Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Little Step into the 21st Century (with a Flashback Big Enough to Pull Me Out)

I just fell into the 21st century a bit and ordered one of these:

Isn't she cute? At first, I had my heart set on pink, because Pink is My Signature Color. But, AT&T doesn't have Pink. Sprint does. And I'm not so hot on Sprint because their monthly plans were too rich for my blood. So, I settled chose Thriftiness Over My Signature Color and settled for blue.

What a pretty, shimmery icy blue. Like Queen Frostine in Candy Land (can you guess that I have a 3-year old?)

So since I don't have a camera, I typed in Queen Frostine in Google Images. No photo of Frostine came up, but you know whose picture actually did?

Laura Palmer!
(Creepy. huh? Still scares the Be-Jeepers right outta me!)

Man, I was the HUGEST Twin Peaks Fan (oops, I mean NERD) on the planet when I was in high school.

Remember when it was Super Cool to make Audio Cassette Tapes
of all your favorite songs for your friends?


Well, when I was in High School, I made a Super Cool Dubbed Tape for my friend, Arthur. Arthur who lived in Florida but attended Georgetown. Long Story there, folks. I won't make you suffer.

On the tape I made for him, I dubbed bits and pieces from this:

in between the songs for him.

He had NEVER heard of Twin Peaks prior to that.
He thought I was so awesome and original.

Really, I was just a big nerd.

Either way, I turned him into one HUGE Twin Peaks junkie.

In fact, I do believe that Arthur actually credited Dale Cooper for his decision to become Buddhist. And the last thing I ever heard about Arthur was that he was somewhere in Europe on a 6-month Buddhist retreat.

Twin Peaks, folks.
Now that's some life changin' stuff.

I TOLD you I was a nerd.

But now I'm a nerd with an icy blue cell phone. And I'm just betting you're jealous, now.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Letter to My Two Little Boys

Dear Keenan and Miles,


I wonder about the two of you and your days in the orphanage. I realize that for you both, the creche is your home. You're not sad about being there, and it is your home and security. When we bring you home with us, we expect that you will be sad and angry; that you will need to vent and mourn. It is one of the very sad aspects of adoption. But I am your Mama and I will be here to hold your hand, give you hugs and kisses, and be patient as you both work through what you need to work through.

On Tuesday night, I had a dream I checked my email and USCIS had emailed me. I could feel my fingers clicking the keyboard as I opened up that email and read, "Your I-600 is approved. Your Visa appointment will be scheduled in the next business week. Please contact your orphanage representative."

Oh my! The elation I felt in that dream! In my dream I laughed and cried and picked up the phone to call people. The elation and joy and excitement was so real.

I awoke to that same elation. Then I bitterly realized it was a dream, but that elation just wouldn't subside. I spent the day so excited by the glimpse of what it would feel like to bring you both home.

Nearly two years ago, I met you. I hugged you. I kissed you. Keenan, you were so sick and I cuddled you and didn't put you down. I was so worried about you and it made me feel like a real Mama to you.

Since then, I have not thought about touching you boys. Kissing you. Holding you. It hurt too much and made the wait seem beyond unbearable. But this past week, I've allowed myself. I imagined hugging you in the airport and stroking your little faces. I wonder how full your hands will feel in mine.

I feel like I am failing you both right now. Your files are stuck. Stuck. I do not know what to do. I am so close to getting you home, but I don't know how. It worries me so much and angers me tremendously.

I pray a lot for you both. A lot. Many, many loving people are praying for you to be brought home. But there is so much to this that I don't understand. I don't understand how it is still your files being held back. We have so much here to give you. A loving family. Wonderful friends. An incredible church family.

I spend a lot of time asking God, "Why won't you bring my little boys home?" I spend a lot of time begging God, "Please! Help us!"

At the age of 4, I certainly would not expect you boys to understand anything I'm sharing here. What I hope is that someday when you are older, no matter how you may feel about me, you can read this and know just how loved from afar you were. Just how hard we fought for you. Just how many prayers were prayed for you.

I love you. I will wait for you both forever, but I certainly hope I don't have to.
Your Adoring Mama

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Trying to Avoid the Ground Hog's Day Effect


I'm packing up the kids and leaving the building for a computer-free locale and adventure.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Soup's On!

With our weather hoovering around a warm, toasty 3 degrees (give or take 10 degrees), many a kettle of soup has been brewing on my stove top lately. Hot, delicious, plentiful yet inexpensive, I love having soup for dinner, paired with a loaf of the Mister's homemade bread.

Some of these soups have been SOOOO good that I can't help but share.

Numero Uno on my list:

The Pioneer Woman's Cauliflower Soup.

A vegetarian soup that even the Mister went ga-ga over (well, it calls for chicken stock, but I always use veggie stock.) I will admit that cauliflower is my least favorite vegetable after celery, but this soup rocked. All the kidlets loved it. This soup's warm, creamy goodness cannot be defined, except to say that it's from The Pioneer Woman. So you know it's that good.

Rachael Ray's Veg-Head Three-Bean Chili

This chili is thick, creamy and oh-so-flavorful. The addition of refried beans is brilliant. Brilliant, I tell you! Technically, mine was only a two-bean chili because I subbed the one can of red kidney beans for a second can of black beans. I broke my no-store-bought-refried-beans rule and bought them for this soup, and the results were still fabulous. I used beer instead of veggie stock, and used 2 yellow Hungarian wax peppers from my garden in lieu of the jalapeno. It made the Mister drool for more.

