Sunday, March 30, 2008

Back to Business

Today marks the end of Spring Break, and with it the end of my hopes and dreams to begin the week afresh with a sparkly clean and organized house. Seven days to clean, sort, organize and shine, and I end up with a bigger mess than I did in the first place. Yikes.

I feel a bit guilty typing this blog entry, as Atticus is sitting at the dinner table next to me, still eating his dinner. We are going on Minute 51. Our boy is always the last to finish his meal by a good 15 minutes, and it's not for food dislike, disobedience or defiance. It is because, and pardon the coarseness of the expression, the child has the worst case of diarrhea of the mouth. Ever. This child talks nonstop throughout the meal, getting in one bite of food to our 15, and that's only when I interrupt him enough to remind him, "Take a bite!"

This weekend marks Atticus' discovery of the Star Wars movies: the original 3, all on VHS. The kid happily sat in our cold basement (the VHS' home) and watched all 3 sagas. Cliff and I had many huge chuckles as he would pause the movie, race upstairs and announce things like, "You won't believe it! Darth Vader is Luke's FATHER!"

This past week I was 6 for 6 in terms of my YMCA workouts, a fact that although I feel good about, does little to motivate me to further workout. Don't get me wrong, I will because I need to, but I have yet to discover a real love for running. Perhaps when the weather improves, I'll find it more agreeable to run outside. For now, running on the treadmill, forced to stare at the butt on the machine in front of me, wondering who is looking at mine behind me, is barely palatable. Plus the darn thing makes me dizzy, and I'm always scared that I'll tip over while walking to the bubbler (the Wisconsin word for drinking fountain).

I'm excited because my dear friend Jill is returning from Haiti tonight, and I missed having her around to gab with multiple times on the phone each day. She is the best type of friend, who although being in the midst of a terribly emotionally painful situation, gave an incredible effort in a failed attempt (though absolutely no fault of her own) to secure some much needed adoption paperwork for us. She is the kindest of the kind, and a true giver, and we feel so blessed to be sharing this insane adoption journey with her and Brent.

Well, my good son finished his soup, and we're off for some I-Spy Bingo fun! I hope everyone enjoyed their Spring Break, and I wish you all an calm Monday to ease back into the same ol' same ol'.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Orphan Care

I found this video on another blog and had to post it here. I always greatly enjoy reading Pastor Rick Warren's works, so I was very interested in his thoughts on the topic. Please note that this is not an adoption issue, nor do I feel that everyone should adopt. I'm of the opinion that adoption is a personal calling. Orphan care, however, is a whole other ballgame as described by Pastor Rick. . .

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thoughts on Self-Medication

Today was Day Three of my getting up at 5:30 am and hauling keister over to the YMCA for a morning workout. I'm impatiently waiting for that healthy, endorphin-based clarity and energy to kick in after my body gets used to daily workouts; for now, I hobble about trying not to whine too much over aching quads and burning shins.

Shortly after I had Paloma, Cliff and I did the Body for Life challenge ( It's not a gimmick, it really works, but it is really hard work. Despite the fact that I was up all night nursing a 4-month old night owl, I somehow managed to drag my puffy self to the Y each morning at 5 am, so that I could get my workout in before Paloma's 6:30 am feeding and Cliff's departure for the office. Even on the mornings when I just did not want to get up, my desire for an hour of quiet time where no one was asking anything of me was enough motivation to get me going, even in -10 weather.

Cliff won some I-pod MP-somethun-or-other, and now he downloads podcasts onto it for my morning workout. They're good, but now I discovered that you can download audio books onto this gadget, and so tonight he's downloading (or is it uploading?)--he's loading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. His stock phrase "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants," has been running through my brain for several months now, and I've given up on trying to get the book onto my nightstand list. Might as well use my Y time to motivate/educate this mind.

So today, through my own bumbling about the house while not fully awake, I left for the Y without the I-Pod thingy and had time to think, uninterrupted. I realize that I have forgotten to post a Compact update lately, namely the one in which I confess that I have broken the Compact. Even worse, I broke it at WalMart, a store which a true Compact-er would probably never set foot in. We came across these 2 shirts, thought of our boys in Haiti, and next thing you know the shirts are hung up nicely in their closet, waiting to be worn.

