slide show

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day #64 & A Golf Tourney

Each summer, the kiddos participate in a golf clinic and tournament. This makes their father VERY proud. Many weekends I find myself a golf widow, and Papa has grand aspirations of playing golf in his "golden years" surrounded by his children. I have grand aspirations of ANYTHING that will lead to a scholarship to offset college expenses of 6 kids! So let me say how very proud we are that this year, in the tourney, my youngest son scored a 64!!!! It was a grand moment! Boo beamed with pride and our smiles couldn't have been wider. Never-you-mind that his score was for one hole! And a par 5 at that. That's a LONG way! We'll keep encouraging him and hope that he doesn't burn out.

Patch on the other hand, loves the game. The picture of Patch on his bike, is very often the last I see of him till sundown as he leaves each morning. "Bye, Mom. I'm gonna go to the putting green, driving range, chipping green...!" as he zooms off on his bicycle each morn. Collared shirt-check. Sunblock-check. Carbolicious breakfast-check. Borrow his sister's pitching wedge and 3 wood-check. Cell phone so I can find him when the thunderstorms roll in-check. Small maternal lecture on golf etiquette, letting the adults play through, and NO MORE "borrowing" soda from the snack shack-check. And he's set to go! He usually plays 9 holes with his golf buddies (yes, at 9 years old he has golf buddies!) in the afternoon after the adults have mostly left the course.

Final Golf Tourney Scores-
Boo 64--mixed 1 hole
Patch 38--boy's 6 hole (took 2nd place!!)
Livy 61--girls 6 hole (Don't let the photo fool you, she has a great swing!)
Sunny--(she's a teenager and a high school freshman to boot! She has finally put her foot down to the annual golf tourney. Sorry Papa. We have other children!)

Adoption news---Well, we made it into the 60's. Honestly, I never thought we'd get to this point. Someone asked me the other day if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. All I could think of was that I've been praying God give me a flashlight. It's dark.

A little overview about where things stand politically might be in order.

Basically, the MOU (or contract between VN and the US to adopt Vietnamese orphans to US families) basically defines that it is VN's responsibility to determine the status of orphans and weather or not they meet the criteria to be adopted. There are 5 criteria that VN uses-

1)  Length of time the child has been living in the orphanage or charitable institution (Entire lives-almost 1 year)
2)  Financial support provided for the child by the birth parents (None)
3)  Contact between the birth parents and the child (None)
4)  Expressions of interest in the child by the birth parents (None)
5)  Whether actions taken by the birth parents on behalf of the child were initiated by them or were done at the request of government or orphanage officials. (Initiated by VN gov't officials.  Due to fact that a police investigation and public advertisements have been unable to locate or identify the birth mother.

So under the terms of the MOU, Sunburn and Little Man, (and all the babies stuck in this political quagmire for that fact!) easily meet ALL these criteria, and it unequivocally qualifies them as orphans and adoptable. However the US has unilaterally decided to "re-evaluate" the orphan status of these children (with no explanation as to why) and "take" this responsibility away from the VN govt. It seems hellbent to locate the birth mothers of the children to get their personal approval and/or find fraud in this system, the very same system that the US had already agreed to honor by signing the MOU in the first place.

In VietNam, the stigma of an unwed mother being pregnant or having a baby out of wedlock, is a HUGE deal. Think of the 40's or 50's here in the US, but double the consequences. VN has the highest abortion rate in the world. It is not unheard of for a family to forever disown a daughter who would find herself pregnant and not married. In my opinion, if a single unwed mother went through all the trouble to hide her pregnancy from her family, maybe even resorting to moving to Saigon to hide and live in a secret safe house, (run by the previously eluded to Catholic Church) then I don't think a US gov't investigator is going to be able to find her. And if they did, the mere act of finding this woman would "out" her secret and reveal her past. Her consequences of the US gov't could be last her life long. And yes, the US govt has already done this to many young Vietnamese women.

Most importantly to the orphans, none of what the US gov't is trying to find, will change ANY of the 5 criteria above. Nothing will change the fact that there are still orphaned babies growing up parentless in an orphanage, with no contact, financial support, or ANY expression of interest by their birth families. And no matter what the US gov't hopes to finds, these children will still live the remainder of their childhoods in the orphanage until they age out, unless they change their stance on the adoption of these innocent children.
So that's where we are... we wait and wait and wait for someone to intervene or realize that enough is enough already. It is obvious to most that these children have no family. How long will the US gov't attempt to find fraud at the children's expense? How long is it comfortable making these children wait?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day #57 and Full Circle Flowers

I still remember when I was little and would pick my mom wild flowers. And I remember Papa, always the teacher, explaining I couldn't pick the thistles because of the thorns and being so sad because thistle flowers were so big and pretty. I remember my mom would put them in water and display them proudly somewhere in our home.

