to children.

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I think His Mercy Endureth Forever: Psalm 136 would be a great addition to a family or Elementary Sunday School bookshelf. I look forward to reading it with my girls in the years to come.

How my second pregnancy compares to my first

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With six years between pregnancies, sometimes it’s interesting to me to think about the things that are different and the things that are the same.

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I was 29 when I was pregnant with Clarissa. We got pregnant very quickly once we started trying. I was surprised at how quickly I felt like I started showing. Most of my friends who were pregnant about that time were losing weight during their first trimester but I gained 8 pounds. I didn’t get that sick as long as I kept eating, which is why I gained weight in the beginning when everyone else was losing. I was so concerned that I was going to be huge by the time it was over, but I was fine. I only gained about 35 pounds total.

At 35, it took a few months longer to get pregnant with Tiffany. I feel like I started showing before I even knew I was pregnant (and I found out at 3 weeks!). I think I gained 12 pounds during the first trimester? But I weighed more before I got pregnant this time so I felt like I was way bigger. I was more sick in the beginning and I had to avoid certain foods or I would get sick. But in general, I had to eat every couple of hours. At 25 weeks, I have already gained 30 pounds so I anticipate that I will gain more than 35 pounds this pregnancy.

I am more relaxed this pregnancy.  Well, we did move to a different continent, so maybe peaceful is a better word. With Clarissa, I had several friends who had miscarried and I was so worried that I was going to lose her. That is why God told me early on that she would be “a little girl with great faith.” And even then, I was worried when things weren’t perfect on the ultrasounds.

With Tiffany, I had ultrasounds every appointment in Korea. That probably helped me to know that she was fine. I didn’t really have a word for her other than the day we found out we were pregnant God told me that “mercy and grace would follow me all the days of my life.” So when we found out we were having a girl, I really didn’t have any ideas for names right away.

I switched obs during both pregnancies. With Clarissa, I didn’t care for several doctors in the group that I was going to see. I wasn’t concerned at first because I really thought that we would move to Korea at that time. But when it became clear that wasn’t happening right away, I switched doctors. We did do a natural child birth class where the teacher talked about all of the natural things to do and talked about how bad epidurals were. I wasn’t really prepared for my 54 hours of back labor and really felt defeated that I got an epidural at like hour 45.

The reason I switched obs this round is that we moved from South Korea to Northern Virginia. It was harder than I thought it was going to be to switch obs. First of all, prenatal care is different in Korea than it is in America so my records were “incomplete” because they did different tests. And then there was the fact that some of my records aren’t in English. So it was difficult to find an ob to accept my records. Eventually they did when I went in person to explain my records.

They eventually were like, “Oh are you State Department?”

“No, but my husband works for the government.”

“So the government sent you to Korea for four years?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, then you’re fine.”

So basically, if we had been missionaries, English teachers, or just expats returning from Korea, they wouldn’t have accepted an otherwise healthy patient with insurance?!

I did get to do an anatomy scan at my 24 week appointment with the new ob since I hadn’t had the official anatomy scan. They confirmed that Tiffany is definitely a girl and everything looks great. And then they proceeded to ask me if I wanted to do genetic testing to make sure that everything was fine because ultrasounds don’t catch anything. I was like, “as long as insurance covers it, you can do blood work. But I’m not paying for anything out of pocket.” So the blood work people call and tell me how much it will cost if insurance doesn’t pay for testing but can’t tell me if my insurance will pay anything, even though they know what my deductible and copay could be…I declined the testing and they were surprised. With Clarissa I would have paid the ridiculous price just to have peace of mind. But this round, I am not worried about the baby. She’s fine. And even if she isn’t for some reason, she’s still our baby.

I am not dreading the labor and delivery process, per say, but I don’t know that I am looking forward to it either. If I have back labor again, I will not hesitate to get an epidural this round. I may get one anyway and not feel like a failure. Clarissa was healthy with an epidural. God has given us medical technology so there is no shame in using it.

Along the same lines, I tried to do everything naturally with Clarissa. I didn’t even take over the counter medications unless I absolutely had to. I tried to do neti pots and things like that instead of taking decongestants. This round, if it is on an approved list of medications, I take it without feeling bad about it. Especially when we were in Korea and I was getting headaches from the bad air.

I am interested to see how different Tiffany’s personality is than Clarissa’s. Clarissa is a mix of me and Tim, but more Tim than me. Tiffany is definitely really active in the womb like Clarissa was. But she is in a different position so I am hopeful that I won’t have back labor this round. I am also interested to see how this 6 year age gap plays out in their relationship. And what it will be like to be a mom of two. But I look forward to the challenge and know that God will guide Tim and I as we raise these beautiful girls.

Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner Review

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For most of life in South Korea, I was more of a use the calendar on my phone kind of girl. But once I started homeschooling Clarissa, I decided that I needed something more  for my planning. I tried a couple of different things both on the computer and on paper that I wasn’t thrilled with so I was really excited to review the Hey, Mama! Homeschool Planner for the 2019/20 year written by Gena Suarez that is produced by The Old Schoolhouse®.

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There were several things I liked about this planner. First of all, it is spiral bound which makes it easy to write in and flip pages. I also liked that there are devotions written throughout the planner to encourage me all year long.

The beginning of the planner gives you big block calendars for each month of the year, starting July 2019 and ending June 2020. Each month has a devotion on a different topic as well as a full page for notes. I like this section because it allows me to think of big picture ideas for each month. The calendar blocks are also big enough that you really don’t need a separate family calendar. You can plan dinners, dentist appointments, field trips, whatever you need, all in one spot.

The next section breaks it down further. There is another devotion and then four weeks of more in depth planning. You can plan a week of schoolwork for up to five children on one page. Since I am only schooling Clarissa right now, I chose to break it down over 5 days instead. Every four weeks, there is a new devotion to read which I think would be both encouraging and motivating to moms.

I think I am really going to enjoy using this planner for this year. With a new baby, I will need to have a better plan for Clarissa’s schooling than just playing and winging it like we did for kindergarten. This method of planning will allow me to be less stressed about what Clarissa is learning because I can write it down and plan it out better. I also like that I can write it with a pen instead of making my own documents on the computer. It doesn’t have to “look professional” since I don’t have to turn my lesson plans in to a school. I think I will also like being able to look through this at the end of the year so that I can see, in one place, all the things that we worked on. The notes for each month and the devotionals should also help me to keep my focus each month.

I look forward to seeing how other families used this planner with multiple children to give me ideas for the future. As of the writing of this review, they are 98% sold out of this planner. So if this is something you are interested in, I would definitely look into buying it early next year.

Hey, Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20 Year {The Old Schoolhouse® Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

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!

Ah life with a car

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When we moved to South Korea in 2015, we didn’t bring a car with us at all. My 14 year old car got totaled the day we got the official offer. And Tim’s car had recalls on it like every other month. So we ditched the cars and thought we would do public transportation in Korea. And we did, for the first year.

There is a one car rule in South Korea for Americans. In Daegu, it is pretty easy to get a second car approved if you live off post. At Camp Humphreys, it was harder. So while we bought a car in January 2016, Tim had it most of the time because he was working. I could use it after work or on weekends. But for play dates and events during the week, Clarissa and I either got a ride from a friend or took the bus somewhere. It wasn’t a big deal in Daegu because there were like 1,000 different busses and a subway system. Plus all of our friends had two cars. Pyeongtaek was harder because the one bus only went one way to AK Plaza and most of my friends were stranded without a car during the day as well.

During our time in Pyeongtaek, Clarissa would always say things like “I can’t wait until we move to America because we will have two vehicles!” So when we found out we were moving to Washington DC area I had to disappoint Clarissa and tell her that we would still be a one car family. However, she is happy about it because instead of Daddy taking the car to work and us taking the bus everywhere, Tim takes the bus to work and we get to keep the car for the day. I forgot how nice it is to have a car and be able to run errands during the week or just to be able to go on a random adventure because we feel like it.

So on Wednesday, Clarissa and I went on an adventure. We decided to check out Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center in Alexandria. It was an easy ten minute drive from our house. At first I thought I missed it because it is attached to an elementary school building. We really enjoyed it and plan to go back!

There are several small animals in tanks and aquariums inside. Clarissa got to see snakes, lizards, bugs, turtles, and birds. There were also cool things to look at under a microscope and a different magnifier. We saw most of those things in about twenty minutes.

Then, Clarissa went to the play area. There is a puppet stage, puppets, stuffed animals, plastic toys, and plenty of books to read. We stayed there for almost an hour. Clarissa would have stayed longer if I let her.

Next to the Nature Center is an entrance to Dora Kelley Nature Park. From the parking lot, take some stairs through the trees down to a paved path by a small river. Clarissa kept saying, “Are we in the woods?” We could hear animals and bugs but didn’t see many in person. Clarissa really enjoyed walking around and “being in nature.” There were a few different paths that you could take and there are multiple entrances so if you go to the right one and stay on the paved path, it would actually be stroller friendly. The entrance we went to is not because there were at least 25 tall steps to go down to get to the path.

On our way home we stopped by the shopping center near our new house to check it out. We had lunch at Duck Donuts which was new to us. And then we found some fun things at Michaels to work on until the rest of our stuff comes. There is even a small kid store called Robcyns that has clothes, educational toys, and books. Clarissa has been asking for a stuffed snake for about a month and we finally found one here! We also checked out Fresh Market for the first time which reminds me of a smaller version of Whole Foods.

