Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Precious Paper...shipping the Dossier off!


I feel like I just sent my child off to camp! 


I have been working on this stack of papers since September!  I have been guarding it from the children, the dog, dust, and anything else that it may come into contact with.  I have checked and rechecked the dates, the number of copies, and the signatures over and over again.  Today I checked them for the final time and took them off to UPS.

I set them on the scale and the worker actually had to measure how high the pile of paperwork was before finding a box to fit it all!  I watched her tape it shut and affix the address label.  I checked one more time that it was the correct address and paid to have it shipped to my agency.

I actually did feel like I should have hugged the paperwork or waved good bye to send it on it's way.  Not because I am glad to have it out of the house (even though I am over joyed!), but because that pile of paperwork will determine our timeline for bringing our daughter home and if in fact we can bring her home or not!  That paperwork is worth so much more then it cost to ship it. (and it wasn't pennies!!)  It is very precious paperwork- so do me a favor and say a little prayer that it gets to the correct person on the correct day at the correct time.  When I hear it has arrived, that is when I will breath a sigh of relief!!!  One more step completed on our journey!
The completed dossier!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Good Letter from Homeland Security!

After getting the dreaded pink letter that we were missing words in our home study, yesterday we received a letter saying we have been approved to adopt! Woohoo!  

What does this mean?  It means that we now have all the paperwork needed to adopt from Uganda.  (At least I hope we have it all!  I have to do another check to be sure!). Sometimes people wait months to get this!  We are so blessed to have it before the holidays are here!

What's the next step? We now wait to get a referral.  When a child becomes available for adoption who fits with our family we will be notified and then there will be a full investigation done on the child. They look into the child's background and family and try to make 100% certain that he or she can not be cared for by relatives.

So now we wait..Adoption is all about patience.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Letters from Homeland Security


Adopting is stressful.  Just when you think you have a handle on everything and are ahead of the paperwork you receive a four page letter to tell you otherwise. 

We were warned this could happen.  Apparently, the offices of the government can change their requirements whenever they want to and they do not post these changes anywhere.  The way a person finds out about these changes is by submitting the paperwork and then getting a letter in the mail to tell you of all of the changes and until you meet those changes your application can not be processed!  Our letter was four pages long and on pink paper.  Maybe the pink was meant to soften the blow...  It really just made me want to puke.

We are lucky though.  The elements missing are just words in our home study.  I don't have to search out documents or track down people.  My home study agency just has to add more words.  Let's say a little prayer that they are not bogged down and can make the changes quickly and get the appropriate papers delivered as soon as possible!

This is the fifth letter I have received from Homeland Security in the past week!  I was so excited to get the other four.  (if neighbors saw our mail with that return address they may wonder what was going on over here! bet you didn't know that foreign adoption approval comes from Homeland Security!)  I'm not so excited today.

So all you future adoptive families who will use our home study agency or our placing agency - you are welcome because now you will not get a pink colored letter that will make you want to puke and make you wonder if you still are able to go in and get fingerprinted next week because it takes time to get these appointments and they only give you one specific day and time to do it.  You will not add on a month of waiting time with your documents like we just have!  You are welcome!

Ugh!!!!

Friday, November 6, 2015

In the Meantime...

Working on paperwork for the dossier!
Between activities for the kids, meetings for the home study, getting papers signed for the adoption, gathering papers to renew our foster care license, planning birthday parties for the kids, working, and keeping house, we also accepted a six year old girl and then a three year old girl into our home for a bit!

It has been awhile since we have had a foster child for more then a weekend of respite.  I had forgotten some of what it was like, but it comes back pretty fast!  I love that the kids are trying to speak Spanish again!  With Jackson having a Spanish class it helps with some of the vocabulary I don't remember.  Although, I did tell him that he needed to tell his teacher he needed more useful everyday language like "turn off the light" or "throw your toilet paper in the toilet and not in the trash can" and forget about what the word for pencil sharpener is! (although I think that is my favorite word to say in Spanish!)  It is funny that all of us seem to be talking to the poor dog in Spanish too!  I don't know why we do that, but it seems to happen!  He looks confused sometimes, but with each new toddler he forgives us because he knows he can grab treats from them!

