Zoo Lights

December 23, 2016

Every year, the Reid Park Zoo puts up hundreds of Christmas lights and opens it's doors at night to visitors.  Since we are on a mission to do everything (family friendly) that America has to offer, we knew we had to do this at least once.  We had a picnic dinner at a nearby playground, bundled the kids up against the 45-degree weather (island babies!), and headed over to see some lights.

First stop- s'mores!

Korea: Catching Up With Good Friends

December 22, 2016

We stopped in Seoul on our way home from Thailand and while we there, we made a trip an hour south to visit some good friends from Kwaj that had been stationed there.  Their family was only on the island for about a year and half but during that time, Fire got to be best friends with their daughter A.  That brought our families closer together and M, A's mother, and I got to be good friends.  When she and her husband decided to look into adoption, we were able to help them through the process.
  Back in Phoenix, when our trip was starting out so horribly, it was friends like these that D and decided we just couldn't miss seeing.  I'm so glad we pushed through all that and went on the trip because the day and half we spent with them was one of the high points of it all. 

We missed our train and the kids had to entertain themselves in the station while we waited for the next one

Life Lately, in Pictures

December 20, 2016

We've been staying busy here, finishing up the school semester, ramping up for Christmas, and enjoying as much of American life as we can.  Here's a little slice of what we've been up to lately:

  Sky loves the Sound of Music so I took her to see it on stage for her birthday.  We had lunch and ice cream together first and it was so great to spend time with just Ciela.  She's hilarious and asks the best questions!

Jesus Loves Me

December 19, 2016

This boy is in the throes of the terrible twos pretty badly right now.  There are times when I just want to shut him in his bedroom until he grows out of it and I have my sweet boy back and then he does something like this and my heart melts. 


  You bet Jesus loves you, sweet boy, and so do Mama and Daddy!

Sky's 7th Birthday

December 18, 2016

Sky turned 7!  Who said she could get that big?!  This has been a great year for her.  She's grown so much as a person and is really coming into her own.  She's doing great in school, has made lots of friends, and is excelling in gymnastics.  A lot of the behavior issues we were working through when she turned six have passed and we're seeing more of her personality come out.
  We celebrated Sky by having some of her friends and our family over for dinner (always ramen!), cake, and presents. 

Thailand: Back to Bangkok

December 16, 2016

After a quick flight south from Chiang Mai, we were back in Bangkok for the day before flying to Korea.  We spent the day doing things we knew the kids would enjoy: the aquarium and the Children's Museum.
  The aquarium is actually in the mall and I took Sky there when we were here a few years ago.  All the kids love aquariums so it was a big hit this time too.  We didn't get many pictures because the kids were all over the place and it took both of us to keep up with them!

Our driver tried to teach the boys the "wai", the traditional Thai greeting, while we were getting tickets.  This is the best version:
 

Thailand: Chaing Mai Zoo

December 14, 2016

  We spent the morning before flying back to Bangkok at the Chiang Mai zoo. It was a great experience but nothing like we expected. We thought we would be wandering around as a family looking at animals (you know, like an American zoo) but apparently that's not how you do things here. The zoo is huge and set in a wooded, hilly area near the university. We had a driver and a guide for the day and we drove between each of the animal exhibits. At most stops, there was animal food for purchase and you could hand feed the animals. The kids thought it was great! I have mixed feelings about zoos in general but for some reason, being able to interact directly with the animals made this one seem more friendly.
  If you're in Chiang Mai with kids, this is a good option. I would plan to spend the whole day there and bring a packed lunch because there aren't any restaurants in the zoo and nothing nearby is "child friendly". Oh, and bring lots of small bills so you can feed the animals!


Playing Catch Up: Making the most of Saturday

December 12, 2016

I found this post from the end of September with all it's pictures and none of the words.  Things were pretty busy then and it looks like I just never got it finished.  I usually let posts like this go but it was a really fun, busy day.  I love that there are so many new and different things to here in Tucson.  Kwajalein was great for our family but there was no way we were going see a soccer game, a children's concert, a reptile show, and then do a drive through the desert there.