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Big Bible Science Review

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Clarissa loves science, especially if it has to do with animals or experiments. Big Bible Science by Christian Focus lets us learn about both. I really appreciate any science curriculum that Clarissa can get excited about that also teaches from a Christian perspective.

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There are several ways that a family could use Big Bible Science. It could be used as a supplement for an elementary science curriculum or as a curriculum itself. There are 21 different experiments on several topics including: gravity, friction, chemistry, plants, animals, water cycle, space, and the human body.

Each experiment has it’s own short chapter in the book and includes scriptures or Bible stories, some background on the science topic covered in the experiment, materials needed, and several activity choices for each topic. I could see using this book as a stand alone science curriculum and moving through it at the pace of one chapter every 1-2 weeks. You could spend time focusing on the scripture and background and do a different activity each day for several days. Or you could use this book as a supplement to any science curriculum, pulling the experiments as they fit in with your current curriculum. I also think that this book would be a good fit for families with multiple children. You can assist younger children and let the older children do more on their own. There is even a list of which experiments children would be able to complete without adult assistance.

In kindergarten, I don’t have a formal science curriculum for Clarissa. Several experiments in this book were appropriate for her to work through. For the purpose of this review, I simply listed them for her and let her pick her favorites. Of course, her favorite was the experiment 13 on animal classification.

We started by learning about the five different classes of animals. Then we read the creation story and focused on Genesis 1:20-25. We were instructed to describe the five classes of animals in the creation story. The second activity was to write the class of animals on the top of an index card and describe their characteristics. For kindergarten, she drew them instead. Clarissa then cut and glued animal pictures to the correct card. The last activity was to create a venn diagram comparing two different classes of animals. She chose animals and reptiles. I simply recorded her responses as we compared the two different classes. I had planned to do this in several days but Clarissa really enjoyed it and so we completed all of the activities in one afternoon!

We will go back to this book later. We usually end up doing unit studies and I think that the experiments in this book are going to be great activities to add to our unit studies for first and second grade. I appreciate that most of the materials needed for the experiments are either things that I already have in my house or are really easy to access. It makes science so much easier to plan and execute.

There were four titles to choose from for this review. To read about other books from a Christian perspective check out the other reviews here.

Big Bible Science, Elizabeth Prentiss, God is Better than Princesses,  God is Better than Trucks. {Christian Focus Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Taking your pet home from South Korea

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One of the most stressful parts of our move (for me) was making sure that Mittens could come to America with us.

Mittens, our cat, was born on the roof of a building on Camp Henry in Daegu, South Korea. At least, that is where someone found her and her brothers and sisters. Said person brought her to the Camp Walker vet, who nursed them for a few weeks before adopting them out to families on post. It just so happened that we were in the market for a cat when I saw a posting that the vet had free kittens available.

That was three years ago. Clarissa was two and Mittens was less than two months old when she came to live with us. They have grown up together like sisters. Mittens sleeps in Clarissa’s bed every night. Though we still haven’t seen how she manages to jump to the top bunk on her own.

In the fall, I knew we would be heading back to America sometime in 2019. I began researching the process of what it takes to bring a cat from South Korea to America. It’s actually not as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I joined a facebook group by one of the pet shippers, thinking it would help me to know what to do. And to a certain extent, it did. But it also really stressed me out because he would post horror stories about how pets were denied boarding for silly little things (and bigger things) and he had to rescue the pets and ship them home later.

The difficult thing about military or GS life overseas is that you don’t always know where you are going until right before you leave. Some places require more preparation than others. For example, to go to Japan, your pet needs a FAVN test 6 months before you leave Korea or your pet will be in quarantine until the end of the 6 months when the pet arrives in Japan. Hawaii requires a similar schedule. To go to Europe (the EU), you need 3 months of FAVN or your pet can’t even enter the country. But to go from South Korea to mainland USA, your cat just needs a health certificate and a current rabies shot.

Our DEROS (date of estimated return from overseas) was April 30 and we had no idea where we were going by January 1. I knew we were going to America, but that could mean Hawaii and so I decided to get Mittens updated on her rabies shot early so that she would have two rabies shots and would be able to receive the FAVN test immediately if we found out we were going to Hawaii.

I was relieved to find out in February that we had a tentative offer for a job in the Washington, DC area because it meant that Mittens didn’t need the FAVN test. We could also take a direct flight from Incheon (Seoul) to Dulles (Washington DC) which would make life easier for the humans and the cat.