But the thing I remember the most, is the next morning, because they were wild flowers, the flowers would have shriveled and died. It always made me sad that they were SO beautiful and only lasted such a very short time. And because of this, I never quite understood why my mom would go though the work of trimming off the roots, and displaying the flowers when they lasted such a short time and were always dead the next morning.

Turn the clock forward 35 years and Boo, my five year old, has been bringing me this precious gift this summer. Amazingly, many of the flowers are the exact varieties that I remember picking as a child. I know the names probably aren't accurate, but Indian paint brush and little wild daisy's are in the gifts he proudly brings me. And even though I still see the beauty of the flowers with the same enthusiasm, I now see this gift through mother-eyes. More precious than it was when I was a child. It's my turn now, to ooo and ahhh when I see Boo coming with his dirty fist wrapped around his treasure, little roots and dirt clinging to the bottom. Bugs still on the leaves and little yellow flowers so small and delicate. Now it makes me cry when I see him coming through the woods so proud and happy to give me his gift.

Grammy, (Who has taken a step into the 21st century and is new to the blog)
Thank you so much for always treasuring my gifts of wild flowers and giving them water and putting them in the middle of the table for all to see, even though it only lasted a day. I think I get it now. Another circle come all the way around.

The phone conference with my Senator's aide last Friday, was pretty fruitless. Again, he's very nice, but clueless. He sent another inquiry re our case to the US Consulate in HCMC. We'll talk again next week, and see if he's heard anything. He's going to go back to college in mid-August and will transfer my case to someone else in the office.

This week and last came with no developments... nothing... nada... zilch. It seems that the in-country/VN staff of our agency is starting to use a different technique. Here's hoping something... ANYTHING happens soon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day #52 New Pics

Sunburn - almost 11 months old
Her eyes still pierce right through you, just like the first pics when she was 5 months old

The Little Man -11 months old
He doesn't look quite like a baby anymore

I was surprised to get new pics a couple days ago. After hearing about the mysterious "sickness" in the orphanage, it was so good to see the babies looking healthy. Although Sunburn looks like she was recently woken up for the photo session, and she looks a little disheveled and ticked off. From the background of the photo, it looks like they have moved the babies to the "older baby/toddler room." But Sunburn and Little Man's cribs are right next to each other still. Again-sorry for the "pieces" of the pictures. Until the babies are ours, we are not allowed to post full pictures of them. If you see me in person, I'll gladly show you several whole pictures.

I LOVE those beautiful rich brown eyes.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day #50

Attorneys, senators, a child trafficking conspiracy, the Catholic Church, illegal activity, the Deputy of the USCIS, a third world country half way across the world, the VP of the United States, covert operations and surprise attacks... and a soccer mom in AZ? Hmmm? That seems odd!

Our agency reports 60 days is the average wait time for its families to wait for I-600 approval. The USCIS officially says 45 days is the average wait time. Today we hit day #50. It feels like these 50 days have lasted forever. And I have no right to complain when there are TuDu families that have waited longer than 100 days and longer than 200 days and the longest I know of at 218 days waiting for their I-600 approval from the US gov't.

Last week came and went with NO TuDu approvals at all, and a dark cloud of depression hung over the remaining TuDu families waiting for approval including me. Last week also came with lots of rumors too, but without the approvals it all really means nothing. This week has again produced no approvals and the work week in VN is over this evening. The overall consensus is that all the remaining families are back to where they started. Blocked.

This week also brought several TuDu families (not from our agency) to be forever united with their children, the ones who were lucky to get approval a couple weeks ago. It is wonderful to see the photos of their babies wrapped safely in their arms, so long over due. I am so so happy that mamas and papas and their babies are getting to know one another, how they sleep, what they eat, what makes them smile, how to comfort them when they are sad or scared... It's also so hard for me to watch knowing that one simple email is the ONLY thing standing in our way to do the same with our children. Why would the US gov't not want these children to have forever families and let them continue to grow up in orphanages? Why wouldn't the US gov't get this baby home that needs treatment and may even need surgery? I just don't understand.

We're considering retaining an attorney that specializes in adoption immigration law. (Yep, it is amazing that this specialty even exists!) Several families from our agency have already hired her. She is absolutely wonderful and won't charge us for consultations until her "real work," as she refers to it, begins. At this point, with all the expenses already, we'll use the money we've saved for travel expenses. Hopefully the Lord will provide when/if we ever travel.

On top of it all, our caseworker reported that there is some "sickness" going around in our orphanage so the agency hasn't been able to get in to see the babies or take photos because the orphanage staff doesn't want extra germs coming in. Of course that makes me worry, knowing Sunburn or The Little Man could be sick. I wish I was there. Our case worker says it's nothing serious, or we would have heard more.

