West Virginia Vacation, Day 3

The internet went down here sometime yesterday, so we’re posting our favorite photo from day 3 (our second full day here) a little late.

Unfortunately, we didn’t take the camera on the hike in the morning due to the heavy fog / light drizzle. I carried Sarah on my back for the 2-mile hike and Ethan hiked the entire distance on foot. The trail was listed as an “easy/moderate” trail but I’d say the only reason the word easy was used is because of the fairly short distance (1 mile out, 1 mile back). For a 3-year-old, I’d think it was “strenuous” (and the wet conditions only made it more challenging; we didn’t really get wet because of the thick tree coverage, but the ground was a little wet/muddy). It took us about an hour and a half.

This photo was taken from the upper deck during an evening boat ride on the lake.

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Memories of Korea

We spent 8 full days in Korea in February 2008 when we picked up Ethan and 4 full days in October 2009 when we picked up Sarah. We wrote a number of posts while we were there both times, which has helped us remember more than we would have remembered otherwise.

It was an especially memorable time because it was such an intense time. In the months following our first trip, in particular, I think I had daily flashbacks of being in Korea. The flashbacks were so vivid that it felt like I was there. As we get further away from our trips to Korea, the flashbacks have gotten less frequent and less intense (although we still have them).

Here are a few of the more vivid memories of our time in Korea …

  • Visiting both kids’ foster homes. When we visited Ethan’s foster home and Sarah’s foster home, each time we met a baby we had come to know through photos and reports, but it was obvious they did not know us. We also remember when we showed up to get Ethan the day after we met him that he smiled as soon as he saw us (apparently, remembering us from the day before), but that didn’t last long …
  • Goodbyes with the foster families. We’ll never forget the goodbyes at the elevator at the SWS offices. Each time, we went into the elevator with the child we were receiving (or taking away, as it must have felt like for the babies) and watching tearful foster parents give their last goodbyes.
  • The Takeaways. There were a few differences between Ethan’s Takeaways and Sarah’s Takeaway, but both were pretty brutal (in fact, the word “brutal” kept going through my mind with Ethan; we were much more prepared for Sarah). It’s hard to tell what kind of mark those experiences left on the kids, but they certainly left their mark on us!
  • Holy Flames Methodist Church. We enjoyed connecting with people at Holy Flames. At the end of the main worship service, we were asked to stand at the exit so that people could greet us on the way out of the sanctuary. Being greeted by so many Koreans bowing to us in their traditional greeting was a memorable experience.
  • Small Group. We had been looking forward to meeting with a church small group while we were in Korea, until we learned that we would be picking up Ethan a couple of hours before small group. As it turned out, it was a tremendous experience, once we’re glad we didn’t miss!
  • A man at Incheon Airport. We often wondered what Koreans thought about us with a Korean baby, whether they viewed it positively or negatively. In 2008, Chung Suk Kim, senior pastor of Kwanglim Methodist Church, perhaps the largest Methodist Church in the world, expressed gratitude to us for adopting a Korean baby. But our last memory from Korea was going through customs at the airport in Korea on our way out of the country. Joleen and the baby (Sarah) were at the counter and I was waiting in line. An older Korean man was behind me and asked if we were adopting a Korean baby. When I told him that we were, he patted me on the back and said, “Thank you!”

But, as I’ve said before, WE are the lucky ones!

Back from Washington, D.C.

As part of our ordination process, we were required to attend a seminar at the General Board of Church and Society, which took place earlier this week, Monday through Wednesday (more on that in a later post).

Sunday morning, we drove to Harrisburg where we joined the rest of the group and a bus transported us to Washington D.C. We took Ethan and Sarah with us and met Grandma and Grandpa Willis (from Tennessee), who cared for the kids while we were at the seminar. We got to hang out with them when we were not in session.

It was a busy few days, but it was a good experience. We stayed at Hotel Harrington, one block from Pennsylvania Avenue, which joins the White House on one end and Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court on the other end. We were 0.7 miles from the White House and 1.4 miles from Capitol Hill, which is also where the United Methodist Building (the only non-governmental building on Capitol Hill!) is located, where we met each day.