Quinoa and Spinach Soup

Straight from Jan 09's Vegetarian Times. I made this for New Year's Day as a sort of Detox Day Food. Honestly, I was not expecting this soup to be great. But it is! Great! And Fantastic! So good that I even brought some to my friend Becky (we had quite the New Year Party at her house, and she was feeling how I was feeling), and I would never bring her food that was less than wonderful.

1 med red onion, diced (1.5 cups)
3 cups low-sodium veggie broth
3/4 quinoa, rinsed
1 14.5 can diced tomatoes w/basil, garlic and oregano
10 oz. spinach leaves

Heat large saucpan with some olive oil over med heat. Add onion & saute for 5 min. Add broth and 4 cups water, and bring to boil. Add quinoa and reduce heat to med-low. Cover, simmer for 15 min.

Stir in tomatoes and spinach leaves. Simmer 5 mins, uncovered, or until spinach and quinoa are tender. Season w/s&p. I added a touch of freshly grated romano cheese. Yum.



Creamy Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup
(this is an "easy" soup that cheats with canned soup, but it's fast, easy and oh-so-good!)
3 cans mushroom soup
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots (I upped to nearly 1 cup)
3/4-1 cup wild rice, cooked
** 1 cup whole milk
** 1 cup half and half

** now, the recipe calls for 1 large can skim evaporated milk. Ewww. If you're gonna make a soup, do it right. Use WHOLE milk and REAL half and half. You could use skim, but then you're gonna have skimpy soup that's bluish in color. And have you ever read what goes into (and out of) milk to make it skim? Ewww. Do yourselves and your culinary palate a favor and go for the gusto.

Speaking of gusto, this is what we eat our soup out of in our house:



Fabulous, wonderful Fiesta Ware Gusto Bowls. The Mister bought me a batch of them (in all different colors) for Christmas. I have cereal bowls, and the adorable little guy bowls. But I LOVE my Gusto's.

Life is so much more enjoyable when you eat good, REAL food. I love gathering my family around a table with steaming Gusto bowls in front of everyone, and the Mister's bread on the table next to REAL butter. So make REAL soup for your family (it still counts even if you cheat and use the store-bought refried beans like I did). It's easy, inexpensive and you get leftovers that taste even better (and on the first day, I wondered how any of these soups could be any more wonderful, but the were) the second day than it did on the first (because the flavors meld).

Your family will love you for it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Remember this?

Hatfield is learning to play Beethoven's Fur Elise on the piano. She was struggling a bit, and I am *very* rusty and feared I did more damage than anything when I plunked it out for her.

So, being the product of the over-marketed '80s, I fired up ol' YouTube and showed her this.



The kids LOVE it.

Desperately Seeking Approval

A new week, a new neurosis.

Thus is the life of an adopting mama.

So here it is, folks.

One Month Ago, our files were deposited at the Port au Prince U.S.C.I.S. office for I-600 approval.

I-600 Approval = Visas = I have 5 children living under the same roof

In the course of this one month, several families have managed to get the approval, get Visas, and in less than 22 hours, have their children living under the same roof with them.

And in the course of this one month, myself and dear, poor Crystal sit, desperately seeking approval.

Why on God's green earth could it take longer than One Month to get approval? I really don't know. We have matching DNA, for goodness sake. We were told it should be a slam dunk once we had the DNA and would have them home in no time. So come on already, USCIS!

So, I mustered up my courage and emailed those good folk again today. I tried to go for a good solid mix of facts (our file has been there one month, we filed our I-600 last May) with some good ol' butt kissing (we apologize for the inconvience of our request, we are so grateful for the work you do on behalf of these children and families).

It's a delicate balance, a fine line, because I certainly don't want to attract the wrong kind of attention.

After all, I'm not that kind of girl.

Yet I certainly don't want my file to be forgotten or glossed over in favor of those alluring, thinner, easier files (those skinny b*tches! the files! not the adopting moms. not that the adopting moms aren't slender. one certainly is, I've met her in person and she's a doll. not a b*itch. it's the skinny files I'm referring to.).

So here's the deal.

Today, I am humbly beseeching all of you, my readers for the following acts:

1) Prayers that USCIS will release our files so we can get Visas, OR

2) Good thoughts and finger crossing, if you're not the praying type (cool with me)

If you can also throw in some prayers/good thoughts and finger crossings for:

1) Crystal's family and son. We can't forget them! AND

2) My sanity. Because I value it almost as much as my family does. AND

3) A speedy positive response from USCIS, because a long wait directly affects my ability to keep sane, thus affecting the effectiveness of the prayers/good thoughts and finger crossings you all so kindly offer. Because, I love you all so much that I would never want to risk any of you developing low self-esteem due to ineffective prayers for my sanity.

And while I'm being so humble and asking for help (I suck at asking for help!), I'd also like:

4) The remainder of our tax documents to arrive so that I can file our taxes and therefore feel less guilty about purchasing a new camera since I would know that the funds would soon be replaced. Because, after all:

Broken camera = No Pictures = Boring Blog

And it would be selfish of me to subject you all, my loyal readers to that, right?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Birthday to My Dear Mrs.

Hello to All,

I’m the Mr., Sarah’s hubby, and I was able to get permission to do today’s blog entry.
Today is a special day because it’s Sarah’s birthday!!!

