Monday, December 14, 2009

Aquarium and Seoul Tower

On our last couple of days in Korea, we took in the Aquarium at Building 63 (tallest building in Seoul) and took the gondola ride up to Seoul Tower.
The girls enjoyed the "domed fish tank" that they could crawl inside.
The Teddy Bears from the Teddy Bear Museum were also a big hit.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Keller's Gotcha Day

On Friday, Dec 11, 2009 - Joel and Shauna picked up their son, Keller, forever to have him as a member of their family. Their "Gotcha Day" was amazing and here are just a few shots of us celebrating together.

Now, Cooper is not the only "Little Brother" around.

Cooper enjoyed the day, even if he didn't know what was going on...

The kids having a Tickle Fest.

The Oswald Family of Four!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sightseeing in Korea

We took the opportunity to see a little of the city and sights while we were in South Korea. Seoul is a fascinating place; there is so much to do and see.

Of course, we will not have enough time to do and see everything that we would like.

To be totally honest, we came prepared for that. We did not want to plan to do too many things and then have the time change, jet lag, and kids' adjustment to create disappointment. It was a good plan because the kids have not adjusted quite the way I expected and so each thing that we have gotten to do or see has been a total blessing (including and most importantly sharing the memories, pictures, and stories of Joel and Shauna's first interactions with their son).

Today we went to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Blue House (their White House) & walked through and were overwhelmed by Namdaemun Market----I NEVER thought that shopping would overwhelm me, but you'd have to see this place to understand.

We also had a fabulous authentic Korean lunch at this tiny easily overlooked restaurant. The food was delicious (bulgogi & kimchi) & service was amazing. They found a wonderful man named Chester to translate for us & help us order. The ladies held and loved on baby Cooper while we ate our meal. We all enjoyed the food and the experience.

We still hope to see a few more things before we head home. We hope to do a little shopping tomorrow afternoon and between Saturday & Sunday we plan to go on a DMZ (Demilitarized Zone, between N & S Korea) Tour and go up in Seoul Tower.

DISCLAIMER: I am catching up on blogging, so I am "back-blogging a bit...these are blogs I started a couple of weeks ago and I am just now finishing."

Friday, December 11, 2009

First Day in Korea

After arriving in Korea on Monday night, our first trip out of the hotel on Tuesday was met with a little surprise, SNOW. Not much, just a dusting, but still it invigorated all of us and made it feel like Christmas. The weather was mild and pleasant compared to the forecasts (we overpacked when we brought the long underwear). We had a chance to wander around in the area outside the hotel and the Joel and Shauna also got to meet their son, Keller, for the first time-- Amazing!

**Don't forget, you can click on any picture or mosaic in our blog for a better/larger view.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Getting the Call

On Thursday, Dec 3rd, we were excited to get the "call" from our friends, Joel and Shauna Oswald that they had been authorized to travel to Seoul, South Korea to pick up their son. Needless to say we were all excited. Joel and Shauna have been on the adoption journey for this, their second child, for a long time.
We have prayed and rejoiced with them through the process and were happy to volunteer to help when the opportunity arose. Neither Joel or Shauna have ever been to Korea and would be traveling alone this time (their China trip to get Kylee was done with many other families at the same time) and also, they wanted to take Kylee with them on the trip but would need someone to assist with Kylee on several days because she would not go along to the visits/meetings or to pick up Keller. Since David has many times traveled to Seoul for business, he is comfortable in the city and with the transportation. And since Sybella and Kylee are best friends, we were happy to volunteer to join them on the journey.
On Thursday when the call came, Shauna and I got out our computers and started looking for some flights that wouldn't be outrageous and would get us to Korea in a timely manner; of course they wanted to get their son as soon as possible. Sunday (72 hours later) was the best option---we booked the flights and started the whirlwind process to get last minute preparations done for both the trip and stuff that needed to get done at home.
David and I had decided that we would take Sybella and Cooper but leave Colin and Connor at home to attend school and stay with Granda (my mom).
On Sunday, we went to the airport excited and sure that we were in for an adventure- small children and 14 hours on a plane is certainly never boring. We had a snaffu in the airport, long story short, we left our diaper bag (embroidered with Cooper's name) at the counter and instead of paging us to come back and get it, Delta, who we purchased the tickets thru, called the airport police and turned it in as an unattended bag. Really?! Needless to say, by the time we figured out we didn't have it, we had already come thru security and were almost ready to board the plane. No diapers for 14 hours???!!! Korean Airlines is amazing. They went above and beyond all our expectations. They went & retrieved our bag from the police promising to send it to us the next day and gave us diapers for the trip. Then when the flight was delayed by 30 minutes, they re-opened the plane door to go ahead and give us our diaper bag. Amazing!

