Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Thankful...

We have now past the one year mark with Jonalyn. It has been a challenging year in many aspects. Sometimes it is hard for us to see the progress she has made because we are so close to her and see her every day. But when I think back to one year ago, I can see how far she has come. So, instead of dwelling on how far we have yet to go, I have decided to focus on how far we have come in the past year by being thankful to the Lord for the small blessings in our lives.
1. I am thankful for healthy children. Yes, we’ve had colds and the usual childhood illnesses, but nothing serious. Even with Jonalyn’s disabilities, she is generally a healthy little girl.
2. I am thankful that Jonalyn is doing so well physically. When she first came to us, she insisted on holding our hands, even in the house. She couldn’t walk outside at all. Now she runs all over the yard, pumps the swing herself, climbs up the ladder on the play structure and even up the slide, pedals her bike a couple of times, and runs and splashes in the water in the lake.
3. I am thankful that Jonalyn’s speech seems to be coming along. She spoke very little that was intelligible when she came home, though she understood almost everything we said to her. What she spoke was mostly parroting. Now she is starting to make sense and her vocabulary continues to increase. While she still parrots, she also constructs own her 3-4 word sentences.
4. I am thankful that her attachment to us continues to grow. This has been one of the most frustrating aspects of the past year. It has been slow going. Just last week, she asked Doug to help her with something for the very first time. She now climbs into our laps in the evenings and she likes to hold our hands in church.
5. I am thankful that we have a roof over our heads and food on our table. Yes, money is tight for us like it is for everyone, but we both have jobs and we are able to pay all of our bills on time.
6. I am thankful for the deer Doug shot on Monday. Woo hoo, a freezer full of venison for the winter!! Good, cheap eating.
7. I am thankful for Brian and Alyssa. I am such a blessed woman to have them for my children.
8. I am thankful that my sins are covered by my Savior’s blood. Without that, none of the rest of this would matter.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I had a good night's sleep at last, thanks to Tylenol P.M. I was sorry I had waited until the second last night to take it. I felt like a new woman. After breakfast, we had the morning to ourselves. We spent the time in the pool again and I was able to speak to the manager of the guest house again. She mentioned going to the grocery store for the first time and trying to get everything for their Thanksgiving dinner. Apparently, turkeys aren't readily accessible in the Philippines and as a result, they are expensive. It felt strange to be spending Thanksgiving day in shorts, swimming in the pool. We missed everyone at home very much.

After lunch, Ramon picked us up and took us back to the orphanage for the ice cream party. On the way we stopped at Concordia to pick up the papers we needed for Jonalyn to get a discounted rate on the airport tax. We met Beth Caces, the director there, but didn't have time to get out and meet any of the children. I was disappointed in that. We then went back to the town where the orphanage was located. The grocery store used to be in the strip mall in front of the orphanage, but it had closed. We finally found one down the street a little ways. And what a store! The kids stayed in the car with Ramon while Doug and I went in. It was much like our Super Wal-mart. The first level was the electronics department. Then there was something like an escalator but it was flat instead of having steps, more like an inclined conveyor belt, which was cool because you could easily take your shopping cart or stroller on it. Upstairs we found kiosks selling many different items, including food, much like you would find in the middle of an American mall. The clothing was also located on this level along with the food. It took us a while to get the ice cream because the only flavors we could find were mango and ubu (a purple fruit) and they didn't go well with the chocolate and caramel sauce and sprinkles we brought from home. Finally we found a tub of chocolate and vanilla swirl and bought that. The check-outs were the same as at home. But even though it was only the 22nd of November (and Thanksgiving Day for us) there was Christmas music being piped through the store and the cashiers were all wearing Santa hats.

We made our way to the orphanage. As soon as Jonalyn saw Mama Linda, she flew into her arms and didn't give us a second thought - just as I was afraid. She had nothing to do with us the entire time we were there. They set up a table on the open porch and we had about ten kids who ate some ice cream. Among them were Majorn, Jonalyn's best friend. She was a sweet little bubbly girl with short black hair. I was also taken with Lucille, another five year old. She was very petite and had long silky hair and a soft-spoken way about her. She was very, very sweet and I wished I could have taken her with me, too. There was also another girl about five there who was a little bit on the heavy side and didn't look Filipino at all to me. She was in a bad mood and didn't interact with us at all. I got to feed little Jennifer, a sweet toddler who was bound for California. There was another darling girl who was going to France. After wanting to leave so badly the day before, I was glad we had stayed. I enjoyed spending time with the kids so much.