So today, while bringing the three year old with me, who is the cutest, smartest little thing ever, I was finally able to deliver our I-600A form to UPS where it will be sent with other documents to USCIS.  This is the part where our government decides if we are good candidates to adopt.  Once they approve us, we will have to be fingerprinted to be sure one last time that we are not criminals.  We will then get one more form which we need to include in the dossier.  I am crossing my fingers that once we get this form I will have all of the paperwork needed to turn everything in for our dossier!

We haven't gotten a referral yet, but I am confident it is because it just isn't the right time.  I was really anxious to be matched when we first signed up, but this way is nice too because I don't feel all of the anxiety that I have a little one waiting for me to bring her home and I am waiting on stupid paperwork!  It seems our paperwork will all be ready to go as soon as she is!

As we go into the weekend we will have a full house!  Tonight we will do respite for a 5 and 2 year old so add that to our three and our foster daughter who is three that we have now.  Should be fun! :)  I also have a stack of papers to notarize and then organize.  Baby steps...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Get Ready for the Home Study!

Tonight we have our second home study meeting. 

What does this mean exactly?  It means I act like a maniac cleaning all day long and make sure everything is in its place and that I have paperwork ready to hand over!

The first visit was a week ago and I spent the day cleaning as well only to discover that we sat at the table for two hours!  I guess they did see our bathroom when they used it so good thing that was taken care of!

We spent that time just getting to know each other.  What lead us to adoption, signing papers, asking questions, what the process is like, and what they brought to the table as well.  We have two social workers coming because one is new so the other is supervising.   Usually for a home study you would just work with one social worker.

Our meeting tonight will be a bit different.  They will ask us more questions about goals and ourselves and question the kids.  Oh man... I tried asking the kids questions that I thought they may ask and boy do I have some sarcastic children who think they are super funny!  Wonder where that comes from!?  The children will give the social workers a tour of our house and who knows what will come out of their lovely mouths!  I have been told that Ry and I will not be involved in any of this so there will be no explaining or expanding on what they say.  Say a prayer for us! :)

I haven't written in awhile, but fall is just so busy!  That doesn't mean I haven't been collecting paperwork and getting more information about things.  My silence just means there is really nothing new to tell about the adoption and I am too busy with the other three children!  They are in football, flag football, soccer, piano, choir, and drums!  Some nights we don't get to sit down all together as a family to eat which is our habit so when we hit November I will be happy for the slow down!

As I was thinking about all of the awesome and welcomed chaos in our lives I'm sure that people ask why do we do this to ourselves?  Why add another child now?  I actually found this written on someone's page the other day and felt it fitting:  "Birthing or adopting children is almost never logical. As my sweet friend Sarah says, "There is always a better time." A time when we have more money, more time, less kids in the house, older kids...there is always a much more logical scenario I can dream up to do anything."

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Baby Steps...

Ryan always teases me because he says I move on "Amy Time".  I want things done when I want them done and it is usually at lightning speed!  But really, who doesn't want things accomplished in their time frame?

So dealing with adoption timelines are difficult for me- to say the least.  Maybe that is why they give you lists of paperwork that have to be signed multiple times and notarized.  It gives you something to do while you wait.

I really can't complain about waiting on things at this point in the game though.  (It's only been a week!)  I'm just preparing for the future months!  We were assigned a case worker after about 3 days of the agency receiving our application and deposit.  I'm excited about this because she will be working with us to complete our home study.  This is really what can take a huge bulk of time.  I have the check list in hand of what she will need to complete the paperwork so when we meet face to face for the first time, my hope is to hand it all over to her!

I'm also excited about the case worker herself.  Although I have not spoken to her, I know that she spent the summer in Uganda so she will be so very helpful to us when making our plans to travel to get our daughter!  Sometimes it's those small pieces of the puzzle that you never expected to fit or were looking for that are the pivotal pieces!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Failed!