The flight attendants were wonderful and the whole flight was kid-friendly. So, despite our anxieties, the flight was awesome!

The Oswalds on the plane as a Family of 3

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cooper's 7-month Stats

These are Cooper's 7-Month statistics: Weight- 18lbs, 55th percentile Height- 50cm, 50th percentile Head Circ- 17cm, 30th percentile

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Hair Cut

Sybella found some scissors today while I was feeding the baby (on the couch- just 15 feet away) and proceeded to RAPIDLY cut her hair. Seriously, she was speed cutting; by the time I got to her and stopped the fiasco, this is what I collected on the floor!!

I didn't take a picture of Sybella after the haircut but here is a shot I took 2 days later (on her birthday) and amazingly, Sybella has so much hair that you can't even tell that she cut it. Gotta love it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Still Fighting for Freedom

I found out today that our company lost an employee yesterday. Our CEO at Mission Essential Personnel has made it a point to remind us that we are dedicated to human freedom. I think it is easy for people to forget that there is a war going on. Maybe not a traditional war but a war of ideology and a war on freedom.

Seven months ago I made the decision to become part of the company and have not looked back. Being able to be a part of such an important mission has made every day rewarding and gives a clear sense of purpose for what I do. It is so important to be happy with what you do for a living. Having passion about your job can only come from a job that has significance or meaning for you. I once heard someone say, "I hope we don't HAVE to go to work; we all GET to go to work."

Back to the reason for writing this blog. Junaid Hijran, was serving with the Marines in southern Afghanistan. He completed his tour on Thanksgiving and departed
to Kabul for time off. At a checkpoint along the way, he was pulled from his vehicle and brutally murdered by the Taliban on the side of the road. Junaid was 26 years old, maybe 5’1”, and all of 95 pounds. His nickname was, “Tough Guy”, given to him by one of our managers in Kandahar.

Junaid wanted a better Afghanistan that was free from oppression and violence. In the midst of all the potential dangers, Junaid still volunteered to serve. All too often we take our freedom in America for granted.

He is a hero.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christmas Bazaar

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, Washington Christian Academy (formerly Washington Christian School) has it's Annual Christmas Bazaar. This has been going on for as long as I can remember. You see, I attended WCS from 2nd grade thru 7th grade. Back then it was a small school that utilized combined classes (2 grades together with the same teacher), no lunch room, curriculum taught with the backdrop of Reformed tradition, and most importantly, they kept the main thing the main thing. My greatest childhood memories are from WCS.
Eventually, parents wanted a 9-12th grade option so WCS added high school and became WCA. This fall, WCA opened in it's newest location, a beautiful campus in Olney, MD. So, this year's Bazaar served as both the Best place to get a Bazaar favorite, Dutch Almond Pastry (Banket) and as an opportunity to see the new school.
Students and teachers often pilgrimage back to the school for the Bazaar because it's a great chance to have mini-homecomings. And, this year, that is exactly what I did. I took 3 of my kids (Connor had a soccer tournament) and ventured to my Alma Mater for the day. I was blessed to be able to reconnect with a handful of people and catch up on the stories of many others.
Here are a couple of my pictures from the day:

This is my friend Brenda Ritsema. Brenda and I were close in school and I idolized her sisters (I was the oldest so I thought big sisters were cool). Brenda's mom was our Librarian and the maker of Banket (see above). We hadn't seen each other in 21 years. Brenda married a guy who also went to school with us for a couple of years, so now she is Mrs. Brian Vos. I also got to meet her 3 month old son, Noah. It was amazing to see Brenda and her family again.
Here is a photo I took with Mrs. Dick at the Bazaar. I was absolutely astounded to see her there, along with her husband and son. She was my 3rd, 4th, and 7th grade teacher (I told you it was a small school back then).