  If you ask Fire, he says he loves soccer and wants to keep playing but this is how he looks every Saturday

Thailand: Tourists For The Day

December 11, 2016

Once upon a time, D and I were young and childless and we traveled A LOT.  Both together and separately and we got really good at seeing the world and meeting people where they live, away from the air-con buses and tour guides.  At the end of each day, we'd study our guide books and decide what to do the next day.  If the weather didn't cooperate or something went wrong, we'd just do something else.  It was spontaneous and (mostly) fun.
  Fast forward to our family now.  We've learned a lot after traveling with kids for the last six years and at least for our family, spontaneous (mostly) doesn't equal fun anymore.  We've come to the other side, at least a little bit, and embraced the buses and guides. D and I could do it on our own but it's more fun for everyone if we don't.  So for our full free day in Chiang Mai, we hired a guide and driver from Blue Elephant Tours and spent the day after the wedding playing tourists.
 
We rode elephants:

Playing Catch-up: Halloween

December 9, 2016

We returned from Thailand just in time for Halloween.  I arranged our trip that way on purpose because I wanted the kids to experience a real American Halloween.  Our neighborhood goes all-out when it comes to decorating and the kids loved seeing new things show up in yards every day.
  With all the renovations going on at the house, I told the kids that we were going to have to use the costumes we had in the dress-up bin and I was pleasantly surprised when they were fine with it.  Even Sky, who can find a way to get mad about pretty much nothing, was fine with pulling out something she'd worn dozens of times before.  Sky was a purple princess for school and a beauty queen at night, Fire was an alligator, Water was Batman, and Earth wore the skeleton pajamas that Water wore last year.
  We only trick-or-treated up and down our street before the kids were done but they had tons of fun handing out candy to other trick-or-treaters and playing with light sabers and glow sticks in the driveway.  It's so much fun to watch the kids have fun!  
 
  Sky and a friend at the bus stop

Thailand: Wedding Time!

December 7, 2016

M and P, the kids' godparents, were married in the courtyard of the resort that we were staying at.  It was lush and green and the perfect setting for an intimate wedding.  Sky was the flower girl and Fire was the ring bearer. 

Decorating for Christmas

December 6, 2016

I love decorating for Christmas!  Most of my boxes of Christmas things have been in storage for the last seven years so I was really excited to unpack them and make our house really shine for the season.  Unfortunately, it's still a bit of a construction zone around here so I couldn't go all-out, but it was still nice to bring a little Christmas cheer to the house.

 We put up our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving.  D put up the lights and then we let Sky and Fire put the ornaments up one night before bed time.  We only put up the durable ones and as you can see, only the lower two-thirds of the tree have ornaments.  I was going to rearrange them after the kids went to bed but he thought it was cute so we've left it this way.  The stockings are on the wall just like they were on Kwaj- no fireplace here either!

Thailand: Art in Paradise

December 5, 2016

  There was nothing planned for the morning of the wedding so we spent it together as a family in Chiang Mai.  A friend told us that their kids had loved Art in Paradise so we decided to check it out.  I had a back-up activity planned too because I didn't think the kids would like an art museum very much but it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.  It wasn't just an art museum- it was a visual arts museum, the kind you can touch and be a part of.  The kids thought it was hilarious to stand in the paintings and have their photos taken.  They raced from painting to painting and didn't want to leave when we reached the end.
  If you're headed to Chiang Mai with kids, you should definitely stop at Art in Paradise!

Thailand: Chiang Mai

December 4, 2016

  After a night and day in Bangkok, we headed back to the airport for a quick flight up to Chiang Mai.  We'd always heard wonderful things about the city in the northern, mountainous area of Thailand but had never been there ourselves.  The kids' godparents were getting married at a small, family-run resort outside of town and we were able to get a great deal on a bungalow there.  Normally we like to stay closer to activities and restaurants but the chance to be close to our friends and have a whole house for the kids won out.
  The grounds were park-like and the kids had a really good time exploring them.  It was great to be able to let them have some freedom to roam and explore.
Throwing rocks in this pond was a big hit