I didn't think at this stage in life I would have to be reading material and taking tests on it.  I also didn't think that my past strategies in taking tests would no longer work, but I learned the hard way today!  I actually failed a test!

As part of our adoption process we have to take some courses and get credit hours.  We need to accumulate a certain number of hours on certain topics.  The topics we are focusing on are all related to international adoption.  These topics are not new for us.  We had to take classes the first time we adopted and have to take classes each year to renew our foster care license.

The courses we are doing are online.  They have the text and audio with slides.  I can read much faster then the people speak so I thought I would zoom through it, jot some notes down, and then take the exam.

Apparently, if you do not spend enough time online in the course you can not pass the course material!  I had all of the answers right but because I spent 17 minutes on the material that they suggested should take 90 minutes, they wouldn't let me pass!

Lesson learned!  Is it bad that I am trying to beat the system right now and taking a course at this exact moment?  If it is in an open window it will run the time up so hopefully I can pass!

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Best Call of the Day

I never thought I would feel giddy when getting a call from the Sherriff's Department!

Today I had to go to the Sherriff's department and ask them to write up a letter on behalf of Ryan and myself stating that we didn't have a record in our county and there were no outstanding charges against us.  I had to have him copy our licenses and wait for them to call after they typed the letters and had them notarized.

He called me to come pick up the letters on the same day!!  He didn't make me sit and stew and wait for a week!! Do you know how good it feels to cross just one more thing off of my list?  Thank you Sherriff's Department!!

Now to tackle the 40 other items on the list!!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ready... Set... Go!!!

We submitted our preliminary application and found out the same night that we were accepted into the Uganda Guardianship program!  That was a super fast turn around! 

The agency sent me a lot of paperwork over email to fill in and have notarized so I started working on that and it will be sent out today!  I'm pretty proud of myself for only taking two days to get things done!  It would have been done yesterday, but Ryan was out of town.

Now that we have been accepted, the next step is..... more paperwork!  I have partnered with an agency to just do our home study since our placing agency is out of state.  I have filled in the paperwork they sent me as well and hopefully we will be assigned a case worker sooner rather then later.  Once our caseworker is assigned we will have meetings and she will take close to eight weeks to write her report.  I am crossing my fingers that it is sooner since we have had two home studies done in the past (one for our first adoption and one for foster care) so all of the background information and community information is already in there which will require less work on the social worker's part.

My placing agency seems pretty proactive and sent me a two page list of things I have to include in the dossier, which is the packet of paperwork that is sent to Uganda.  Things like referrals, marriage licenses, birth certificates, financial statements, passport copies, background checks, and employment letters are included on that list and that isn't even touching the surface of it all! 

Last night as I looked things over and began to read about people's suggestions in how to prepare for what's to come I began to feel a bit overwhelmed.  I had not forgotten that the paperwork was daunting, but I think you forget the other feelings that come along with it.  The feelings I remember are the ones associated with the good things.  They all out weighed anything negative.  I remember the sheer relief of getting our PGN appointment date and knowing it wouldn't be long before she was ours forever. Each time I remember the first time I saw her and the feeling I had I have to hold in the tears.  It was pure joy!  There is nothing like it.  Other adoptive parents may understand what I mean.

So I will try to hold on to the memory of the joy and remember that all will come together in the time it is supposed to.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Just the Beginning..

I know some may think we are crazy.
They would be right.
We are at a point in our family life that things are feeling pretty easy peasy. 

We have three great children who are older and able to do things on their own.  They sleep all night.  They can make their own lunch for school.  We can sleep in on rare Saturdays and they can entertain themselves.  We even have one who is old enough to babysit!

So why rock the boat?

Because that is what we are supposed to do. 

