Thursday, June 18, 2009

Arranged Marriage

I just wanted to show off my future daughter-in-law. Isn't she precious? This is my friend Kate's daughter, Esme. Sam and Esme met in Majuro and hung out almost daily, being hauled around town together by their moms. A relationship quickly blossomed and they became engaged in the lobby of our hotel.
See how they're holding hands in the pic below? We didn't make them do that. Esme reached down and put her little hand in Sam's- in acceptance of his proposal, no doubt.

Aren't they a cute couple?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finally... Something of substance (sorta)

*(If you haven't read or responded to yesterday's post yet, please do so. I would appreciate your input and help with my Blogger issues. Apparently, there weren't any problems commenting yesterday, but I'd still like to hear about it in the future. Thanks!)

Okay, so I've been meaning to get so many different drafts published (or written), and tons of pictures uploaded, but stupid things- like life and motherhood (darn those sick kids!)- keep getting in the way of my best blogging intentions. BUT by golly... today is the day. Woo-hoo.

I had promised to get a packing list and travel tips up for readers in the RMI program, so I guess that's the best place to start.

These are the things I packed; not necessarily what you should pack. This is just intended to give you an idea and jump start your thinking about what you'll need for a 6 week stay. Some of the items on my list were not necessary, as they were available over there, or I just never used them. The items in red are things you can buy once you get there, but they will be (much) more expensive, and not necessarily a brand you know and like.

For baby:

Carrier (I brought two- a Hotsling and a Snugli- and used both often. )
Good quality, big, sturdy diaper bag (with a changing pad, or bring one)
Diapers (Enough for 6-7 weeks. My baby was almost 13 lbs when we got him at 5.5 mos. We brought sizes 2 and 3 dipes. Both worked fine.)
Diaper rash cream/ointment
Baby wash and shampoo
Infant Tylenol/Motrin (and any other infant OTC meds you believe are necessary- Pedialyte, suppositories, drops for gas... whatever)
Saline drops for stuffy noses
Booger sucker thingy
*(Some people ask their Dr. to prescribe an antibiotic and meds for scabies. That's fine, but you can also get those over there.)
Nail clippers
Hair brush/Comb
Pacifiers (choose a few different types) and...
Pacifier clips
Formula (I brought 6 huge containers- Sam's Club/Costco size. Plan for 6-7 weeks.)
Bottle liners (I used Playtex Drop- Ins)
Assortment of nipples
One of those little formula container thingies with the 3 compartments for measuring out formula to put in the diaper bag. What are those called?
Rice cereal, baby foods, juice (For an older baby)
Spoons and little plastic bowls
Burp cloths
Bottle brush
Dish washing detergent
Plastic Bottle Drying Rack
Baby toys
Blankets- both lightweight and heavyweight. Your baby will be in and out of air-conditioning.
Footed jammies (Again, remember the air-conditioning)
One "nice" outfit for court day, if you want (For baby girls, there are some adorable island-style dresses at the Honolulu airport and you can find cute island outfits for boys- and girls- here.)
Plenty of Onesies and comfy, casual outfits (Pack light- like, two weeks worth for baby, and do laundry over there. Generally speaking, Marshallese babies are peanuts- smaller than Americans. I brought 6-9 mos. sized clothing for Sam and most of it was too big at first. He still fits better into 3-6 mos. at 7 mos. and 14 lbs.)
Swimsuit/Trunks if you want cute photo ops by the ocean
Dreft, if you want, if you'll be doing your own laundry

Some people bring a Pack and Play for the baby to sleep in. We didn't. Reimer's had a crib (hand-made, unfinished pine) for us to use.

After you get there, you can buy a baby bath tub at Payless, and we bought a walker at Formosa (across the street from Reimer's), then donated them to our foster mom when it was time to leave.

(A few fun things to be prepared for when you meet your baby:

Scabies, Fungus and other skin issues.
(Conjunctivitis from Chlamydia {in the b. mom} is apparently a common complication.)

...Yeah- I said it would be fun. Of course, your baby won't have any of these! Nevertheless, you may want to discuss these things with your Dr. in advance, just in case. Sam did not have lice or any skin problems, but he was sick when we got him. He was treated with antibiotics and eye drops/ointment.)

For You:

Your clothing...
I say pack for about a week to 10 days and do laundry over there. We packed the maximum amount allowed by the airlines and wished we wouldn't have. I cannot stress it enough that you should pack light- especially if one spouse will be going back home early. The last thing you need in the airports when you're traveling alone with your baby (sweating like a hooker in church) is lots and lots of bags. I learned that the hard way.

Pack one nice outfit for court. Men- slacks and dress shirt. Darrell wore a tie (so did our attorney). Women- a dress (it can be casual-ish, but still nice) and nice sandals.

