And the Winners Are....

January 31, 2013


 Congratulations to AnneLeilani

 
and Naomi!
 
 
And congratulations to EVERYONE who entered to win a pair of earrings- you're all winners!
 
Please send me an email with your mailing address and which pair of earrings you would like.  I will try and get things in the mail early next week.  My email address can be found on my profile. 
 
Thanks again to everyone who follows
Our Charmed Life
and congratulations again to the winners!

Last Day to Enter the Handicraft Giveaway!

January 30, 2013

Today is the last day to enter the Handicraft Giveaway! 
Follow this link to enter to win earrings or a necklace. 
The winners of the necklaces will be drawn by raffle tonight and will be posted tomorrow.
Good Luck, and thanks for visiting Our Charmed Life!

Fire's Allergic to My Stubborness

January 29, 2013

   As they say, pride goeth before the fall. In this case, that would be my personal pride at how well Fire has been transitioning to real food and the fall would be my frustration at how he suddenly changed his mind and only wanted to eat baby food.
   While we were on vacation, we decided to try Fire on "real" food and started feeding him from our plates and he took right to it. We would actually have trouble getting food into him fast enough to keep him happy. He ate chicken, fish, oatmeal, edamame, all kinds of fruit, eggs, really anything that we put in his mouth. He would eventually get tired of chewing, or at least just start tonguing food back out, and then we would feed him a container of baby food and he'd be happy.
   I was ecstatic! No picky kids here- my kid eats what we eat- nah, nah, na, nah, nah. I was bragging about it, "Fire ate a whole piece of toast and half a banana for breakfast!". And then he stopped. One day last week, he just stopped eating real food. Everything except grapes and cereal was spit back out. I got frustrated and said, "Fine, let him be hungry" while D took over and filled him up on baby food. I don't cave to Sky on food and I wasn't about to let Fire get away with it either. I was going to be a tough Mom and my kid was going to be better off for it, gosh darnit!
   The next night, after making myself frustrated by trying to get Fire to eat chili and cornbread for dinner, D noticed a rash on his trunk and chin as he got Fire ready for bed. He called me up to look at it, and sure enough, Fire had hives. A quick call to hospital confirmed that it was probably a food allergy. We gave Fire some Benedryl and wrote down everything that he'd eaten that night in case one of them had caused the allergy. When we mentioned the hives to Florina, she said that she'd seen them when she came into work the day before but hadn't known to tell us about them.
   I started banging my head against a metaphorical wall as things became a little clearer. Fire had probably stopped eating real food because he'd had an allergic reaction to something. His body was telling him to stop putting things in it that it didn't like. And of course, I attributed it to stubbornness and decided that I had to assert my will over his. Once again, the lesson that Everying is Not About Me was driven home with a sledgehammer.
   For two days, until the hives cleared up entirely, we fed Fire nothing but baby foods that he'd had before. Eventually he started chewing on the spoon when we put it into his mouth, so we started giving him real food again, and he's been just fine ever since. We don't know what might have caused the allergy and we're keeping an eye on him in case it happens again, but he's back to eating just about anything we feed him (tofu and bok choy one night and beans and chicken another). Not that I'm bragging or anything.

Brown Spots

January 25, 2013



  I was giving Sky a bath the other night when she looked up at me and said, "Brown spots, Mommy?"  I said, "Brown spots, honey?"  and she pointed to my hands.  I smiled and said, "Those are called freckles.  Mommy is only brown in spots, not all over like you are." and that was the end of it.  She didn't say anything else so neither did I.
  We been very open about the fact that Sky has a different skin color than D and I since she came home.  We talk about how Sky has pretty black hair and Mommy has pretty red hair (and that Daddy doesn't have hair!).  When we put on her lotion before bed, we say that we're keeping her pretty brown skin soft and smooth. 
  Her asking about my freckles caught me off guard and I answered the best I could at the time.  I don't know if I should have used it as more of a teaching moment or if my matter-of-fact answer was best.  Sky notices all the time now if things match- if you're wearing a green shirt and so is she, she'll make sure you know that match.  I suppose the most important thing to tell her, if she asks about our family matching will be to tell her that we match in our hearts, because we're family. 

Handicraft Giveaway!

January 23, 2013

Our biggest giveaway yet! 
Enter to win a pair of earrings or a necklace, all hand made here in the Marshall Islands.
 