We are meant to add more children to our family so we are adopting again!  We are beyond excited, but we are also trying to keep it in check.  This is just the start of a long and sometimes frustrating road.  We've been down a similar path with adopting from Guatemala so we are well aware that we need to keep an open mind and be ready to give a lot of control over to strangers half way around the world.  We know that the stack of paperwork will be the equivalent to a forest of trees.  But we also know that at the end of it all, the bumps and bruises of the journey will be long forgotten and the only thing we will be focused on will be our arms around our child!

We are just at the very beginning.  Today I filled in a preliminary application and sent it in to the agency we chose to facilitate our adoption.  It takes a minute to get to even this very beginning step. 

Here is what you need to do if you are thinking about adoption:
Ask yourself questions:
  • Why do I want to adopt
  • What age range would I prefer
  • What gender
  • What ethnicities am I open to
  • What medical needs am I open to
The answers to these questions may tell you if you would be better matched to chose International or Domestic Adoption.  If you find yourself thinking International you will have to start looking at countries and look at their requirements.  For example, we would not qualify to adopt from Nepal because we already have more then one child in our home.  We would qualify for China, but someone with a BMI of over 40 would not.  Once you decide on a country or domestic adoption then you have to decide on an agency.

There are many, many, many agencies out there.  The key to picking one is to start researching and ask questions.  Stalk facebook pages, look up reviews, call agencies and speak with them, ask for references and contact them all, join adoption forum groups.  Not one agency will fit all people.  When you find the right agency for you, you will know.  You are going to be relying on these people for a long time for something very precious so make sure you like them!

Once you find that agency the paperwork begins!  You will be required to fill in a preliminary application.  Our recent application was 7 pages long.  With that application you will also send in a payment to show you mean business.  Once you hit this step you are ready to MOVE, but things don't move.  They take time....

I'll tell you more when we take the next step!

We are Expecting!!


Our fourth child is waiting in Uganda, Africa!

We are so excited to announce that we will be adopting again!  This time our daughter will come from Uganda.  Her future siblings are thrilled!  Lola is ready to wear matching outfits and Jackson is ready to switch rooms!  Tyce is a little bummed not to have a younger boy to beat up on, but I'm sure he will figure something out....

I'm sure you have some questions so here is our FAQ section:

  • What???!!!
    • see above
  • You're crazy!
    • Not really a questions, but yup that about sums it up! :)
  • Why Uganda?
    • Uganda has roughly 2.4 million orphans.  AIDS and poverty has taken its toll on the population.  There is a huge need for these children to have forever homes.  The wait time for a referral is relatively short when looking at International adoption, the country is beautiful, the timeline to complete everything is less then most countries, and you do not have to live in the country for months on end.
  • Why don't you adopt from Guatemala again?
    • Guatemala adoptions remain closed to outside countries.  In fact, we were lucky to get Lola home when we did!  Adoptions shut down very soon after she was home!
  • Are you adopting a baby?
    • No.  I am too old for a baby!  Our youngest is 7 so we have requested that our child be 3-6 years old at the time of referral.  We want to stick with the same birth order which is why we are not going older then 6.
  • Boy or Girl?
    • We are requesting a girl.  It makes sense with the children we have and through fostering so many children we have found that a girl works best in our household.
  • Aren't you scared to adopt an older child?
    • I'm scared of what our life would be missing if we didn't adopt an older child.  After having foster kids, we have seen a lot and we know what we can handle and what we would prefer not to handle.  We filled in forms about what we were willing to accept much differently this time around as compared to the first time we adopted!
  • How long will it take?
    • I have asked so many different agencies this question so many times and there is never a concrete answer.  We are hoping the total process from start (sending in our initial application) to finish (bringing our daughter home) will be 12 months.  Of course I am hoping and praying for sooner, but I'm trying to prepare myself for that timeframe.  With Lola it took 11 months from start to finish.  If we were adopting from Ethiopia it would take about 2 1/2 years.  If we were adopting from Vietnam it would be closer to 3 years.  Other countries could be closer to four years.  This all depends on how flexible you are in accepting a child.  If you want a healthy infant, the wait is longer then for a teenager.
  • How much does it cost?
    • That is the wrong question.  The question should be how much richer will our life be with a new child in it and that answer is Priceless!  The fees we pay are legal and travel fees to facilitate the process.  We are not buying a child.
  • When will you know who she is?
    • If there is a child that would fit our family we may know sooner rather then later.  We will have to do what is a called a Home Study.  This will be our third one!  We had one done when we adopted Lola and then another one done when we became licensed to do foster care.  A home study is an intensive look into your life.  It is a very long report that tells someone from the outside all about you and life around you.  It can take about two months to complete.  It could be at that time that we are referred to a child or it could be after we complete the paperwork for the dossier.  The dossier is more paperwork that the country requires in order to adopt.  Believe me, when we know, we will let people know!
If you have more questions please let me know!  I love adoption and would be happy to share!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Guess What!???