I wanted to write an entry because I thought this would be the best way to tell the world about my wonderful wife. Most of the blog entries talk about the kids, about the adoption, and about our family’s life. Not enough, not nearly enough is ever spent on how incredible Sarah is. Probably the best way to introduce her best qualities is to attempt a brief synopsisof our first meeting.

We first had an epistolary acquaintance- connected through a mutual friend and a slow and careful approach from both of us. Her writing, of course, bowled me over and I would read her emails over and over. After a couple of months of constant emails, we called each other and helped keep AT&T very profitable for a couple of more months. I even took a trip to Spain and spent the entire time thinking about Sarah and how much fun the trip would be with her there (and I wrote to her via good ol’ snail mail!). By all definitions, we had a liking of each other mentally first. We’d seen pictures of each other but, of course, pictures don’t always accurately represent who you are talking to.

Our first blind date, when I flew into a nearby city and we met up for our first face-to-face meeting, began with her knocking on my hotel door. Don’t think of any naughty ideas- I was there for work and had a roommate. Sarah was picking me up and, when the door first opened, I was floored by the most brilliant blue hue I’d ever seen in a pair of eyes. I don’t remember much of what was said, but I felt my heart explode and couldn’t stop looking and smiling at this beautiful woman who had already won me over with her intelligence. Right there, right then, I knew I wanted to marry her. Of course, I had to keep quiet about that and speak as little as I could- the less I said, the less likely it was that I would disqualify myself and scare her off!


What did I learn that first night? Sarah is beautiful. She has powerful blue eyes. She has an awesome body (which isn’t required but, wow, what a bonus!), and she is humble about it all- which makes her even more attractive. Beyond that, and what initially perked my interest in her, was what she shared in her emails and calls early on in our getting to know each other. I found out about her commitment to family, the huge amount of love she had for Hattie, and her unselfish devotion to living according to her principles. Walking around Chicago during that first date, I could see the vibrant personality I had heard at a distance- not only saying what she felt, but amplifying it with how she spoke and carried herself. If she thought something was beautiful, you could see it her reaction- the way her eyes lit up, the way her voice changed. If she talked about something important to her, the passion was unmistakable in her tone and manner. She was alive, a beautiful spark of a woman, and she had a beautiful tone that emanated from within and accented the lovely features of her face.


From that time onward, I was in love with her. I was in love with her compassion, the strength of her love, which I was able to win despite several (now humorous, then not so humorous) mishaps, and for the bettering of my life, I jumped at the chance to remove myself from the world I loved and spend the balance of whatever time I have on earth with this woman who has been nothing less than extraordinary.

I can see this is going long, and it’s probably pointless and disorganized (I can only shudder at the thought of her impression of my lack o’ skill in the words department), so I’ll end it. But, please know this- I wish my wife a happy birthday and thank her for the life she has given and shared with me. Our family and world is a gift that is all the more lovely because she has had a hand in it all and I devote the rest of my life (which, for her, is a long long long time!) to adoring Sarah and trying to be worthy of her affection.

Happy Birthday, Sarah. I love you with respect, admiration, and an appreciation of the family and life we have together.

-The Mr.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Flashback: Camp

Welcome

Marshmallows


Tire Swing



Sand-Bottom Lake


Kayak

Mom's Little Dollhouse

Camp


93 Days to Go

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Laying Claim

Over the weekend, my sweet friend L over at Casa de King wrote this incredible post about parental entitlement.

Which got me thinking about where I am on the entitlement spectrum with my own boys. I always thought I felt was entitled to be their mom, but suddenly, I began to question how much claim I had placed upon them.

This end part has had me in knots. Every day I'm asked if I have heard anything, if I know when we'll travel, if I'm ready for them to come home.

In my heart, I'm ready.
In my mind, I'm ready.
In my reality, I'm not ready.

As I had posted earlier, the boys' bedroom has been a DISASTER. I had bags of donated clothing so generously given to us, but no room to store it except on the closet floor. I had a closet full of summer clothing for two little boys who grew bigger and were coming home in 10 degree snowy weather. I had gift bags full of toys from my shower that I never sorted through, because both I didn't want the other children to play with them, and I didn't have the heart to go through it all.

After reading Casa de King's post, however, I realized. I had let fear get the best of me. I was afraid that if I further fixed up there room, I'd be jinxing our file into a deep downward spiral. I was fearful that if I prepared for the boys to come home, that they never would. I was fearful to lay claim upon my boys.

For a while, I thought our adoption has been so drawn out because I needed to learn a lesson in patience. I realize that must sound kind of absurd--logistically, the adoption has been drawn out due to a series of mistakes and a few natural disasters. But I really believe that in most things, there is always a lesson to be learned, so I thought that mine was a lesson in patience.

More than anything now, I realize that I am learning a lot about fear. And I have really let fear take over in my life. I was letting fear get in the way of being an Entitled Parent.

Simply put, These boys are mine. Both legally and emotionally. As my friend so beautifully summed up:
"The DNA match has nothing to do with the children being ours. The adoption is complete. We are waiting on the US government to give us a piece of paper stating our children can immigrate to this country. They are both my children!”


Talk about the kick in the pants that I needed. It was time to let go of that fear.

I truly believe that children are our greatest blessing. I also believe that the arrival of EVERY child--whether it be the arrival of a newborn or a 4-year old--should be anticipated with Love, Joy and Preparation. I'm from a family that gives a Baby Shower for every baby. A third baby is no less special than the first, so let's celebrate and help the Mama prepare. After all, there is so much in life to mourn over, so when there is an opportunity to celebrate, you celebrate Big.

