Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The CRBA Saga

I figured it had been too long since we'd had a good "saga" post. The drive home from that birthday party that I mentioned? That could have been an entire post in itself. I left out all of the drama of Kennedy getting sick in the car on the way to the party. I neglected to mention the fact that as we're walking through the mall back to the car after picking her up, she threw up all over the floor...and continued to do so for about 50 feet until we reached the bathroom. Once we'd finally made it to the car and were on our way--in the middle of terrible traffic in the dark--she threw up again, all over herself (in spite of the fact that she was now armed with a plastic bag and gobs of paper towels). So I was trying to figure out where to drive while Eric was trying to clean her up in the backseat. Oh yeah, it was a saga alright.

The CRBA saga went on for so long, though. It really deserves it's own post.

Back in December, I mentioned that Eric had accidentally thrown away Reece's Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). This document is nearly as important as his passport. He's got a Korean birth certificate and an English translation of his Korean birth certificate, but when it comes to dealing with anything official in the States, they're going to need his CRBA. It basically acts as his birth certificate when registering for school, etc. It is also an important document to have here in Korea, because without it Reece can't get his Alien Registration Card (ARC). Which basically means he's still here as a tourist. Sweet.

Our trip home at Christmas was obviously contingent on the arrival of Reece's passport, but we also needed the CRBA so that we could apply for his ARC. (gotta love the acronyms!) Even if we didn't have the card, the woman at school who organizes all of our official Immigration paperwork said that we needed to at least have his ARC number to re-enter Korea. Since, we'd lost the CRBA, we were in a huge rush to get all of this done.

So, we wrote out the request for another, per the Dept. of State's website. Then, I went to the Embassy to have that letter notarized. (Seriously?!) Then, we paid extra to have it expedited. Of course. (The same guy who did all of our passport and CRBA paperwork at the Embassy notarized my letter, so that was embarrassing! Ha!) At this point, we'd paid more for the replacement than we paid for the original. We were now more than $200 into this thing and still didn't have anything to show for it!

Thankfully, because Reece wasn't 90 days old by the time we returned to Korea, we didn't have any problem traveling, but we still had this January 28th date looming. The CRBA still hadn't arrived. You can't call the Embassy here and talk to anyone; you have to make an appointment. They also don't communicate via email; you have to make an appointment. But, the fact is that once we'd sent this letter, the Embassy here in Seoul couldn't do anything. Now, it was up to the Dept of State, located on the East coast. Eric's only option at this point was to either stay up late to call once they'd opened or get up early to call.

So, for a couple of weeks, Eric stayed up until 11:00 pm our time to call. He was never able to speak to the person who was responsible for getting us the CRBA. It was an extremely frustrating time. He would call every night, and every night someone would say that the person he needed to speak with was "out of the office" or "busy." He left messages, and in the beginning, he would stay up even later, waiting for the guy to call back. But he never did.

As it was becoming increasingly clear that the CRBA was not going to arrive in time for Reece's 90 days, we started talking about and looking at the nearby "Immigration trips." We have many friends (not working for international schools!) that have had to make the trip to Japan just to deal with expiring visas. Since Eric knew that the idea of flying to Japan and back was not going to thrill me, he instead started looking at flying to Guam and spending the night before returning. (This "little" mistake was getting more and more costly.) That was sounding much better.

Unfortunately, this is when my genius kicked in. For whatever reason, it hadn't occurred to us that Reece's 90 day tourist visa started over when we returned from the States. As a matter of fact, it doesn't expire until right after we leave for the Philippines. Only God could have orchestrated that timing!

A couple of weeks ago, Eric was talking to one of the dad's at yet another birthday party when he picked up the kids. This man happened to work at the Embassy and so Eric brought up our dilemma. As I mentioned, the Embassy here doesn't have any control of the CRBA once the paperwork is taken care of, but he was willing to look into it for us. He made some calls and found that it was on track and it should be arriving soon. He said that while he doesn't really have any pull, if we run into any more snags, we should contact our State Senator because when they get involved, things start moving quickly. I think he must have more pull than he knows, though. Shortly after, Eric received an email informing us that the CRBA had arrived at the Embassy here in Seoul!

Reece's CRBA finally arrived at school last week. We don't have time to apply for his ARC before we leave this weekend because they have to take his passport, but hopefully things will be on track now. And hopefully, we won't have any problems at Immigration upon arrival back in Korea at the end of the week. A happy ending to yet another expat saga...and now I'm off to continue packing for the Philippines! We're so excited for warm weather and sandy beaches!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cade's 6th Birthday

Let me just give you some insight as to how this blogging thing goes lately...
Day 1: I turn on the computer. That's as far as I get.
Day 2: I turn on the computer. That's it.
Day 3: I turn on the computer and open Lightroom.
Day 4: I turn on the computer and put my memory card in. A few hours later I remember I'm supposed to be uploading pictures. Upload pictures.
Day 5: I turn on the computer.
Day 6: I turn on the computer and open Lightroom...I think you get the idea, and I'm wasting valuable time. It obviously takes me awhile to actually manage to sit long enough to edit pictures and write a blog post!

