Friday, December 30, 2016

Interview with Tyndall on his 4th Birthday

Well, the day after his 4th birthday.  
1. What is something mommy always says to you? Don't eat something.
    What is something daddy always says to you? You're not having the balloon. (Note: ?)
2. What makes you happy? When I don't have spankings.
3. What makes you sad? Nufing.
4. What makes you laugh? When you tickle me. 
5. How old are you? Four!
6. How old is Mommy? 12.
7. How old is Daddy? 16.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? to play! play trucks, tracks
9. Who is your best friend? Keaton! and Ezra, and Eddie and Elinor. No, not Elinor. (Note: Sorry Ellie)
10. What do you want to be when you grow up? Daddy!  (Note: awwwwww)
11. What are you really good at? helping
12. What are you not very good at? not helping
13. What did you do today? Go to Children's museum (Note: that was yesterday)
14. What is your favorite food? Chocolate cake.
15. What is your favorite song? Jesus Loves Me.
16. What do you want for your birthday this year? another teddy bear, please
17. What is your favorite animal? Horse. No, not horse.  Lions!  Do you like lions, Daddy?
18. What is love? I hate.
19. What does daddy do for work? Nufing. 
20. Where do you live? at Thailand.
21. Where is your favorite place to go? That's too many questions!

Thai Adoption {So Far}

We had such a great time with our family in the States over the summer-- catching up with friends, shopping, hanging out and watching HGTV.  Lots of things that were definitely "treats" for us.  It was priceless seeing Tyndall WITH his cousins--from the backyard pool days to the tickle fights on Grandma's floor.  Those experiences will be some of my favorite memories of all time. 

Of course, there were challenging moments.  Times we questioned our ability to parent AT ALL, much less (an)other child(ren) from hard places.  There was even a time I decided we should probably withdraw our names, BUT GOD.  Within hours, God used multiple things to confirm in my heart, through His Word, through my husband, blogs and many other things... We are meant to pursue it.  To do what we can to be a family for one(s) who need us.  The specific one(s) God has for us.  