Ashamedly, I had let fear take away my Parental Right to celebrate the Impending Arrival of My Boys.

But no more.

I don't care if I have to wait 3 more weeks or 3 more months (okay, I do care, but for this illustration it doesn't matter), I will celebrate this time with all I have. I will not let fear take that away from me. I may mourn the time I have to wait for their arrival, but the point is that they WILL arrive.

These children are a Blessing and a Promise and deserve to be treated as such. I am laying claim to these children and will prepare for them.

So I did it. I began the Homecoming Preparation process, and it started with their closet.

I wish I had a camera to show you proof. Visualize, if you will, the contents of one closet and 3 large rubbermaid containers full of clothing Exploding out into a bedroom. Throw in toys, backpacks, and legos and there you have it. My boys' bedroom.

I cranked up the music, gave the kids' duties--sorting clothes by type and size, trying to match pajamas, preparing these dear Owl backpacks, which we will bring with us when we get the boys.

We planned out who will get what bed (there are 3, after all). We made labels for the closet so that everyone will know where things belong (3T jackets, Atticus' pants, Short-Sleeved 4T shirts, etc.)

In other words, I prepared.

Just as every entitled Mama should.

When the Mister's Away . . .

When the Mister's away, the Mrs. is guaranteed that at least two appliances will become inoperable until he returns home to fix it.

Sigh. It's true.

So yesterday my computer was wonky ALL day. Did you notice how my last two 5FC posts were eaten? I have NO idea where they went. I have NO idea why it won't scan. I have NO idea why the cd-rom won't work. Arrrgh.

And then, come evening time, my washing machine AGAIN stopped spinning. So everything sat soaked in the bottom of the machine. Gross. Desperate, I decided to unplug the darn thing for a good hour. I plugged it back in and it worked, but I'm skeptical as to how long that will last.

So this is my test blog. Should it still be on my blog the next time I log in, I will attempt a post. Otherwise, bear with me until the Mister returns home from San Francisco.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Anxiety

I received an email back from USCIS this morning:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. _____:

Your case is not yet approved. We will let you know about the final status.

Regards,

HUH?

I'm not exactly sure what to make of this. Funny how two itty bitty vague sentences can strike great fear into someone's heart. This has me worried because:

1) ALL the other files that were checked on, along with ours, were approved and are receiving Visas today. Why was ours not approved along with theirs? What factors held us back?

2) It is so damn vague, and in my experience, vague = unlikely/doubtful/putting off dropping the final blow until it's final.

Needless to say, I'm a freaked out, crying mess this morning. I'm just so sad and tired and cannot believe that our file is still the one being held back, not advancing. I'm just so sad and tired that every time I log onto Blogger it's to rant, vent, cry or worry. I'm so sorry for needing so much hand holding. You all who are still here reading all of this, I am sincerely grateful.

UPDATE:

My dear husband, concerned about his usually calm wife's fairly hysterical reaction to this overly vague email, called our dear file manager, who is not at all concerned or worried about the email. Possible explanations as to why it has not been approved:

-They processed all the one-child families first (all the other files released had only 1 child.) This would make sense.

-They processed all the thin files first. With two boys, DNA and 20 months of process under our belts, it would not be inconceivable that our files have some heft to them.

My rational side can see the reason in those explanations. My Mama side will always worry.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The News that Never Came

Well, folks, Saturday morning is here, and no news ever came this week.

Sigh.

Monday is a federal holiday, so USCIS/Consulate will be closed, turning the 2-day weekend into a dreaded 3-day weekend.

I suppose I could look at the 3-day weekend as a 3-day break from obsessing about the big "V" word.

But let's get honest. It's just 3 more days for me to obsess and worry about what could go wrong, with no hope of me getting the news that could save me from that worry on those 3 days.

The boys' bedroom is a HUGE mess. As is Hatfield's, who has saved little scraps of paper and junk dating back to kindegarten which has now has morphed into the Monster In Her Closet. I am irritated. My children don't know it yet, but today I am hosting a family meeting about putting things back in their place. Or risk it going into Mom's Confiscation Box. Ask the Mister how many neckties ended up in the Confiscation Box in a 2-week period before he realized 1) he had no wearable ties left and 2) it's quite easy to hang them up where they belong.

When Mama means business, Mama means business. Even if it means you have to wear your grey Wolf in a forest landscape tie, straight outta the late 80s', that you won in a White Elephant Christmas Exchange.

The boys' room has two huge closets. One side is for Atticus' hanging clothing, shelves which house things like swimsuits/towels, sweaters, and floor space for his rolling laundry hamper.

The other side is for our Dynamic Duo. Right now, only summer clothing is hanging in their closet. Because I thought, waaaaaayyyyy back there on July 3rd when they got out of MOI, that I would have them home in summer.

I've never had the heart to take down that summer clothing. But do I dare take it down and hang up winter clothing?

It's -14 degrees here today. That's pretty damn cold. Shorts are a poor option.

I'm just scared somehow that if I hang up winter clothing, I'm guaranteeing their arrival next summer.

Ye of little faith, that's me. Sorry, God. I'm trying here. Big time. But struggling even bigger.