Can you guess what this means??

The "Itch"

How many of you out there have ever felt the "itch"? 
There really is only one way to cure it.  Unfortunately it is a way bigger commitment then just going to buy some cream for a normal itch.  The "itch" I am talking about is the itch to add more children to your family!  I found the blog below which I wrote back in 2013 but never published.  Funny how after so much time the "itch" still hasn't gone away!!

I am a huge researcher and love to make lists so when I asked myself if we were done adding kids I went to the books and the computer to find an answer.  Yes, I have looked at all of the lists online stating how you know you are done having children.  Most of them are compiled of reasons that would cause me to say "Yes!  I am done with babies!":
  1. You are done changing diapers
  2. You value your sleep and can't do without it
  3. You got rid of all of your baby stuff
  4. You don't want to be pregnant again
  5. You just know you are done
But that list doesn't really apply to what I had in mind in how to expand our family.

After we had Jackson people always asked when we were going to have more kids.  After awhile that became the most hurtful question anyone could ask me and thankfully people stopped asking.  Infertility is not fun. 

There is a happy ending in that we adopted the perfect child and then had a surprise miracle child to top it all off!  Funny how after we had Tyce people never asked when or if we are going to have more children.  I think it is because people automatically assume that pregnancy is the way to build a family so they didn't dare ask. (and to be fair, I kind of had my hands full with two little ones 12 months apart!)

Four years ago when the little ones were 1 and 2 years old we were talking very seriously about adopting again.  You see for us getting pregnant again really wasn't the way we wanted to go to expand our family.  Conceiving and pregnancy is a scary thing for the both of us and we didn't want to go through that again. But more then that, there are so many ways to grow your family and adoption has been such a blessing for us that there was no question about wanting to do it again.

I did all of the research with agencies and countries and signed up for all of the newsletters.  I talked with other parents who had adopted from my country of choice since Guatemala had shut down their doors to international adoption.  I was all set to go and then 2008 happened.  What a mess!  Unfortunately, adopting takes some money and international adoption takes even more!

We decided to sit on it and wait.  That is when refugee foster care came into play.  We began to expand our family through foster care.  It was a huge blessing and we have loved every minute, but each time a child moves on it is difficult and selfishly I want to keep most of the kids that pass through our doors!  So the question of how do we know if our family is complete comes to mind yet again!

I wish there was a list or a how to or book or something that I could refer to that would point me in the right direction!  My most often "go to" doesn't always answer my questions in my expected time frame or maybe God is answering my questions and I just need to listen harder!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Girls Weekend Traverse City

My Oma turned 90 years old back in January of 2013!  When you are 90 there really isn't much that you want other then time with loved ones. (that is what she says anyways!)  So for her birthday my mom, two sisters, and I went on a weekend getaway to Traverse City, Michigan.

We did not go in January, (thank goodness! although I'm sure it is pretty at that time of year too, but more difficult to walk around in the snow and ice) but waited until mid-May when the weather was nice to venture there.  Our first stop of course was to go shopping.  Downtown Traverse City was very picturesque with blooming trees along the main street.  The quaint buildings contained specialty food and beverages, boutiques, and unique treasures!  I have only been shopping there one other time, but it is worth the time to go there!  I love going into the Cherry Republic for free samples of all things cherry and Haystacks which has super cute clothes at surprisingly good prices! (many times when you are in smaller towns the boutique prices are outrageous, but I found a super cute dress there for a great price!) 

