Our first week in Jacksonville

August 31, 2006

We arrived here last weekend and it has been a whirlwind since we stepped off the plane. I only have a few minutes to write (we don't have internet access so I am using the public library computer...hooray for public libraries!).....Here are the good things about our first week in Jacksonville:

-We love our new home and neighborood
-Everyone is very friendly and helpful
-The oak trees are beautiful
-Noah loves his new school and has been adjusting well despite jet lag and culture shock (more about that later)
-The sweet tea and peaches are delicious
-It feels good to be back in the South
-Adam's new co-workers are very nice
-Camille is becoming a southern belle...charming everyone with her sweet smile and waving

Here are few things that haven't been so good:
-Our kitchen renovation won't be completed for another month....so we will extend our hotel stay and plan on moving in later than expected
-We have spent way too much time driving and sitting in traffic
-Looked like Hurricane Ernesto was going to hit us but luckily it slowed down and just turned into a few rainy days
-I am still sick and not sleeping
-The shopping options are way too overwhelming....food choices, paint choices, kitchen appliances, baby supplies...I have a headache that never seems to go away.
-and the worst part of our trip is that we got into an accident today. Our brand new minivan (four days old) was re-ended today (and it was NOT my fault). We are still trying to find a used car for Adam and will now have to deal with getting our van repaired while also finding a second car...not fun. Luckily none of us were hurt...just shaken up and missing our old junker cars in Okinawa!

Well, my time on the public library computer is about to end. I will try to check e-mail tomorrow but just wanted to post a quick update on us. Hope y'all are doing well and I'll post more when we get internet access

Back in the States

August 25, 2006

We are back! After a long flight (Camille didn't sleep at all! And she threw up twice!), we were very happy to arrive in California. We are having a wonderful visit with Adam's family. It has been great to watch Noah and Camille playing with their cousins. And we're looking forward to a large family gathering tomorrow night. We'll post photos soon. We are struggling with jetlag and trying to get rid of the illnesses that traveled with us. The kids are wide awake each night from midnight to four am....not fun. We arrive in Florida this weekend. We are looking forward to finally seeing our house in person and exploring our new city. I am not sure when we will have internet access but we will try to update the blog when we get a chance.

Departing Rainbow

August 21, 2006

It is 6:30am and we are getting ready to leave Okinawa this morning. Feeling both sad and giddy. I will post photos and more about our last weekend once we arrive in San Francisco. I had hoped that we would get to see one more Okinawa sunset last night but instead it rained and we were treated to a spectatular rainbow in between showers. It seems like a pretty good symbol of our current state...sad to be leaving but excited about the future.


August 20, 2006

This is a busy weekend for my family. In addition to our return to the States, my baby sister is headed to college. Hard to believe that she will be a college freshman. It just seems like yesterday when she was a toddler running through the halls of Mary Baldwin College as I was moving into my dorm room and meeting my freshman roomate (what a crazy roomate she turned out to be!). Now she is making a very similar trip with my mom. Moving into her first dorm room, meeting her roommate, trying to locate the dining hall, and learning to live on her own. I am so proud of her and I know that she will do well. I hope she embraces every minute of the college experience and revels in the excitement of learning, trying new things, and making lifelong friends. I have such vivid memories of my time at Mary Baldwin and some of my closest friends were made during that exhilerating first year of college. College was truly a formative experience for me. I remember feeling such intense feelings...confidence mixed with insecurity, the thrill of accomplishments, the challenges of time management and independent living, the highs and lows of dating, the all nighters in the computer lab, heartfelt conversations, silliness, road trips, and the feeling that anything was possible. Good luck, Emee! Send us your new address and we will start sending care packages soon.

Only 4 Days Left!

August 17, 2006

Things have improved since my last post. After being told there weren't any hotels rooms, they were able to locate one (good thing because this is the peak move season and we might have had to become squatters for our final days in Okinawa). So we are now moved into the hotel and after some frantic cleaning and painting our military house passed inspection this morning. I am still feeling "poorly" as my grandpa would say, but very relieved to have most of our "check out" completed. This morning Adam received a Navy Commendation Award for all of his hard work during his time in Okinawa. It was nice to see him finally receive some recogition. We are hoping to spend our last weekend here relaxing, recuperating, and saying good-bye to friends.

It can always get worse

August 16, 2006

I had an exhausting day of cleaning, dealing with two sick kids, and packing up to move out of our house...hopefully the cure for sleepless nights is hard physical labor. And just as I was starting to dream about how nice it will be to have daily maid service in the hotel, Adam called to tell me that our reservation at the hotel that was supposed to start tonight got cancelled!!!! And now I am starting to feel sick...not sure if it is stress induced or the virus that seems to be taking over our family.