So, anyway, I thought it was about time to "document" the process.  Here goes:
  • Even before coming back to Thailand in 2015, we knew we would pursue adopting here.  It was part of our reason for coming back. 
  • Once here, we quickly connected with a couple who was in the process and got paperwork and got information on what to do.  (And more importantly, buddies to share the process with. Unfortunately, their adoption was not approved, but they are still very much part of this story.)
  • We knew we had to wait 6 months of living here before we could start the process.  So in the first 6 months, there was just a lot of adjusting to living back in Thailand and praying and dreaming about our future kids. 
  • January 31st marked our 6 months in Thailand when we could have submitted paperwork.  At the time, I was consumed with adjusting to teaching full-time and just couldn't get everything together.  I was also nervous because our friends' adoption had recently been denied, and we had another family start the process who were told they were not qualified.  Since both of these families are AMAZING families, I struggled awhile with not understanding the reasoning and wondering if we were really meant to pursue it.  
  • In February, we worked to start gathering documents and getting things ready for "the list" (one of the 3 versions we were working from at the time of things needed to submit with your application for InterCountry Adoption in Thailand). 
    • We got physicals from a local doctor. 
    • We got psychological evaluations and official letters from a psychiatrist about our ability to parent. (Even though we sometimes question it ourselves! haha!) 
    • Gathered LOTS of documents for our Thailand and USA/FBI background check.  
  • In March, we got serious and set the goal of having everything ready to turn in on the 31st.   
    • We had our fingerprints done (old-fashioned ink style) at the "Royal Thai Police Headquarters" which involved a lot of hand motions and using Google translate :) 
    • Gathered many other documents and racked our brains about details of our lives that are complicated when you move around as much as we have. ;)
    • Submitted our paperwork to the FBI for our USA background check. (Still waiting to get this back.) 
    • It was in March that our friends told us about an orphanage they became connected to, and we got connected to the Australian couple who started it and started learning about their hearts for the kids there.  We started to think this might be the place that our child(ren) come(s) from.  And praying for the kiddos there no matter the outcome.  
  • On March 31st, we both took off work and went downtown to the Child Adoption Center to meet with a social worker and officially start our file.
    • We really liked the social worker who was assigned to us.  When we first met, she asked a lot of clarifying questions about our application. 
    • She seemed surprised that our application was "different" in that we said we are open to boy(s) or girl(s), sibling sets, and ages 3-7, with special needs.     
    • We told her about the orphanage we had learned about and how we thought it might be a good fit, and she said that was an option but wanted to know if we were open to other kids as well.  We said we are.
    • At this time, we received an "official" list of what is required for the full adoption application. And an email address for communication that is used by ALL the social workers in the organization.  (Didn't exactly walk away with warm fuzzies on that one.) 
  • In April, we worked on finishing up everything required of us for our file:
    • We wrote a family history
    • We did pictures of our school and home and did explanations of where the kid(s) would live
    • We received an official request to have a Thai police clearance done from the adoption agency.  (We had attempted to do this at the same time as the FBI background check since most of the requirements were the same, but they required an official letter from the agency in order to be able to do it.)  
    • With official letter in hand, we went to our local police station to have fingerprints done (again, in old-fashioned ink style) and lots of paperwork done including a detailed listing of Matt's tattoos. Thankfully, our friend Jikky from school went with us to help us with translating because we would have been in trouble. 
    • We took another trip downtown to complete our Thai police clearance paperwork--basically we just had to have the forms verified from the local police station, pay fees in one building, turn everything in to another building, and then get a form from yet another building.  That was an adventurous day.  It was also our 2nd attempt at doing that particular task.  The first time we went, all of said buildings were closed for a holiday we had forgotten about.  
    • While downtown, we attempted to meet with our social worker again to turn in more forms. But she was unable to meet, so we ended up emailing the stuff in. 
  • In May, we got word that the documents had been received, and we got our official invitation to attend the "Workshop for Prospective Adoptive Parents" at the end of the month which is held only once a year.  We were very grateful to be able to attend in 2016 and not have to wait until 2017.  
    • The workshop was May 30-31 which happened to be during Stephani & Steven's trip.  It worked out that we were able to stay downtown together, and they took care of Tyndall while we were in the meetings.
    • The actual content of the workshop was good, but we also found ourselves very grateful that we have been to other adoption seminars and conferences.  
    • We met several other families in the process which has been a huge blessing and comfort in getting clarification on things.  
  • When we came back to Thailand in August, we got in touch with our social worker and scheduled our Home Study.  It was completed on August 29th.  At the end of that meeting, our social worker said that the next step would be to be matched.  She also said that since we are open to older kids with special needs, that it probably wouldn't take "as long" to be match.  But the average wait time is 2 years. 
  • In October, we called and checked in for an update which was a very confusing and discouraging call.  We understood that it would be 12-18 months before we would hear anything from them at all.  Looking back, some of it was probably cultural and language confusion.  
  • On December 23, we went to the adoption center and took a Christmas gift to our worker.  We planned not to ask about our file and just reconnect with her, but she shared that we were already on the waiting list and might hear something during the first couple months of 2017.   Trying not to set our hopes on that, but also getting very excited that 2017 will most likely be a year that our family grows!        

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Flagler Family Asia Adventure! Part 1-Thailand

Stephani and Steven arrived in Thailand late on May 26th. Their flights were smooth, and all their luggage arrived with them, which made the reunion at the airport extra sweet!
We came right back to GES where our friend Sarah was staying with Tyndall who had been too excited to sleep!  So he got to have some aunt and uncle snuggles in the middle of the night and stayed up a couple of hours because everyone was so excited.  We ate nachos and Face-Timed Mark and the girls and eventually settled in enough to get some sleep.  

