April 30, 2014

  D and I participated in a great Kwaj tradition this weekend, the RustMan.  It's an annual triathlon run by the running club here.  Participants swim 1K, bike 42K, and run 10K.  D and I have wanted to do it as a team since we moved down here and this year, we were finally able to.  D's goal was to finish in less than three hours and we made it: 2:42:35!  D did the swim and and the run and I did the bike portion in the middle.  I hadn't had as much time to train as I would have liked but I still managed to cut 5.5 minutes off my time from last year.  I'm regularly proud of the kids but it was really nice to be proud of D and myself for something.   We both did our best and finished well for it.  I hope this is something we can keep doing while we're here.

Showing off our team numbers before the race
so tired after!


A beautiful sunset, happy kids on swings, mom high on endorphins and pride: a great end to the day

Our Big News

April 28, 2014

  Some of you may have guessed it by now but our big news is that we're adopting again.  Yay!  We're doing it a little differently this time around though, and adopting from the states, through a domestic infant adoption.  There are a lot of reasons for us to choose a different path for adoption for our next child but in the end, this was the option that just felt right for our family.  We've found an agency that's willing to work with our unique situation, I have all our paperwork assembled (after two adoptions, I have SO many notarized copies of things!), and we'll have our home study sometime in May.  I've been working on our profile book and once we turn that in, it's just a matter of waiting. 
  D and I really struggled with this decision, in so many ways.  First, should we even add to our family?  We have a girl and a boy, both are feeding themselves and sleeping through the night, why should we start over?  And once we made that decision, we had to figure out how to bring that child into our family.  An older child wouldn't be a good fit for our family and living where we do, we don't have access to the psychological services or educational services that an older child might need.  We were turned down by the US foster to adopt programs we applied to, and we don't have the access to medical care that a special needs child would require. 
  Since that left us adopting a newborn, we considered adopting from the Marshall Islands again, even going so far as to get in touch with the CAA and a lawyer, but it just didn't feel right.  At around the same time, I started to hear back from an agency I'd  applied to online.  They answered our questions, were willing to help us navigate our slightly more complicated path, and were very up front about their fees.  We finally made the decision to end our progress (or lack thereof) towards an adoption here and committed to the agency.
  We don't know how long the process will take- the agency tells most of their clients to be prepared for it to take between six months to a year.  Our international lifestyle could work for us or against us,  but the fact that we can only adopt from certain states (because of the finalization process) could make things take longer. 
   I'm amazed at how calm I feel about this adoption, especially in comparison to how I felt about our other two.  I'm sure it's got a lot to do with having those other two at home and being busy with them.  Sometimes it doesn't even feel real yet...

Earrings for Adoption?

April 24, 2014

  An adoption fundraiser for the us?  Are we adopting again?  Have we been holding out on you?  Maybe... but that's not the point of this post! 

 I have 16 pairs of Marshallese-style earrings, all hand-made by Fire's birth mother that I would like to give away. I had the idea that someone else might be able to use them as a fundraiser for their RMI adoption, or maybe as thank-you gifts for those who have already donated. If you're interested, please comment below or send me an email (ourcharmedlife(dot)net(at)gmail(dot)com) and we can work out the details.

Easter Pictures and a Slip 'n' Slide

April 21, 2014

  We went to the sunrise service at the beach on Easter morning again this year.  It was a beautiful day and beautiful service with two baptisms afterwards.  We brought our camera and had a friend take a family picture for us:

With Auntie Mo and Uncle Paul
Easter baskets from Auntie Mo

  This has to be the best $20 I've ever spent: a slip 'n' slide!  The kids loved it!  They're a little young to understand how to slide on it on their tummies so we put their slide at the end of it.  They had so much fun jumping in the water, running on it and slipping around in the puddles, and then D got out there and showed the kids how it was done!