Thanks WCS/WCA for providing an environment where kids can thrive while examining things in the light of God's glory-- I only wish that we lived close enough for my kids to attend!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Things I Think About

In any given day, we think about thousands of things. I suspect that most of the time they are habitual or repetitive thoughts regarding our 'To Do' Lists, E-Mails, Meetings, Phone Calls, Meals, Chores and the like.
I often break up the rut of my thinking by exploring things that I absolutely have little or no capacity to engage in.
This is an email that I sent this morning to my husband:

"I MUST be sleep deprived. Here are just some things that I was thinking about this morning:
Painting the two bedrooms
Bunk Beds for the Little Kids
My MBA (yes, graduate school)
Friends Colin could take to his Scavenger Hunt
The trip to Korea
Flying in Chad’s Cessna
Losing weight
Working Out
Marathon Training"

Have a great day and THINK about some New, Exciting, Invigorating, and maybe even Spiritual things today (even if you won't get to them)!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Parade

Today at preschool, the kids had a Halloween Parade for the parents. It was adorable.
Sybella dressed up as 'Cindabrella' (Cinderella for those who don't speak 3-yr-old) and Cooper was her Coach (but it was past midnight, so he had turned into a pumpkin). There were many other characters in the parade: a cute Nebraska cheerleader, fire fighters, superheroes, a post man, Yoda, fairies, and various animals.

**Don't forget, if you click on the mosaic or any other picture in our blog, it will enlarge for better viewing.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Sybella is getting ready for Homecoming this weekend. She is quite the cheerleader: O-H-I-O!

Go Buckeyes, Beat the Golden Gophers (Minnesota)!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bumbo Seat

Cooper loves to "sit up;" of course, he can't sit up yet on his own. A Bumbo Seat is the next best thing. Cooper can hang out and see what's going in the house while I help with homework, make dinner, or read to Sybella.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Army Military Intelligence Ball

On Saturday night, we had our first date WITHOUT the baby: the Army Military Intelligence Ball, a formal event! So, all moms know that means it'll be lots of fun and yet a bit painful to need to wear a formal 4 months after your 4th child is born. But, it turned out awesome!
We had a great night, great friends sitting at our table, enjoyed time with each other, and finished it with a ride home in the convertible.

Connor told David that if he got a new haircut and lost the glasses, he could be James Bond--so David decided to pose (he also earned mega-husband points by calling me his "bond girl")

Our friends Guy and Maggie Timberlake

Kelly Carper and I hanging out at the end of the ball.

When we got home (LATE), my mom was still holding the little man. Thanks Mom!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Boys First Day of School (2009)

Today was the boys' First Day of School. It was a rainy morning so I drove them to school instead of having them take the bus. It gave me a chance to snap a quick picture of them before they ran off to start a new year.
It's amazing to me how old the boys are and what awesome young men they are!!
Colin is in 6th grade this year and Connor is in 3rd grade.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2009 Vienna Panthers

Colin is playing football again this year; he enjoys playing and has improved his skills quite a bit. In fact, he now has a starting position on both the defense and offense.
Now, I must say that football is a whole family commitment. Practice in August is 5 days a week. After school starts, practices are cut back to 3 days a week. Games are every weekend. Parent commitments also include: some field duties and snack bar duty. But, Colin is having fun so we do it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Thank You Cards

I received an email today that was priceless. And, when I was writing the response, I thought: "I should put this on the blog, because if two moms struggled with kids and Thank You Cards, then I bet many more have too. Also, it's a great reminder adults as well.
We have become a culture that is so accustomed to fast-paced, ever-changing information exchange and yet somewhere along the way, the simple basics of etiquette (RSVPs, Thank-You Cards, and Introductions) have escaped us.
DISCLAIMER: I am not perfect. SO, I may have missed your thank-you card following the baby's birth or some other event, but this story of a principle. It is just one of my little attempts to create good habits in my children and to teach them courtesy.
Here is the e-mail, it came from a mother (I'll call her Annie) whose son attended Connor's Birthday/Pool Party on Saturday.

Sharon -

You are an awesome Mom! We got Connor's thank you note in the mail was fantastic! We are still working to get efficient at getting thank you notes done and mailed. Have a great afternoon....Annie

I replied with the following e-mail:

I laughed out loud when I read this! Thanks so much BUT, let me tell you my secret.
I gave up on trying to get the kids to sit down and write their Thank You cards. It was a losing battle with me spending time aggravated and the cards still not written.
So I changed my approach completely. All I do is make sure that we have plenty of Thank You cards on the day of the party.
The rest is up to the kids.
They must write each Thank You immediately after opening the gift; they cannot open another gift until the card is written.
How fast or slow that happens is totally up to them. It usually takes 3-4 days to open all the gifts but I have had it take as long as 2 weeks. Connor finished his last card about 2 hours ago. :0)
I have found that not only does this arrangement cut down on our arguing but it helps them to appreciate each gift more because they spend time with it before hurrying on the next gift.