Anyway, what the Compact has brought me to realize is that I am a self-medicating shopper. I feel sad, lonely, frustrated, depressed, whatever it is I'm feeling about the boys, or anything, really, and I want to shop. Which is exactly how these shirts ended up in my closet.

I have never been a big shopper, so this humbling realization caught me off-guard. But the ugly truth is there, and these two t-shirts are certainly evident of this. It took me nearly 3 months of the Compact to realize it, but there it is. I shop to feel better.

Since the Compact took away the ability to self-medicate through shopping (with the exception of the aforementioned purchase), I realize now that in lieu of shopping, I will find and start projects as a means to feel better. Knitting, reading, homeschool research, scrapbooking, sewing, cooking, baking, reorganizing--I began all sorts of craft projects since the Compact.

I became hooked on the idea of scrapbooking a Life Book for each boy. I gathered all my photos, scrounged through our scrapbooking stuff (Hattie has received umpteen scrap kits over the years as presents), etc. I checked out books on it from the library, browsed countless websites. This upcoming weekend I was invited to a scrapbooking overnight retreat. Perfect timing, one would think, as I'm ready to begin and have the stuff all set to go. But one problem remains, and it has now fully sunk in.

I hate scrapbooking.

Sorry for the harshness of that statement, but it's exactly how I feel. For one, I can't stand to cut my photos. It gives me the heebie jeebies. For you knitters out there, you know how you feel when you even think about having to steek a sweater? This is how I feel about having to cut my photos. Plus the thought of having to trace around and cut out photos, find layouts, and the perfect little slogany stickers, aaack. It gives me angina.

I have since come to full terms with this realization, and I am nicely committed to the idea of creating a lifebook through an online printing company once the boys are home and I have more complete background information.

I really don't know where I'm going with this train of thought right now, as I'm so fresh into these realizations, I need time to sort it out and figure out where to go from here. I can't say enough about the Compact, though, and I highly encourage everyone to do it. Not only has it improved our checking account, it is a sort of free psychotherapy as well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


The Mister's been caught Red Handed.

A Helpful Hint from the Missus:

If you are going to cheat on our Healthy Eating Diet (that you encouraged us to do) after I go to sleep, you would have a greater chance of getting away with it if you would not place the cake and ice cream encrusted plate, frosting-stained fork and cake knife in the kitchen sink. Yes, great guilt would fall upon you if you were to take away the great joy I receive from washing your dirty dishes, but I'm sure that's a risk you're willing to take, all in the name of leftover Easter cake.

Just a thought.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Another holiday down. . .

Easter has always been my favorite holiday, both religiously and, dare I say it, commercially. I love the soft colors, the cute bunnies, sweet Easter dresses complete with white shoes and bonnets. Pastel-dyed eggs, chocolate rabbits, Cadbury eggs--yum! Someday I'm determined to have Easter in a southern state where we can actually enjoy an outdoor egg hunt (we do them up here, in snowpants and mittens).

I found this Easter especially joyous, as my oldest daughter still believes in Mr. Easter Bunny. To see her anxious excitement on Saturday night was wonderful. She came into our room on Sunday morning at 5 a.m., telling us that she must have been awake for 4 hours during the night, as she couldn't sleep for she was too excited to find her basket. She woke up her brother and sister, and her joy was contagious. Her eyes lit up as she saw the baskets, and she encouraged her brother and sister through the egg hunt, sharing her bounty of eggs with them both.

In those quiet moments scattered, however sparsely, throughout the day, I found myself thinking, "Next Easter the boys will be here." I was thinking about two more baskets, two more bottles of bubbles, two more jump ropes or hula hoops or whatever outdoor trinket Mr. Bunny will leave next year.

Hard for me to believe that Easter 2008 is already over. New Years seemed like yesterday, and yesterday I was thinking, "The boys will be here sometime after Easter."

Well, that sometime started today. I can't help but think, "will they be here by Mother's Day? Memorial Day? Father's Day? For any of our summer birthdays? Surely by Fourth of July . . .well, surely by Labor Day. . ."