Also, I have an entire box of 3T clothing that I need to purge. Because no one is wearing 3T anymore. And a ginormous bucket of shoes, because those litte 7's and 8's are no longer needed.

But, it is -14 degrees here today. I guess that is a prime opportunity to kick some serious closet butt this morning.

Preparing is a sign of optimism, right? Of faith that they'll be home soon?

Maybe it's just what I need to do for a change of heart. Heaven help me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Flashback

In May, 2006, I was a

Wife to this handsome man (still am, of course) and Mama to this beautiful 7 year old girl.

In May 2006, my two oldest children were still little enough to happily take bubble baths together.

My 3 year old son was the only kid in his nursery school with a mohawk (look at how little my Atticus was!)

And I spent the great majority of my day trying to keep this toy-chompin', faster-than-lightning, born-without-the-fear-gene baldie alive.

I felt I was the luckiest woman on Earth because my husband, after being laid off, found an even better job, in my hometown. We moved 2 miles away from my mom into our beautiful home, which, to me, felt like an absolute mansion (still does!).



In May, 2006, I was also Mama to these two sweet, adorable 2-year old Haitian boys:
I just didn't know it yet.

Each and every morning in May, 2006, the Mister and I would drink a cup of this amazing, fantastic coffee:



The entire house would be bathed in the most heavenly coffee aroma on the planet.

This Friday morning, I am brewing the same coffee. And I am listening to Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry over and over again, just to hear him assure me, Everything's gonna be all right.

And today, I feel warmly nostalgic and good. Cause you know what?

Everything's gonna be all right.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Nearly Comical

Many thanks to all of you kind enough to put up with my huge adoption tantrum and encouraging me with your support and empathy. Some of you really nailed it with the simple statement: This sucks.

Today, I wish I had better news than this breaking news break:

The suckiness continues.

It's so sucky that it's nearly comical.

Except it's not comical, because I'm living it.

Yesterday, our agency inquired about our orphanage's files with the kind woman at USCIS. Miraculously, USCIS then approved and released those files.

Except ours was not among them.

It's not that ours is being denied. At least that we know of. It's just that it hasn't been approved.

I'm not upset that others were approved. I'm thrilled for them because it means those kids are nearly home!!! But it is killing me that our file wasn't bunched in with all of them.

I can almost recognize the comical nature of this entire situation. OF COURSE our files weren't in the group approved! No matter that our files are the oldest in the bunch, because timelines don't matter to the USCIS. No matter that we have DNA results. Our files were not released. Why? That would be TOO EASY. That would make TOO MUCH SENSE. That would have been THE RIGHT THING for USCIS to do.

So, this morning, I emailed USCIS to ask for an update. Hoping that they will see my email and send me back a "You're approved!" email.

I would tell you how many times I have checked my email in the interim. Except I don't know how to count that high.

"Sucky" is the Word of the Day.
Sucky, sucky, sucky, suck.

Honestly, I should be up for the "Most Inspiring" (since all I do is complain) or "Most Articulate" (since I've perfected the use of the large and scholarly words, like "sucky") of "Most Nearly Comical but Not Really" Blog Award somewhere on line. Or maybe "Most Often Tantruming Over Things Out of Her Control." That has a nice ring to it.

Sucky, sucky, sucky, suck.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Crabby

So apparently our files are not where we have thought they were.

We're not just waiting on the Visa appointment, but a whole lot of other crap instead.

In reality, we're still where we were taken on Dec. 26th, at USCIS awaiting I-600 approval. Which probably no one understands except those few unfortunate souls who have come to have an intimate understanding of the way the Port au Prince USCIS and Consulate works (or in reality, doesn't work.)

What does this mean?

This means that I am truly, unbelievably
C-R-A-B-B-Y.


This means that every celebratory "We're just waiting on the Visa appointment" moment I shared with friends and family was very premature.

This means that I am at the mercy of a governmental agency---a U.S. agency, mind you--which doesn't really care about or for the children, which could really do without adoption, which would rather the entire thing just be forgotten. Which is allowed to operate without any context of timeframes or rules.

And I'm really scared that I may scream at the next well-intended, caring soul who tells me to get my Senator involved. It just doesn't work that way. The U.S. Consulate is its own little dictatorship which couldn't care less what anyone on the Mainland may threaten or try to pull. The few folks I know who had made the mistake of getting their local reps involved had their files sat on for months, or worse, had some obscure document requested that has taken eons to get from the Haitian Archives.

For today, I don't care about waiting with dignity and grace. For today, I am having a bloody, screaming tantrum.

We got out of MOI over SIX FREAKING MONTHS AGO. With the unfortunate case of two families that are fighting an entirely different fight to get their kids home, we are the ONLY family left. Families that have started after us are right along with us. Families that started after us have gotten their kids home.

I'm not crabby that others are getting their kids home. Every time one of these children goes home, it is a victory for every single family adopting from Haiti.

I am crabby because I am SO TIRED of going through a process in a country where no one really cares to realize that it has been SIX FREAKING MONTHS. I am crabby that no one who works in this process other than our dear, sweet adoption agency program manager is saying, Enough is enough!

I am crabby that we are the file that gets screwed up and then set aside.

I am crabby that the one piece of news I felt truly elated over and optimistic about (the Visa appointment) was taken away from me.

I am crabby that the fate of our files is still up in the air. That the approval has not been issued, which therefore means that there is still a chance we could receive a denial. Which means that there is no security. None.