Also, If there is complaining about writing the cards, I offer that they do not have to write a Thank-You card, they can simply return the gift to their friend and explain how they don’t appreciate the gift or the time, care, and money that it demonstrates. Suddenly, the thank you card is NOT such a big deal.

At Christmas, they open all the gifts at once, but the gifts must stay in the living room and can’t be played with until Thank Yous are written.

Sounds a bit outlandish when I write it out but it works AWESOME and has solved my problem with very little effort.

Thanks for your kind words and Have a great day,


Annie subsequently replied with the fact that her mom's group would enjoy hearing this method to the Thank-You Card "battle." So, I thought I would share it with my friends as well.
I hope if nothing else, you got a laugh out of some of our family fun.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Police Department

Today I took the kids to the City of Fairfax Police Department.

Before I get into why I was at the police station, I have a little vignette to tell you:

We were in the parking lot on our way into the building. There was a policeman who had just gotten out of his cruiser and was on the way into the building. Sybella says, "Mom, that's a Police Man." I responded, "you're right Sybella, that is a Police Man." She then says in an adorable, sing-song, 2-yr-old voice, "I Liiiiike him!" It was too cute.

OK, back to why I was actually at the Police Station: The Optimist Club of Fairfax was assisting the Police Department in hosting a SafeAssured ID Program.

You may not know what the program is, The SafeAssured privacy-protected mini-CD offers a single repository of important information:

· All ten electronically imaged fingerprints

· Digital photograph

· Streaming video showing mannerisms and gait with linked audio file providing the child's voice inflection and accent.

· Private information (general physical description, street address, date of birth, life-threatening medical conditions, identifying scars or marks, and tattoos)

· Ability to create missing person poster from the mini-CD

Families also receive a full-color photo data card and a Parents' Guidebook with prevention tips, written in conjunction with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Essentially, you have everything you need to launch a National Amber alert and provide identification data to the police, all at your fingertips. I hope to NEVER need the CD and ID card that I was provided for each of the kids, but I would rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it! The experience also provided me with an opportunity to review safety information with the kids including our family "password," how to handle encounters with strangers, how a 911 call works, etc.

The Program we attended today was Free of Charge and they did a CD/ID card for each of my 4 kids (the baby's CD did not include a streaming video of him walking and talking since he doesn't do that yet-- but does have a photo and his fingerprints!).

This was a great experience, an awesome resource, and the kids loved interacting with the police officers and volunteers.

Note: Most organizations offer this service for between $0 and $10. It is recommended that you update your child's kit every year because kids change so dramatically from year to year. Check with your local police department, Optimist Club, or the SafeAssured ID event site to find an event near you!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Waking Cooper Up

Sybella loves her little brother, loves him so much in fact, that she'll wake him up to spend time with him. LOL---can't ever take your eyes off a toddler!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Breakfast with Grandma Cretella

While we were in Ohio this weekend for a wedding, we got the chance to have breakfast with David's Grandma Cretella. She met us at the Cracker Barrel to spend an hour with us before we drove back to DC. Here are some shots of her with Sybella and Cooper.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nicole's Wedding

Tracy and I have known each other for about 10 years. I honestly can't believe it's been that long but it has. Seems that our kids have gotten older but we HAVE NOT. :0)
At any rate, when we met, I got to know Tracy's 2 daughters too (and Alan, her husband). Eventually, Tracy's oldest daughter started babysitting for us. She was great with the boys and our families became close. Nicole who has been known as "Miss Micole" because that's what Colin has always called her, became a regular around our house and we stayed close even when she started college and later moved to Ohio. We have been great friends with Tracy and Alan but I have also had a special relationship with the girls. I have always been a sorta "big sister" to them. As much as I can't believe it, Nicole is now 24 and her little sister Chelsea is 20! We don't all get to see each other often, but we had the awesome opportunity to spend time together this week. Nicole got married Friday Night. She was a gorgeous bride. Chelsea was a beautiful maid of honor. And Eric is getting a wonderful wife.
I looked at David after the wedding and remarked that I got a small glimmer during the ceremony of what it will be like to watch Sybella get married someday. It surprised me the emotions that I felt watching Nicole begin the amazing journey of marriage.