 (note: the pink earrings are no longer available)
 
How to enter: sign up to follow our blog and leave your name in the comments below this post. If you already follow our blog and would like to enter, please leave your name in the comments.  If we have more than 13 entries in our giveaway, we'll choose the winners by raffle.
 
The necklaces below will be given away by raffle; anyone who enters to win a pair of earrings will be entered in the necklace raffle.
 
 

 
 
Good Luck and Thanks for Visiting Our Blog!

Sloppy Jane

January 22, 2013

  For a few years, I cut meat and fish out of my diet.  I had just been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was developing high blood pressure and needed to change my diet.  I was lucky to make the change while I was working at Palmer Station in Antarctica.  We had a chef who was happy to cook both meat and vegetarian main dishes and through her, I learned a lot about diversifying my diet. 
  Although I've gone back to eating meat, I still enjoy cooking with other protein sources.  The best ones are beans and leafy greens like spinach but I also use protein replacements, like tofu and TVP (textured vegetable protein).  I use TVP in place of ground beef and while there is a flavor difference, I don't think there's a big texture difference.  The recipe below is one of our favorite uses for it: Sloppy Jane.  You can purchase TVP at most grocery stores these days in the health food or flour section.  We buy Bob's Red Mill but I believe Arrowhead Mills also makes TVP.


Please ignore the messy counter surrounding those yummy sandwiches!
 
 
 
Sloppy Jane
 
TVP
Sloppy Joe sauce (you can use Manwhich, or make your own by doctoring your favorite barbecue sauce)
1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
Buns, cheese, and green pepper rings for serving
 
Prepare TVP according to instructions but substitute vegetable broth for water.  Saute onions and peppers until soft, then add prepared TVP and prepared sauce.  Heat until all ingredients are warmed through, then serve as you like.
 
D's Sloppy Jane: sandwich style with the filling held in with a ring (cross section) of green pepper, topped with cheese.
A's Sloppy Jane: open-faced with the cheese below the filling.


An Unexpected Benefit to Blogging

January 18, 2013

Since Sky will have been home with us for two years at the end of February, I've started filling out the paperwork to apply for her US citizenship.  The form (N600K) is pretty straight forward but there is a section that asks the dates that you've been in the US.  Since D and I have been traveling quite a bit since we got married, I wasn't sure how I was going to pin down all those dates.  Between my previous blog and this one, I was able to figure out down to the day when we left and re-entered the US.  So handy!

(This post has more info on how to apply for citizenship for adopted and biological children of American ex-pats)

What Didn't Happen on Vacation

  So many things happened on vacation, both good and bad, but the one thing that I worried about most didn't.  I agonized over how we would handle stranger's interest in our family; what would we say if some asked if "they were ours", or about their stories.  What if something like this happened?  I considered having ID bracelets made for them, in case Sky decided to run away like she does here, but ran out of time before the trip.  I had pictures of both kids, their passports, and all of their legal paperwork with me at all times, and it occured to me as I was putting it back in the safe box last night that I never needed it.  Of course, we needed their passports to get in and out of the country, but that was it. 
  No one ever questioned whether Sky and Fire were really ours.  When our kids were melting down in public, no one accused of snatching them.  No one made disparaging remarks about adoption or said anything racist.  No one even looked sideways at us.   Thank you, America, for accepting my family for what it is.

Treating America Like A Foreign Country

January 17, 2013

  As our vacation in America came to a close, D and I began reflecting on how the trip had gone and what we would do differently and we both felt that we'd pushed too hard on this trip.  We'd expected too much from the kids and too much from ourselves.  We thought that since we'd both lived in America and because it's our native culture, that we could just roll right back into it without any real culture shock, and because it would be familiar to us, we could help the kids navigate it.  We were so wrong.  There were so many new challenges that we didn't really anticipate and our biggest conclusion is that we have to treat America like we would treat any other foreign country and keep things as simple as possible.