I am CRABBY.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wyclef Jean

Today we received crappy news which I'm not up to sharing, and I spent most of the afternoon fuming that, when these boys do finally come home, I hope I never have to deal with Haiti again.

But then I saw this video and I realized that, even though moments of insane frustration get the best of me, we cannot turn our backs on the people of this nation. God Bless Wyclef Jean and his incredible hope for Haiti.

This 60 Minutes clip is well worth watching. Many thanks to Small Town Girl and Me for sharing it on their blogs.


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Parenting/Teaching Advice Sought

I have a situation with my Atticus that has me stumped.

Atticus is a great boy. Happy, energetic, imaginative. He loves to have school, to play, to be busy. An easy kid. Which makes this issue all the more confusing for me, since it isn't something that he displays at any other time in his days.

Atticus often becomes quite frustrated in school, and that frustration inevitably leads to tears. In violin, he cries when he is working intensely on a song and can't get his fingers to remember their placements. In math, it is when he doesn't understand a concept. In handwriting, he'll cry when he gets frustrated at how his capital 'S' turns out, or when he writes a capital 'E' backwards for the second time that day.

The frustration creeps in, his face turns really red and he begins to cry. Which in turn makes him more frustrated.

If I suggest that he just take a break, he becomes more upset because he doesn't want to take a break. He wants to master whatever it is he is trying to do.

I admire his doggedness. But I have NO idea how to best help him work through the frustration.

I don't show any anger or frustration with him. I usually try to cheer him through in a positive or upbeat voice.

One of his favorite stories is how King Robert Bruce of Scotland was defeated 6 times by the English. With his army scattered, his countrymen downtrodden, he had to hide himself in a garden shed in the woods. There he saw a spider try 6 times to throw a thread from beam to beam with no success. On the 7th try, the spider succeeded, which then convinced King Bruce to try yet again. And on his 7th try, he kicked the English down the block, back to England.

I always tell Atticus, "Do it for King Bruce!" or something silly like that.

Half the time, I get a laugh and he's able to go on. The other half, he still cries. And it seems to bear no effect on helping him handle his next period of frustration.

So what do I do? If anyone has any advice or suggestions, I would LOVE to hear from you. Many thanks!
(For a bit of background for those new to my blog, Atticus is 6 years old and we home school.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Feeling SO thankful and relieved

This evening I received one of those phone calls that make your stomach knot and panic level rise.

My mister called me as I was putting Paloma to bed. "Hey, I was just in an accident. I rolled the van, I think," he said, sounding dazed.

I immediately and repeatedly asked if he was okay, and he assured me that he was fine. He sounded absolutely dazed though, and I was not at all convinced.

"I must have hit ice. . . I dunno. I'm pretty sure I rolled it. I remember feeling like I was upside down. I gotta call 911, though. I'm in the middle of f***ing nowhere," he said.

Now, my Mister rarely swears around me. Never the F word. He just doesn't. I can't think of 3 times when he's used the F word around me. But tonight he's in rural, heavily forested Upper Michigan.

It's truly in the middle of f***ing nowhere.

I spent 25 panicky minutes waiting to hear back from him after he got off to call the State Troopers for assistance. Concerned that he suffered a severe concussion and blacked out before he could call. The temp up there is 8 degrees, but with the windchill is -6 (which is exactly why I freak out whenever he travels up there an make him take along sleeping bags, hats, mittens, etc.). You can see all the awful scenarios my imagination was torturing me with during that wait.

Finally I heard from him and we talked until the State Trooper arrived. The snow in the ditch he was in was well above his knees. The front windshield is smashed, the front bumper in ruins, the roof damaged, and the passenger side beaten and bruised.

He's now on his way to a hotel in whatever small town closest to him has one. Motel, most likely, as even the Econolodge doesn't put hotels in the middle of the U.P's f***ing nowhere. But who cares, as long as it gets him off the road and into a warm, safe bed for the night.

The Mister, thankfully, is fine. And safe. Shaken, I think. But okay. I can't wait for him to get back home, safe and sound.

I'm still feeling shaken. Enough is enough. First Atticus and my accident, then Paloma's, and now the Mister's. If bad things happen in 3's, then I am claiming these 3 here and now. We've completed our share, now let's move on to accident-free living.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Call Guinness--It's Official

What mammal has the longest gestation period?

Hint: It's not an elephant.

Answer: A human woman in a Haitian adoption-pregnancy.

It just occurred to me that we finished our adoption Dossier and sent it off via Fed Ex over 20 months ago.
Which now means that I have been adoption pregnant longer than an elephant, the mammal who previously had the world record.

Hey--if I'm going to liken myself to an elephant, then I'm going to use an adorable photo of an elephant. And seriously, have you ever seen anything cuter than this?

To console myself and limit my chances of developing some elephant-esque thunder thighs, I treated myself to a big container of these:

Blackberries. Super healthy. Super yummy.

When I was purchasing these at market last night, two women were next to me, looking over the berries. "They're just too expensive," one woman said, her nose crinkled up like it was a big box of dog poo or something.

And it struck me just how off-the-mark her comment was.

Most Americans think nothing of spending $5 on a bag or two of chips. Or $4.99 on a Super Size Mickey D's meal (which really is nothing more than a car-trunk full of processed corn by-product mixed with a chemical cocktail to give it color, flavor and odor).

But to spend $4 on a fruit? Horrors!