Leaf Hunter

August 15, 2006

**No leaves were harmed in the making of this documentary. Beware of wild Mei-Meis (aka Camilles) coming to your area soon.

From Bad to Worse

Well Noah's cough turns out to be atypical pneunomia. Camille's earache may not be responding to the antibiotic and it turns out she is getting four new teeth ( bringing her total to eight teeth!). Why is this happening before our big trip? Long international flights are never fun, but an international flight with two sick kids and all sorts of new threats and restrictions doesn't not sound like fun at all! Looks like we may have a Morgan travel experience ahead of us. We'll try to keep you posted. We should still have internet access once we move into the hotel tomorrow. In exactly a week we will be back in the States!

Georgia Loop

August 14, 2006

Tomorrow is our last full day in our little house on Georgia Loop on Camp Foster. We had no idea when we moved onto base two years ago what a wonderful experience we would have. In some ways it felt like we had traveled back in time to the 1950's...all of the kids playing together every afternoon running from yard to yard, all of the moms gathering under the banyan trees in our front yard to chitchat, the ice cream truck making music down the street. Our street truly became a little community...bringing meals for families with new babies, swapping babysitting, celebrating birthdays and holidays together, watching our children grow, supporting each other in difficult times. Most of us arrived in Okinawa around the same time which means many of us are returning to the States this summer and others have gone back to the States for summer vacation. As the summer has progressed the houses have emptied and we are now one of the the last "original" families on the street. It is sad to be leaving this special little place. We will miss those lazy afternnoons with neighbors who turned into some of our closest friends. We are counting down and hoping we will see some of our Georgia Loop friends again soon...the Ircinks in North Carolina, the Hess in Pensacola, the Wilkersons in Virginia, and the Morzentis in DC.


August 13, 2006

I haven't been sleeping well. Part of it is due to two sick children (Camille has an earache, Noah with a bad cough). Part of it is due to excitement about our new house and return to the States. But a big part of it is spent worrying. I am from a family of professional worry warts. My Ganny perfected worrying into an art and I am afraid I have inherited this family trait from her. Especially as our move looms closer the worries seem to grow. Here is a list of the crazy and not so crazy things on my mind:

- the LONG flight home with two sick children, limited carry-ons (new travel restrictions)
-will our kitchen renovation be done in time to move in, will it be what we want?
-cleaning out the refrigerator and passing our military housing check-out inspection
-not being able to change my contacts or brush my teeth on our long flight (no liquids or gels on flight) and how yucky I will feel at the end of the flight
-what last minute Japanese items can I cram into boxes to ship home...how many bottles of salad dressing? how many baby crackers will we need? more chopsticks?
-will we have nice new neighbors? how long will it take to make new friends?
-what will our first impressions be of our new home?
-what if terrorists artack our plane?
-are we ready to return to States?
- how will I not go crazy with overspending on my first trips to the grocery store and Target?
-how did my baby sister grow up so fast and is she is really starting college?!
-will Noah like his new school? will Adam be happy at work?
-when we will get to see my family?
-will things ever calm down in the Middle East?
-what color to paint the dining room?

And the list goes on...I am just ready to be out of this limbo period and feel a little more settled again.

Moving and Identity

It hit me today that our upcoming move to the States feels like a return to home for me but for Noah it feels like we are moving to a foreign country. He asked me today "Do they have popsicles in America?". A few days ago he wanted to know if there were trains in the States. He is worried about not having indoor parks.

Japan has been his home since he was five months old. He has grown up eating onigiri (rice balls stuffed with fish and wrapped in seaweed), tempura, and Japanese curry. Instead of seeing farm animals, he can rattle off the names of exotic sea life and tropical creatures like fruit bats and habu pit vipers. Instead of making drawings of cows or horses, he loves to draw sea snakes and jellyfish. He bows and takes his shoes off when he enters homes.

