Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review! "Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea"

As soon as I saw this title, I knew it would be one of my all-time favorites, a hunch immediately confirmed as I began reading. Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea (link is to the Kindle version I downloaded) is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read, and in my opinion, pretty well-written and well-researched—no small feat when dealing with North Korea!

I think that one of the main reasons I love reading and travel are for the chance to learn how others live. This book provided amazing arm-chair travel to a closed country and told the poignant stories of several different families who have now defected to South Korea or China.

Two of many, many things that I learned:

1)      This is the first time I’ve heard any North Korean “talk”. As interested as I’ve always been in the country, it had been one faceless mass of suffering humanity… Until now! The peoples’ ingenuity and resourcefulness in the face of so many challenges made me see them in a whole new light. They are human, like you and me.

2)      My mother always said, “Unless you are content being single, you will not be content married.” I think other situations could be filled in the blanks of this same phrase. I found it intriguing how the very same individuals who had many social or emotional or identity issues in North Korea were followed by the very same problems OUTside North Korea. In the same way, those who were content under the NK regime are still content in their new homes with new challenges.

It was pretty shocking to read to what extent NK's “Great Leaders” set themselves up as god to the people, even being referred to in the Korean word for "god". Although devastating to the people still trapped, it was heartening to read that just enough cracks have appeared in recent years in the “bubble” that is North Korea that the brainwashing tactics aren’t as effective as they were back in the first few decades of this staunchly communist country. Author Barbara Demick states that the people now clearly realize that their government is the source of all their woes, but it's an as yet unspoken understanding.

I could have devoured the whole book in just a few sessions but usually only had 10 or 15 minute snippets while feeding the baby or waiting for her to fall asleep. So glad for my Kindle here in Bolivia! :)  


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Family Pictures

These pictures, made by my dad when they visited, are still some of our best so far, even with all of Cochabamba hanging out around us. :)

While my family was here in January, we had the second of two court interviews with court staff (mainly the psychologist) for our adoption. I had to pick up a document for Casa de Amor downtown on the main plaza so promised the boys they could feed the pigeons. 

The Beaty Family!


Sophia attracted a crowd, as usual

 Getting some help from Dad :)

With our baby!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Triathlon Day!!

Last summer, while getting to know Jake’s state of Washington, an unexpected SUPER fun event was watching him participate in Chelan’s annual triathlon. (I blogged about it towards the end of this post.)

Ever since then I’ve waited with anticipation for the next race, and only FOUR days ago, we learned that would be TODAY! Jake just recently discovered a Cochabamba triathlon club after an internet search and lo and behold, found out that today there would be a big (for here) race for a wide range of ages. He doesn't have his best gear here in Bolivia: water wetsuit, road bike, etc., but was up for a challenge.

It was interesting for me to try to plan for what we thought would be an early morning race and then church with our whole crew because of several unknowns: the weather (some mornings it DUMPS rain), Jake’s race time (we’re in Bolivia, after all!), and little Miss Sophia, of course. When will she wake/want to nurse?

This morning at 6:30, Jake took off on his bike for the staging grounds, next door to our city’s soccer stadium. He messaged me several times and called several times with updates and to request various things, such as asking me to print out his race number and that of a new friend (and don’t forget a safety pin!). I could hear the excitement in his voice!

The boys with Daddy after the race
While serving the boys their breakfast (my mom’s Baked Oatmeal, the best recipe I've ever used), I learned that I wasn’t the only one to have bad dreams about missing the race. We were all pretty pumped! I let the boys wear the matching Bolivia shirts they’ve been dying to wear and also to see on Sophia (size 0!). TOO CUTE!!! But with the blue Nikes, she looked like a boy at first glance, so we added a red bow, and VOILA! Ready for the race!

The good news was that we didn't have to troop out of the house early or wake the baby. The bad news was that his race was going to begin approximately right when church did, so we swung by there first to leave a baby gift and then head to the stadium. Our taxi driver said he felt out of place "un-uniformed", ha!

Waiting for the race to begin! Michael played photographer. 

The swim portion (400 meters)... 

...the bike portion (10 km)

It was perfect weather! Not too hot, not too cool, and with a light cloud cover. 

Waiting for glimpses of Dad

Popsicle treat

Daddy nearing the end!! Run portion: 10 km

Sophia at her first race, loving all the excitement ;-)

Baby zonked out halfway through the race. She actually got a great morning nap even in all the commotion and woke up super cheery 1 1/2 hours later, yeah! 

 Some of the triathlon racers. Jake was the only gringo!

Unfortunately, the thinner oxygen at altitude was the hardest challenge to overcome. Jake didn't race nearly as well as he had hoped, but he maintained his good attitude and we hope it was an example to the boys who had full faith that he would be Number One! For my part, I consider being able to run and finish a triathlon to be some sort of super human feat. I'm always proud of Jake's commitment and aptitude for physical fitness!