Sadly, I have seen many parents heartbroken in the past year, thinking their children would be home by the next holiday, and then the next, and then the next. I watched their distress sink in as yet another holiday passes with empty beds in their homes, knowing full well that it could be me experiencing the same feelings when my time comes. So excited we adopting parents are for our kids, that it's nearly impossible to truly grasp that unforeseen complications can pop up at any time. I want so badly to make sure that I don't make myself miserable, always being so disappointed that they are not here for this one holiday, or that one. Yet I know that you just can't avoid that disappointed feeling. Funny how the mind doesn't have a very direct line of communication to the heart.

So in these days of "sometime after Easter," I have taken the Mister's advice and began my running training this morning, at 5:45 am at our local Y. I entered the "From Couch to 5K" ( training program into an Excel spreadsheet, and gleefully crossed off Day 1 when I returned home later that morning. It's a 9-week program, which carries me perfectly to the Green Bay Cellcom Marathon 5k Run. The Mister can do the half-marathon; I'll cheer him on at the finish line, provided my legs can still hold me up, hardee har har. A month later we can run the 10K Bellin Run together.

Happy Easter!

We had a nice little holiday, just our 5 and my baby brother Adam. My folks are in Florida; my sister had plans with her in-laws, so we kept things low-key (aka Mom put sweats on after getting home from church) and relaxed.

With Easter coming so very early this year, I just couldn't bring myself to purchase two of those sweet little SLEEVELESS Easter dresses donning the front windows of every store. First, there's the whole compact thing. Second, it's MARCH and COLD and there's still SNOW on the ground. You would think that stores would be able to figure this one out, but given their selection, apparently not. So we improvised and the girls wore some pretty things hanging in their closet (Granny--do you recognize Paloma's beautiful dress? We received compliments everywhere we went :) and Atticus donned his nice blue dress shirt and "sharp" tie.

A family tradition is to order an Easter cake which looks like an egg or basket and is smothered in Easter candy from an old-fashioned, landmark bakery here in our town. The most delicious white cake ever, our family has purchased their cakes for things as far back as my mother's baby shower when she was pregnant with Adam. Well, Cliff went on Tuesday to order the cake and found the bakery closed for good. After mourning a day or two, I went ahead and ordered a cake from Sam's Club, which was cute but just not the same. Of course, I didn't have the foresight to photograph the cake before I sliced into it.

My brother Adam is a quiet guy with a heart of gold. He lives a rather calm existence in a little apartment with his cat. Here at my house he has Mega Rock Star Status as my kids WORSHIP him wholeheartedly. They cannot get enough of him, and at times have little played tug-a-war with his lanky arms as they've each tried to capture his attention with a favorite toy or game.

I snapped this photo of Adam, reacting to a post-dinner situation. Cliff fed the dogs a lot of ham scraps, and Wanda the Border Collie with an ultra sensitive stomach promptly ran to the family room where she threw up the ham cocktail all over the rug. "Ohhhhh! Wanda threw up!" Hattie yelled, running away from the family while plugging her nose.

"Ewwww! Now Ernie's eating it!" Atticus screamed while tearing through the house, "Now I want to throw up!"

Poor Adam didn't know whether to laugh, cry or hurl. Welcome to another holiday with our family.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Paloma's Been Tagged!

Paloma's e-friend, Lil Miss Tuki over at Call of the Phoebe, has tagged Paloma in an Easter Meme. So, here are 10 good things to know about our Little Miss Paloma:

1) When I was pregnant with Paloma, we knew we would name her Paloma, but our intention was to call her Lola. She was born, and the name Lola just could not come out of my mouth. She is a Paloma, through and through!
2) Paloma calls Hatfield, "Hattie" and Atticus "my bruvah"
3) Paloma loves to sing. She sings about 60% of her daily communication. When she is alone in her room, or in the bubble bath, she REALLY belts it out.
4) Paloma loves her bubble baths. The moment she feels she is done with dinner, she yells, "Bubble Bath!" and runs upstairs. Usually the rest of us have taken a whole 5bites of food by this point in time. Mean Mama makes her wait or tries to encourage her to come back to the table for more food. If Daddy is home, he jumps up and complies.
5) When Paloma is very upset and wants something, she meows instead of using words.
6) Every morning after Paloma wakes up, she greets all the pets with a Morning! and by name: Morning, Wanda! Morning, Oh-knee! Morning, Kitty! Morning, Other Kitty!
7) When putting Paloma to bed, she likes to say, "Night night" to everyone and everything she can think of, while patting my back or shoulder. It is one of the favorite parts of her Mama's day.
8) Paloma can count to 10 and say her ABC's.
9) Paloma loves bubbles, sidewalk chalk and riding our collection of Big Wheels.
10) While her speech is improving, Paloma will talk at a rapid pace, for minutes on end, and we can't understand a word of it; hence, her nickname "Pentecostal Paloma."