Right before we left, Tim heard about a different pet shipper that someone from work had used with good results. Once we finally had orders, I decided to talk to her. Gina was wonderful! She advised me to book the Delta flight with Korean Air code share because Korean Air is excellent with pets and doesn’t have a flight time limit (Delta normally only allows pets on flights under 12 hours). Doing this, Mittens was able to be on our flight as excess baggage instead of manifest cargo. Her treatment was pretty much the same. However, we only had to pay the airline $200 instead of paying a pet shipper between $1500-$2000.

Once our flight was booked, I was supposed to call a phone number to book Mittens on my flight. My phone would not call the Korean number for some reason and when I called the American number, I was on hold so long the phone call hung up on me. So Gina called them for me on her phone to book her spot on the flight. Then I had to take Mittens to the vet less than 10 days before our flight in order to get a health certificate. You don’t want to do it 10 days out because if your flight is delayed for any reason, you will have to start over. Then within 3 days of your flight, you need to visit the quarantine office to get a special health certificate from them.

That part was pretty stressful for me. I knew Mittens was healthy and her rabies vaccine was current. But the vet wasn’t available until the Friday afternoon before we left. Tim sold our car that morning, so I had to bring Clarissa and Mittens from Osan to Humphreys by taxi. And for some reason our taxi driver refused to actually go onto Camp Humphreys. So he brought me to the main gate and we had to switch taxis to get to the vet. The vet was done with Mittens and handed me a health certificate within 15 minutes. I then called another taxi. This guy didn’t speak any English and couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to go, even after I talked to dispatch. So after driving around for a bit, I made him bring me to where Tim was on Camp Humphreys so we could go together. Once the guy figured out how far we needed to go, he refused to take us.

We then went to the USO, where the lady at the front desk translated the address into Hangul for me with directions. She advised us to take a taxi from off post because they were usually willing to go farther. So we called another taxi to take us from One Stop to the front gate. Then, we got into a new taxi who was happy to take us to the Quarantine Office at the Port of Pyeongtaek. This guy didn’t have amazing English either, but our translated copy of the address made it super easy for him to know where we needed to go.

After we arrived at the building, we asked him to wait for us so that we would have a taxi back to our hotel at Osan. We walked in to the building and took the elevator to the fourth floor. From the elevator, take a left and go through the double doors. I presented the worker with my health certificate, rabies certificate, and flight information and filled out a form. In about 10 minutes, he handed me a health certificate for the Quarantine officers at both the Korean and American airport. I was instructed to bring Mittens to this place, but the worker didn’t look at her, just the paperwork. The taxi driver then took us back to Osan Main Gate so we could get to our hotel.

The next hurdle was to get to the airport. Osan offers a bus from the air base to Incheon Airport. However, pets are not allowed on the bus. I tried talking to a pet taxi, but he wasn’t convinced that he could carry the three of us, our luggage, and Mittens in his van. It was the same crazy price to just send Mittens with him as to send all three of us with our luggage.  The day before we needed to go to our airport hotel, a friend of Tim’s offered to drive us to the airport hotel in his van. We fit comfortably in his huge Japanese van and had great conversation along the way.

At the airport, I was worried that there would be a problem with our paperwork or that they would say Mittens didn’t have a spot on the flight (because of all the things I read on the other shipper guy’s facebook page). Gina assured me that Mittens should be fine, but if for some reason they denied her on the flight, she would send one of her workers to get Mittens and she would ship her to me later in the week. So I at least had a back up plan going into the morning of the flight.

When we checked in for our flight (you can’t do online check in with a pet), I told the check in lady that we had a cat. She asked for my rabies certificate and health certificate. I then had to put Mittens on the conveyor belt for her to attach paperwork and stickers to. Her crate had metal screws and a water bottle attached. There were puppy pads at the bottom of her crate to absorb any messes and make her more comfortable. I also had to write Live Animal with arrows (like this side up) on the crate and attach some cat food to the outside of her crate.

Then the check in lady called someone who came to get Mittens in her crate and put her on a cart. They immediately took her to our plane to load her into the cargo area (the other pet shipper guy said they just fling the crates with the luggage and you never know what will happen). After we finished checking in our suitcases, she gave me a note to pay the $200 at a different counter to pay for Mittens.

After our flight, at US Customs, the border patrol agent asked us about Mittens. He just wanted to see her current rabies certificate and didn’t care about her health certificate at all. From what I was reading, health certificates are required by many airlines but rabies certificates are all the USA requires to enter the mainland. We then went to pick up our suitcases and saw that they had put Mittens off to the side in a different section. We showed them that our baggage tag matched Mittens sticker and they let us take her. That was it.

Please note that to bring your pet from the United States to South Korea, the requirements are completely different. This post explains the process we used to bring our cat from South Korea to the United States in May of 2019.