There really is just one main street where you will find the shops.  There are a few side streets with some shops worth visiting, but we stuck to the main street during our time there.  Parking is easy to find and close to all the action, which was a big plus for our group!  There are also plenty of benches to rest on and places to step inside for bites to eat.

After shopping and a brief rest time in our hotel, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, which has fabulous views, a fun pool, and nice rooms, we journeyed to Sutton's Bay.  We went specifically to have dinner at Martha's.  My mom had seen it written up somewhere as a very good place to eat.  It is a small little home converted into a restaurant so there aren't many tables.  I was glad we made reservations because it filled right up!  The food was fantastic, but the service wasn't as good as I had hoped.  We waited a long time for a lot of things.  What I liked the best about the dinner was that Oma began telling us stories of when she was younger.  I learned a lot about her that I had never known before!  It is times like these that really make a little getaway more then just a little getaway!

The next morning we all received spa treatments or nail treatments at the hotel.  (I just don't understand why upscale places do not offer all of the designs and glitter on nails that the cheap shops down the road do!)  Again, this was a great time of talking with Oma while we were pampered!

Our last stop before heading home was of course more shopping.  We went into Sutton's Bay again and hit the galleries and shops they have.  There are many wineries around that area that are worth stopping and sampling as well!  My favorite shop there has to be Bayside Gallery which is very overwhelming, but fun!

It is always an odd feeling to think of my oma not as Oma, but as a young woman with a young family.  I love hearing her stories and getting a better idea of who she really is!  I am truly blessed to be able to spend quality time with her and it was nice to do so in such a nice setting!


Two down only one more to go...

I think at least one of our children should aspire to be an orthodontist!  Holy hardware! 

First it was Jackson getting an expander on the top, then one on the bottom, and finally braces on the top!  It makes a HUGE difference with his jaw and teeth!  Wow!

Now it is Lola's turn.  I originally brought her in to see the orthodontist because she had one tooth that was pointy and another tooth coming in right in front of it.  It was determined that her pointy tooth was an extra tooth (supernumerary tooth) which after some research I found many children from Guatemala have supernumerary teeth.

She had this pulled and it was a pretty easy procedure, but had the grossest sound I have ever heard!  She handled it like a champ and put it under her pillow for an extra prize from the tooth fairy.

For those of you looking forward to your visit with the orthodontist here are the steps we took that seem pretty universal now adays.

  1. Initial consult:  This was free and our orthodontist, Dr. Armbrecht, sat down with Lola and I after looking at her teeth and x-rays from our dentist.  He showed her models of teeth and pictures on a television screen of what he would do.
  2. First Appointment:  Lola went in nervous, but the Orthodontics Assistant that she and Jackson both initially saw was phenomenal!  It was her job to take pictures of Lola's teeth from the outside as well as the inside.  She also made a mold of Lola's teeth and finally put in spacers.  What made her so great was that she talked to Lola and told her exactly what she was going to do and involved her in each step.  Lola helped to mix the mold and was able to handle each thing that would be used.  She LOVED it and was smiling the entire time!
  3. A week later we went in and they took out Lola's spacers and fit some rings around her back teeth.  While the rings were in they made another impression of her teeth and then put the spacers back in.
  4. A week after that Lola had the actual expander put in her upper jaw.  This isn't too uncomfortable depending on the kid.  Jackson said he couldn't eat anything for about two days where Lola was fine to dive right in! To be safe, a little Tylenol may be a good plan before the expander is put in.
  5. We turned the expander depending on what we were instructed.  (they give you a little key like apparatus that you stick in a small hole in the middle front of the expander - you put the key in and push it toward the back of the mouth - that isn't always pleasant) After a certain point you will be told to stop turning it.
  6. Most likely a bottom expander will be put in after spacers and molds as explained above and you will have to turn that as well.  The bottom expander had a much less frequent turning schedule.
  7. When all the turning is done the expanders will stay in for an extended amount of time.
  8. Braces were put on the front teeth of both of my children and at some point the expanders were removed.
  9. The kids are given retainers which they won't wear!!
Good Luck!