Now it's Paloma's turn to tag some friends. She chooses:
-Lydia and her Mama Melanie
-Wyatt and his Mama Shelly
-Sophia and her Mama Chris
-Tyler and her Mama Debbie

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Five

Made it through the week, and it was pretty good! Here are five new updates from the week:

1) Ample sections of our lawn can now be viewed with the naked eye. Much of it is disguised by mud. Fortunately for the lawn, the mud will soon be gone as the dogs are successfully bringing it into our home in mass quantities via their paws and a 2-year old who opens the sliding glass door at will.

2) Said 2-year old is pitching fewer tantrums, with the exception of the times Momma tries to prevent her from opening the aforementioned sliding glass door. Nothing in the universe exists that has the ability to distract this toddler from the Sliding Glass Door tantrums.

3) Our adoption file made some good progress. Still no idea as to when our two new sons will be coming home, but it looks good that it will be sometime during the 2008 Calendar Year.

4) During a Major Mom Freakout last Sunday, a Family Meeting was called to order and new laws were put into effect. This includes the reinstitution of consequences for the No Made Bed law and the Zero Tolerance for Dirty Dishes on the Counter law. New ordinances established a 7-day Hiautus from Television Viewing and a 10-day PS2 Sabattical. Legislation was drafted for a Family Service Project and a Family Friday Fun Night.

5) The new laws and ordinances were put into place without tears, and no riots brewed in the past week. The children have happily complied and are enjoying the "new" board games and toys that were accumulating dust in the back of the toy closet. Mom has realized that an occasional TV break taken out of necessity is a very good and completely realistic action. Instituting a no TV rule out of principal alone tends to invite anarchy and an empty liquor cabinet. (see blogs from Fall 2007).

Monday, March 17, 2008

How to Home School with a Two Year Old

People ask me this all the time, and I just can't figure out why they don't get it.


Every Monday morning, the Mister transfers Paloma's carseat out of his van, which we take to Church every Sunday, to my van, which really just sits in the garage all week. For some reason, last Monday he brought the carseat into the family room instead of placing it into my car. I was a bit annoyed at first, until I saw Paloma's reaction. She thought having the carseat in the house was the coolest thing ever. She loved to strap, unstrap and restrap herself, all day long. She spent hours in that thing, and as long as we kept a continual supply of books, snacks and water coming her way, she was set.

I'm thinking that if we continued to do this everyday, it might be blurring the lines of some law, somewhere. Funny how it was never mentioned in any home school manual I ever read. Rest assured, the carseat returned to its rightful location shortly after naptime that day.

What Time is It?

What time is it?

It's Home School Time;
It's Time for Education!

This is Atticus' theme song. The boy cracks me up. He takes the 'What Time Is It?' lines from HSM2 and rewords them to fit whatever situation is applicable to him. I have that tune playing in my head over and over. And then over again some more.

Rarely have I met a child who talks as much as Atticus. When he was a small boy, I would occasionally lament to my mom that my ears would ache by afternoon naptime. He runs a continuous monologue, morning to night. Delighted for a dialogue, but perfectly content with a monologue. More often than not as of late, he's reflecting upon strategic moves for PS2's Star "Whores" Lego Game, which is his favorite game to play.

And a few hours ago he asked me, "Mom, do you know what hyper means?"

Boy, do I.

Fortunately, Atticus is a happy kid who is quite easy. He loves home school and if I ask him a question, giving him a choice between two types of work, he'll smile and say, "Whatever you want me to do, Mom!" Today I began teaching him to count by 10's. I had him count out 100 pennies, which took him quite a while. I then had him regroup his pennies into groups of 10, and he made 0, 10, 20, 30, etc. labels for each group. What a gift for me to see his "light bulb moment" when he realized just how much faster it was to count to 100 by 10's.

