Of Crohn’s disease, Adoption and Gratitude

I’m just going to jump back in here…

Jump!

Hi. So, furlough has been…well, not what we planned.  It came suddenly (for very good reason.  Yay Layla!) And it’s been a ton of travel and a lot of doctor visits.  We have been to Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and California.  That doesn’t include all of the states Nathan drove through on his way from AZ to MI and back again.

Two weeks after we arrived, we found ourselves in the hospital with two-week old Layla sick with RSV.  Thankfully she was the “healthiest RSV baby in the hospital” and was released a few days later.  Still…not fun to rush your newborn to the hospital with a 104 fever at 12:00 a.m.

Two months after we arrived, Nathan starting having a Crohn’s flare-up.  And now, 7 months later, he is still in the midst of it.  He is on a new fancy medicine with promises of being “disease altering.”  It will take 12-14 weeks to know if it is effective or not.  He’s on week 8.  If it is effective, he will potentially be on this medicine for the rest of his life.  But words like “disease altering” give us hope that it could be amazing! Most likely, he will need to have surgery come December to remove the parts of his intestines that are too damaged, but the doctors want to give the meds the full 14 weeks before they decide if surgery is necessary.

In happier news, we completed Layla’s adoption on September 29.  We were in the courtroom a whopping 8 minutes, and just like that, one little bang of a gavel, we officially have a daughter!  Layla is this amazing little ball of happy.  Seriously, I think God totally knew we needed this baby at this period in our lives.  She is such an easy baby!  And, oh is she a joy-bringer!

Gotcha!

Furlough has ended up being longer than we expected. And more doctor visits than we expected. And more travel than we expected (20,000+ miles on the car). But we are grateful to be in America where there is great healthcare and Taco Bell. We are grateful that we will get to meet our new niece when she’s born (any day now!) We are grateful that we will be able to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with family. We are grateful for our awesome churches and supporters who have been so understanding of our extended time away from Indonesia. We are grateful for each of you that have asked us how we’re really doing.

Now, go eat some Taco Bell and pray for Nathan’s gut while you’re at it!

Home Again!

Reunited with Friends

                                       Friends Reunited!

Well, 45 hours, 5 airplanes, 3 all-too-quick layovers and 4 swollen ankles (2-Nathan, 2-mine) later we have made it home to Nabire!  Somehow going this direction is always harder on me.  Even now, 3 days after arriving, I’m still nauseous and light headed.  But also happy to be home and then, on the other hand, remembering all the reasons that home is hard.

Here’s to settling in again!

Selamat, America!

Packed and ready to go home.

                 Packed and ready to go home.

Today is Monday.  It is snowing and my toes are numb.  But in just two sleeps, we will get on a plane headed for home.

Home, where the air is salty and warm.  Where we stand out in a crowd and can’t buy butter.  Where my son is growing up and I’m learning to be a mom.  Where my husband comes home everyday with a smile on his face because he loves his job so much.  Where kids call out “hello mister!” to me on the streets and I silently (and sometimes not so silently) vent my road rage at the motorcycles that cut me off.  Home.

This trip to the U.S., my “home,” has truly solidified to me how much Indonesia has become my home; the good, the hard, the hot.  It’s home.  I used to always say about our return, “when we go back” but this time around I have found myself saying, “when we go home.”  And that kinda terrifies me and fills me with joy all at the same time because I know that I have lost something, but also gained something so beautiful.  My wise hubby always says that you will value something when it costs you something.  And my goodness, Indonesia has cost me something and now I love my life there so very much.

So, selamat, America, it’s been real, but I’m ready to get home.

“Home,” but not Home.

Playing in the Snow

One of Michigan’s perks: Snow! (and also: central heat!)

Elias and I have moved on to the third (of four) State that we will be visiting during our little jaunt to the U.S. while Nathan remains in Idaho to finish up his training.  My parents moved to Michigan last Spring after spending my entire life up until then in Illinois.  So, here we are in Michigan soaking up time with family while we have it.  Elias has been thanking Jesus every night for time with family, but he also prays that his friends in Nabire will still remember him.

Can I be honest?  This whole three-year-old experiencing culture shock for the first time thing is hard. How do I explain to the nursery worker at the third church we’ve visited in three weeks why he doesn’t want to be there? (“I will throw-up on the ladies, mom.”)  And how do I explain to Elias why we can’t go home yet, especially when he asks so nicely. (“Please may I please go home to Na-Ba-Ray, Mommy?”)  And how do I explain to the restaurant worker, who sweetly touched his cute face, why that little action would cause a complete melt down and panic that she would take him away from me.  (In restaurants in Indonesia, workers will carry him away to show him off to the other workers…he hates this.) Sweet, confused little boy.

And now we’re away from Daddy, for the longest period of time that he has ever been away from Daddy.  But don’t worry, folks.  Elias has a plan…”I will get on a kite and fly to Daddy and he will say, ‘I love you, Son.'”

So, yes, coming “home” is wonderful and has some amazing perks.  But it’s not really home anymore.  And it’s definitely not home to Elias, my little MK.

Whirlwind

This week has been a whirlwind…of pain.  Dun, dun, dun.