The Mister and I could sit down with a movie and mindlessly devour a $4 bag of gourmet, crunchy sea salt and vinegar chips. Really. We've done it before. Or we could sit down with a bowl of berries for the same amount, which will nourish our bodies, blood, and skin.

Now, granted, we will not have the "stuffed" feeling from eating the berries. But you know what? It's okay not to eat until you feel "stuffed."

But we also won't have the next morning indigestion and "what possessed me to eat an entire bag of chips (and the accompanying 1400 calories)?"

Anyway, that is just my rambling morning monologue expounding the unnecessary evils of processed food.

And given the fact that I am over 20 months pregnant with pseudo-twins (did you know that there is such a thing? And that there are websites and yahoo groups about this?), you'll just have to humor me.

Hormones, after all.

I think I should make myself business cards. I could hand them out any time I potentially insult someone. They would read:

Please forgive me.
I am over 20 months pregnant with pseudo-twins.
That's longer than an elephant pregnancy,
for Heaven's Sake!
As such, I take no responsibility for my thoughts, actions or words.
Hormones, you know.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Mister!

Happy, Happy Birthday to the Mister!

He is officially now on the fast track to 40.

But no fear, because like a fine wine, he gets better every year (I can hear the groans on the positively cheezy cliche, but my Mister loves the cheezy humor, so I can promise you he is loving it.)

But older, not necessarily too much wiser, because despite the Contract I made him sign, the guy recently broke my carpet shampooer.

But that's Okay.

No matter what appliances he may decimate,
we are SOOO lucky to have the Mister
as the Husband and Father in our Home.
Why?

The Mister is: generous, kind, loving, funny, silly, witty, charming, handsome, determined, easy going, and serving. He's a self sacrificing, hard working, kayak tipping, vacuum decimating, Paloma spoiling, bread baking ninja who never complains about anything. Ever. (Well, nothing except for the new puppy)

I'm embarrassing you, Mister, aren't I?

Well, too bad, because there's more!

The Mister has always been and will always be my knight in shining armor (even if he breaks vacuum cleaners left and right.) Our Pastor often preaches that he feels Joseph is the Bible's unsung hero, because Joseph was a man who raised a child who wasn't his, but LOVED that child with everything he had and RAISED that child as his OWN.

I always choke up during those sermons, and it takes every ounce of my strength not to stand up and announce, "My Cliff is my unsung hero too!" He loves all of our children the same. Sometimes, when recalling our children's births, he'll even mention details about Hattie's (which is funny, given that I had never met him yet.) But it just goes to show how deeply entrenched our beautiful girl is in our Mister's heart.

The Mister has many nice single friends, who like to joke about married men having turned in their Man Card. These fells like to regal their poor married friends with all sorts of talk about all the girls they meet in bars and how they lured them in with their manly man ways. Uh huh.

I'm sorry, nothing against these nice single guys, but any guy can get lucky every now and then at a bar. They've got nothing on my Mister, because:

A true man is one who supports a family of SEVEN (that's a lot of people!), all on his own.
A true man puts his all into raising his children to be good people.
A true man treats his wife like a Queen, even when he is tired and probably would like a little pampering himself.
A true man paints the same room countless times with countless hues of paint, and picks up countless tons of dog poop (it's a glamorous life).
A true man will sit on the floor for an hour and play doll house, talking in a high falsetto voice because that's how the dolly Goldilocks talks, just to please his 3-year old princess.

Last night, I had a gathering of lady friends over at my home. When all went home around 9:30, it was very dark and very cold and very icy. The Mister took everyone's car keys and warmed up all their cars. No one asked him to. He even found out where the two patches of black ice were and took the falls himself. Then he escorted everyone to their cars to ensure no one hurt themselves. That's the kind of guy my husband is.

I am so grateful to have this man as my partner and best friend. If this is over the top, I make no apologies. For the past 2 years, I feel like I've lived in an adoption-induced fog. No more. This year, I've committed to making sure that everyone I love knows how much I love them.

And who better to start with than my Mister?

Happy Birthday, baby. I love you!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Monday Morning Announcement

Ah-hem.

The DNA results are back.

And they're a match.

Can I get one huge HALLEJULAH!!!!

But wait!

It gets better.

Truly.

The DNA results were back on December 24th. And emailed to the Embassy.

The reason the Orphanage Director brought our file in on the 26th because the Embassy requested it.

The Embassy requested it because they had our DNA results and were ready to process our file. They were being proactive and prepared. The government. Now that is surreal.

This morning, the Orphanage Director told our beloved Sara E. that she was just waiting for the Consulate to email her our Visa appointment date/time.

Wow.

This is a LOT to process. In all honesty, I don't expect any of this to go smoothly. Missing paperwork, additional requests, etc. . . I'm prepared for.

So right now, we still have no clue when that appointment will be. Or when we'll be travelling to get the boys.

BUT, I do know that this is the LAST STEP. No matter what they request of us, it will all be done in an effort to fulfill the contingencies of this LAST STEP.

We are *nearly* there.

And I was not prepared for this sort of news this morning. I never thought I'd be singing and dancing and crying tears of joy around my kitchen this morning.

But I'll tell ya, I'm liking this feeling Big Time.

2 years ago on Valentine's Day, Cliff and I made the decision to adopt these two little boys.

We laughed, we cried and we toasted them over our Valentine's Dessert, which we shared, just the two of us, after our children here were in bed.