We don't yet know if he placed high enough to represent Cochabamba at a national event in Tarija, Bolivia, next month.

We took a stroll through Sunday morning's pet market before catching a taxi home while Dad peddled back up the hill. All three of our boys LOVEEEE animals and would pack our apartment with them, no problem, if we (and our owner) would allow it.

Back home, post-triathlon, with a couple of his biggest fans :)
Last Sunday morning, Jake preached. This Sunday, he ran a triathlon he had only just heard about, at 8,400 feet above sea level. Next Sunday, we were supposed to be gone on our first big road trip with the family, but paperwork delays (and thus no documents) for Jake and the boys means we'll be home looking for more local options for family fun during the Carnival holiday. Never a dull moment with my man!! :)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thompson Family Visit!

Better late than never!!

Finally I'm posting the best pictures from my family's visit the second week of January. We were glad they were able to fly even with bad winter weather in the states! My parents and youngest sister Emma - now 15! - were able to come and meet their granddaughter and see the three boys as "ours" for the first time. (As for the other sisters: Heather will have vacation time later in the year, and it's hard for Sarah to travel. Also, her heart doesn't do well at the elevation.)

Meeting Sophia in the airport, yeah!!!

Family picture, Take 1 

Family picture, Take 2! 

Quality time with Grandma ("Nana")!

Showing off her new jeans

Sophia was quite pleased to take most of her naps this way!

Learning a new toy

Reading time!!

Happy times with Grandpa!

so sweet....

Absolutely love these next series of pictures!! All that's lacking is sound so that you can hear Sophia's delightful giggle.

Love how her face lights up!

My fav!
 Sophia also took her share of naps with Grandpa
And last but not least... Time with Aunt Emma!!

Couldn't get a good picture of this active group, but the point is, Tia Emma bought baseball caps for all the boys since they kept swiping hers!

We had some nice family meals at home (loved cooking in the kitchen with my dad!), but I also got a little break in meal prep for my crew. The boys did well at the restaurants and didn't get as bored as I imagined they would.
Emma at The Factory
The boys loved these mini hamburgers!
We're not sure when or where we'll see each other again, but were grateful for this opportunity in January!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sharing a Meal

We have managed to have three different evenings of visitors the past few weeks. It's fun to invite someone else in to our new big family to enjoy a meal! Since I have to make large amounts of food now anyway, it's not that much harder to add a couple or few plates.

Last night we spent some time with return CDA volunteer Kaley and her friend/first-time volunteer Ben! We're so grateful to all of Kaley's help babysitting our crew every week or two so that Jake and I can have a date night. She and Ben leave in just a couple of weeks though.

I made my mom's Oven Baked Chicken, a salad full of vegetables and homemade dressing, quinoa flan (from a box mix - easy), and two new recipes: Honey Yeast Rolls and garlic herb butter. (Highly recommend both! Can't wait to make them again - double batch next time!)


Monday, February 17, 2014

Baby Sophia, Four Months!

Our baby is getting so big!! Definitely developmentally, not so much physically, although I’m grateful that she consistently climbs the curve between the 25 and 50 percentile (for weight, length and weight, and head circumference).

When Sophia was 3 1/2 months old, Jake found it pretty funny to watch me go through developmental charts and declare how advanced she is, already doing things on the 4 and 5 month old lists. What a smart baby we have!!

 Loved seeing some skin on one of our few very hot days this past rainy, cool month
Shortly after turning three months, Sophia began having extended HAPPY periods of awake-but-not-eating times for the first time ever. During those times, lasting up to 20 or 30 minutes maybe 2 times a day, she’s pure delight as she interacts with whoever is around her…or is even happy alone, how about that!! Our very favorite is when she tries out new babbling and cooing sounds. You know she’s REALLY happy when she clasps her little fists together and “sings”! 

 Looked all over town for this floor gym. We've gotten a lot of mileage out of it! One of the boys will often lie beside her and play too, adding extra entertainment.
She can entertain herself better now that she can play with or chew on her hands, bring a toy on her play gym or seat closer to her face, and hang onto a rattle. The boys love getting her to do little things and she loves the attention!

 I think brother Samuel gets the best smiles and laughs out of her!

She has definitely discovered her hands!

 Daddy says this bib actually says "nasty", ha!

Even so, I’d say that “feisty” is still the best all-around word to describe our loud, spirited baby!
One of several attempts to get good pictures of our little "Laura" in her bonnet... 