Ok, I just wanted to say “whirlwind of pain” but seriously, this week has been, um, out of the ordinary.  Nathan is having a flare up of Crohn’s, giving him more pain than usual.  So, after consulting with the medical personnel here, he is taking some medication that he is not allowed to fly on.  The medical personnel have also advised him to get checked out by specialists while we are in the U.S. and since he is not flying anyway, our countdown chain had gotten a little trim, cutting 13 days off our leave time!  Whew!  So, suddenly we are leaving for the U.S. on Tuesday!

Countdown Chain

I don’t want to make light of what is going on with Nathan’s health, BUT this is nothing like the emergency situation we found ourselves in 7 years ago when we were in language school.  So, all and all, this kinda feels like a Crohn’s walk in the park.  His pain is not too severe and he can function almost normally.

Hopefully, the Doctors in the U.S. can give us a clearer picture of what is going on and we can determine if he needs surgery before this becomes an emergency.  After his last surgery in 2009, we were told there’s a 50/50 chance he would need surgery again within 10 years.

We would appreciate your prayers as we travel halfway around the world with a 2 1/2 year old and then as we consult with Doctors in the U.S.  Thanks y’all!

American Soil

Countdown Chain

According to Elias’ countdown chain, it is 16 sleeps until we get on a big get and go see his cousins (he has a little bit of tunnel vision when it comes to our trip to America.  Most exciting things about our trip according to Elias: 1. riding on a big jet 2. seeing his cousins; although he might change his mind about the big jet after the first 7 hour stretch on one plane).

It has been two years since we last set foot on U.S. soil and so I am excited about the normal stuff…family, food, friends.  But I’ve been thinking about a few other things I’m looking forward to as well:

  1. The moment in customs when the agent stamps my passport and says, “welcome home.”
  2. Being anonymous.  Everywhere we go here, we stand out.  I cannot leave the base without someone saying “Hello, Mister!” to me and I often hear the word “boule” being muttered.  People ask to take our picture all the time and seem completely astonished and almost offended that I won’t let them take a picture of my two-year-old (“But he’s so handsome!”).  So…I will welcome blending into the crowd.
  3. Shopping for leisure.  This is just not something I do here.  With my non-anonymity (is that even a word?) and everyone pinching Elias’ cheeks, shopping is not relaxing.  I never go out to a store just to wander around to see what there is.
  4. Wide aisles in the grocery store.  The concept of making an aisle wide enough for a cart to go through, let alone two, as yet to hit the stores of Nabire.  I am always navigating my cart around boxes and employees.  Thankfully their annoyance that I’m asking them to move so I can shop is usually tempered when they see my cute kid (whose cheeks they want to pinch).
  5. Cold weather.  I might regret saying this the second we step off the airplane and the first gust of cold air hits me, but right now it sounds pretty dreamy to sit in front of a fire with snow sitting on the ground outside.  Also, Elias needs to build a snowman :)
  6. Traffic patterns that make some kind of logical sense.  Indonesia gives me road rage.
  7. Going on a dinner/movie date with Nathan.  I realize that seeing a movie in the theater is not the most important thing in life…but we haven’t done that in almost 3 years so I’m looking forward to it.
  8. Seeing Elias’ reaction to all things American.  He was 10 months old when we left the States and so he has no memory of it.  I’m sure he is going to have some culture shock.
  9. Karson.  Karson falls in the family category but still earns a place on this list because he is our brand-new nephew and I can’t wait to squeeze him!
  10. Buying new clothes.  I’m in a I’m-tired-of-wearing-the-same-clothes-all-the-time-year-round funk and I’m ready to get some new ones.  And bonus: new clothes aren’t all stretched out and holey!

America, my home-country that I love but don’t really fit into anymore, I’m excited to see you again!

Fun fact: two years is the longest we have ever spent away from U.S. soil!  We’re not breaking any records here, by a long stretch, but it seems like some kind of milestone for us.

Singapore Airport Butterfly Garden

I have said more than once that I would take a vacation to the Singapore Airport, and I’m not kidding.  It’s the most awesome airport I have ever visited!  It is beautiful and clean and somehow magically quiet, and there are lots of free things to do!

On our way to Chiang Mai, we had a nearly 24-hour layover in Singapore.  Truth be told, we spend about 8 of it sleeping in the also awesome airport hotel.  But then we went exploring!

We are well acquainted with terminals 2 & 3 now.  There are butterfly gardens, and koi ponds, and movie theaters, and playgrounds, and good coffee, and western food.  What more do you need on vacation?

Anyway, we spent a good hour hanging out in the butterfly garden.  It boasts hundreds of butterflies in many varieties.  I may have taken a few pictures. :)

Sing Butterfly Garden Sing Butterfly Garden Sing Butterfly Garden Sing Butterfly Garden Sing Butterfly Garden Sing Butterfly Garden Sing Butterfly Garden Mommy and Elias Peeking at Daddy

Seriously, if you have to spend 24-hours in an airport with a two-year-old, Singapore is the place to do it!