Tuesday (after 3:00 p.m.) afforded us the most free time. We toured the Capitol Building, then walked from Capitol Hill to the monuments at the Washington Mall, before finishing the day with dinner at ESPN Zone, adjacent to our hotel room. All of this led to well over 10,000 steps and took about 3.5 hours, if I remember correctly.

Speaking of steps, the 2010 HealthFlex HealthMiles Challenge is in its second week. When I first learned about this challenge, I was immediately concerned about getting my steps in during the four days of this trip.

But I was able to continue my daily streak of 30,000 steps throughout the four days. Sunday through Tuesday weren’t overly difficult, but Wednesday was a killer. I only had a little over 16,000 steps when we arrived home just before 9:00 p.m. After putting the kids to bed (with around 20,000 steps, at that point), already exhausted, I hit the treadmill where I reached 30,000 with only about 15 minutes left in the day.

Getting steps was a good way to see D.C. I got up each morning around 5:00 a.m. or so and hit the streets of downtown D.C. just before light. I walked about an hour on Monday and Tuesday, then only about a half hour on Wednesday due to a change in schedule for the final day, a change that cost me up to 4,000 steps.

To make up for it, I walked to the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill instead of taking the subway. Funny thing is, the four of us who walked arrived at our destination at the same time as those who took the subway. But, on the way back to the hotel at the end of the session, I missed out on a sighting of former president Bill Clinton, who was seen exiting one of the Senate office buildings.

But we did see a lot of other things, including President Obama heading out on Marine One right as we stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial looking toward the Washington Monument (unfortunately, if we would have been just a few steps ahead, I would’ve have been able to get the Washington Monument in the photo with the two helicopters), on Tuesday afternoon. It was a cool moment, though. People snapped photos and applauded.

Here are some photos from our time in Washington D.C. …

Our Day in Hershey

This morning, the final day of our post-Easter family sabbath time, we left Lancaster and stopped in Hershey, PA on our way home. We went to ZooAmerica and Hershey’s Chocolate World.

After a couple of very warm days (with 80-degree temperatures) it was a much cooler day (in the 50s). It was also fairly windy. As we got closer to home, we actually hit a wintry mix of precipitation.

Amazingly enough, we came away from Chocolate World without any chocolate! The kids were pretty tired by the time we left (well into nap time), which cut our visit short. But we did share a Hershey’s S’mores Sundae (except for Sarah who wasn’t a fan).

Overall, it was a nice getaway. The kids handled the trip pretty well. While we could have gotten more rest/sleep at night, it wasn’t too bad (the kids usually sleep extremely at home). Ethan did well (again) sleeping in his own big bed (surrounded by a barrier of pillows) but while Sarah would go to sleep in a crib, she didn’t like waking up there during the night. We are hoping her transition back to her own crib goes smoothly tonight!

Here are some photos from today …

Post-Easter Family Sabbath Time

Easter is a busy time for pastors, of course, and it’s an especially busy time for a family with two pastors and two kids. So, we’re taking a mini-vacation after Easter for some much-needed Sabbath time.

We arrived in Lancaster, PA yesterday and will head back home tomorrow. On our way here, we reached another milestone in the process of adopting Sarah. We met with our caseworker for the third and final time. Once Sarah has been with us six months (April 24), we’ll be able to file for the finalization of Sarah’s adoption (at which time her name will legally become “Sarah”). However, we don’t know when finalization will actually take place (probably in a few months).

So far, it’s been a relaxing time — spending a little time at the playground, splashing in the pool (first time with Sarah), and eating out. Well, eating out is not always relaxing with two kids under 3, especially at Carrabba’s. Carraba’s is a nice Italian restaurant, but we were placed at a small table (so everything was accessible to both kids) and all four of us were given silverware, including two forks and a large steak knife. Ethan found the first two and after Sarah pulled one out, we figured we should get rid of the knives! Besides that, it was great!

You can tell our kids are pastors’ kids. On the way to visit/tour Tom Sturgis Pretzel Bakery (America’s first commercial pretzel bakery), Ethan asked, “Are we going to another church?” 🙂

And sure enough, after visiting Sturgis Pretzels, we walked across the street to look at the historic Lititz Moravian Congregation (Methodism founder, John Wesley, was greatly impacted by the Moravians).

We plan to do a couple fun things in Hershey tomorrow on our way home. In the meantime, here are some photos from our mini-vacation, so far …