Jonalyn was jealous of Majorn when we got there because she saw Majorn wearing her flip-flops. She had a bit of a meltdown and Linda gave her the flip-flops. I knew for sure then we had a stubborn child on our hands. Brian and Alyssa occupied themselves with the cats that were roaming the grounds. I was a little bit disappointed that they didn't spend more time with the kids but they did seem to have a good time.

Ramon decided to take us the back way to the guest house in order to avoid some traffic, but I'm not sure if he did or not. There still seemed to be so much! We talked about how much money we would need to pay the airport tax and that it needed to be in Filipino pesos, not American dollars. We asked him to take us to a place where we could change our money, but he offered to do it for us instead. We think he gave us a fair deal. He called his wife who had traveled out of the country recently to make sure we had changed enough. Then he stopped at a small bakery and bought us a Cassava cake, a native cake made from the yucca plant and coconut milk, topped with macapuno (coconut strings) and cheese. Of course, I couldn't have any of it, but everyone else said it was delicious. Brian says it tasted like pizza. Alyssa had to go to the bathroom at this point and couldn't wait until we got back to the guest house. I had to take her down this long, narrow dark alley to a dirty little bathroom. I wished she could have waited. I ended up taking Jonalyn, too, while I was at it. Quite the adventure!

Once we got back to the guest house we did some packing and got ready to leave by 4:00 in the morning. They did a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for us and it was good to have it. Brian got sick, unfortunately halfway through dinner and he went back to the room. The rest of us followed suit soon. We did have some medicine with us to treat ourselves and it didn't last long. By the time we got back to the room, Brian was feeling better and complained about us not bringing enough food for him. The night before we had put out some laundry we needed to have done. We weighed and took stuff out because we didn't have much spare cash to pay for it all. The price went according to weight and we were trying to stay around a kilo. They did a great job with it and even ironed our things. We had all that back by Thursday afternoon. Then it was early to bed to get ready for our trip. Earlier that day, Alyssa met another little girl just her age we lived in the apartments there. We hadn't met her before because she was in the mission school, but had the day off for the holiday. The girls had a wonderful time playing together. Too bad it was only for one day. We were just starting to feel a little bit comfortable and at home. Even though, I was ready to get home and wished I could blink my eyes and tap my heels and find myself back in my bed in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Again, not a very good night's sleep. And I was beginning to feel it. Today I was very homesick and wished we hadn't agreed to the ice cream party at the orphanage. I begged Doug to call the airport and see if we could get an earlier flight out than Friday. He calmed me and told me we needed to keep our commitment to the orphanage. I was sure he was right, but I really wanted to go home. Funny, but I never felt that way in Vietnam.

We spent the day swimming in the pool, coloring, taking pictures of the grounds, playing ring-around-the-rosie, playing with the games and catching up on emails. We also went to the library because we had been told we could get books and videos there. They did have books and we checked out a couple but they didn't have any videos because they had just moved and weren't finished unpacking everything. We had to watch Jonalyn very carefully with the books because she wasn't careful with the pages at all.

Brian had more fun with his friend and I met his mother. We had a nice chat. A little while later it started to pour. A typhoon was moving to the south of us. We didn't get any wind or even thunder and lightning, but the rain came down in sheets. I'm not sure I've ever seen it rain so hard. The rest of my family was in the pool but they didn't bother to get out because they were already wet! And it was a warm rain. That was probably the best part of the day. I was looking forward to being on my way home and feeling down because we would be missing Thanksgiving the next day with the rest of the family.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Life has gotten very busy here with preparations for Thanksgiving, so I'm sorry I got behind in this story.

Tuesday morning we were up and about very early again. We just weren't sleeping well. When we went to Vietnam, we didn't suffer much jet lag going west. Within a day or two we were on their time, but that wasn't happening on this trip.