Kitchen Renovation Update

December 2, 2016

We're so close to finishing this project!  I'm an avid HGTV watcher so I know that renovation projects often cost more and take longer than the original estimates but I was not prepared for the extant to which that would happen in ours.  Thanks to a combination of planning errors, unexpected issues, and scope creep (I'm looking at you, D!), this five week project has turned into a three month one.
  We've come a long way from the builder-standard kitchen we started with and the empty shell we had when we left for Thailand.  So far, the floors are done (I'll be doing a post on finished concrete floors soon) and all the cabinets are in.  The counter top material was on back order because of the holidays but our contractors took pity on us and put down some plywood for me to use for now.  They've also loaned us a sink a faucet so I'm actually able to use the kitchen.  It's so nice to be back to cooking the way we like to.  The dark cabinets look great with the floors and the slate-finish appliances.  I can't wait to see it all put together once the counters go in next Tuesday!

From the family room through the dining area to the kitchen

Little Planes

December 1, 2016

A friend from D's work has been asking him for some help on his plane and he invited all of us out to the airfield to see it.  I was expecting to see Cessna-size airplanes and was surprised to see  stripped-down ultra-light planes instead.  The kids loved the "little planes" and fought over who got to sit in them.  The boys loved seeing the engine strapped on top and Sky kept admiring the paint jobs (there's a discussion about built-in gender identity there...).
  D's friend's plane isn't quite ready to fly yet but there was another pilot at the airfield that day and he offered to take D up for a short flight.  D was really excited and even got to fly the plane for a little while. 
  We love exploring Tucson and finding this little airfield and it's "little planes" was another great experience for our family.

Thailand: Getting There and a Day in Bangkok

November 29, 2016

  Back to Bangkok! We were all really excited to be on the road again, to be heading back to a place that we loved.  D and I had been planning the trip for almost a year and while we were nervous about leaving in the middle of our kitchen renovation, we were ready to be on the go.
  Thanks to Frontier Airlines, our on the go looked started out looking like this:

Life Lately

November 27, 2016

What better way to step back into blogging than with a barrage of pictures?  I'll be posting more about our kitchen renovation and our trip to Thailand and Korea but for now, here's what we've been up to lately...

  After-school play time at the park

Kitchen and Floor Renovation, Day Two

October 6, 2016

The kitchen came out today!
Going,

Kitchen and Floor Renovation: Day One

October 5, 2016

My stomach was in knots this morning, with a combination of excitement and nerves.  We've been planning this renovation practically since we moved in and now it's finally happening! I can't wait to show you the progress so far but first, I wanted to document how we're living during the process.  We had to clear out all our living spaces so that the tile floor can come up so we're living in pretty cramped quarters for now.

 The master bedroom is now the living room-office- master bedroom

A Week in Packed Lunches

September 30, 2016

Bag or bought- the great question in school lunches.  Right now, I'm making packed lunches for Sky and Fire every day and while I don't enjoy the time and mental energy it takes to do it, I do like that I know what the kids are eating.
  I've made Sky's before (and blogged about it here and here ) but the big challenge for me right now is pack food that the kids will eat with packing a whole bag of processed food.  Although both kids would love to eat peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day as long as it was made on white bread, I do to try to send something different every day so that they're getting a good variety of food in their diet.
  Here's what a week in packed lunches looks like at our house:


Walking!

September 28, 2016

Look at that baby go!

Water's Second Family Day and Some Great Weekending

September 26, 2016

I've said it before that we love weekends here!  Sure, we had weekends on Kwaj but for some reason, they just weren't the same.  We are definitely making the most of it and this past weekend was no exception.  We started by celebrating Water's second Family Day:

2016 Family Day photo with Mama

Floor and Kitchen Renovation 2016: Getting Ready

September 25, 2016

  D calls me a stress junkie and he's probably right.  It wasn't enough for us to pack up our whole family and move halfway around the world right after bringing home a new baby.  No, we have to go back around the world to Thailand for a wedding not even a year later.  You think that's a lot?  We don't go half-measures in this family so we're also renovating our kitchen and all the tile floors at the same time.  Yup, we're nuts.
  Since we moved to this house in January, we've redone the backyard and done a few small projects in the house while we worked on the kitchen design.  In the current layout, which is standard for this model of home, there is almost no prep space and a lot of wasted (inaccessible) storage space.