Matt and I were still working the next day, but we took Steph and Steven to P'Nee's for lunch and to 7 for drinks and for a tour around the school.  When we were done with work, we took them on a tuk-tuk to the pier where we caught a water-taxi to KhaoSan Rd.  

At KhaoSan, Steph and I got fish pedicures. And we did some shopping and lots of snacking (coconut ice cream, fruit shakes, waffles on a stick) mostly while walking around in the rain.  For dinner, we met the Boydas at the robot restaurant at Central Westgate then had Coldstone.  Tyndall and I caught a ride home with the Boydas, but Steph, Steven and Matt went back to KhaoSan for more adventures.  

The next day was a Saturday and Matt and I taught our last Joy Club.  Steven and Stephani went exploring at BigC that morning while we taught.  For lunch, we went to SamSep, which is a restaurant owned by one of our student's family.  The food is delicious, and we ate a ton of it! Stephani said it was the best fish she's ever eaten. After lunch, we went to Chatachuk Market to explore but got lost and turned around more than usual. (It's the largest outdoor market in the world where we have gone quite a few times but still manage to get turned around, especially if looking for something specific.)  Amidst the wandering around, there was still lots of shopping and snacking.  After JJ, we came back to get Tyndall and then went to The Mall for dinner.  We just ate at the food court there and were going to get massages, but they didn't have any availability.  And then we were going to see a movie, but that didn't happen either.  So we came home to get ready for our next adventures.  

Sunday we took it easy in the morning while we packed for the upcoming travel.  We went to check-in to our hotel downtown Bangkok where Matt and I had an Adoption Seminar.  After checking in, we went to Beirut for Lebanese food.  Though we had a slight sidetrack at "Le Beirut Cafe" which is more French food, we eventually got pointed downstairs to the real Beirut, and it was sooooooooooooooooooo good.  I had heard about this place for years, and yes, it is worth the hype.  So, we all ate a ton of food to the point where we were too miserable to do much else.  But we headed to Siam Paragon to walk around.  That was such a cool thing because I had envisioned going there with Stephani and Steven for so long.  As expected, the luxury hall was ogled over, and the car stores (in the mall!) were drooled over by Steven.  From there, Tyndall and I head back to the hotel, and the siblings went on a tuk-tuk food tour which they all loved!  They went to a few different stops for different types of food but also got to visit different wats (temples) and learn about Bangkok history in between food courses.  

Monday, Matt and I were in Adoption training from 8-5.  We were a little bummed that this training fell during Steven & Steph's visit, but it also worked out because it meant Tyndall got to have some special time with them.  While we were in training, they slept in, had breakfast and then explored Siam Paragon on their own.  They went to the aquarium, had high tea, and did shopping.  Apparently Tyndall was a perfect angel.  We met up after training at Terminal 21 and ate dinner at Sunrise Tacos and then had leg massages (and a manicure for Steven) across the street before heading back to our hotel.  

Tuesday, Matt and I still had training, and Steven and Steph were sick of malls.  So they arranged for a Grand Palace tour with transportation by boat.  But there was some mixup (and probably tourist trap), so they didn't end up doing the Grand Palace but saw some of the temples downtown and went to some markets where Steven had some pants tailored.  
After the training and waiting around for said-pants to be ready, we made our way back to GES. Sadly, we got back after most of the local restaurants had closed, so we had a hodge-podge of a dinner while we packed for Cambodia and Malaysia.  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Spring Semester Recap!

Spring semester at GES brought more changes for us.  I started long-term subbing in Grade 1 for Kristin who was out on maternity leave.  Tyndall changed classes to K-1 since he was (mostly) potty-trained and needing a little bit more structure.  That meant he also changed to having a "farang" (foreign) teacher instead of just Thai teachers, so it also made it easier for us to communicate and understand how he was doing during the day.  He has loved being in the preschool class, and it's been a great change for him.  