1: Shorter is better.  We were gone for almost 6 weeks and that was way too much.  All children thrive on routine and Sky was out of hers for too long (and to tell the truth, so were D and I).  Our next trip back to the states will probably be about 3 weeks.
2:  Pick a place and stay there.  We went from Kwaj to Honolulu to Kansas to Omaha to Iowa to Minnesota to Wisconsin to Minnesota to Kansas to Honolulu to Majuro and then back to Kwaj.  Too many to's!  Next time, we're going to have two bases, probably one near D's family and one near mine.  We'll have to tell our families that we've come 4,000 miles and that they're going to have to come the rest of the way to us.
3:  Move in.  Things went best on this trip when we lived someplace- when we could unpack our suitcases and feel at home and we're going to focus on doing that next time.  Places that actually were homes, or had a homey feel were the best for the kids.  They had room to run and play and D and I weren't stepping on or around them all the time.  If you can't stay with family or rent a house, than opt for a bigger hotel room.  You're going to want to be able to open the bathroom door without blocking the shower and to open dresser drawers without backing into the beds.  It'll cost more but it will be worth it.  At the end of a long day, you'll appreciate the space as well, since you'll have the room to put your feet up and decompress from your day.
4:  Don't drive when you can fly.  For us, the cost of the tickets and the hassle of security outweigh the freedom of driving.  Sky and Fire are used to flying and D and I are used to handling them on airplanes.  Car seats and long drives are brand new battlefields for us (and on this trip, there were some definite battles!) and that just added to the stress.   This goes hand in hand with #2: if you're going to be in two places for the whole trip, you remove a lot of actual travel.
5:  Avoid winter.  We did it this time because we wanted Sky and Fire to see snow and to be able to spend Christmas with our families, but we're not going to do that again any time soon.  Don't laugh, but there are just too many clothes!  We needed to buy the kids whole new wardrobes for this trip (thanks, Fairy Godmother!) and winter clothes take up a ton of space in luggage.  Just finding room for two adult winter coats and two kids snowsuits blew packing light out of the water.  Maybe we'll try it again when the kids are older and can pull thier own suitcases but for now, we're summertime travelers.



Related post: Thoughts on Traveling with a Two-Year-Old

Back Home

January 16, 2013

We're back on Kwaj and trying to get back in our groove.  Does anyone else feel like coming home from a vacation can be anticlimactic?  As a family, we spent the last week or so looking forward to getting back to Kwaj, to our home and friends, and imagining that transition smoothly back into our lives.  But for some reason, the first day home was really stressful, filled with half empty suitcases, piles and piles of laundry, an empty fridge, and over tired babies.  It happens every time we travel- even before we had kids it was like that.  I don't know why I think it will be different all of a sudden. 
  For some reason, probably just a date miscommunication, Florina didn't show up the first day that we were going to go back to work, and that actually turned out to be our saving grace.  D had extra vacation time so he stayed home with Fire and started to get things done at the house.  He did laundry and dishes, unpacked and put away the suitcases, did some more grocery shopping, and generally got our house in order. 
  Sky is doing great now that we're home.  She's back to where she was in her potty training (we had severe regression in that area while we were on vacation) and is talking up a storm.  I think she's talked more since we've been home than she did during the whole last week.  She's back to school and happy to be there.  We haven't had any issues with bedtime or monsters and we're very grateful for that. 
  Fire is back to not wanting to be put down and has to have one of us in sight at all times.  I had expected him to just take off and explore the house now that he can but he would rather sit on our lap and take it all in for now.  He's getting better as we go and I think having Ms Florina home with him today will really help.  He was ecstatic to see her this morning- he just laughed and laughed.  Since he's getting so big physically and is sharing a room with Sky, we've decided to start sleep training him at bedtime (we didn't want him to be able to crawl out the crib before he was used to falling asleep on his own).  We've done it for the last two nights and he's done great.  We use the same routine that do with Sky: jammies, teeth, a book or two, one or two songs, prayers, some rocking and then into bed.  The first night he cried for about 15 minutes and when we check on him at 10 minutes, he was already sitting instead of standing in his crib.  Last night he took less than 10 minutes to fall asleep, and both nights, he's slept through the entire night- something he has struggled with doing since he came home.  I hope, hope, hope this works!
  D and I are back at work and glad to be here.  We both love our jobs and there's lots to do since we were gone for so long.  We're starting to make plans with friends and are looking forward to doing the little things that make Kwaj fun.  It's good to be home!

In Majuro

January 15, 2013

We stayed at the MIR, rooms 351 and 532.  They were adjoining rooms and worked perfectly for us.  One room had a king bed and pull out sofa and the other had two double beds.  It was really nice to have the extra space that the sofa provided.  If you're going to be staying at the MIR for a while, I would recommend trying for these rooms.