Going Private

April 17, 2014

  D and I are moving ahead with some of those changes we've been talking about for so long and because of that, we're going to be taking this blog private for a little while.  If you'll want to continue to have access to the blog once we do switch over, please send me an email (ourcharmedlife(dot)net(at)gmail(dot)com) and I'll include you in the access list.  I don't think we'll make the change until early to mid-May and I'll post a few more reminders before then.

Right Now

April 15, 2014

  Right now, things are great.  If you'd asked me two weeks ago, my answer would have been VERY different, but right now...  Right now, these are the salad days, the halcyon days, the days we'll look back on when things get hard again (and they will again, because that's life) and remember how good it was and dream of it being that way again.  Our lives aren't perfect.  We go through some very dark places every once in a while but we've found good ways of working through them together and right now, those dark places seem to be behind us, at least a little bit.
  Sky is doing great.  She really struggled on the last part of vacation and with the transition to being home but she has found her groove again.  She gets herself ready in the morning (mostly!), does her chores, and does her best to be kind to her brother.  She is in a little kid's soccer program and is taking hula as well.  We're hoping that she can start swimming lessons in May. Sky loves helping in the kitchen and knows how to use a (safety) knife and run the mixer.   She knows all her letters and numbers and can write her name (mostly!) but we're not pushing academics right now- she'll have plenty of time for that later.
  Fire is the definition of toddler - caught somewhere between being a baby and being a kid.  He talks all the time and works hard to make himself understood (and gets frustrated when we don't).  He's started saying "mine" and is standing up to Sky when she takes things from him or is bossy.  He's started being picky about what he eats and will hit and throw things when he's unhappy but his terrible twos seem pretty easy compared to Sky's (and in retrospect, hers probably weren't that bad either...).  Fire loves the water, whether its the ocean or the bathtub, loves his cars and trucks, and riding on his daddy's bike.  He loves giving hugs and will throw his arms around your neck any time he can but doesn't like kisses.  He would eat nothing but bananas if he had is way.

 Fire's new favorite jammies- 'At 'An!

The kids and I hit the beach last weekend.  We swam, made sand castles, and Sky learned to use a mask and snorkel.  It was so much fun!  I'm always expecting something to go wrong or be hard so I'm always surprised when we nothing does and we just have a good time.  I love this age on both of them.

  These are the days, aren't they?

An Update on Uncle

April 10, 2014

  If you've followed our story for the last few months, you know that Fire's birth-grandfather, called Jimma by the kids and Uncle by D and I, has been seriously ill for quite some time now.  He and his wife flew to Majuro in February to visit the hospital there and to try Marshallese medicine.  Unfortunately, neither option has improved his condition.  Before we left on vacation, I heard from their youngest daughter that they were planning to fly to America to seek treatment there while staying with family but now it looks like that won't be possible either.
  After Uncle left for Majuro I met with the hospital administrator here and the chief of medicine to discuss some complaints the he had about his care and some concerns that D and I had as well.  It was an eye-opening meeting to say the least.  I learned a lot more about Uncle's condition and prospects, including the fact that he has congestive heart failure and that, more than his diabetes, was the cause of his swelling and pain.  He was originally admitted to the hospital for kidney problems and at that time the doctor diagnosed renal failure but since he responded to the medicine, the chief of medicine no longer believed that was the case.  Until that point, we had believed that Uncle hadn't been granted a referral for dialysis because of his age and health conditions (and medical system here), but it turns out that he didn't need dialysis after he was released from the hospital.  The kidney problems he had were an isolated incident after a kidney infection, not caused by his diabetes.  When his kidneys stopped working, that put an extra strain on his heart which was already weakened by congestive heart failure, and even though his kidneys are functioning again,  his heart hasn't been able to recover. 
Uncle is dying.  He is in a lot of pain and goes to the hospital for pain medicine daily.  I don't know that there is anything that could be done to stop his deterioration at this point, at least not in Majuro.  It's a waiting game at this point.  We are discussing the logistics of flying to Majuro to visit them but it's an expensive flight (Uncle's happiness is way more important to us than money but we can't afford to spend thousands of dollars without thinking it through all the way). 
  We miss them so much.  Sky doesn't like going to Ebeye now that they're not there.  Teshie asks where Bubu is every time he sees her picture.  I miss the conversations I had with Auntie- she was so kind and we had such a good time together.  I wish... 

