Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tallinn with Middle Schoolers

Once again, Sam and I had the privilege of taking a group of middle schoolers to the CEESA Cultural Arts Festival this spring. Last year it was in Moscow, this year it was in Tallinn, Estonia. This trip also fell exactly 3 days after our trip to Paris. As you may have read in my previous post, I was still getting used to this whole pregnancy thing. So I was pretty nervous about how I would do at this point, taking 6 middle schoolers to another country. It's pretty nerve wracking to be in charge of other people's children, especially when you are taking them across borders, through airports, and in airplanes.

This year we had a group of 6 boys, 3 from 6th grade, 3 from 7th grade. And they were just lovely. I mean you really couldn't ask for a better group of kids to take. The festival involved taking a tour of the Estonian film museum, learning how to do stop motion films, and a tour of an air and sea museum.

The task this year was to make a stop motion film. The kids worked so hard, creating a script, making the backdrops, creating the characters. And the end product is just hilarious, at least if you understand "The Shining" references. For some reason, a few kids were really into that movie at the time, so there are a lot of references to it. Here's the link to watch the stop motion film.

It's really a great experience, for the supervisors and the kids. The kids get to stay with host families and do all kinds of fun activities. We were able to go out to dinner a couple of times with the other supervisors from the other schools: Sofia, Budapest, Moscow, Helsinki, and Warsaw. The traditional Estonian meal included deep fried cheese balls as well as pig ears. And yes, even as a queasy pregnant lady, I tried a bite of pig ears. So now that I've tried them, I never have to do THAT again.

The trip turned out to be really fun. I didn't feel great, but was able to take some breaks throughout the day. It's another opportunity that I never would have expected, but am so grateful to have experienced.
Here's another video that Sam created of our trip.

 Oh, the roasted cinnamon almonds. What will I do without them???

Middle School boys. They just can't help it. :)

always a good idea

I'm tempted to say that I just can't believe that I didn't write about spring break trip to Paris, but really I can believe it. This spring has been crazy. Between applying for jobs, interviewing for jobs, finishing my ProTeach, finishing the school year, making it through the first trimester...the blog just took the back seat. So before we leave Europe, I feel I must write a little post about Paris.

We knew that this would be our "last trip in Europe," so the pressure was on. The choice was Spain or Paris. I really wanted to visit Spain, but Sam has always had a dream of spending one whole week in Paris, just wandering the streets. In the end, Paris was it. We booked our tickets in February and settled on a cute little place in Montmartre. The only catch was that it was on the 6th floor (read: 7 flights of stairs.) But that was okay, we're young, we're spry, why not?

Well obviously that was before I found out I was pregnant. It turns out that walking up 7 flights of stairs after touring Paris all day by foot while in your first trimester is a very. bad. idea. The Paris trip that I had pictured in my mind was not really the Paris trip that came to be. During this time, I was very nauseous, very tired, and my superhero power was the power of smell. Every smell in Paris was completely magnified. Yes, the boulangeries and patisseries smelled wonderful, but there was also the smell of urine, the subway, and various other unidentifiable yet gag-worthy smells. Also while pregnant, there are a variety of foods and drinks that are off limits. All that delicious French cheese? Only if it's not soft and for sure pasteurized. You'd like to go to coffee for a second time in the day? I'll have to have a decaf (which is pretty much pointless when you're spending $5 on a macchiato). 

So it wasn't exactly the trip I had imagined, but Paris is still Paris. We strolled along the Seine, went to the Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay, and the Musee de l'Orangerie. We tried a new baguette every day and scrutinized the differences between each. We walked and walked and then walked some more and enjoyed living the Parisian lifestyle for a week.

Stairs, stairs, and more stairs
 Our view for the week
 Montmartre-near where we stayed

 Tuileries Garden

 Prego lady

 Sacre Couer

 Notre Dame

 View from the Louvre

 Musee D'Orsay

I thought Paris would be a good place to make the big announcement. :)
11 weeks

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mrkvica; How Our Mali Mirkovich Came To Be

When we decided to move to Croatia, the decision was made for a lot of reasons. We wanted to know more about where Sam's family had come from, we wanted the experience of living in another culture, we wanted the opportunity to travel. But for me, I wanted a break. I was teaching at a school that had kind of sucked the love of teaching out of me. I went through a year of heartbreaking fertility treatments and came out feeling like having our own biological child was not a possibility for us. I just wanted a break. 

So our first year here was a break from that reality. We didn't really talk about what we were going to do: fertility treatments, adoption, etc. We just traveled and ate and played and worked. But after that year was up, I was also getting closer to that big 3-0 birthday, the time where you reflect on your life and think about what's next. I can't say I really WANTED to go back to a fertility clinic because my previous experience was so awful, but I knew that if I really wanted a baby, I had to just get over it. So I began my research. I was fortunate enough to have someone here who had gone through the process of fertility treatments and who was willing to open up to me about her experiences. It's something that I've found can instantly draw people together. When you find someone else who has been in your shoes, who has had the exact same feelings and experienced the exact same things, it's extremely comforting. 