My boy's enthusiasm is contagious, a true chip of the old block, as the Mister is one of the most positively upbeat and cheery people I have ever met.

Sadly, I do realize that I must fully bask in each of those moments because they are numbered. Someday he'll be a teen, perhaps sullen, and I'll think of these days when he talks nonstop and happily agrees to whatever I assign him and ask myself, "Where did those days go?"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Calendar Woes

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled blogging to bring you this exclusive pity party. . .

So, last night I did something that I have been avoiding, which is getting out the family calendar for spring/summer scheduling. For weeks now, my little folder of schedules and dates has been expanding: music recitals, soccer schedules, church events, Cliff's travel dates, etc. Marking days in April, May, June and July, I finally had to come to terms with the reality that the boys would, in great, great likelihood, not be home by the two magic dates I had in my head; that it will be summer before we hear their two little voices echo throughout our home.

Our file has not yet advanced to MOI. By no means has it been sitting, neglected and gathering dust. It's just that there is a whole lot of work to do in between Parquet and entering MOI. Like weeks--months--of stuff. Somehow, I never grasped that timeframe in the overall scheme of the adoption cycle.

Certainly, miracles could happen and we could get out of MOI in a jiffy. Our passports could even only take a week to get printed. Yet, even if we could pull those things off, our own country with it's Big, Bad Visa process is likely to slow us down another month or more.

The high I felt upon getting out of Parquet and getting the legalized adoption decree is long gone. I had so hoped to have the boys home, or to be getting them, by Mother's Day. That would be one year from my visit. If that couldn't work, I had hoped to have them home late May, so that we could celebrate M's 4th birthday. While a little hope in me flickers for that possibility, I'm enough of a realist to be okay in saying, "not likely."

When I was last in Haiti, M was still 2. He turned 3 a few short weeks after my departure. It hurts to think that I will have missed his entire 3rd year. I love the 3's, especially with these little boys! I'm lucky enough to have many photos of him taken throughout this 3rd year for his photo album, but none were taken by me.

Realizing that it's going to be awhile makes me ache to go back to Haiti. To see the boys. Yet, after all the reading done and the particular ages the boys are, Cliff feels very, very strongly that it is not in their best interest. That a continuing start/stop, interrupted bonding cycle with children too young to truly understand what's going on could be quite detrimental to them. They certainly did not handle well any separation from me, no matter how short in time, while we were in Haiti. I have read enough to understand that point, and, grudgingly, I agree that for our boys, it is probably for the best (I most certainly do not feel that this philosophy applies to visits as a whole, so I mean not to offend anyone. Just stating why we think repeated visits of OUR specific children are not a good thing.)

The hardest thing about this process, other than the wait, is the constant adjusting of timelines. I should have just stuck to the "hoping they're here by Thanksgiving" timeline that I commited myself to last year. I became over-eager, excited, and moved that up. Foolish, yes, but only natural to do so. So, again, I commit to a later date in my head.

The Mister feels that it would be good for me to have another goal to work for, so he has decided that we should, as a couple, begin training for various 10Ks held around the area this Spring and Summer. Initially, I think the words "half marathon" escaped his lips, but my cackling must have snapped him back into reality. Did he forget who his wife was? The only way I would run a half marathon would be to personally pull my children out of the grasp of Satan, and even then at some point I would probably consider that the job was too big for me, and around mile 8 would fall to me knees to pray hysterically instead.

And so, I will now draw to an end of my adoption-timeline pity party. Be forewarned however, that if we actually commit to this whole race training stuff, this blog will probably host a litany of "oh-my-aching-feet" and "oh-these-poor-tendon" pity parties. But I promise, someday I will post a party of a a different sort: a celebration of our boys' homecoming.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hooray for Hatfield!

I am so proud to report that Hatfield had a mighty fine weekend! Friday night held her Pom and Dance Recital at a local high school. Due to its late hour, only I and her good buddy Evelyn were able to attend (too late for the littles in our house). Fortunately, Mr. C. and littles were able to catch the dress rehearsal the night before.

Her team gave two spectacular performances! While Hattie typically does not care to be up on stage (the poor thing always had that frozen, nearly pained, perma-grin during past school concerts), my little girl absolutely shines up there on stage when she has her Pom and Dance routine going on.