This was the year for Cade's birthday. Cade's 2nd birthday party was the last big party we threw before we left for Korea, and that was the last time that he had his own birthday party. At the time, we didn't know that it would be our last big party or that we would be moving in less than six months, and we remember it often.

Our first year here, we piggy-backed on a party with three other boys with birthdays in February to celebrate Cade. Heis still the only male staff kid in his class, so we've struggled with who we would invite if he were to have a party.

Last year, in preschool, the school was not very supportive of connecting parents or students outside of school, so we struggled with how to make those connections, and as a result, Cade didn't have a birthday party.

This year, Cade was excited to finally have a birthday party! I brought cupcakes to his class on Friday. I let the kids pick out cake mixes for their classroom cupcakes during the summer. Apparently, I was so thrown off by the fact that he had chosen blue cupcakes that I neglected to read the package. It clearly stated that it only made 12 cupcakes, and Cade has 15 kids in his class. So, these kids lucked out and got some small blue cupcakes stacked with chocolate frosting!

His birthday was on a Saturday, and we were able to celebrate at school on Friday afternoon, so after cupcakes at school, I rounded up three excited Kindergarten boys! Cade had decided that rather than having all of his classmates over to celebrate that he just wanted to have a two or three, so that he could have a sleepover. He was very careful about who he chose, too. When talking about the boys in his class, he kept saying things like, "oh, he's too crazy. he can't be around a baby." This kid!

Eventually, he decided on two, and we sent out the invites well in advance to ensure that they would be available. As it turns out, Kindergarten boys are not quite ready for a sleepover. One of the boys was willing to try it out, ensuring that we could call his mom if he needed to go home early, but the other (or maybe his mom?) wasn't up for it. Either way, we decided that rather than making anyone feel uncomfortable, we'd just have the boys picked up late--around 9:00--so it was the Kinder version of a sleepover, complete with movie and popcorn.

As it turned out, one of the boys would no longer be attending YISS after that day, and so he had the entire class over to his house the day before for a "play date." Eric and Kennedy took him over there after school, and the play date ran really late into the evening. They left around 7:30 (which I thought was really late!), and the kids hadn't even had dinner. This is one of the culture clashes between Koreans and Americans. Most Americans see value in sleep and early bedtimes for their young children, but Koreans don't really have this same value. So, I'm sure there were many kids at the play date for another hour or two, making our 9:00 end time not really seem that late in the scheme of things (it wasn't even a school night!). Oh well.

Eric took the boys home in a taxi while I took Kennedy and Reece home, since we couldn't fit all of us in our little car. Eric had a few Lego games in mind, but one of the boys wasn't really up for any games. He wasn't much of a negotiator, either. It's always interesting to have other people's kids in your house. It didn't take me long to switch from "fun, party mom" to "teacher mom" with this kid!

After they had built the new little sets that we'd gotten for the goody bags, they each made their own pizzas (per Cade's request!). It was clear that one of the boys had never made his own pizza. He struggled a bit with his crust to sauce ratio and ended up with a heavy, soggy pizza, but he ate it anyway.

After dinner and a little more Lego building, it was time for our classic birthday "cake"--brownies and ice cream. Then, Cade got to open his presents and soon they were settled down to watch The Lego Movie, complete with buttered stovetop popcorn. Eric and I were exhausted when 9:00 finally rolled around and dads arrived to pick up the boys!

On Saturday, Cade continued celebrating by opening his gifts on Facetime with family, seeing the school musical Mulan, Jr., and having dinner at his favorite Thai restaurant. It was a great weekend celebrating our 6 year old!

This weekend, we have already had another challenging birthday party excursion (remember this one?). We actually managed to make it there without too much trouble, though we were 20 minutes late and I did make a major traffic violation right in front of two police officers (picture the biggest city intersection you've ever seen and our little Kia driving right through it in the moment that traffic in all directions appeared to be stopped--actually you probably shouldn't picture it!). On the way back, Siri neglected to realize that even in the most remote spot in Seoul, you can be driving down the road with a highway on top of you and another road below you, so she kept telling us to turn onto roads that we could not access. Just when I was starting to think that we were never going to get home because we'd returned to the same intersection for the third time, we ended up in a place that I recognized, and we were able to get home!