After another good breakfast in the dining room and more wonderful conversation with some of the missionaries staying there, Ramon came to take us to the Inter-Country Adoption Board (ICAB). The ride was much shorter than to Jonalyn's orphanage and this time we stayed on the city streets. The building was on a corner in a residential area. We were shown inside and sat on an elaborate bench. John, our social worker who handled our case for ICAB, met with us. He asked us about how things were going with Jonalyn so far. He spoke with the other kids some. It wasn't a long meeting. He did take us for a tour of the facility and we got to see the piles of dossiers that were waiting to be processed. He gave Brian a toy Jeepney and the girls each got a small, square jewlery box. We left a letter for Jonalyn's birth family there, in case they ever wondered where she was and what happened to her. Michelle was there again, but we didn't get to see her much. She had a meeting with the board to decide if a Spanish or an Italian couple would be matched with a little boy from Concordia.

While we waited for Ramon to take us home, Jonalyn spotted some chickens in cages next door, so we walked over there. She was quite taken with them and I had to stop her from sticking her finger into the cage. On the way home, Ramon stopped at a roadside stand and bought us some puto. It is a small, sticky steamed rice cake that you dip into sweetened coconut. As we hadn't signed up for lunch at the guest house, thinking that we would still be at ICAB, we ate them with great relish when we got back to our room. Yummy. We were so thankful to have such a wonderful driver who took pity on us and our financial situation. We had little money and no way of getting more. I went to the office (I think I went on Monday, actually) to put what money we did have away for safe keeping, as well as our passports. The head of the accounting department took care of me and put all of our stuff into their safe. She also told me that we could pay our bill once we got home if we didn't have enough of money. Doug doesn't like to be beholden to anyone, so we determined we would try to save our money and pay as much as we could.

We took another family nap that afternoon. We also took Jonalyn for her first swim in the pool. She really liked it. The water was too cold for me, so I didn't go into the water, but she had a grand time splashing. Brian made a friend there, too, a boy his age. His family had arrived not too long before us as the new managers of the guest house. He was a triplet, but the only boy. His mother was homeschooling them, so he had the afternoon free to play with Brian. I was happy for that. We also spent some time in the lobby. They had a game cabinet and we got some games. The kids and Doug played checkers and dominoes and Jonalyn played with the blocks. Again, we were troubled when all she knew how to do with them was take them out of the box and put them back again. She didn't know how to build a tower or anything. We began working with her on that right away. I spent some of the time on the computer checking email and updating everyone on how we were doing. I had brought my laptop and they have free wireless internet.

Brian did spend some time in the evening playing outside with his new friend. They had a wonderful time and even though it was dark, I didn't have a problem with him being out there because the compound was walled and guarded. I felt very safe.
We ate another great dinner and after giving Jonalyn another bath to get the goop out of her hair, we were off to bed again. We couldn't sleep late but we couldn't stay up late, either!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gotcha Day 2007

Sorry, I realize this post is very long but I wanted to get down the details before I forgot them. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into our first day together as a family of five.

I slept well until about 3:00 a.m. Between jet lag and excitement over meeting my new daughter, I only rested fitfully from that point on. Part of it also stemmed from anxiety about the electricity – there were lots of wires and some of them were frayed. It made me nervous to run the air conditioner, but the heat and humidity won out and we had it on – directly over head. Our room was large, with a double bed, a desk, and five single beds, plus a bathroom with a shower, two sinks and two toilets – no dividers. Can someone please tell me the point to that? There was also a large closet taking up the entire wall next to our bed as well as a cleaning closet.

Breakfast was served again promptly at 7:00 a.m. This time it was family style and we enjoyed getting to meet some of the people staying at the guest house. Most of them were missionaries, some of whom had served many years on the field. Oh, the stories they told. It was one of our favorite parts of the stay.

Ramon picked us up again and we were off to meet Jonalyn. I have to admit to being very nervous. Older child adoption is another matter than infant adoption and it carried its own set of worries. Would she take to us or be afraid of us? Would she scream when we tried to leave? What exactly would her disabilities be? Would we really be able to do this?

The orphanage seemed very far away, but I don’t think it was in reality. Monday morning traffic was a nightmare. Cars and jeepnies everywhere – all going nowhere fast. Smog and auto fumes hung thickly over the city. The poverty also struck us. I told Brian and Alyssa to get a good look around and to really let what they were seeing sink in. I wanted them to realize how blest we are to live in America.