About a month ago, I felt like I finally started to at least be able to "read" Sophia's signals better. What a RELIEF!! By recording her schedule religiously for 8 days right after she turned 3 months, I realized several things. She needs WAYYY more sleep than what she had been getting, but never peacefully put herself to sleep when tired as our Bolivian babies do (and do when out, in the car, on a noisy bus, in the busy Baby Home playroom, church, etc.). Turns out they weren't much help in preparing me for this whirlwind of a baby!

I also discovered what a brief period of awake time she can have between her night sleep and morning nap. I learned this just in time to be able to add subjects to the boy’s homeschool! The difficulty is the timing (different every day because she wakes at different times every day) and the length, varying from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Makes it a challenge to plan!

As much as I have longed for some sort of schedule or routine with her, now we have one with going to sleep and it means I must avoid leaving the house near a potential naptime. Generally speaking, naps (and bedtime) must take place in the same place and same way every time: firmly swaddled, in her crib, with her favorite blue pacifier! Church on Sunday morning has gotten a little harder because she can’t sleep as well or as long in the sling as she did at first. After two difficult Friday nights, she and I are not going back to Youth Group for a while, either. (Part of that is the challenge of keeping the three boys entertained, too, and still having some attention left for Jake and the youth—it’s like a three ring circus!)

And secondly, I insist as much as possible that she eat only every 3 hours. Many times she was so overly tired, I'd give in to letting her nurse, which was really just a snack, which made her MAD, which made me feel like a terrible mother for not having more milk immediately at the ready. Now I feel she's big enough to stick to 8 feeds max per day/night! Occasionally she’ll go 4 during the day if she takes a long nap, but sometimes she eats every 2 hours in the morning or evening.


As for nighttime, we’ve had 3 different versions the past few weeks, my least favorite being when she kept her 3 hour pattern throughout the night - for nearly 2 weeks! When I would go to bed at midnight and then be up for 30 minutes at 1, 4, and 7am….. Doesn’t make for a very restful night!! I was just glad that the milk was keeping up, thanks to fenugreek. Now she’s generally going 5 hours before she wakes to eat the first time at night. Besides that, no matter what her schedule, if her arms come free from the swaddle blanket or she needs her pacifier (anywhere from once a night to once every hour), I have to help her out. Good thing she sleeps an arm’s length away!!
Speaking of sleep….. The entire period between 3 and 4 months was very rough. How she resists “letting go”! Sometimes I can trace it to her possibly being too wound up or overstimulated, even from a bath in the evening when she’s already tired, something that supposedly relaxes babies. In any case, we’re in for a long round (to the tune of an hour or two) of nearly solid screaming where often nothing helps.

After some very long, trying nights a few weeks back, we bought some medicine for gas. Sometimes it seems to work, sometimes not. I’ve taken probiotics for two weeks but haven’t noticed a difference. Sometimes we use essential oils to help her digestion (like ginger) or for calming (lavender). More than once Jake has put a drop of lavender on his baby sling as he paces the floors with her! I’ve tried baby massage again, which quiets her for a few minutes, until she’s bored with it - or overly tired/stimulated? I’m currently off dairy to see if that helps anything. 

Jake and I have had some good discussions recently about how to better support each other during the hard hours, how to get all the housework done, proper attention for the boys, etc. Yesterday I told him that maybe this experience will make our future babies seem easy, in the same way Spanish seemed so easy for me after studying Russian, ha!

 Book reading time!!
I've just had to pull back once again to tune in as much as possible to my family's needs. Even though she's out of the newborn stage, I can't meet the expectations of rejoining the church music team just yet or being involved in long meetings at Casa de Amor, particularly because of how demanding she is when awake and because of still feeding her so frequently.
Overall, I think she and I have made great progress together this last month. There is nothing better than being able to respond to her needs, and nothing worse than not understanding what she needs!!

We found some Baby Mozart DVD copies! A handful of times when Sophia's been in a good mood, all the kids will enjoy helping her watch one, for usually just 10 or 15 minutes at a time. (A side benefit is the boys being drilled in English at the same time!) 
Baby's first trip (outside the womb) to the Coronilla, the infamous hill near the outdoor market/poor part of town where "my" group of street kids live. 

What happy faces when they saw Sophia's! They've begged to meet her since the week she was born. My boys declared these guys "very good" even with such beat up/cut up faces and bodies, I think just because they were so enthusiastic about seeing us. (The boys aren't pictured - they were busy the whole time meeting all the Coronilla dogs and new pups.) 

The boys were thrilled with the gift of a puppy! He went straight to live at Casa de Amor II!

Finally official!! Sophia's US passport and her "Consular Report of Birth Abroad" birth certificate.

*Little update: since writing the bulk of this post several days ago, we have had two great days and nights of good napping and almost no screaming!! It is SO WONDERFUL to have more sweet times with our baby and look forward to her happy/awake time. :)