Guatemala Follow-up

 

Better late then never!  It took awhile to get my hands on this video!

Above is a video that was taken at our church, Orchard Hill Reformed, to present to our congregation about our time in Guatemala.  If you want to read about Jackson and my time there in 2013 go here.  I wanted to share it with all of you because I am so proud of the insights Jackson had about the trip!  Oh and don't mind me in the video!  Do I really sound like that???

New England Vacation - Oh the Horror!!

Take note here moms because I am going to let you learn from my misfortune in the hopes that I can spare you the horrific images replaying in front of my closed eyes and the stench that has yet to leave my nostrils!

If you allow your children to pick up any shells or treasures that they find on the beach, first, bring a small bucket or bag.  Do not give them a huge container to collect things in.  A large container says fill me to the brim with whatever you can find!  These items may not even include real treasure.  They just put things in the bag to fill it!

Second, do not allow this bucket or bag into your car unless you have fully inspected each treasure.  Think of it as Halloween and you must look at each piece of candy to be sure it is safe.  You never know the kind of treasures children are able to find.  When you have the treasure at home it is too late.

I allowed the children to gather as much and whatever they wanted in large containers.  We made it as far as the parking lot in the marina before we knew we had to downsize.  The bags were so full and heavy that the kids couldn't carry them.  That was the positive part.  They smelled so bad my eyes were watering!


After inspecting the bags we found many dead creatures like horseshoe crabs that were missing most or all of their insides, but they hadn't been dead long enough.  The smell that was released as Ryan and I pulled them out of the bag was enough to make a person pass out!

Stay with me.. It gets better...

After consolidating the treasures of the sea, we brought them back home and put them outside.  The smell still lingered so we wanted them to air out outside of the bags.  Each time the slider was opened to the patio the smell shot into the house like a bullet ripping through our noses.  It was still intense!  The house began to smell and I couldn't figure out why the smell was getting worse when everything was outside, until I found the bag that all the treasure and dead animals had been in under the coach!  Ugh!

I thought we were rid of the stench until I again went outside to pack up the shells.  The smell was so strong, but there was a horseshoe crab that a child had smuggled in on the table so I believed that was the culprit.  I was wrong.

As I was picking up a shell to put it in a new clean bag, part of it's fleshy insides came out as I picked it up!  I screamed when I saw the thousands of maggots pulsating on it.  I should have kept my mouth closed because as soon as I screamed the aroma from the rotting flesh filled every orifice and I staggered backwards!

The kids came running when they heard me.  Lola said, "Oh gross!"  Tyce said, "Oh cool!  Can I touch it?"

I am still scrubbing my hands because I think I can still smell that thing on me and I can still see those worm like maggots squirming around on the slippery innards of the shell.  It was like a scene out of a horror film.  Learn from me!  Check the inside of all of the treasures your children bring home!!

New England Vacation - Whales

Toward the end of the week we drove into Hyannis and boarded the Whale Watcher.  I purposefully picked different ports of departure each time we went on a boat so we could explore different towns.  We were very happy we chose this particular boat to take out to see whales!

It takes awhile to get out to where the whales are, but once we were out there, we were not disappointed!  Ryan and I have been whale watching before and we just saw the whales come up for air and that was about it.  There were none of the cool views of the tail or of the whale jumping out of the water.  It was a bit boring and cold!


This trip, however, couldn't have gotten any better!  The first sign of a whale was a calf breeching and mom following suit!  They both jumped out of the water landing on their backs right near the boat!  We watched as the calf and its mom played in the waves and saw more of the whale then ever!  Other whales joined in too!  At one point the baby even went right up to the boat and rolled on its side with its eye open and looked at us! It was the coolest thing!