Because my job changed from part-time to full-time, we needed a helper for Tyndall after school and around the house.  God brought P'Nui into our lives, and she has become more than Tyndall's nanny, our house-manager, shopper, dinner-prepper, Thai teacher, but an incredible friend!  She is a sweet sister in Christ, and it's so neat to get to know her heart for others and for Thailand!  She's one of the worship leaders at her church and helped lead Thai worship at our lower elementary chapel one week.  We are excited for her to start seminary soon, even though we won't get to see her as much!  George and his family also help us out a ton, mostly on Saturdays when we teach Joy Club.  We are so thankful for them as well and continue to learn so much through their friendship.  These friendships have been unexpected blessings, but definitely some of the most treasured ones of our first year here! 

My Grade 1 class was full of life and adventure.  I had (most of the semester) 23 kiddos who kept me on my toes daily.  I loved hearing different accounts of their days and having lots and lots of questions and opinions and comments from their little (and big!) personalities.  :)  Thankful that I was allowed to spend a few months with them and prayerfully show them more of Jesus.  I look forward to seeing a lot of those relationships grow over the years.  Now that Kristin is back from maternity leave, I'm spending time with the lower elementary ELW (English Language Workshop for Grades 1-3) teacher since that's what I'll teach next year.  

Matt has enjoyed teaching Grade 2 again (it's what he taught when we were here in 2008-2009), and he will be teaching Grade 2 next year, which means he will have a lot of the students I had this semester.  That should be interesting! I really love seeing Matt as a teacher!  He cares so much for the kids but also enjoys teaching them new things.  It's just neat to see!  

One thing that I've really appreciated too is that we live approximately 143 steps from our classrooms.  It's so nice to run home on breaks and (for me) have some alone time.  Most of my lunch breaks, I get like 20 minutes to myself which can help recharge me for the rest of the day, and I usually get a mini Thai lesson from P'Nui during lunch as well.  It's not always easy having the school right outside our home, but a majority of the time it's a blessing!  

In addition to teaching the regular daily school schedule (7:30-4:40), we both did a lot of tutoring and continued to teach the Saturday school, Joy Club.  This has had its pros and cons but overall, it's allowed us to get to know more students and build more relationships with parents as well as have more spending money and giving money. I think it also helps us enjoy our family time a lot on the weekends.  Matt and I typically have an afternoon date on Saturdays and then Sundays are full days with meeting with our church, eating lunch at Que Pasa with friends, naps, then hanging out in the evenings (lately we've been swimming in the evenings which has been fun!) and prepping for the week. 

We had our first visitors in March!  Emily and Sheila came to Thailand for their Spring Break, which was way too short.  They were troopers powering through jet lag and experiencing Thailand in such a short amount of time.  We didn't see them as much as we would have liked (in retrospect, we should have taken some days off), but we were super thankful for the time we did hang out.  Loved hearing about their adventures in Kanchanaburi and Cooking with Poo and their day trip to the beach.  My favorite was hanging out at their condo pool and getting dinner and foot massages on their last day.  Can't wait for our next visitors to come at the end of May! 

So thankful for friendships that have grown this semester! This stage of life with 2 working parents and an incredibly active little by would be incredibly draining were it not for life-giving friends.  The kind who bring coffee and random snacks to your classroom.  The kind you go get massages with.  The kind whose kids play with yours.  The kind who babysit for date nights.  The kind who come over for dinner and don't mind making themselves at home.  The kind who do games.  The kind who do movies.  We are thankful.  

Overall, we continue to love our new lives in Thailand.  Sure, we have rough days and days where the cultural differences and not knowing the language are hard and challenging and frustrating.  More of them lately with trying to do business-sy stuff. But that's part of living cross-culturally.  And we understand a lot of those things better this time around.  The cockroaches and spiders and snakes and smells and heat... still not our favorite things.  But it's easier to take the good with the bad.  