Here is a photo of Eric and Nicole sharing communion at the wedding. Chelsea is the Maid of Honor and Eric's Brother was the Best Man:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Daddy's Chair

David has a favorite chair in our family room. It's his favorite place to work, watch TV, and just hang out. It's a Love Sac. There are several Love Sac chairs to choose from; ours is the "Movie Sac." A Love Sac is basically a very nice, suede, oversized, foam, "bean-bag-like" chair. Needless to say, a man who can fall asleep anywhere can definitely fall asleep here. What I found out this week is that: Sybella can fall asleep here too....

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Sybella loves her baby brother and will support him in ANYTHING....even if that means taking up thumb sucking.
Now, many of you know that Colin sucked his fingers when he was little and I determined that I would NEVER have a finger baby again. I practically shoved the pacifier into Connor, Sybella, and Cooper. My rationale: you can throw away pacifiers when they should be gone and I can't cut off fingers. Colin sucked his fingers at night for a lonnnggggg time and I could just hear the orthodontic bills "cha-chinging" away!
What may you ask did I do then when Cooper, my fourth and final baby decided last week (after lots of pacifier training I might add) to start toying with the idea of sucking his thumb???
Well, I'll tell you!
First, I took a picture quick, I mean it's absolutely adorable!
Next, I reminded myself that there is NO room for the word "NEVER" in parenting; I should have known better.
And Last, I decided that since: everyone in our family has had braces and both Colin and Connor have recently gotten head gear in preparation for braces (one was a finger baby and the other a pacifier baby), the odds were against us no matter what Cooper does.
So, I am offering the pacifier, which he sometimes takes, but smiling fondly on the occasions that he chooses his thumb. We'll see what happens.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our Small Group

We have an awesome Small Group! David and I host/lead a group at our house on Sunday nights. The group meets for dinner and then the kids go upstairs to the babysitters and the adults get to spend time in Bible Study and Fellowship. It's a time of connecting, sharing, accountability, and encouragement. I am so thankful for this group of friends; it's amazing to me how God has placed us with each other to "do" life together.
Our group has some married couples and singles in it, an unusual mix for many small/care groups, but for us, it works great! We have had people come and go in our group; that's part of the life cycle of a group, especially if it is a healthy, catalytic, dynamic, maturing group. However, we recently had to say, "Farewell" to one of our families who isn't just changing groups or doing something different for a semester. They are moving away and it's bittersweet. Brad and Glenda came to NCC last year as part of the Protege program for Media training. They left the security of being Senior Pastors to follow their calling to something new and a bit scary. They have finished the program and are now beginning a 9-month period of support raising in their journey to becoming full-time missionaries. We will miss them but are excited for the adventures they have ahead. Our group got together to have a Going Away Party to send off our friends. Here is a picture from the party:

**Not Pictured: Steve and Trish Arnold, Liam & Caitlin

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Different" (AKA Myrtle Beach Day 1)

We arrived in Myrtle Beach last night and today was our first full day on the beach. It was an awesome day (Praise God the weatherman was NOT correct in his forecast)!

“Different” is the key word for our trip; different than the other trips we have taken down to the beach because:

  • · This time it’s not just the Simon Family, our great friends the Oswalds have joined us for vacation. We met Joel, Shauna, and Kylee almost immediately after arriving in Northern Virginia and we have been friends every sense. It’s always great to spend time with your friends, particularly when it’s fun stuff like: sun, surf, sand, and swimming. But, also, when you go on vacation with friends and you spend 24 hours a day together, you get to know each other on another level. You appreciate even more what you have in each other; already, I have learned more about my friend Shauna. I love how we are the same and I love how we are different.
  • · This time the ladies started vacation without the guys. We departed on Sunday with all the kids and the guys will join us on Tuesday night. (A late departure for the guys was the best way to ensure that both families could go on vacation and that we wouldn’t need to bring 3 cars down to the beach.)
  • · This time, the drive from DC to Myrtle Beach took about 2 hours longer. We stopped a bit more because of Cooper’s age, the toddler’s potty breaks, and the POURING rain (I could only drive 50mph for quite a while due to visibility---and I am not a slow driver).
  • · This time, we are planning to Putt-Putt while we are in town. Myrtle Beach seems to be the Golf Capital of the World. And, I think that they have more miniature golf courses than any other city in America. Anyway, we have never putt-putted while in Myrtle Beach and this time we will hit one of the many, intriguing, creative, “over-the-top” courses. Now we just have to decide if we want to golf among waterfalls, fire-breathing dragons, pirate ships, or dinosaurs.

· I am sure that there will be other parts of this trip that are different than our other adventures in Myrtle Beach but the one thing that will not be different is that we are going to have a good time~