Feeding the Giraffes

Because we live overseas, people often think that we travel a lot.  And, while, yes, we have spent a lot of time in a country other than our passport country, we actually don’t get around that much.  We’re homebodies, Nathan and I.

BUT, we decided that for vacation this year, we would venture outside of Indonesia and see another part of this Asian world that we live in.  So, just a few weeks ago we travelled to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thailand is the 4th country that Elias has visited, quickly followed up by his 5th, Singapore.  (We don’t count airport layovers…that would be cheating.)  The others he has been to are the U.S., Indonesia and Mexico.  Not too shabby for a two-year-old.  Especially considering that his mama has been to only 9 countries (add in Wales, England, Germany and Canada for me) in her 34 years of life.

Anywhoozzles…in Chiang Mai we went to a Night Safari, although we went during the day for the sake of Elias’ bedtime.  His favorite part by far was feeding the giraffes.  For about $1, we could buy a basket of vegetables to pass out to the eagerly waiting giraffes.

Feeding Giraffes Feeding Giraffes Feeding Giraffes Feeding Giraffes

Feeding Giraffes

Feeding Giraffes

We came back to this part of the zoo 3 times, he loved it so much.

More on Chiang Mai another day!

Bali Vacation!

One of the fantastic advantages of living where we live is the amazing vacation spots!  Like most people, we plan and save for vacation.  Unlike most people, we choose our vacation spot by availability of western food and shopping :)  Seriously, we’ve often said that the three things we miss the most are family, friends and food!  Bali (an Indonesian island!) knocks two of these out of the park!  Friends and Food.  Ok, well, our friends came from Papua to Bali with us…but still they are awesome sauce.  You would want to vacation with them too.  And, being a tourist destination, Bali has amaazing western food.  Steak!  Tacos!  Steak tacos!  Salad!  Ice cream!  And really, what more do you need than that?

This was our first vacation with Elias in Indonesia.  He travelled like a champ, and cozied right up to vacation living!  The first word out of his mouth most mornings was, “pool!”

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This kid loves the water.  He was sticking his face in the water and blowing bubbles without any prompting from us.  I think he’s going to be an olympian someday : )

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We also got to visit the Bali Zoo.  Indonesia doesn’t have the strict safety laws that American zoos have, which is both awesome and terrifying.  Want to feed a tiger?  Your not-even-two-year-old can do it in Bali (though ours did not.)

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Elias did, however, love feeding the elephants!

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And the sweetest little dear you ever did see.

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Our next stop was a WaterBom, the local water park.  It was a blast!  Elias being the little fish that he is loved it too.

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The lazy river with one tired boy.  The water park wore him out!

We are so grateful for breaks like this!

From Here to There: PNG

Last week, we were invited to go to Papua New Guinea (not to be confused with Papua, Indonesia, where we live) to attend the MAF PNG family conference.  PNG is an MAF-International run program while MAF Papua is a MAF-US run program.

While we share an island with PNG, the difficult border crossing means there is not much interaction between the two programs, but they try to invite a family from here to attend their conference each year and vis-versa.  This year, we were lucky enough to be the ones invited!

Our journey started in Nabire, we flew from there to Mulia, then to Sentani.  We then hopped in a car and drove to the border.  Once at the border, you have to walk across no-man’s land to get to the other side, so we lugged all of our luggage, plus Elias into Papua New Guinea.  Thankfully, our tourist visas had already been issued so getting through customs was actually not too bad.

Once on the other side, we got a “taxi” (read: a mini-bus crammed as full as possible full of people) and rode for an hour to Vanimo.  In Vanimo, an MAF airplane was waiting to take us to Wewak where we spent the night on the MAF base.  The 544 mile (as the crow flies) trip took us about 10 hours.

The next day we flew from Wewak to Mt. Hagen where we spent another night on the MAF base.  And finally we flew from Mt. Hagen to Ukarupma where the conference was held.  For such a short trip, we were excited with how much of PNG we actually got to see.

New Guinea map

(if you squint, you can see our travel path on the map below.  Pink is our journey to PNG and blue is our journey home)

Playing Soccer

The conference itself was held at the SIL training center in Ukarupma.  The complex in PNG is the largest SIL base in the world.  It was HUGE.  We were told that anywhere from 800-1,000 people live there.  It’s like a little town.

Everything was really laid back with lots of free time.  Nathan and I each read three books! It was awesome.  Elias looooved running around with the other kids on the big open grassy areas.  He seems so grown up to me, playing soccer with the other kids.

Elias running

Bah, he’s adorable, right?

PNG from the air

In keeping with my take-very-few-pictures-at-conference tradition (since I took exactly zero at Papua conference), I took very few pictures in PNG and now that I’m home I wish I would have taken out my camera more.

PNG looks very similar to Papua in landscape, but culturally and politically it’s very different.  We weren’t there long enough to see all of the differences, but a few things that really stood out to us were the lack of litter and motorcycles and the presence of large walls and razor wire.

We loved getting to know the PNG team.  They are great people (obviously, right, because they are MAF!) and we hope to see them again someday!

P.S.-Papua people…they had Sara Lee Cheesecake in the grocery store.  Cheesecake!!!  So, yeah, PNG is amazing.