All that being said, we are super excited to have time in the States this summer.  We miss our family and friends A LOT and can't wait to see everyone and have quality time with everyone soon.  I'm also excited for everyone to see Tyndall and see how much he's grown and what an incredible little boy he is.  It's going to be GREAT to see him playing with his cousins and our extended family again. Only about a month away, and lots of fun to be had in the meantime! 

Pictures are on Facebook.  I'll maybe add some in here later for my own sake, but for now, I feel accomplished having gotten this done. ;) 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

First Semester Recap

In a perfect world, I would have been posting a lot more regularly and done {at the very least} monthly updates.  It would be a great way to connect with family and to help me remember in years to come what our lives look like these days.  That would have been nice.  

Instead, I was busy and consumed emotionally with transitioning to our new lives in Thailand.  I'm allowing myself some leeway.  However, one of my 'outlets' and ways of processing is to write.  I want to document these days for the reasons above and also to help me truly experience and find joy in the present.  So, I will be a bit more active here.  
In the interest of chronology, and because I'm a bit too particular to start with now, here's a bit of a recap of our first 5 months in our new home.  

August~We literally landed in BKK on the first of August which makes it wonderfully easy to remember how long we've been here.  Most of August was spent in the awe of being back here with our son in tow.  We made LOTS of trips to Big C (the Nonthaburi equivalent of Super WalMart) to make our home more home-y.  We eventually purchased some living room furniture, a 50" tv, some rugs and decor to help us settle in.  Each day, this new place became more our home.  We spent time reconnecting with friends and students who were here 7 years ago as well as beginning to get to know all the new faces.  MUCH has changed.  Some things are the same.  Once school started, we liked getting into the new routine and learning the new schedules and students and systems of life on a school campus.  We had a couple of weekend outings to explore the city.  We went to Dusit Zoo and got annual passes to Ocean World. Mostly, we focused on adjusting to our new jobs and home.  Speaking of jobs, here's what we do: 
Matt is teaching second grade and has 14 kids in his homeroom.  He also teaches the higher-level English students for all of Grade 2 and Science for both Grade 2 classes.  In the first semester, Tricia was working 3 days a week as a substitute teacher for all grades.  When she wasn't subbing, she was working in the office as an assistant to one of the school administrators.  (This is changing for 2nd semester.) Tyndall goes to Nursery Monday-Friday from 8:00am-3:00pm (naps for a couple hours there).  It's on our school campus, and we get to peek glimpses of him during the day.  

September~September was definitely about settling in.  We had a staff retreat out of town for a couple of days.  During that time, Tyndall fell off an incredibly tall ladder, so we had a bit of a health scare.  Thankfully, he was totally fine, but it was definitely a monumental day for our family.  I think it helped us become closer to more people here as well.  In September, we started investing more in relationships with people here.  I had a couple of one-on-one coffee morning dates with new friends, and we went out with a couple families for dinner.  We also spent a lot of time in the evening watching shows like Parenthood, The Walking Dead, and Bones.  I started doing a women's Bible Study group through our church on Monday evenings and was teaching ESL at our church on Tuesday evenings.  We also had Overnight Camp on campus where all of elementary school kids have extra time at school (grades 2 and above spend the night).  Matt became really sick that weekend, which caused him to miss a couple days of school the next week.  Everyone said our immune systems would be weak this first year as we adjust to a new environment and living at a school.  Which brings us to October... 