My little tom-boy is slowly morphing into a girly-girl, as she loved having me curl her hair and apply a little clear lip gloss for her special night. Watching her up on stage, performing just after the little 4-year olds in sparkly tutus, made me realize just how grown up my girl is becoming. My heart felt like it could burst for how poised and accomplished my little girl looked; the little girl who just yesterday was twirling about in her own sparkly tutu.

Hatfield's great weekend continued on Saturday morning, when she participated in the local Piano Federation competition. Hattie has been practicing her two pieces--Open Seas, and The Coconut Shuffle, for months. She knew them by heart, forward, backwards, upside down, with her toes, etc. All of her practice and hard work paid off, as she nailed her two pieces and scored a perfect rating of "Superior!" Just the boost of confidence she needed, as she was very nervous to attend Federation. What a wonderful lesson in how hard work pays off!

Scatterbrained Mama here forget her camera. Hatfield had the pleasure of playing on a black Steinway grand piano! She and her teacher walked into the room a bit early to practice, and upon discovery the piano, her teacher became so giddy that she had to sit down and play a little piece herself. And the sound of that beautiful piano. . .oh my! Such a treat for all of us.

To celebrate, Hattie and I went to Cold Stone Creamery, where we delightfully pigged out on a jumbo-sized, chocolate-dipped waffle cone bowl of Birthday Cake Remix. Yummy!

Congratulations to my beautiful girl! Hattie, Mom and Dad are soooooo proud of you!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Just Call Her Florence

Funny how slowly the days passed this week, but yet somehow here we are at Friday, and well before I knew it. Seems like the Haitian Time Warp is slowly moving its way up the lines of latitude.

Hatfield has spent the week playing Florence Nightingale to the new kittens, Iris and Lily. Both girls went in to be spade and for a front declaw. I know the arguments against declaw, so my fellow cat lovers can save me the guilt trip, but the choice came down to declawing the cats and giving them a wonderful indoor life, complete with a loving family, lots of playtime and premium cat food; or trying to find a home where I can't guarantee like conditions. Choice A won.

The girls came home bandaged, shaved and stitched. The poor little things have incisions running nearly the full length of their torso. Hatfield lovingly turned her bedroom into a recovery center, as we need to keep the kittens away from our other pets and Paloma for 5 days. My squeamish side is relieved that my dear eldest loves nothing more than to practice vet techniques, and she very carefully yet meticulously examines their surgical sites for any redness, swelling or discharge.

Just when I begin to worry that Hattie truly is a 70-year old trapped in a 9-year old body, I walked in to find her gleefully, yet ever-so-delicately, dressing the cats in her American Girl doll's clothing (she only put on pieces that just draped over their neck and shoulders--nothing she had to stick tender legs or bellies into):

Miss Lily was none too thrilled, and sought her revenge by then urinating in the large rubbermaid container of American Girl clothing. Wonderful. I must admit that I was VERY tempted to toss the entire wardrobe and tell Hatfield that I would sew her new doll clothes, but upon mentally tallying the value of the wardrobe, and realizing that it was more than my own wardrobe, I donned some latex gloves and dumped the stinky shebang into the washer.

In reality though, the cat pee was one of the lesser distresses I dealt with during the week. Paloma is going through the most difficult stage that I have ever gone through with any of the three kids to date. So strong-willed and determined, she is now raging constantly throughout the day when she does not get her way. Nighttime has been particularly bad for me, since she rages far worse when the Mister is out of town. To my dismay, the Mister's been out of town nearly every night this week.

I think what it comes down to with this child is that I need to reinstate a more regimented routine. Especially at nighttime. Somewhat humorous since I'm a pretty uptight, regimented person to begin with. Paloma rages about having to go to bed, at naptime or nighttime. Occasionally she'll wake up in the middle of the night to pick up where her rage left off. Other times she'll rage upon waking, like on Thursday morning when I told her that she couldn't wear her dirty snowboots in Mommy's bed. What made her wake up at 5 am, wanting to put on snowboots that are in the garage, is beyond me. All I know is that my eardrums suffered for it for the first hour of the morning.