During the waiting period of our adoption, I read a lot of books about adoption, attachment, and raising children in a multi-racial families. I read in preparation for our new daughter's arrival/referral. I imagined scenarios and conversations about why she looks different than her brother, how families can look many different ways, etc. But I did not anticipate Noah's comment in Taiwan when we picked her up from the orphange "why don't I have black hair? Why don't I look like Camille and everyone else?" His blonde hair and blue eyes have always attracted attention in Japan, but until he got older and until Camille's arrival I don't think he had really internalized the fact that he does not look Asian. I guess I should have anticipated this "issue" but it really caught me off guard. I always think of myself and my family as American and assume it is not only obvious to those around us, but also clear to my children. In many ways, I think of us as the epitomy of an American family...a mixture of different religions, cultures, and races. But I guess in some ways Noah's recogition that he is "different" from the majority of people around him right now will be Camille's experience in a few years. And also a good reminder that identity is a complex issue.

It's Official

August 10, 2006

Everything went well with the closing and we are now officially homeowners. What a surreal and exciting experience! We can't wait to get to Jacksonville and check out our new home in person. The work on the kitchen will start in the next couple of days and will hopefully be completed by early September when we plan to move into the house . We will be leaving Okinawa on August 22nd and fly to San Francisco for a short visit with Adam's family. We will be arriving in Jacksonville on August 26th.

Here are a couple of pics of our new backyard and Noah's favorite thing about our new home....the "park"in the backyard (that's what he calls it!)

Soon-to-be Homeowners

So strange...tonight while we are sleeping we will become homeowners on the other side of the world. The closing will take place at around 3am our time in Japan which means that when we wake up we will be the proud owners of our first home in Jacksonville, Florida. We can't wait to see the house and owe a lot to Adam's parents and our realtors for making all of this become a reality.

Good-bye to the playgroup

Today the playgroup had a good-bye party for us. It was a bittersweet gathering for me. Fun to see folks I haven't seen in awhile (we haven't been able to attend many playgroup events because of Camille's nap schedule) and fun to meet some new families, but sad to say good-bye. I started the playgroup in 2004 and it has grown from a small group to a large and lively one of 80 families. I started the group because there weren't many activities for younger kids and I wanted to meet other parents who were interested in exploring the island. We started by meeting in each other's homes and quickly outgrew those spaces so we started alternating meetings at a chapel nursery room with outings to local parks, beaches, and cultural events. It was important to me that the group be open to anyone who was interested in joining regardless of rank or service and it has been a great way to meet some wonderful new friends. Today it was great to see that the group is continuing to thrive and continuing to welcome new members. Thanks to all of the families who have helped the playgroup so much fun.

We all had a good laugh because Camille stuck her foot right in the cake (see photo on the left)!


August 9, 2006

This morning my friend, Xan and I had massages in a fancy Japanese hotel overlooking the ocean. This was my first Japanese massage and there were some "interesting" moments. To start with we were each given a robe and a pair of disposable panties (the only other time I have ever been given a pair of those was after giving birth) . The massage was pretty relaxing except for a few painful pressure points and the shiatsu style hammering. Luckily a friend had warned me about the fact that the massage would be a "full" body massage, but it was still pretty suprising to have my front massaged as thoroughly as my back. And just after I was recovering from that experience, the massage therapist announced that the massage was over and started to run a shower in the corner of the room. She then escorted my naked and uncomfortable self over to the shower. I stood in the shower wondering if she would be waiting there when I got out and was relieved when she wasn't. I felt so exposed in front of her.

I realized while I was standing in the shower that I have returned to my American standards of modesty and discomfort with nudity. My first real experience with being totally naked with strangers was in a Turkish bath house in Istanbul. I imagined a Turkish bath house would be a place with soaking pools, but it wasn't. Instead it was a beautiful old stone room with a large raised marble platroom in the middle of a very hot and steamy room. I was led into the room completely naked except for a small towel. Not sure what to do next and immediatedly feeling a little faint with the intense heat and steam I joined the other naked women lying on the platform. After what seemed an eternity and when I was feeling very sweaty and light headed, a door opened on the other side of the room and several large women in underwear came into the room with buckets and sponges. They then proceeded to wash, exfoliate, and massage each of us. Now when I say large women...imagine female sumo wrestlers...only Turkish instead of Japanese. I think I was so delirious from the heat that being bathed and massaged by a large naked woman in a room full of other naked strangers didn't send me bolting from the room. It was one of the most surreal, but relaxing experiences I have ever had.

Later that year I moved to Japan where I was introduced to the wonderful world of Japanese onsens (hot spring bathing) . After my Turkish bath experience, I wasn't quite as shocked to enter a room of naked strangers (women, except for one time when a friend and I accidentally wandered into a men's soaking area) but this time there really were soaking pools. I loved visiting the Japanese onsens and started going to the one in my small town on a weekly basis. I loved soaking in the hot water and leaving the bath house feeling clean, relaxed, and rejuvenated. Another thing I liked about the onsens was the realization that when everyone is naked they all have flaws. It is a strangely equalizing and freeing experience.