High Five for Friday #35: In Pictures

September 23, 2016


  High Five, friend, we made it through another week!  Did this one feel particularly long to you?  Mine wasn't bad but every day seemed to last forever. Maybe it was D's long hours at work, maybe it was the extra things we did this week, or maybe I was looking for to D and I's big date tonight (yay!) that made it seem so long.  Whatever it was, it's finally Friday so let's celebrate with picture review of the week!

Earth's First Birthday!

September 21, 2016

  Happy Birthday Earth!  You've ridden our planet one whole time around the sun and gone from being a tiny little baby to a crawling, babbling, engaging, into-everything little person! 

My Favorite Post: Earth is Home

September 20, 2016

  Just in time for Earth's first birthday, I wanted to re-share his homecoming post.  While the Thoughts on Traveling with a Two Year Old post is still the most popular one here, and I've loved sharing our travels with you (in Thailand and Singapore/Malaysia), this one is my favorite.  I think it best captures all the anxiety and stress that can surround an adoption and the joy of homecoming.  It also shows how much love our island home expressed to our family on our special day.

----------------------------------------------From  October 2015 --------------------------------------------------

I spent the last three days just waiting for this day to come.  I kept thinking that Entry/Exit would find a problem with their paperwork or that Elizabeth would change her mind but in the end, nothing went wrong.  A friend came over to Ebeye with me and brought her 11-month-old daughter with her.  It was so wonderful to have L along for support and baby M broke up the huge amounts of awkwardness and tension at the house.  When it was time to go, Elizabeth changed Earth's diaper and clothes, wrapped him up, and placed him in my arms.  I told her we'd be back to visit on Monday and said, one last time, "Emon?" (okay?).  She said, "Emon, sister" and we said good bye.

We stopped at Sister Schaffer's apartment on the way back to the ferry.  She's been a wonderful mentor to me and I knew she would want to see Earth

New Family Pictures!

September 17, 2016

  I love having family photos taken.  It can be stressful ahead of time to find the photographer, pick the clothes, and then rally everyone for smiles (we bribe with Skittles!) but I really enjoy capturing our family in the moment.  We were able to do that in our last photos taken right after Water came home.  I wanted to have new ones done right after Earth's homecoming but D wanted to wait and document our move from the island to the desert.
  We finally got our act together a few weeks ago, found an amazing photographer who has a real way with light, and got up at the crack of dawn to have these wonderful photos taken.  If you live in the Tucson area and are looking for a photographer, you should definitely check out Jacquelynn Buck.  She really captured our family and has been great to work with.  These pictures were taken at Saguaro National Park East and definitely show our new surroundings.


Thailand and South Korea 2016: Travel Planning

September 15, 2016

    We are getting ready to hit the road again!  All six of us are heading to Thailand and South Korea next month.  The kids' godparents are getting married in Chiang Mai and they've asked Sky and Fire to be in the ceremony.  We're all excited to be heading back to Thailand and looking forward to exploring some place new during our layover in Korea.

Sky's School Pictures

September 13, 2016

  It's school picture time again!  My favorite things about these annual photos is the chance to look back at last year's photo and see how much Sky has grown. 
 2011 (21 months)

Decorating for Fall

September 12, 2016

   Perhaps if I put up fall decorations, it will start feeling like fall?  Although it is starting to cool off a bit at night time here it's still not quite fall.  I decided to decorate anyway so that we'd be able to enjoy a little fall spirit before I have to pack them, and everything else in the house, away for our kitchen remodel next month.