Along the way we picked up Michelle, Concordia’s liaison in the Philippines. She told us a little bit about Jonalyn, including that she was very outgoing. That made me even more nervous. Would she really fit into our family? Doug and I are both quiet.

At last we arrived at the suburb where the orphanage was located and made our way down a little alley behind a strip mall. It opened into a large, gated courtyard surrounded by white buildings trimmed in blue. Flags of several different countries flew near a sign which told us these were countries where some of these children had been adopted.

Mama Adz and another of Jonalyn’s caregivers met us at the car and escorted us into the orphanage. First we went through an open porch and we recognized it from the pictures of some of the birthday parties. Then we went through an open doorway into the “living room”. Instantly I recognized the blue and white checked couch that Jonalyn’s referral picture was taken on. We sat there for quite a while waiting for her. They told us she was having a bath and would be down soon. Alyssa sat by me while Brian and Doug were on the other couch. I could sense Alyssa was nervous and I tried to reassure her while my stomach did flip flops. Finally we heard some noise in the hall and a minute later Jonalyn appeared, being carried by her favorite caregiver. They were talking to her about Mommy and Daddy and she looked at us but then hid her face. She kept up this peeking game for a while. We went into the playroom and I got out the soft stuffed dog I brought for her. She took some interest in it, but not too much. She kept half an eye on Doug at all times. She first took to Alyssa, which was one reason we brought the kids along with us. They played together with the pretend kitchen almost identical to the one in our basement.

After a while we went outside and they showed us around the grounds. We saw the church where Jonalyn went to Mass every morning and the birds they had in cages. We sat on a low wall and took out the bubbles. She giggled and loved them and this broke the ice between her and me. She even let me hold her hand once we made our way back into the building. We went into another large area where a table was set for lunch and where there was another sitting area. By this time she played with Doug with the bubbles and I felt good about how things were going.

I sat next to her at lunch. We had chicken and rice and pancit with chicken livers (I left those on the side of my plate). Jonalyn ate well and let me help her. I was impressed with how she wiped her face with her napkin. From the first, it was obvious her physical limitations were minimal. She walked with an unusual gait and held someone’s hand almost the entire time, but she got around well. I was happy to see she wasn’t as limited as we thought she might be.

They brought out mango ice cream for dessert, though I couldn’t have any because of my lactose intolerance. Everyone said how good it was.

After lunch we got a tour of the rest of the orphanage. Upstairs there was a room with about a dozen small babies, under six months old. The youngest was just six days old. What a sweetheart. It broke my heart to hear the babies crying and not see enough caregivers there to pick each one up and cuddle them. I wanted to hold one in the worst way, but thought it would be best for Jonalyn’s attachment if I didn’t. The next room was filled with children from six months to just over a year, including a boy and girl set of twins. I got to see a little girl being adopted by a family on my adoption email group and I was able to get some good pictures of her to share with them. Someone had done that for me and I know how I cried when I got those pictures. It made me so happy to be able to do the same for someone else.

The toddler room held about a half dozen kids around 2 years old. Jonalyn was by far the oldest there. They were just settling down for their naps in their pink toddler beds. One little boy wasn’t too happy about having to lie down! Jonalyn showed us her bed and the cabinet which held her clothes.

We went back downstairs to the big room and passed out our gifts for everyone. We had told them we wanted to have an ice cream party and I was waiting for the chance to go to the store to get the ice cream, but they told us it would work better if we came on Thursday to have it. We weren’t too sure about bringing Jonalyn back once we left, but we did agree to it. We knew it would be hard for her to understand going and coming and going again. She might not want to leave a second time.

They gave us a bag with a flower girl dress, some underwear, and a warm up suit from the college. Nothing too practical. I was glad I had brought several sets of clothes for her.