Bring lightweight, breathable clothing. I'm not sure if I ever mentioned this, but it's just a tiny bit hot there. Prepare to burst into flames the second you arrive in Majuro, and pack accordingly. Men- t shirts, shorts and flip-flops. Women- skirts, capris, sundresses and tees. Bring extra bras so you can *wash damp, sweaty ones in the sink. Most Marshallese women will be in dresses or skirts. You won't see many local women in shorts there- but you won't be treated "weird" if you wear them. I did... wear shorts, I mean (long ones), not get treated weird. Just use your common sense and think "Modest." I wished I would have brought more skirts. If you have those comfy, light, summery, gauzy skirts- BRING THEM. Take advantage of the extra breeze blowing "up there" that will come with wearing a skirt, even if you're not normally a "skirt girl." No mini-skirts, though. Keep them at or below your knees, if you want to fit in. There's no need to bring a pair of shoes for every outfit, or a ton of makeup or jewelry. Did I already say to pack light? Okay, so then the only other thing I can add would be to PACK LIGHT.

*Pack Woolite, or something similar for washing bras, etc., in the sink.

Your toiletries, medicines, etc...
Deodorant (like a whole suitcase full. I forgot to mention that it's moderately warm there, in the same way that hell is moderately warm.)
Prescription meds (don't forget how long you'll be gone from home. You may need to bring extra refills)
Cold meds
Immodium, or something similar
Hand sanitizer
Shampoo, Conditioner, and any necessary hair products or tools (Seriously, I would keep the hair-styling gadgetry to a minimum. I brought too much. I promise you this: Your hair will look like crap for the duration of your stay. Put on your big girl panties- which you have hopefully remembered to pack- slap the hair up in a ponytail, and deal with it.)
Toothbrushes, toothpaste
Feminine products
Lots of alcohol (Kidding. Just seeing if you're paying attention)
Make-up (Again, keep it to a minimum. I rarely even wore it because of the heat, although I almost never go out in public without it here at home. But, you're not going over there to win a beauty pageant.)
Downy Wrinkle Releaser (FYI- if you stay at Reimer's, they'll loan you an ironing board and iron)
Stain remover

Laptop, if you have one
Flip or camcorder
Extra memory card and/or
Jump Drive
Cell phone (although it may not work over there. You may be able to buy a new SIM card for your phone at NTA, or you can get a new phone there, too. Some people buy a phone, then give it to their birth mom when they leave. We didn't. We used Skype for calling home, and the phone in our room for local calls and just never felt the need for a cell.)
Don't forget all the cords and chargers that go with this stuff.

Paperwork and Misc...
Your dossier, packed in a carry-on, and a copy of it in your spouse's carry-on
An extra copy of your marriage certif. for immigration
You may be told to bring 3 years of tax returns (and, of course, you should do whatever they tell you to do- but we were never asked to show them)
Lots and lots of cash
Credit cards (no traveler's checks- only Payless will take them)
Any important phone numbers you may need
Gifts (details below)
Gift bags and tissue paper
Notebook for keeping track of birth family info
Ziplock bags, small trash bags

Books, DVDs (E-Z Price sells copies of popular movies on DVD for $3.99. Not that I'm encouraging the sale or purchase of pirated DVDs. I'm just sayin'...)

If you have summer clothing in good condition to give away, bring it and donate it to the birth family or other families in need (of which there are plenty). Doing this will also give you an added benefit... It opens up more room in your suitcase for all the things you'll be buying and bringing back home.

We brought gifts for our birth mom, foster mom, attorney (actually, for his son, at our agency's suggestion), the facilitator (Maddy), and a few small gifts for staff and housekeeping. I should have brought more for other members of birth family. I chose things from Bath and Body Works for women, an outfit for the attorney's son (the agency gave us the wrong birth date for him, so the outfit I bought was too big). Other gift ideas would be t shirts from your state (like college sports, etc), good quality candies that won't melt (um... it's hot there), pretty hair clips and doo-dads, earrings, bracelets, and stuffed animals, picture books, coloring books, or small toys for children. I also brought a photo album with family pictures for our birth mom, a book about our state (both of which you will be told to bring by the agency), some stationary and stamps for sending us letters, a nice picture frame, and a necklace. As it turned out, I put waaaaay too much thought, time, money and worry into getting the *"perfect" necklace. I didn't even give it to our birth mom. I gave it to her sister instead. Hmmph. Funny how things work out, huh? Or not. Choose something nice for your b. mom, but don't give yourself a breakdown over it (like Some People).

In addition to token gifts, be thinking of what you will be willing to do, on a bigger scale, for your birth family. You're under no obligation to give gifts to anyone, or spend additional money. In fact, you will be told it's not a good idea to do so until after your immigration docs are sent, so as not to suggest any improprieties. But once you get to know the people there- once you see how they live... you will feel moved to do something. And it won't feel like an obligation. Maybe you'd like to provide the birth mom with a cell phone. Maybe she would like to go to college and you could help with tuition (which is ridiculously cheap there). Maybe your birth mom has older kids who don't have shoes or enough to eat. Plain old boring groceries are a huge blessing to those who don't have them. Start thinking about budgeting for bigger needs now.