Hearing test results...third time's a charm

August 8, 2006

Good news to report....Camille had her third hearing test today and she finally passed! This is a huge relief because I was starting to worry that if she had a hearing problem it would affect her speech development. She has always been a fairly quiet baby, especially compared to Noah who seemed to babble since day one. She has recently started making more noises like trying to mimic specific sounds (ma, ba) and her "roaring" demands for food. We will do some follow up testing in Jacksonville and continue to monitor her speech development, but today's news was very reassuring.

Swim Lessons

August 7, 2006

Camille is 9 months old today!

Since I haven't been great about keeping a baby book for Camille, I am trying to keep track of things here. Hard to believe our sweet baby is growing up so quickly. Her newest achievements are clapping, waving, shaking her head, and pulling herself up on things. She now has six teeth (four on top and two on the bottom) and some funny baby bird hair (sticks straight up in little tufts).Her love for food continues to grow and she will roar at us if she isn't fed fast enough or if we dare eat anything in front of her without sharing. She has another round of hearing tests tomorrow which we are hoping she will pass. She has become very verbal in the past few weeks and trying to make more new sounds which is very encouraging to hear. She still loves her brother to death and is always eager to "help" him with his trains...although he doesn't always appreciate her deconstructive efforts.

Family celebration week

Last week was a week full of celebrations.....Adam's birthday, my dad's birthday, my grandmother's birthday, Hayden's birthday, Hannah Grace's birthday....HAPPY BIRTHDAY! We celebrated Adam's birthday with our neighbors. Noah (with a little help) made a delicious chocoate cake(notice the candy corn and "unique" birthday candles? trying to be resourceful with the little that remains in our house) and some wonderful drawings for his daddy. Other big family news is that my sister, Lili successfully defended her thesis and received her graduate degree from Reed College in Portland. I am very proud of her! After finishing up last week, she packed up all of their belongings, loaded up the car with my 8 month old niece and drove all the way to Louisiana. She is starting work as a middle school teacher the day after she arrives in Louisiana...I am in awe and hoping she will get a chance to catch her breath soon. And Adam's cousin, Robin found out last week that she is having a baby boy! So lots to celebrate and we can't wait to see all of you in person very soon.

Sayonara to Oura Wan

August 3, 2006

One of our favorite places on Okinawa is Oura Wan Beach on the north end of the island where military families can rent cabins. The strange thing about Oura Wan is that it is located on a Marine base where Marines train at the nearby firing ranges .... never thought our family would visit a beach area near firing ranges. But the beach side of the base is a little cove with rock formations, lots shells, sea glass, beautiful sunsets and it has been an amazing and easy escape for us every couple months. We've had so many fun times there with good friends (the Tamurians, the Solleys, the Harpes,) and family members (Emee and my mom)...playing on the beach, grilling, hanging out, laughing, playing board games, hunting for shells, and just relaxing. A few weekends ago we spent our last weekend at Oura Wan with the Hess family (we missed you, Drew) with a quick visit from the Price family. It felt like our time at Oura Wan had come full circle because we ended up staying in the same cabin we stayed in for the first time three years ago. It reminded me of how much has happened to our family here on Okinawa. During our first visit to Oura Wan, Noah was just learning to walk and now he is a very grown-up three year old. At the time of our first stay, we were just starting to talk about adoption but didn't even know how, where, or when that would happen. During our last weekend at Oura Wan we were watching Camille scoot around the cabin like a little crab. Oura Wan has truly been a wonderful place for us and I was sad to leave.

What will you be when you grow up?

In the past six months this has been a big topic of discussion for Noah. His first response to this big question came one night during dinner.

Adam: What will you be when you grow up?
Noah: A doctor
Adam: (beaming proudly) What kind of doctor?
Noah: A Japanese doctor, ofcourse.

A few months later his answer changed to a more complex one
Teacher: What will you be when you grow up?
Noah: A haircutter, garbage truck driver, and lawn mower man

Tonight was the most recent discussion of this topic.
Lucia: What will you be when you grow up?
Noah: A dolphin. What will you be when you grow up?
Lucia: I don't know. What do you think I should be?
Noah: A whale.

It reminded me of my mom's desire to be a lamb when she grew up. Adam's early hope was to be a bus driver (because they had so much money on the bus). And I always thought I would be in the circus (some days it feels like that has happened!)

So what do you want to be when you grow up?

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