We would love nothing more than to have them home by Valentine's Day. Please, we covet everyone's prayers and best wishes and good thoughts and finger crossings at this time. We're nearly there!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Getting Smarter

I spent a great deal of time yesterday sitting with a telephone perched between my ear and shoulder, listening to bad Muzac, waiting in queue to speak with a DNA lab customer service agent.

Typically, when I would first enter the queue, I would have 3 calls ahead of me. Their automated operator chose to inform me of this information every 22 seconds. Annoying, indeed, but not as annoying as the Muzac.

Yet the most annoying thing of all was that every 22 seconds, if I wanted to leave a voicemail, I needed to press 1. If I wanted to stay in queue, I must press any other button. Or risk being tossed into the dreaded voicemail dungeon.

So every 22 seconds, I would press a button to stay in queue.

I was rewarded with stepping forward in line, and I found myself getting antsy each time I only had one call in front of me. I was mere moments away from finding out the fate of our adoption path for one of our boys!

Or so I thought. Each time, at exactly the 10 minute mark, I was automatically placed in a generic voicemail box.

And each time, my thought was only one simple word. Which rhymes with suckers.

At some point, I figured out that I was not waiting in queue because others were talking to the customer service. I was waiting because other desperate-yet-dim adoptive parents were also waiting, hope against hope, to talk to someone who was not there.

International adoption can turn you into a determined fool, punching in those random numbers over and over again, in some sort of twisted Pavlovian joke. "Look! All we have to do is say Jump! and they will! Ha ha ha ha ha!" I can see the staff sitting around scheming at the possible ways they'll torture us desperate beings.

Because, as I have learned, Maury and Montel and Jerry really don't get those DNA tests done in an hour, either.

Ah yes, my life has become this exciting indeed. I am at the point where I am sharing, publicly, on my blog, my trials of waiting in a telephone answering queue.

But given the past few days of fender benders, flus, and split open foreheads, I gladly settle for this sort of drama, indeed.

Friday, January 02, 2009

33 Hours

A mere 33 hours into our New Year, Paloma took a swan dive/fall off of our living room sofa. Smacking her poor little forehead onto the edge of my very sharp coffee table. Then continued the swan dive through to the floor, landing smack center on the forehead she just split open.

Head wounds, for those lucky enough not to know, really, really bleed. A lot.

So all before 9 am, we packed up the kids, dropped the two oldest ones off at Jimmy's, and headed our poor little pumpkin over to the ER. The Mister and I later congratulated ourselves at how efficiently and quickly the older kids got their snow clothes on, he got the baby ready, and I retrieved my purse and necessary medical info. We did manage to show up at the ER, me in my sweats and the Mister in his polar bear pj's, but we weren't really thinking about what we were wearing when we were racing to the hospital.

We had a wonderful nurse and doctor. Paloma trooped through the procedure. She even took the time to critique the doctor's performance: "He's going too slow! Go faster!" she tearfully offered several times. The nurse and doctor thought she was adorable, fortunately, and got a big kick out of her.

9 stitches sewing together the 2.8 cm horizontal laceration on the lip of her forehead later, we were back home by 10:30. We are all now resting with our brave trooper and pampering her. The big kids are coloring pictures for her, Cliff is playing the "Mommy or Daddy?" over and over again at her request, and Mommy is going to bake whatever her Dear Heart's tummy requires.

Here's to hoping that we are ER-free the rest of 2009.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Welcomed Year

Some years I'm sad to see end, but I feel perfectly content in closing the door on 2008 to welcome in 2009. Feeling exhausted and unmotivated in the last week of 2008, it was nice to wake up and feel a sense of 'let's get things done.' Of course ushering in a nasty virus bug along with the New Year has slowed me down some in that department, but I'll take the newly upbeat perspective I feel, all from merely flipping a calendar page.

With a new year comes new hope, and the amount of hope I feel today is surreal. This morning I checked an adoption board for our orphanage which I rarely, if ever, check. Our O director had posted a Year End Update List on where everyone is in process. The first group was titled:

A List of the Dossiers at USCIS, submitted on December 26th for Visa Approval, with Passports Ready and Medicals Completed (these children are supposed to come home this month, January 2009).

Our boys were in that group.

Surreal. For the past 2 years, I have been seeing lists like these. And we've never been at the top. It's been a long, slow, painful climb. And, in truth, we should have been on the top of that list in July, but as we all know, things happen. And boy, did they happen with our files.

But this morning was the first time where my eyes saw a list, written by the director, with my boys at the front of the line.

Surreal.

Now, I KNOW that these boys will not be home this month. We don't have DNA results in. The Embassy is a little on the Nutzo-Gonzo side of the Mason Dixie line right now. I KNOW that the words "this month" do not actually refer to January, 2009, but more likely February or March of 2009. Maybe even later.

But, today, that does not diminish my hope. For today, I feel the excitement that this is the year my boys are coming home.

Last night at dinner, the Mister commented that when people ask him about the process, he tells them that we are getting to the point where not much can go wrong anymore.

"Don't say that!" Becky and I proclaimed, in unison, lest that should somehow jinx us.

There is plenty that could still go wrong. Dreadfully wrong. Plenty.

But for right now, I'm holding onto hope. This morning, my eyes saw my fellas at the top of that list.

Not much longer, my boys.




Not much longer.

(My friend Leanne took the photos in Dec. 2008. She told them that their Mama wanted to see their picture, and they smiled right away. Thank you Leanne!)