I realize part of it is just being two. This morning at the library I had to take her out to the car prior to checking out (Hatfield stayed with her, and they were in full-view of the front door.) Paloma went into a blind rage because I removed her from the bubbler after she decided to spit all the water in her mouth back out all over the bubbler. I told her once, "Yucky. No no. Do not do that again or you will be all done with your drink." So she slurped some more up, looked at me, turned her head, and "Thbbbbsttt!" shot the water out all over again. I picked her up to go back to the table, and she noodled out on me, lying limp on the floor (a bacon tantrum, as dear Isa calls it, when children lie there like a piece of raw bacon), screaming at the top of her pitch and volume range.

Fortunately, I have a lot of patience. I have many, many shortcomings, but patience is the one area where the good Lord has truly blessed me. I managed to walk out of the library, speaking in a calm, even voice to Paloma, smiling a thank you to Hattie, ignoring the disdained looks of other parents. However, sitting here, on a Friday afternoon, during Paloma's nap time, my stomach still a bit jittery from both the library rage and the tantrum lasting the 20 minute ride home, I realize that my deep well of patience is on the verge of drying up. Calgon, take me away! (note to Cliff: this is WIFESPEAK. Literal translation: now would be a darn good time to redeem your Hilton Honors Points and take your wife away for a weekend while you only have three kids in the house and your mother-in-law is still up to watching them).

All of our ears have taken a beating this week, courtesy of Atticus' over-zealous violin practices. This kid LOVES his violin. I love that he loves the violin, and am so very proud of him, so please don't think me rotten. If you have ever spent hours listening to a beginner violinst, you know the empathy I so deserve. He is a full-fledged Pre-Twinkle Graduate (you Suzuki parents know what I'm talking about ;), and is now in the Twinkle Program. He is learning the song's bow strokes, which consist of 3 notes with only two strokes each, followed by the fourth note with only a single bow stroke. Something with the small number of strokes entices the child to play as loudly as he can, harshly pushing his bow down on the string in a coarse manner. What does that sound like? Cliff, upon walking into the kitchen one day after work, while Atticus was practicing in the living room, turned to Hattie and asked, "Hey, who's playing the bagpipes?"

Ever since we began the adoption, I am tremendously hesitant to share my parenting woes with others. Quite often, after commenting on a rough spot with one of the kids or how sleep-deprived I feel, I will have someone say to me, "And now you're going to have two more?" or "Can you imagine what it's going to be like with the five?" I am probably being over-sensitive, but those type of comments truly irk me. These comments usually comes from people who do not know me very well (I'm very blessed to have supportive close friends and family who "get it" when it comes to adopting and big families). I can bite my tongue, but it's hard to let it roll off one's back time and time again without slowly putting up walls and falling into the habit of keeping silent on the subject altogether. After this week, though, I just needed to let it all out, and having now written it, I feel so much better writing it down and getting it out of my system.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Reality of Haiti

The following article was published in the 2/28/08 edition of the San Fransisco Daily Journal. Ms. Valdivia, author of, is a well-known source of adoption information for those in the Haitian Adoption internet circles. Please read this article. For my sweet friends who so patiently and graciously listen to my rants about UNICEF, this article better articulates my view. The article will also help further clarify my ever-rambling and certainly vauge answer to the question, "When will the boys come home?"

Love and Haiti

By Vera Valdivia
The country of Haiti is located just 600 miles off the coast of Florida. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Additionally, Haiti has one of the worst records of human rights violations in the world.

It is time for a call to action, which is why on Friday, March 7, 2008, at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, a panel consisting of legal academics, Haitian government officials, a Haitian human rights lawyer and women and children’s rights activists are coming together to discuss these egregious violations.

In Haiti, political activities result in the violation of human rights through kidnapping and torture, poor people are detained in jails without legal representation for stealing a loaf of bread, girls and women are forced into prostitution, children are used as household slaves, thousands of children die from malnutrition and illness, and hundreds of babies die at birth or shortly thereafter.

The Haitian legal system is not available to protect the victims because only people with financial resources can afford justice. In Haiti, about 10 percent of the population holds 90 percent of the wealth. Consequently, the economically powerless, especially women and children, suffer unspeakable abuses and do not have access to the protection of law. Many of the tiniest victims of this abuse end up in one of the morgues located in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The morgue I saw resembles a toy store with what looks like hundreds of toy dolls on storage shelves in a large dark room. However, they are not dolls but dead babies and children who are stacked on top of one another on shelves that reach all the way to the ceiling. Nobody seems to cry for these dead children, nobody asks how or why they died. Nobody comes to claim their bodies.