October~was a very different month.  We had committed to teaching Joy Club, which is English school on Saturdays for (mostly) kids who don't go to GES.  Matt teaches K2&3 (ages 4-6), and I teach K1 (ages 2-3).  We started that on Saturday mornings, but we were both feeling run down.  Matt started feeling better after about a week, but I started feeling worse.  I broke down and went to the doctor one day and found out I had pneumonia.  Yuck.  They wanted me to stay at the hospital, but that was intimidating to me in a new country, away from my family, so I opted to just travel to the hospital each day for breathing treatments and IVs.  That lasted about a week, and then I just had to go a couple times a week.  By the third week in October, I was starting to feel better but was still just wiped out.  That happened to coordinate with October Break for the school.  We had originally planned to travel to Cambodia for the break, but opted to stay home and do day adventures instead.  We did things like Imagania, Ocean World, Safari World, Ikea, Tyndall's first movie at a theater, and hanging out with families at the school.  The Ikea trip was fruitful in that we got lots of more things to make our home more home-y.  My birthday also fell over October Break, and I share a birthday with another teacher here.  So, we took our families to lunch and to the Children's Museum together.  Then, we left the kids with Matt and went and got foot massages. Then she babysat Tyndall so Matt and I could have a date night.  So sweet!   Even though I probably should have rested a lot more, October Break was fun!  I remained pretty exhausted and out of gas for the rest of October, even though I returned to work, and we both started tutoring kids after school.  Our friend George started hanging out with Tyndall after nursery while Matt and I were tutoring.  My pneumonia stayed around until the 2nd week of November, but I was feeling much better by the end of October.  

November~November was busy.  I did a LOT of subbing and even worked extra days to make up for time that I would miss from school in December.  We also had a lot of teachers out for various reasons, including the birth of a new baby. While the new daddy was out for a week, I taught his high school chemistry classes.  Hilarious.  I also spent a few days shadowing one of the first grade teachers because I will be long-term subbing for her while she is out for maternity leave.  Between normal jobs and tutoring and Joy Club, we kept ourselves busy.  In November, I was also back to Bible Study and ESL on Tuesdays most weeks.  But when I committed to teaching full-time this coming semester, I knew I wouldn't be able to teach ESL as well.  I was a little sad to give that up, but I know I can do that in another season.  I realized that my time at home with Tyndall was becoming pretty limited, and I want to have more of that.  Thanksgiving was definitely different.  On the actual Thursday, we ended up having friends over for dinner at the spur-of-the-moment and didn't actual realize it was Thanksgiving dinner until after. Our school did a BIG Thanksgiving dinner the Saturday after.  We had about 100 people.  Ham, chicken, and sides-a-plenty!  It was good.  Definitely started missing family (and familiar traditions) more though.  

December~was CrAzY.  Matt was getting his kids ready for the big Christmas program, and for the end of the semester.  The first week of December, I worked extra days to get ready for the time I was about to be off...
On December 5th, I flew to Cancun, Mexico for my best friend, Ginger's wedding!  Mom met me there, and we spent a few days on a beautiful resort hanging out with the Henry~Hudson wedding guests which was so much fun.  It was honestly the best resort I've ever been to and the people were really fun to get to know.  Very, very fun and refreshing few days.  Not to mention getting to watch Ginger marry the man of her dreams, a man we have prayed together for for years!  After Cancun, I flew to SC for a few days and spent a little time trying to see a lot of people and get a lot of stuff done.  Overall, it was a great few days.  I feel like I got to have time with almost everyone I wanted to and it was even quality time.  I got to see Valerie and Zeb's new house and dance around to Disney songs with my niece Sadie.  I got to have a mock Christmas breakfast with the Flagler fam and even a typical Sunday lunch on my "bonus day" (my flight was delayed leaving Charleston, and by then I had missed all connections to Bangkok, so I had to stay an extra day).  Got to see the James Island Christmas lights with the Flaglers and my other nieces, have Panera dates with friends and even an airport breakfast with the fresh-from-her-honeymoon Mrs. Hudson.  A great, whirlwind trip for sure, but praise God, jet lag didn't put a damper on things!  Once back home in Bangkok with my boys (and SIX suitcases!), it was straight to working in the office then time for Christmas program (a 3 day intense event right in our front yard.)  Tyndall handled the change in schedule and loud music outside his bedroom window quite well.  But we were also really glad when it was over because then it was time for CHRISTMAS BREAK!  

{Forgive the lack of pictures.  Again, this is really just for my remembrance down the road.  Plenty of pics can be found on Facebook.}