The time came for us to leave and they all hugged her and said goodbye. Two of the workers came with us because we were going to stop at the therapy center to meet with her therapists. I think this helped with her separation because she went without any tears at all. After weaving our way through the traffic again to the center, we were able to speak with both her physical and occupational therapists. They thought she might be able to be released from physical therapy soon but suggested we continue with occupational. I was glad to have those reports to bring home. As the caregivers spoke to the therapists, we took Jonalyn out to the play structure. I held her hand the entire time. She was timid on the equipment but seemed to enjoy herself. Then they took her to the bathroom and we left. The caregivers stayed behind, but Jonalyn didn’t seem to mind. Michelle was still with us. On the ride through the traffic, she gave Jonalyn a small piece of paper to play with, which she obsessively rolled into a little ball. This was my first sign that something wasn’t quite right with Jonalyn. We dropped Michelle off and proceeded back to the guest house. To get from the gate to our building, we had to cross a couple of drainage grates and Jonalyn refused to cross them. We had to pick her up and carry her. But she went up the stairs to our room fine holding someone’s hand.

We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get acquainted. We read some books and the girls colored. During those activities we noticed more problems. She drew a single line in the coloring book and then turned the page. When she did turn the page she either ripped it or wrinkled it badly. These things bothered us and we were quickly realizing that her cognitive disabilities were different and greater than just orphanage delays. We started working with her right away trying to teach her to color the right way.

Another challenge came when we took her to the bathroom. No one warned us that her stream wasn’t right and so I had quite a mess to clean up after our first potty break. It only took once before I figured out a way for her to go without the mess.

We all took a nice long nap and before we knew it, it was dinner time. Jonalyn sat next to Doug and he helped to feed her. All of the people in the dining hall oohed and aahed over her and she did behave nicely.

When we first saw Jonalyn, we thought her hair was wet from her bath, but later we realized that they had put some kind of gel into it. So after dinner it was bath time. The entire time we were there we never really had a hot shower. Even though the weather was hot and humid, I still like a hot shower every night. But no matter how long we ran the water or what time of day we tried to shower, it never did get hot. And there wasn’t a bath tub, but there was a bucket. So we sat her down on the floor of the shower and used the bucket to wash her. Not all of the gel came out of her hair, but it was something, anyway. Then I attempted to brush her teeth. I handed her the brush and she proceeded to brush her lips. Guess that explained the rotten teeth she had. When I tried to do it, she refused to open her lips. It took some doing, but we finally got her teeth brushed and we all fell into bed, still suffering from jet lag. Jonalyn cried for a little while and we comforted her the best we could, but she finally fell asleep. I did at last, too, in some ways very happy to have my daughter at last and in some ways disconcerted about the discoveries we had made about her. Without a doubt, I knew we had a long road ahead of us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November 18, 2007

I don't have much time, so I may have to finish this later.

We thought we would sleep in after our long, exhausting flight, but we found ourselves up in plenty of time for the 7:00 a.m. breakfast bell. At the guest house they ring a ten minute warning bell and then a bel at meal times. You need to be on time or you might miss out. The dining room had several large round tables with lazy Susan's on them, but Sunday morning breakfast was buffet. And good.

Ramon picked us up at 9:30 and we were off sight seeing. We drove past Rizal Park and into the Intramuros, the old, walled part of the city. We saw the Manila Cathedral and stopped at Fort Santiago. It was a wonderful old Spanish fort built into the wall on the river. During WWII, the Japanese used it as a POW camp. The cells were built down into the wall and they filled with water during the monsoon season. I couldn't imagine the suffering of the American and Filipino soldiers. There was a mass grave where many, many of them (I think over 800) are buried. It really gave me the chills, but, the history buff I am, I was glad to get the chance to visit. We then drove around the city, seeing some of the port, and down Roxas Boulevard past the American Embassy on the water. We also saw Mall of Asia (huge) but didn't stop to do any shopping.

About this time we decided to stop for lunch before heading to the American Cemetary and a volcano. We could have gone to and American fast foot place, but decided on Jolibees instead. When in Rome... They have hamburgers with sides of either fries, rice or spaghetti. Apparently, spaghetti is big there. We ordered with a little bit of trouble and then found a table near the window. I set my purse on the window ledge right next to me. An employee came to clear our trays while we were eating. When it came time to go, I couldn't find my purse. Anywhere. I was panicked, but it was gone. No one was of great help and after about 15 or 20 frantic minutes, we left, sans purse. I know, it was stupid of me to even have it along. I got complacent and paid for it. And spoiled the rest of my sightseeing trip. We high tailed it back to the guest house, with a stop at the ATM to pick up some cash before we canceled all the credit cards. I remained strong until we got to our room, when I sobbed for a good long while. At last I had to gather myself and try to make a call. No one was around on Sunday afternoon and I couldn't figure out how to place a call. Providentially, we found a couple of employees sitting outside and they offered to let me call from the office.