Many of the dead babies were born to the girls and women who have been forced into prostitution for various reasons, and as a result many unwanted babies are born. Babies end up in garbage piles on the side of the road, inside of sewer drains or in the river drowned. Some of the babies are born out of liaisons between the prostitutes and U.N. peacekeeping troops.

American, Canadian, French and Dutch nonprofit humanitarian or church-sponsored organizations operate and fund many of the Haitian orphanages that provide shelter to some of the unwanted, abandoned and orphaned babies and older children. Several of these organizations seek adoptive homes for the children and, since the mid-1990s, thousands of Haitian children have found permanent homes with families in the United States, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Argentina and Germany. Although international adoption is not the long-term solution for the plight of so many of Haiti’s children, it provides homes to unwanted children while the Haitian government and the international community should be working on making fundamental changes in the country’s economic and legal system.

UNICEF has expressed its concern to the Haitian government regarding the deplorable conditions under which the majority of Haitian children have to live. Although UNICEF does not have the financial resources to improve the situation of the abandoned and orphaned children, it told the Haitian government that “too many children” were adopted internationally.

In 2006, approximately 1,059 formerly abandoned and orphaned Haitian children joined their adoptive families in the above-mentioned countries. This number dropped dramatically in 2007, when only approximately 724 adopted Haitian children joined their new families. However, this decrease is not a result of a drop in numbers of abandoned or orphaned children because Haitian orphanages are still filled beyond capacity, and needy children are turned away daily because there is no more room.

Some powerful judicial and government officials appear to have taken notice of UNICEF’s concern regarding the large numbers of children leaving the country through adoption. One of the judicial officials, a powerful judge with the title of chief prosecutor of the Port-au-Prince parquet (the main court), is in charge of approving international adoptions for orphanages located within the capital’s judicial district. Another government official works within the Ministry of Interior who has been placed in charge of approving passport applications for adopted children who are about to leave the country to live with their new families.

In 2007, the chief prosecutor began refusing to sign adoption decrees even though the petitions have been approved by the home countries of the adopting families after thorough screening and by IBESR, the Haitian Social Services Ministry. More than 300 adoption files have been stuck in his office during 2007. These adoption files represent 300 children who remain in orphanages waiting, while their prospective adoptive parents hope that the chief prosecutor will have a miraculous change of heart and sign the decrees.

One of the problems with the Haitian legal system, which is based on French Napoleonic codes, is that as new laws are passed by the legislature, old laws are not repealed and stay on the books. One of these old, unrepealed laws only permits childless singles or couples to adopt. The law had not been applied in years, but the chief prosecutor cites this particular law as the reason he has not signed off on the adoption decrees. In response to the existence of the old law, Haitian President René Préval has issued letters of exemption for these families granting a presidential pardon and permitting the adoption. The chief prosecutor, however, has continued with his refusal to sign the adoption files. Conversely, many of the waiting adoption files are of childless singles or couples, and the chief prosecutor has refused to sign those adoption decrees as well, without citing a reason. Some of the adoption files have been waiting in the main court for a year.

Since January 2007, the Ministry of Interior has been in charge of reviewing all documents related to completed adoptions that have been processed and legalized by the different Parquet (court) locations in Haiti and the few adoptions that the chief prosecutor has signed. The passport office is not permitted to issue passports for adopted children without an approval letter from the Ministry of Interior. Approximately 500 completed adoption files are currently awaiting such approval. Some files have been waiting for passport approval for the past 12 months. In the meantime, adopted children who are no longer abandoned or orphaned cannot join their new families because they cannot leave the country without a Haitian passport.

Instead of focusing on the real problems and working to make effective changes that will improve the lives of children, these officials have reduced the number of adopted children who left the country during 2007 by about 32 percent. Hundreds of children whose files are stuck in the adoption process or who are waiting for passports remain in orphanages. Other children, without a prospect for a better future, continue to be homeless, malnourished and ill.

Haiti is desperately in need of possible solutions to its human rights crisis and changes to its legal system. These fundamental changes have to be made in order to improve Haiti’s human rights record and to improve the lives of all Haitians, but especially those of women and children.