One Day in Kuala Lumpur

April 9, 2014

The view from our hotel room

A midnight treat- yay room service!
We took the kids to the playground in KLCC the next morning.  Sky was pretty sad that the water park/ splash pad wasn't open but both kids had a good time running all over the sprawling play area.

Oh, this boy!  Every time I look at these picture I think my heart's going to explode.  Fire grabbed my coffee cup before I could throw it out and and he was very happy to get those last few drops out of it. 

We took the kids to the aquarium once it started to get hot on the playground.  It wasn't as big as the one in Singapore but the kids liked seeing the fish.  Sky was starting to get a little overwhelmed at this point so we each took a kid and went through separately, to give them a little more direct attention.
Other kids self-comfort by sucking their thumb.  Fire has taken it to another level by sticking his finger up his nose all. the. time.
  We hit the park and the aquarium in the morning and then headed back to the hotel to pack up, have lunch, and check out.  We paid way to much for an Asian-style buffet lunch but the sushi was good and we were able to get Fire to eat something before he started into his I'm-in-a-restaurant-so-I'm-going-to-act-out routine.  After lunch we headed back over to the mall we'd been to the day before.  We were hoping that we could put the kids to sleep by walking them around in their strollers and while we did eventually get them to sleep, it took a lot longer than we had wanted it too. 
  In retrospect, we probably shouldn't have spent our time before our epic trip home someplace that was loud, crowded, and overwhelming for all of us but we didn't know where else to go at that point.  An afternoon at the mall left me burned out on stuff and judgemental of the people who thought they needed it.  Again, not a great way to start the trip home.  But the kids napped, we shopped a little, and then we got our bags from the hotel and headed to the airport.
  It took way longer to get checked in and through immigration than we thought it would.  By the time we found a place for dinner the kids were pretty strung out, but since dinner was Burger King, they ate their fries and chicken nuggets.  At that point, we needed that small victory.
  The trip home was a bear.  I don't even want to think about it.  Small seats, crying kids, over head lights that won't turn off, staring, more crying (on all sides), some throwing up, and D and I left feeling ridiculous that we had to fly for 36 hours to take our kids to zoos and aquariums- something most other families can do every weekend if they want.   


April 7, 2014

  Oh, the staring!  Man, did we get some looks on our trip.  I don't think I realized until we went on this vacation how spoiled we are here on Kwaj.  People here know us and they know our kids.  No one questions that our family is a family.  Everywhere we went on our vacation, people stared at us.  For the most part it wasn't mean staring, just surprise and curiosity, and it was better in Singapore than it was in Malaysia.
  I think a big contributing factor was the fact that the kids are Marshallese.  It's a natural human instinct to try to categorize people and our kids didn't fit into any of their usual boxes.  Sky is part Indian, so I would guess that people thought she was adopted from India, but Fire is 100% Marshallese so they really didn't know what to make of him.  He could sort of look Malay, but not quite, and he wasn't anything else that they were used to seeing (Caucasian, Chinese, African, Indian).  All of that brought on some confusing looks. 
  For the most part, I was okay with it.  I get it- we stand out.  And at no point on the trip did anyone question that Sky and Atesh were our kids.  We even got a few understanding looks when the kids had meltdowns in public- those familiar ones from other parents that say, "We've been there."  At the end of our trip when things got hard, I started getting tired of the looks.  I'm ashamed to admit that I snapped at a group of Korean ladies in the Seoul airport.  They swiveled their heads as we walked past and that was the last straw on the staring camel.  I turned and snapped at them and of course they were smiling and waving at the kids.  I felt like such an a$s.
  Maybe I'm just used to the more open American way or maybe I've lived in a small town for so long that I've forgotten the inherent anonymity in cities but the thing that really struck me about the looks was that no one asked any questions.  There was one person who asked if Sky was mine, and he asked if she was my son (probably just a pronoun mix up there).  And interestingly enough, it was a little person that asked.  Sky and I had gone into a store to buy some water and juice and he was at the register.  After we paid he said, "Your son?"  I put my hand on her head and said that she was my daughter.  I could see the question in his face so I said that she was from India and that her mother had asked me to take her (both of which are a little bit true.  Believe me, there is a whole 'nother post out there somewhere about explaining inter-country adoption to people who don't  speak your language and understand the idea in the first place).  I would guess that he felt comfortable asking because he got plenty of stares and questions himself for being different.  I know it would get old if it happened all the time, but in the moment it was refreshing.
  I've read about interracial families in America having to keep their kids birth certificates with them all the time and about parents wanting to have T-shirts made that say "Yes, we're a family".  We're so lucky that we live someplace that lets our family just be ourselves.