As you can see, the beds in the double room are perfect for jumping on

I think I've been forgetting to mention this but Fire is crawling now and pulls himself up to stand on everything.  We're going to have another toddler on our hands soon.

Fire with his Mommy Elizabeth and sister Suzann

Fire and Mommy Elizabeth

Fire and Sky with Fire's birth family: Daddy Job, Leni, Lomorro, Mommy Elizabeth, and Suzann

Sky with her Aunt Agnes



  We flew to Majuro from Honolulu and arrived on a Saturday.  We had hoped to spend time each day with the kid's birth families but it didn't work out that way.  I write letters every few months to both families and I'd been telling them when we'd be in Majuro since I bought the tickets in August but in true island fashion, no one came by until Monday. 
 I was sad about not seeing the families for the first few days but in retrospect, it was a really nice way to come down from the rest of our trip.  We got to spend two days just being a family, in some place that's familiar to us and to Sky.  We were able to work through our jet lag, eat good food, and just spend time with the kids.  I think that helped the last, most stressful day of our vacation go better that it would have otherwise. 
  Also, Sky struggled with being on Majuro.  I'm sure that part of it was just her being a travel-stressed three-year-old, but there was another, deeper edge to it.  She had some problems with acting out when we were there last time (see here, here, and here) and to me, this felt the same.  She still has associations, and maybe not good ones, with this place.  She ran pretty wild, and we let her because we thought she needed it, for the morning on Saturday and then calmed down after her afternoon nap.  That night we had dinner with another couple that was in Majuro for an adoption (Hi Abby and Micheal!) and Sky did good until she just kind of melted down but since she passed out as soon as we got home, part of that was probably her being overtired.  Sunday was a good day, with time spent playing on the beach, going for walks, and having KLG for dinner. 
  By Monday morning, we were feeling a little down that we hadn't seen the kid's birth families and we structured our day around ourselves, rather than waiting around the hotel for the families.  D took Sky to the playground at the College of the Marshall Islands and Fire came with me to WAM.  When I got back to the room 2 hours later, D met me on the stairs to tell me the Fire's family was there.  Job, Fire's birth father, had seen D and Sky at the playground and checked the dates on the letters we sent.  When he realized that we really were in town he got Elizabeth and Suzann, their youngest daughter, and came over.  We gave them the book that we'd made for them and some Christmas presents that we'd brought from the states and talked for a while, and then as it was getting on to lunch time, they asked if Fire could come home with them until dinner time.
  I was on a high from seeing them and having it go so well and we had no reason to say no, so we said yes.  I packed a diaper bag (they were amazed at the size of the bag I sent with them for him!) and they left with him.  A few minutes after they left, it hit me that my baby had gone away with someone else.  I'd packed up things for him to be clean, well-fed, and happy and sent him away with a kiss.  My heart started breaking and I realized I was getting just a tiny taste of what Sky and Fire's families had gone through.  We've never done that before, not really, and it was hard.  We took Sky to lunch and she kept asking where her Fire was.
  We all napped most of the afternoon and then around 5 we set out to go meet Fire's family at their house.  Bubu is a landowner on Majuro and she and Jimma built a new house about five years ago and they invited us to see it while we in town.  Job and Elizabeth told us where it was and we found it pretty easily.  It was clean and airy, and had more bedrooms than our house.  Sky was delighted to have a pack of children to play with and of course, Fire was fine.  After talking with them for a little while, we decided that I should go back to the hotel to pack and to be therejust  in case Sky's aunt Agnes came by and that D would bring the kids back when it started getting dark.
  Of course, that's not what happened.  Sky stepped on a fire ant nest and got bit all over her foot even though the big kids pulled her out right away. D brought her back to the hotel and the rest of the family came with.  I wasn't done packing yet so the rooms were a mess and all of a suddern the place was full of people we wanted to impress and I started stressing.  It was fine but I was pretty wound up by everything.  We got Sky's foot taken care of as best we could and then the kids played in the room while we talked.  I know that Marshallese kids are just kids but a lot of the time, they seem much better behaved than American kids so it did my heart good to see Job and Elizabeth's kids not sharing, not listening, and pouting when they were told no.  Elizabeth and I even laughed about it. 
  In the middle of all that, Agnes came by.  We had been prepping Sky as much as possible that she would see Agnes but I don't know how much it helped.  Sky was very shy and quiet around her, so D and I did most of the talking.  Overall, Sky did much better with Agnes this time than she did when we were her in May.  She didn't act out against her physically in any way, just said "no" when she didn't want Agnes to hold her.  Job and Elizabeth and their kids said their goodbyes around bedtime and Agnes stayed to see Sky off to bed.  Sky fought all through her bedtime routine, but D and I were able to laugh through it because that's something pretty normal for her, and it felt good for something to be normal.
  Agnes and her sister-in-law Dora (wait, Sky has uncles?  We learn something new about Sky's family every time.) came to the hotel the next morning and rode to the airport with us.  Sky sat on Agnes's lap for the whole ride and she and Dora watched the kids while we got checked in.  Sky actually fell asleep on Agnes's lap for a little while- I'm glad she felt that comfortable with her because she doesn't always. 
    We got our tickets and said our goodbyes and then headed through security.  The wait in the airport lounge was probably longer than the flight to Kwaj but we were glad to be there, waiting to go home.  This was a long trip, probably too long, but it was almost over.  We'd made it through the physically hard parts, and the emotionally hard parts and we were hitting the homestretch.  D says the best kind of vacation is one that your glad to go on and one to come home from, and this one definitely qualified.