I made an appointment and Sam and I went to meet the doctor. I was a little nervous because I've heard that Croatian doctors don't necessarily have the kindest bedside manner. I was even more nervous when we went in his office, he told us to have a seat, I handed him my paperwork from my previous clinic and he proceeded to read over the paperwork in silence for what felt like forever. I remember looking over at Sam and having to stifle my nervous laughter. But eventually, he looked up and started talking to us, wanting to know more about why these 2 Americans were sitting in his office. We explained Sam's history and the fact that we worked at the American International School. It turns out that his daughter had just started at our school. He also told us how both of his parents were professors and how he knew that teachers don't get paid a lot of money. So right away, he said he'd like to give us a 50% discount on our medical treatment. I was floored. This could not be more different than our previous experience! My last appointment at the clinic in Bellevue included going over a flier with a Dr. showing how they had a "Buy 2, get the 3rd treatment free" deal going on for their $28,000 IVF treatment. I had a good feeling about this doctor.

He did not agree with a lot of the findings of my previous clinic and wanted to run more tests. In the end, he thought that we should begin by trying an IUI procedure (for the sake of those not wanting the gory details, I'll let you Google that one yourself). I asked him how much the procedure would cost and he said (and I quote), "You'll have to ask the front desk. I really don't know what it costs." Again...this was not the Bellevue clinic. 

So at the end of November, I had the procedure done. It was harmless and I was feeling overwhelmingly hopeful that it was going to work. On December 14th, I took a pregnancy test. It was negative. That day, we went to Graz, Austria to celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. I remember going to work on Monday and barely keeping it together. I, of course, had told my friends that we were doing the procedure and they were all hoping for the best with me. I have a hard time deciding if it's better to tell people or not when you're going through something like that. The support is of course wonderful, but when it doesn't work, you feel like you've failed and now you have to go tell everyone that you failed. I know that's probably not rational, but that's honestly how I felt. 

We went back to Washington for Christmas a week later. I remember standing in the bedroom in my parents' house, where they kept the crib for my brother and sister-in-law when they visit. My mom cried with me and prayed that when I came home in the summer that I would have a little baby belly.

At the beginning of February, I went back into the Dr. He wanted me to try another round, this time with fertility medicine and then an ITI procedure (again, feel free to Google.) So I started taking pills and giving myself injections everyday. On February 15th, I went in for the procedure. This one did hurt, but only shortly and probably because I just wasn't expecting it. Again, I was sent home to wait. I really must say at this point that I am where I am right now because I pray. I pray a lot. And during that time, I was no longer begging and pleading for a baby. I used to pray for just what I wanted. But now I know it's more about having a change of heart. Knowing that God's plan is perfect and my plan is not. I was honestly, finally at the point that I was saying, Lord if this is your will for this to happen now, I pray that it would happen. And if not, please help me to know what to do next. 

On March 1st, I woke Sam up so he could come check the pregnancy test with me. When I first looked at it, all I saw was a big fat - .  But Sam said he really thought there was a faint second line. We looked at that test from every possible angle, trying to decipher what it meant. So I called my Dr. and he sent me to Petrova Hospital to get a blood sample done. We went into the hospital and said we were here for a blood test. They told us that they don't do blood tests on Saturdays and that we'd have to come back. I started feeling a bit frantic. We asked someone else who was waiting if they spoke English, and they tried to talk to the nurse. She still said no. So then I said, "Dr. Simunic sent me." "Oh!" she exclaimed, "Come with me!" He's a pretty big deal (you can Google him, too if you'd like).  One of the strange things that you need to do in Croatia is sometimes you have to take your blood sample with you to other buildings. So there I was with my vile of blood, walking over to the building next door. I dropped it off and they said it would be about an hour.

Sam and I walked down to Kvaternikov Trg, bought some daffodils and tulips and had a coffee. When we got home, I received a text message from my doctor. It said, "It is positive. 75 what is good. Hope it will be OK." Um, I really needed something a bit more concrete, so I wrote back, "What does 75 mean?" He wrote, "You are pregnant." Well, that's good enough for me!

I was excited, but also cautious. I had been in this place before, 4 times. I knew that a positive on a pregnancy test did not equal a baby. But nevertheless, I couldn't help but be hopeful. I called my parents (in the middle of the night) and my sister. I waited a little longer to call my brother, since they have 3 little kids and I knew I didn't want to be the reason to wake them in the middle of the night. That night, I made a mushroom risotto from Shauna Niequist's, "Bread and Wine," book. She also dealt with infertility and it seemed like the perfect dinner to celebrate the occasion.

I don't really know why it took us 5 years to get to this point. And it definitely didn't seem worth it, while I was in the midst of the muck of it all. But somehow, when you get to the other side and are able to look back, you see things that weren't clear at the time. When we first started trying to have kids, I really don't think that Sam was 100% ready. He still wanted to travel, he still wanted to have freedom, and it really wasn't the best time for both of us. I also know that if things would have happened according to my plan, we wouldn't have moved to Croatia, wouldn't have travelled so many places, and wouldn't have met the people who will now be life-long friends. Sam and I are lucky that we've had each other for the past 10 years. We have grown closer, know each other better, and have lived out an adventurous life together. And really, sometimes waiting makes it that much sweeter. I don't take any day for granted. I thank God every time I feel that little baby kick me and every time we go to the Dr. and he says everything looks good. I know that this is not a given. That not everyone gets to experience this. And for that, my heart overflows with joy.
Mali Mrkvica in front of the family Mirkovich house in Veli Rat, Dugi Otok