Misc. tidbits... Buy bottled water to keep in your diaper bag, but you should also buy a water dispenser thingy from E-Z Price and get 5 gal. bottles of water from Pacific Pure, which is owned by Reimer's. That way, you've always got access to clean water for baby bottles in your room. Don't worry about trying to heat the bottles- the babies are used to drinking it at room temp.

Also, you will always need plenty of one dollar bills. Make sure you have some in your pocket before venturing out each day. You'll be taking taxis all the time, unless you rent your own car (we never did, and never felt like we were missing anything). You can go most places for a dollar per person, not counting your baby. It cost a little more for going all the way out to the airport, etc., but it's no biggie.

*My final two cents for the day, which I shall title,
"A Little Extra Sumpthin Sumpthin From Your Old Aunt Michelle:"
Be Prepared... Hopefully you will have a wonderful relationship with your baby's mother. But unfortunately, this is real life (dangit) where it's not all bunnies, puppies, rainbows and sunshine. Things may be awkward at first, or... for the duration of your stay. Your birth mom may be wonderful, or... not. She might be just plain nuts. You just never know. What's that old saying about hoping for the best, but preparing for a crap storm? No, wait... that's not it.

Next post: We shall discuss places to stay, things to do, people to see, places to eat...

Oh, the anticipation! How can you stand it?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Having trouble commenting on this blog?

I've heard from several regular readers who say they've had problems trying to leave comments on my blog. I'm also hearing from a few who have had trouble accessing the blog altogether. I've been trying to resolve these issues through Blogger, but haven't had much success getting to the bottom of the problem.

If you are able to see this post- whether you normally comment or not, will you please do me a favor and try to comment on it? Let me know if your comment published successfully on the first try or if you had to try several times, too. If you are unable to leave your comment, I'd appreciate it if you would shoot me an email to let me know (sammakes7 at live dot com). I'm trying to determine exactly how many readers are having this issue and whether or not it's a random, intermittent thing, or if it consistently affects the same people over and over.

Also, if you get an error message at times when trying to open the blog, would you please email me with the specifics of the message?

Thanks so much for your help!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

So... What IS he, exactly?

I've been home only a week and The Question has already been asked several times. I knew it was coming, I just wasn't expecting an onslaught.

Um... I was just wondering...what do you call him?
We call him Sam.

No, I mean, like... Is Sam Asian... or what?
No, Sam is not Asian. You could call him a Pacific Islander, I guess, but he's not from an Asian country, so it wouldn't make sense to call him Asian, would it?

But is he, like... I mean, Biracial or Hispanic, or something?
He is definitely something.

So, is your baby Samoan, then?
Ummm, no. If he had been born in Samoa, with Samoan geneology, he would be Samoan. He was born in the Marshall Islands (RMI), and is of Marshallese descent, which makes him Marshallese. The Samoan Islands are actually closer to Fiji than to the Marshalls.

Is that, like, some kind of Hawaiian?
(Oh, Precious Lord, help me please.) I'm not familiar enough with Hawaii and its culture to know how many kinds of Hawaiian there are, but... No. Sam is not "some kind of Hawaiian." He is some kind of Marshallese. There are similarities in appearance, I guess, to Hawaiians, Samoans, and other Pacific Islanders, and they are all located in the Pacific, but Sam is (flippin') Marshallese. It's really not that hard, it's just unfamiliar to you. Let's attack it from this direction... If you were born in Japan, and your parents were of Japanese ancestry, you would be called Japanese... Yes? So, it's the same thing.

Wait, I don't want to cause any confusion... Sam is not Japanese.

The Marshall Islands are in/a part of Guam, right?
No. Guam is a separate place... In anticipation of your next question, I'd like to add that the Philippines are also a separate place. And, as previously established (I hope), Samoa is a separate place. The RMI is actually closer to being part of Micronesia than it is to being part of Guam, but it is its own country.

I'm really not irritated, and I hope I'm not coming off as offensive- I'm just having a little fun with you. I know lots of people have never heard of the Marshall Islands, and have no idea where they are, so I expect questions and I honestly don't mind (as long as you don't get all obnoxious on me).

So, here's the deal:
Sam was born in the Marshall Islands. His birth family is Marshallese. He is Marshallese (specifically, he is from Majuro, the capital atoll (island) in the Ratak chain of the Marshall Islands. The pop. in Majuro is approx. 25,000 and the island is less than 5 square miles).

To recap: He is from the Marshall Islands and he is Marshallese. He is a Pacific Islander. He is not Samoan, Hawaiian, Filipino, or Guamanian.

And yes, by the way, he is an American.

He is also gorgeous. He is loved. He is my precious, gift from God. My sweetie-pie. My beautiful little lamb.

Not to be a total smart*$$, but this... is a map. I'm told these are widely available on that World Wide Web thing, and they show you the locations of places. They are amazingly helpful little things. Sometimes they are flat, and sometimes they can even be round. The round ones are called Orbs, I believe. Or maybe Globs... Something like that.