Sky's New Favorite Night Dress

January 8, 2013

  My family bought Sky so many cute pajamas and night dresses for Christmas and what does she latch onto? An old T-shirt of mine that I grabbed on the run for her one night. I love that she loves it so much and I might let her keep it. What makes it even better is what's written on it- can you see it in the picture?

Why I Want to Get Back Home

 Because blogging here is supposed to look like this:

But it actually looks like this:




Time With Family

January 7, 2013


 We have been filling the days here in Kansas with family time.  It's been great to see everyone- I'm so glad we had the time.  D's mom drove out and has stayed at a hotel nearby for a few days, we had a get-together with D's mom's family and we made the drive to Abilene to see his great-grandma as well.  In the in between time, we've been spending time with D's dad and step-mom.  This is the sort of thing that we come home for.


Exploring around the river by Cottonwood Falls with Nana Jo







What Sky likes about road trips:  gas station straws and posing on a miniature rhinoceros:

Sky and Fire with Great-Grandma Velma





 We hit the Pizza Hut for lunch





   We had a get together at a nearby church so that D's mom's family could meet Fire and see Sky again (we'll be seeing his dad's family just before we fly out).  It was really relaxed and a great time.  I always forget how much I love seeing his family.  I spent most of the time hanging out with Jill, D's cousin's wife while we watched our kids play.  D caught up with family and Fire tested some new shoulders for their nap-abililty.








Sky and Grandma Candace have read so many books together!




Blogging vs Journaling

January 6, 2013

  I used to be great about keeping travel journals.  I have one for every trip until this one.  I'd try to write every day because I wanted to remember everything about my (and later, our family's) experiences.  I brought one on this trip but when I was repacking our suitcases for the drive to Omaha, the journal didn't make the cut.  I hadn't written in it since we were in Honolulu and decided that I probably wouldn't have the time on the rest of our trip either.  I also have some carpal tunnel and arthritis in my hands that makes handwriting for long journal entries a little painful but there's actually more to the decision than that.  For me, blogging has replaced journaling as a way of keeping my memories.
  I started this blogging years ago as a way to keep my family in the loop about my travels.  It was great to be able to share pictures and stories with everyone all at once rather than having to write twelve different letters each month.  In part, this blog is still a photo doorway to our lives for our family here in the states but it's also a way for me to process life, the hard parts and the fun parts, and it's also become a way for me to connect with people. I know that there are some people out there who share everything on their blogs and some that keep it on the sunny side all the time.  I try to aim for somewhere in between and I love being able to look back over my old posts and remember what we did and what I thought.
  For me, the big difference between blogging and journaling is that I could write anything I wanted in my journal.  Someone else might read it at some point, but it would always be my words.  This blog has become a representation of the public face of my family and that limits what I share and how I share it.  If I were journaling, I'd be able to vent, to write out any anger or frustration that I had.   Blogging is a process for me- I almost never post without rereading and rewriting, and that allows me to relive what happened and really think about it.  This reflection allows me to be less reactive and more realistic and that has made me a kinder memorialist.
  In twenty years, will I want to remember the minutiae of my emotions at the day that I would have written in a journal or the funny moments and the sad moments and the big takeaway that this blog provides?  For now, my choice is the blog.  Has anyone else given up journaling in favor of blogging?  Do you filter what you share?  Has anyone chosen to keep both?  