Hgh Five for Friday #34: Summer Recap

September 10, 2016


  One of the reasons for my little blog hiatus was because we were BUSY this summer!  We had so much going on that it was hard for me to find the time to sit down at the computer and record any of what we were doing.  Now that school has started I have a little bit more free time (and free brain space!) so this High Five is a look back at our five biggest moments from this summer

The Blessings of a Broken Dishwasher

September 7, 2016

   About a week ago our new dishwasher just stopped working.  That's a real crisis for a family our size but at the time, we also had family in town so the poor thing was doing double duty. Luckily the dishwasher was new enough to still be under warranty and we were able to get a service appointment.  Initially I was a little miffed at having to stay home all day since the repair man could come any time between 8 and 4 but then D, Sky, and Fire left for the day and a whole block of time with just my little boys opened up and I realized what a gift it could be to just be with them for a day after such a busy summer.

Water and I had a mini-dance party to my new favorite song:
 Everything Comes Alive by We Are the Messengers

In This Season

June 28, 2016

  Hello blog, have you missed me like I've missed you?  This moment to sit down and write is so rare, I almost don't know how to use it. I genuinely long for the mornings when I could sit at the computer with my coffee to post photos and share the stories of my family's life.  As much as I miss it, I want to be present in my kids lives while I have the opportunity, not always wondering how I can turn today into a the perfect blog post.  I want them to remember me reading and playing with them, not trying to get just the right photo to share here.
  I used to have the time and energy in my life for that but right now I need to focus on them, and on me, so in this moment, in this season, my blog is silent. I can still be reached through my email address (found on my profile page) or through comments left here.
  Good bye for now!


From The CSA This Week: Swiss Chard

May 31, 2016

  If you haven't guessed yet, Swiss chard grows *really* well here.  We have gotten it two weeks in a row in our CSA shares.  While it's not hard to use in recipes (you can use it any recipe that calls for cooked spinach), it comes in such large bunches that the sheer quantity of greens to be used can be overwhelming.  I used last week's bunch in a lentil and chorizo stew and this week's got made into a swiss chard tart.   This recipe, just like last week's CSA share recipe,  comes from The Joy of Cooking (1997 edition).

Just a Regular Day

May 26, 2016

It's been a while since my last Regular Day  post (and things were not even close to regular yet then!) so I thought it was about time to give you a glimpse into what the front edge of summer on an ordinary day looks like around here. 
  Brothers, just chillin' on the couch before school.  These were the only two up early this morning.  Fire has a few days left of summer school before he's home for the month of June. 

From The CSA This Week: Squash Blossoms

May 24, 2016

  My first introduction to edible flowers came when I was working at a local green house one summer when I was in college.  We sold nasturtiums and I was shocked when some one told me that a lot of people bought them because the you could eat the flowers.  I just shook my head and never tried it myself (It just sounded weird to me!).

Getting Ready for Summer

May 22, 2016

Summer is coming!  Sky is already done with school and Fire has one week left.  This will be my first summer as a stay at home mom and I'm pretty nervous about it.  I don't want to spend a whole month shouting at the kids (Fire will be home with me for June and then go back to summer school since he's got some catching up to do academically) so I did what I do best: I planned ahead.
  I've hired a high school girl to come four mornings a week to be an extra pair of hands and to shake up our dynamic a bit.   Fire and Earth are signed up for swimming lessons, Fire is going to short soccer camp at the beginning of the month, and Sky will be going to gymnastics camp at the end of the month.
  Even with those activities and a mother's helper, I wanted to be prepared when the kids get bored and start sniping at each other.  Luckily, a good friend gave me a great book: 101 Kids Activities.  All the activities are easy for quick and would be fun for little kids and it has an art section which is especially good for Sky, since she loves art and hasn't been doing as much as lately since her new school doesn't have art classes (don't get me started on that!)  I also have the Pocket Daring Book for Girls, a gift from my mother to Sky to use for ideas.

Around Here Lately, in Pictures

May 20, 2016

  If Water and Earth wake up early, I'll sometimes take them for runs so that they can get a little bit more sleep.  It works like magic every time (and I get a little bit more workout from pushing them!)

Here We Go Again!