The rest of the day is a haze to me. We went across the street to a small shop where we got some chips and soda because there was no evening meal served. I do remember being very tired and we fell into bed early, excited to meet Jonalyn the next morning.

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 17, 2007

Continuing our story about our journey to Jonalyn one year ago...

We arrived in Tokyo sometime in the afternoon of the 17th, Japan time. I was glad that long flight was over. The pilot had said to be prepared for some pretty rough turbulence as we came into the airport, because other pilots reported it. I prayed and prayed so hard. A bumpy ride only makes me more nervous than I already am when I fly. The Lord was gracious and we didn't have a single bump on our descent or landng. After we disembarked, we walked around for a while, found the play room - which turned out to be too "babyish" for Alyssa - and took turns washing up in the bathrooms. Our flight for Manila was late leaving. The line to board was very long, but I was glad to NOT be in the situation of the family in front of us - they couldn't find their passports! They finally had to step out of line and I'll never know if they found them or not. Doug had ours tucked safely away in the pocket of his cargo pants. The flight to Manila was fine. Of course, the pilot warned us of bad turbulence as we left Tokyo, but I didn't worry about it because I knew better! I did manage to sleep a good part of the flight and Alyssa and Brian were out for the entire flight. We force fed them their dinner while they were more than half asleep!

We landed in Manila about 10:30 p.m. local time - more than 24 hours after we left home. My first impressions of the country - HOT, HOT, and HUMID! Bethany's directions were perfect and we made our way through customs and immigration and found our driver with little trouble. He had a Toyota SUV, a model we don't have in the States. Bummer, because we really liked that car. I was prepared for a lot of traffic, having been warned about it, but it wasn't too bad at that time on a Saturday night. I was surprised at all of the people still out shopping, etc. The mall was still opened and still busy. And there were parols everywhere (lighted, star-shaped Christmas ornaments). Mang Ramon, our driver, told us they start decorating in August. We thought it was bad here! But the parols were so elaborate. It looked like each one was trying to outdo the other. The drive through the city took about half an hour before we arrived at the neighborhood where our guest house was located. It is gated at night, so Ramon had to have someone let him in. Once he found the guest house, we encountered another gate and another guard. It made me feel very safe and I was able to relax for the first time since I had left home. The guard was expecting us and showed us to our room on the second floor in a building a little bit behind the main building. He and Ramon and Doug brought our bags up. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep for a very long time. Ramon mentioned sightseeing on Sunday and told us he would pick us up at 9:30 in the morning. When I objected, saying I wanted to take the day to recover from jet lag, he said it would be the best day to tour the city because traffic during the week was crazy. We relented and reluctantly set our alarm before falling into bed. By this time it was the wee early hours of Sunday, November 18th, so I will end here. Stay tuned for another episode tomorrow!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One Year Ago Today...

... our journey to Jonalyn began. To keep a record of everything before I forget it, I've decided to take a stroll down memory lane. I hope you enjoy reliving all of this with me.

November 16, 2007-Brian reminds me that we got up VERY early in the morning to make it to the airport for our flight to Minneapolis. It was a short flight, but we did get a soda. I'm not sure I finished drinking it before it was time to land. We saw the Metrodome and the bridge that collapsed on the descent. Of course, that is what Doug, the DOT civil engineer, would notice! I didn't realize Minneapolis would have such a huge airport. I guess I don't think of Minneapolis as being that big of a city, but it is. If I remember correctly, we arrived a little bit after 10:00 a.m. We found our gate for our flight to Manila. It was one of those big square waiting areas with multiple gates. I think there was another flight there going to Europe. We must have had some lunch, but again I don't remember what we ate. Brian says he had Pizza Hut. He'd remember something like that, so I'll take his word for it. Our flight to Manila left at about 1:00 p.m. I hate to fly, but overall it was a smooth flight. We had dinner and breakfast, but I didn't eat much. I'm lactose intolerant (what a bummer!) and ordered a special meal. I think they combine all the possible special requests into one meal - no dairy, no fat, no salt, no sugar, no taste :) I tried to watch a movie as they were showing a couple that I wanted to see, but for some reason I can't watch movies on planes, so I spent most of my time listening to my MP3 player and dozing. Brian didn't sleep at all - he watched all three movies. We had the four seats in the middle right in front of the bulkhead. This was nice because there was no one behind us to kick our seats and we could recline as far as we could without worrying about the people behind us. We were glad for those seats all the way through to Manila.