Tonight, we're headed to the fancy dinner that one of our student's parents host every year. She's a senior this year, so this is the last year for it. The last couple of years, they have been inviting children, but Eric and I have enjoyed the evening out without them. This year, we'd arranged a babysitter, but unfortunately doctors discovered this week that his mom has a brain tumor(!), so he won't be able to babysit for us, obviously (they successfully removed the tumor, but they can use our prayers). We're going to attend as a family of five this year, so that should be interesting.

My original plan was to get all of my Christmas pictures posted this week, so that I could have those done before the next big round of pictures. This time next week, we will be packed and preparing to jet off to the Philippines early (early!) Sunday morning. I'm so excited for some warm weather and beach time, especially since it's only four hours away and a one hour time difference! Who needs daylight savings time when you can just travel to another country? (And Reece will have been in more countries in his first six months of life than Eric had been to in his first 20 years! #expatlife)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Reece at 4 Months

I can't believe another month has come and gone. Granted, February is a short one, but still. It seems each month goes by faster than the last. Probably because life with Reece is getting so much easier. The third month was pretty great, but the fourth month was even better! And I love that I was finally able to capture some of his personality for his pictures this month.

Reece is now smiling all.the.time. People thought he was alert and wide-eyed as a newborn, but now he's really taking it all in. Thankfully, that isn't interfering with his sleep yet. He still has that internal clock that says hey, I've been awake for an hour and a half...it's time to put me to bed! We're starting to stretch it to an hour and forty-five or even two hours, but usually he can only handle that in the mornings.

The kid is eating massive amounts, too, so I'm trying to work on getting him to stretch a little longer between feedings. Again, he does well with this in the mornings, but in the evening, he'd rather eat about every two hours. He typically starts playing with the bottle about halfway through, but as soon as you set it down, he realizes he's starving and gulps it down! He drinks three 6 ounce bottles and three 5 ounce bottles, and he still gets one or two ounces in the middle of the night most nights. We're working on getting rid of that feeding, as well, since he doesn't really seem hungry any more. I think it's just a habit. Strangely, in spite of the massive amounts he's eating, he hasn't grown a massive amount this month. He hasn't been weighed yet, but he's still in 3 month clothes, though 3-6 month clothes fit him better, he just doesn't have many of them.

You may be able to tell by the increase in blog posts that I am spending far less time pumping these days, as my goal is to be weaned from the pump by the time we go to Cebu in three weeks. That, and the fact that Reece is napping well these days, means that I have much more time to accomplish tasks during the day. It's so nice knowing that I can leave the house for more than four hours at a time, if I want. Of course, I still have loads of mom guilt knowing that Reece will be on 100% formula for our vacation and that he'll be on about 50% formula for the rest of his 5th month before the frozen milk is gone, but the guilt really won't get me very far in the long run. He's still a happy baby (now that we've found a Korean formula that doesn't make him cry when he poops.).

He still is not on a reliable "schedule," so I can't necessarily predict what time he's going to wake up or when naps will be from day to day, but that's probably best with him being the third. He doesn't expect to be in his crib napping at 9:00 and 1:00 every day, which makes leaving the house to do what needs to be done easier. Thankfully, he will still nap in the Moby, Bjorn, and Ergo (ridiculous that we have 3 carriers!), though he won't fall asleep in our arms and rarely when we're even in the room! He's reliably taking three 1 1/2-2 hour naps, and he's down for the night by 7:30, usually getting up between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning.

A month ago, Reece was beginning to reach out and bat at or grab the toys that hang from the activity gym. This month, he's been grabbing them and hanging onto them, but he can't get them into his mouth, of course. About a week ago, he finally started grabbing toys that we put within his reach, and he's now able to get them into his mouth. It's not smooth yet, but he's working hard on it. Unfortunately, he can't stay independently entertained this way for long because he's always dropping the toys, and he lets me know about it! He's not happy to lay on the floor without some form of entertainment any longer. Eric informed me the other day that he'd read that a baby this young is not capable of manipulation, but I swear he knows that if he lets out a cry, I will come over, and then he's all smiles! It's okay with me.

He is a very happy boy most of the time, and we're so grateful for that! I have friends with babies the same age; one seems to cry every time they leave the house whether she's in a carrier, a stroller, or a car seat, and the other one seems to cry for no reason at all at unpredictable times and for long periods of time. We're so happy to not have those problems! Our biggest problem these days is that we never know when or what is going to make him laugh! The other night, he was in the car on the way home and kept laughing at Kennedy for no reason at all, but we get him home and try all of the things we've gotten to work before and he wouldn't let out a single one. That kid! We love him!
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