While we watched the whales the naturalist predicted what the whale would do next and where we may see them come up again.  He did an excellent job of telling us bits of information about the whale and directing everyone where to look!  I was very impressed and we all had an awe inspiring time watching those majestic animals!

A few words of advice if you go whale watching.  
Dress warmly.  It will be at least 10 degrees colder on the water and if there is any breeze at all it will feel like a cold wind on the open sea!  Wind resistant jackets even on a hot day may be needed.
Take a seat inside the covered area of the boat on the way out.  You will be tempted to take a seat outside or up top, but you risk the cold wind and the waves.  You will see the same views inside as outside, but you will be warmer and if the captain sees anything he will stop the boat and everyone moves everywhere for a view anyways.  On the way back everyone comes in to the covered part of the boat so if you set up camp inside already on the way out you are guarenteed a seat back!
 


After whale watching we went to the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory.  It is a self guided quick tour and at the end you can pick out two bags of chips to sample!  It was actually very interesting although the kids only really appreciated the chips at the end!  It was worth it just to have a little look since we were really close!

New England Vacation - Seals, Shells, and Dunes

Mid-week we spent doing a couple different adventures in one day.  The first was a huge success and the second not so much...

We journeyed back to Orleans and went aboard the Blue Claw Boat Tour.  We were five out of 9 people on the boat so it was a nice group in a small boat.  Our captain showed us a map of the area which detailed where great white sharks had been seen, where seals were seen, where landmarks like lighthouses and islands were, and where we were going.

He did a good job of talking about current activities and people in the area as well as some history that interested the children.  I had no idea so many pirates were in these waters, captured, and prosecuted in Boston!  A local man in Orleans even found a sunken pirate ship complete with some treasure although the rest of it is still out there somewhere!

We cruised around islands and near sandy beaches taking in the gigantic homes and picture perfect scenery.  After a short ride we were surrounded by about 50 seals!  They peeked at us with the curiosity and big eyes of a puppy dog.  We watched some of them sleeping with their snouts pointing to the sky while others rolled in the waves.  Some of them were almost close enough for us to reach over board and touch!  The kids were in awe!

Our next stop was on a small island outside of Chatham.  It had a few shacks on it and nothing else.  It is a popular place for boaters to stop and hang out on nice days.  Our day was sunny, but a little on the cool side so we had the island to ourselves!






The three kids ran like maniacs collecting "treasures".  They found tons of shells and many more carcasses of horseshoe crabs.  The crabs were the most popular treasures, but were the most cumbersome to carry with their pointy tails pricking through the bag and poking anyone who was near.  They were also a bit ripe.

We left with bags of "treasure" and fish smelling hands, but we had a blast!

Once we dried the kids off and did a "towel wrapped around you" change into clothes and out of suits, we were on the road to Provincetown.

Out of all of the towns we drove through and saw Ryan and I agreed that Provincetown would be one that we would come back to and spend more time in.  It is a small town, but it has everything you would need in a short distance and a ton to do!  You can even take a ferry into Boston or a whale watching boat out of the harbor.  There were signs everywhere advertising events that were coming up and things to do along the shore.  The beach was a stone's throw away from town and it had a fun atmosphere.

We took some time going through some of the cute shops and ate lunch and then we went on Art's Dune Tour.  They are the only company allowed to go on the dunes.  I thought it would be fun to see more of the National Seashore and to drive through all the dunes which go on for miles!  However, they did not measure up to the dune rides we have taken in Silver Lake.  This tour was more for older people to hear about the history of the area and preservation of the dunes.  The only fun part for us and the kids was when we were allowed out of the cars to run up and down one of the dunes.  Old Baldy in Pentwater was bigger then this dune, but it was sand and the kids liked being full of it!

With bored kids the day started going a bit downhill.  We hit a restaurant for dinner and were once again thankful that the tourist season was not in full swing yet as we didn't have to wait and had the restaurant to ourselves.  The waitress told us during the prime season people were shoulder to shoulder all through town!