Haircuts!

January 5, 2013


    We finally found the time yesterday to get haircuts for everyone.  Sky and I went to a salon and D and Fire went to the barber at Wal-Mart and everyone came out looking great.  I'd been worried that Sky wouldn't sit for the haircut but she took it like a champ and the hair stylists at Wal-Mart were great with Fire and managed to get his hair cut even though he barely sat still.

 A sucker made it easier to sit still

 Doesn't she look great!

 Fire trying to watch the hairstylist cut his hair

He looks sharp!

Back in Kansas for the Homestretch


   We are back at D's folks place in Kansas for the last part of our vacation in America.  We'd been dreading the long drive back from Minnesota but it went just fine.  The kids are getting used to their car seats, which really helped.  We stopped about halfway through the drive and spent the night in a hotel.  My mom joined us at the hotel and then drove down to Kansas with us.  She's heading back to Iowa this morning.  We've had two nice, quiet days here and are starting to get ourselves ready for the flight to Majuro next week.  D's mother's family are driving out today for a family get-together and then it'll be down to packing and shipping.  We've had a good time but we're ready to go home.

 Out for a walk on the land


 Sky and Fire bundled up for a ride in Grandpa's work cart



That's My Mother!

I wish I could say that the whole thing was caused by a few too many readings of "Are You My Mother" while we were at the cabin, but my gut says that there's more to it than that.  I was about to  load Sky into her carseat at the start of our drive back to Kansas when she suddenly pointed to a van up the street and said, "That's my mother!".
  Someone had just gotten into the van and was driving away but I was so thrown off by what she said, so clearly and sure of it, that I just stared at Sky.  I took her hand and said, "Honey, I'm your mother", but she just shook her head and said, "No, that's my mother."  The van drove around the corner and away and Sky started to walk after it.  I walked after her and said that I was her mother again and she shook her head.  The van was gone by the time Sky got to the corner but she pointed after it and said, "My mother went that way."
  By now, my brain was working again and I picked her up and said, "Was your Mommy A in that van?" (Mommy A is the aunt who cared for her before she was adopted) but she said, "No", so I asked if it was A (her birthmother's name, which we almost never use) and she said yes.  I said, "Sweetie, A isn't here.  If she's in America, she's in a place called Alabama." and then I moved the conversation back to seeing Mommy A in Majuro next week.
  That all happened about three days ago and D and I still reeling a little from it.  Sky knows, in the vague way that a 3-year-old knows things, that she had two mommies before me, her tummy mommy and Mommy A, but she's never expressed interest in her tummy mommy or said anything like she did that afternoon.  We talk quite a bit about Sky's story and show her pictures of her with Mommy A but as I said earlier, we don't talk that much about her tummy mommy.  We've never had any contact with her, we don't have any pictures of her, and we really only found out enough about her decision during Fire's adoption to be able to explain it to Sky (we do talk about Daddy V, her birth father, who did meet).
  I am surprised over and over how much Sky's first 14 months affect her.  Before her, I would have said that it was only a year, that she was still a baby, and it wouldn't have made any difference.  But it does, over and over and it comes out at the most unexpected times. 

A Cabin in the Woods

January 4, 2013


  The highlight of our vacation so far was the six days we spent at a cabin in the woods of northern Wisconsin.  Don't get me wrong, we have enjoyed the rest of our trip immensely.  We love seeing our family and friends, the snow and cold, and being able to shop but we've been feeling pretty stressed from all the travel.  It was great to just move into the cabin and live there.
  There were five adults and four children: my family, my brother and sister-in-law and their two kids and my dad.  It was so relaxing.  The cabin was huge, with room to play, room to cook, and room to relax.  We took the kids out playing in the snow and Sky and Fire loved sledding.  My sister-in-law found a tiny pull-sled for Fire and he loved just riding around in it looking at everything.  We got the kids out of the house every day and had time to ourselves when they napped every afternoon.
  My sister-in-law and I are very close and we got to spend a lot of time just talking. We played board games, drank beer, cooked good food, read books, and watched the Rose Bowl Parade (Sky's first parade).  I think D and I are going to make sure we do something like this again every time we come back to the states.
 











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