By the time we landed in Tokyo it was Saturday the 17th, so I'll have to finish the rest of our journey to Manila tomorrow. Guess that makes you realize how long the flight really was!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Bit of Fun

Two of my blogging buddies had this quiz on their sites and I thought it was fun, so I decided to take it. Here are my results:
What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Yes, people can tell I'm from the Midwest. We were in Nashville for a conference once, and the waitress asked us where we were from. We told her and she said, "Oh, Wes-CAN-sin", trying to imitate our accent. We laughed and laughed at that one. But we never, never, never say pop. In Wisconsin, it's always soda. If you say pop around here, we'll know you're not a true Wisconsinite!

If you want to take the quiz yourself, you can follow this link:


Well, I had a conference with both Jonalyn's classroom and special ed. teachers this morning. They say she is showing improvements in all areas, especially socialization and physical. Academic is very, very slow in coming and only happens with much repetition. We knew that. I just haven't seen much at all of that happening so far this year. They both do think she will be placed in 5K next year, which is a full day, five days a week, academic kindergarten. Doug and I aren't sure about that. We have reservations about how much she would really get out of a mainstreamed class like that. I know that the philosophy these days is to mainstream if at all possible, but arean't there cases where getting individual attention in a small classroom designed for special education kids is more beneficial? I think this school system is so small they just don't have the resources a larger system would have. If anyone has any advice or can tell me where to turn for support, I would very much appreciate it. And please pray that we make the best decision for her.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Peace and Quiet

Doug and I went to the hunting property we own on Friday. He needed to meet with the DNR regarding timber management (how often we need to thin our trees) and I went along for the ride. We had a wonderful day, just being together without kids or work or any other pressures. We had lunch on the way up and got there about an hour before our scheduled meeting, so we had time to walk around the property. I always forget how beautiful it is, with the towering pines. It is true what they say about them whispering in the wind. It's a very different sound than the rustling of leaves. Somehow I find it more soothing. We spent ten minutes just sitting in the woods, perfectly still and quiet. How refreshing. It reminds me of Psalm 46, "Be still and know that I am God." Doug teased that he couldn't do anything like that with Brian! He is much too active and talkative.

We saw the big hole in the ground again, obviously some sort of den. The DNR lady thought it probably was a coyote den, though it could be badger. (Yes, Wisconsin isn't the Badger State for nothing.) I said I was glad it wasn't a bear den. She said while bears aren't all that common in that part of the state, it was possible. Great. For a brief second I thought I didn't have anything to worry about when we camp there. Now I have to worry about big bear paws reaching through the canvas side of our camper and swiping me during th middle of the night!I don't know if I'll ever camp there again!! I don't like the idea of becoming bear chow.

The rain came as we stood talking to the lady and it changed to snow as we were pulling out of the driveway. We had some extra time and so we stopped in some of the charming little towns we go through. I was surprised that so many of the shops were still open this time of year. We had fun looking through all of the nick nacks and do dads. We bought a piece of yummy, creamy fudge at one shop. We made another stop at an antique mall. We even got some shopping done for Jonalyn's "gottcha" day. All in all, a day that I think we both needed desperately.

Here are some pictures of our property. I think you can see why I love it so.

Aren't They Cute??

Here are my girls, all dressed to go out and get some candy. Of course, Alyssa is an old pro at this, but it was all new to Jonalyn. I'm not sure just how much she understood, but she seemed to have fun. By the end, when I'd prompt her to say thank you by asking, "What do you say?" she answered, "More". So maybe she did get it! They were very generous and shared with the rest of the family, so the candy is a distant memory now. Alyssa is already planning for next year!