May 18, 2016


  We are diving back into the immigration and naturalization process with the USCIS.  We had a very straight-forward and successful process with Sky and Fire's naturalization using the N600K a few years ago (see this page for more information) but since we're living in the US now, things are a little different. 
  We've been given conflicting information from others in the process and from different people at the USCIS but we're going ahead with the process that was outlined for us just before we moved: enter the country on the RMI's Compact of Free Association's visa waiver, then apply for a change of status to legal resident using the I485.  Once Earth has legal residence here and has lived with us for two years, we'll file for naturalization using the N600. 
  I sent his first set of forms in this week and they've been received.  I'll share updates on our progress here as the process moves forward.  Wish us luck!!

The End of Kindergarten!

May 16, 2016

  Sky's almost done with Kindergarten!  This year has gone so fast and Sky has grown so much.  She was definitely ready for school and has hit her stride in it.  Her class had it's end of the year celebration today, with a program in the courtyard and and party in her classroom.  Sky made lots of good friends at her new school and loved her teacher, Ms H.  She's excited for the summer vacation (and sleeping in, since school start SO early here!) and is looking forward to first grade next year.

Best Mother's Day Yet

May 9, 2016

 Mother's day last year was terrible and I knew I wanted things to be different this year. Just like last year, D and I talked about the day ahead of time but this year I realized that it just wasn't possible for me to get the day off.  There was no way I wasn't going to do my job for the day and I was okay with that going into it- I actually had no expectations for the day at all, beyond going to church in the morning.

Teething is a Pain!

May 6, 2016

  Earth is getting his top two teeth in right now and it's been painful for all of us!  We've been through this three other times but this time is the hardest.  It doesn't help that a terrible cold and sore throat have been making the rounds in our family and of course, Earth caught it.  Between the two, he didn't sleep through the night at all last week and was fussy most of the days.  He even stopped eating or taking a bottle for two days in the middle of it and I considered taking him to the hospital to see if he was dehydrated.  It was pretty scary for me and made me really glad that we have access to that kind of medical care, even if we didn't need it.  
  It was so nice to see him smiling again a few days ago- I've missed our happy boy.  Earth had another rough night last night after three good ones but since his teeth are through, I'm hopeful that we're past the worst of it.
  How do you help your kids through teething?  We've tried everything but are always open to new ideas.

Fire's 4th Family Day

May 4, 2016

Four years!  I can't believe that Fire has been home for four years already.  I still remember the moment we decided to start the process to bring him home like it was yesterday.   He's still living up to his fiery name and we're working more, and having some success, at teaching him how to deal better with his siblings.  Like everyone, he has his good days and bad days but we wouldn't trade our Fire for anything.

     Fire's Family Day Pictures
2016

From the CSA This Week: Summer Squash

May 3, 2016


   When I read that we were getting summer squash in our harvest, I expected the long yellow squash I'm used to seeing at the grocery store.  Like so many vegetables we've gotten through the Tucson CSA, this one surprised me.

Remodel Part One: Done!

May 1, 2016

  The first stage of our home remodel is done!  Those of you tackling big projects will laugh at the scale of the work that we had done but it's already made an amazing difference in the house.  We live in a "master-planned community" and many of the homes here have similar features.  One of those features is a half-wall between the dining area and family room. You can see it in the picture below just behind the table:
  The family room was also really cramped by the half-wall.  One of our bookshelves covered a window and the toy bins blocked part of the sliding glass door.  One of the reasons we chose this house was because it would give the kids room to play and that just wasn't happening the way we wanted it to.

Fire Plays Soccer

April 29, 2016

  Fire has always loved to play with balls- it didn't matter if he was throwing them or kicking them or sitting on them, they've always been one of his favorite toys.  We would bring him with to Sky's soccer practices on Kwaj and he would spend the entire time happily kicking a ball around (he had the best ball control!) so when the chance to put him in a soccer program here presented itself, we jumped on it.
  Fire was very shy at first and was very reluctant to practice without D or I holding his hand but his coaches were persistent in just the right way and he slowly came out of his shell.  Fire is still figuring out exactly what he's supposed to be doing on the field but he loves to put on his uniform and play and at four, that's the whole point.  I'm so glad we found something that he can look forward to and have fun doing!

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