Into The Jungle: Day 3

April 5, 2014

A dragon in the trash!
(This was in a pile by the side of the road- maybe tossed after the New Year's celebrations?)
Chasing pigeons


Monkeys on the way up to the caves

There are 272 stairs up to the cave temples. Don't let this picture fool you- Sky climbed almost all of them!
Me and my big girl, taking the stairs

The central temple at the Batu Caves

   We'd made it through that rocky night with Fire and were on our way out of the jungle. D and I were really looking forward to our hotel for the night- a very swank one in Kuala Lumpur and we were looking forward to getting the kids back on some familiar ground, with playgrounds on it.
Our first stop on the way into KL was at the Batu Caves, a Hindu temple complex built into a limestone rock formation. The kids chased pigeons around in front for a little while and then we tackled the stairs. Fire still wasn't feeling great and the steps would have been a bit much for him anyway, so he got a lift for most of it. Sky was a champ though and climbed most of the steps with me. The caves were actually large open spaces, four or five storeys tall, with small shrines and temples to individual gods around the edges. Sky started asking questions about the temples and what the people in them were doing, so I told her that this was their version of church, that they see God as many small gods and they worship each part, rather than the whole. I love that she's asking questions like that and I can't wait until it makes a little more sense to her so that we can dig into our faith more.
   We had lunch at a wonderful vegetarian Indian restaurant and then went on a treasure hunt. Ooh, treasure hunt, sounds like fun, right? That was just how I ended up thinking about it as we stopped at bank after bank so that I could get money to pay our guide. It was hugely frustrating and embarrassing and after four, it was clear that my bank had cut off my card (I used it all over Singapore- I'm still not sure why it was cut off in Malaysia). D was able to get enough money out and we paid our patient, excellent guide and headed off to the lap of luxury: Traders Hotel at the Kuala Lumpur City Center.
   We had an upper story room with a view of the Petronas Towers. There was a huge playground right out the back door and an aquarium right next door. After we got the settled into the room, we headed over to the mall at the base of the towers for some diversions and maybe some dinner. We would end spending way more time in that mall than I ever wanted to but initially it was great- lots to look at, lots of food options. We had Chili's for dinner and then took the kids to see the Lego movie. It was Fire's first movie in a movie theater and both kids really enjoyed it.
   Bedtime that night went really smoothly, which D and I definitely needed by then. We had a suite so we could follow our usual bedtime routine and leave the kids to fall asleep in their own room. We splurged and ordered room service for desert and talked while looking out over the city. While I really enjoyed being out in nature, and would definitely recommend the junglestay to anyone looking to get away, it was so great to be back in the city and at a nice hotel. I wish we could have stayed there longer.
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