Tomorrow, I have a phone-conference with Senator Kyl's office, my third so far. In June, the aide I'm working with, forwarded an email inquiry to USCIS in HCMC along with our own letter to and insisted on giving 30 days for them to respond. I tried to explain that there are folks that have waited over 7 months for some info about their case, but he still insisted we wait. Now that the 30 days is up, I'm anxious to hear his next step. He is very nice and seems genuinely concerned, but I'm so praying that he will be more proactive.

Sweet baby Sunburn and wonderful Little Man,
I'm trying so so so hard to get there! There isn't anything I wouldn't do to hold you in my arms and call you my own forever. Please know how very much we love you and long for all of us to be together forever. I so so hope you don't have the mysterious illness. You deserve a mama and a papa and a family and a zillion kisses and hugs and the security of mother-love. My word that I won't stop trying to come get you! I pray that your tummies are full and your are loving someone... anyone.
-Your mama half way across the world

Guess-the-Block-Letter-Day Game
Day 12 - Daddy

Day 17 - Melissa C.

Day 19 - TB

Day 22 - Livy
Day 25 - Auntie S

Day 28 - Boo

Day 30 - Sunny
Day 42 - Auntie S

Day 45 - Auntie K

We're now on our day #50. I can't believe we are so close to my guess!!!!
Day 55 - Patch

Day 67 - Me (the Little Man's birthday)

Never - Michelle

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Obsessed with the Squirrels

Can I briefly interrupt this blog for a moment to explain to readers our crazy obsession with the squirrels?

Maybe we're just city-folk who are easily amused by all the critters that we find in the forest. There are so many birds, and chipmunks, and lizards, and crazy loud woodpeckers! Last year we had glimpses of bears in our backyard! On a road trip we might see deer, elk, bald eagles, and once we even spotted wild sheep! But with all the varmints around, I think we may have an unhealthy obsession for squirrels. We take pictures of them and feed them and still, after years in the mountains, we still stop what we are doing to rush over to see them when the come around! Maybe some of our readers from the east coast will think our obsession is crazy, as I've heard folks on the east coast think of these cute squirrels as a nuisance on the same level as pigeons. That's just crazy talk! Squirrels are SO SO cute and adorable, unlike pigeons that are only a step up from cockroaches!

We have squirrel feeders, and in the summer we keep them full of corn and peanuts and sunflower seeds. This year we have a mama squirrel and her two babies that come around daily. At first we thought the babies might be chipmunks, which we also have in abundance. But nope, as they grow, we are convinced that they are just adorable baby squirrels! Recently, one of the babies has become quite ornery and even chases off the bigger squirrels as if our front yard is his sole domain. We've nicknamed him Rocky. (Surely you remember Rocky the flying squirrel?)

The feeder works on a hinge and the weight of the squirrel standing on the platform opens the door for the food. (You should see the poor birds trying to get food out of it, but they just don't weigh enough! Lucky for them we have bird feeders too!) Rocky is quite little still and when he leans in to get food, he has to step forward on the platform, often causing it to close on his head. It's taken him several days to get brave enough to eat from the feeder. Often, I open my front door to see this view of Rocky- his butt facing me as he pigs out.

The mountains are a lovely distraction, and God's creatures seems to come to our door looking for me, as if to say, "Stop thinking about all the mess! Look at me!"

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Day #40 & God's Blessings

Oh yuk... I just read over my last couple posts. Enough wining and complaining already! Oh my, that's all so depressing. Isn't it going to be great when you all can say, "Told you so! All that worrying for nothing!" It's been a long 19 months. There are some days on the calendar when I assumed we'd be all done and back home. The 4th of July was one of them as it is my very favorite holiday easily surpassing Christmas.
So here is our wonderful 4th of July. It was a GREAT weekend!

Mother like daughter???

The 3 amigos (cousins) play golf!

My oldest is growing up before my eyes. Can I REALLY be the mother of a high schooler?

These blue eyes are his father's and both melt my heart!

A present from Boo... the best thing all weekend!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Day #38 & A Case Study for Kübler-Ross

I'm feeling defeated. I'm not sleeping well and seem to be in a fog most of the time. I still find it amazing, especially when I look at past posts, how my emotions cycle from one to the other. I remember studying Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and the stages of grief. It was so interesting then, but now I seem to be a case study for it! Denial, anger, grief, bargaining, immobilization, but I can't seem to make my way to acceptance... ever. Not when the babies lay there day after day.

Every new week holds promise, and Mondays hold the possibility for 5 new days of developments. Not sure I'll get much sleep at all on Tuesday night. By Thursdays the week is mostly over and the depression crawls back to the surface. Sometimes the weekends are just a way to bide time till the new week comes. I hate that it has come to this. I know all you adoption mommies are familiar with the cycle. Don't get me wrong. Most of the time I try and forget what's going on and focus on my kiddos and sweet Papa who endures me and the roller coaster with such strength and faith. This week brought picnics and fireworks. We ate homemade ice cream and lots of fried chicken. Family and lots of cousins came too just the way it should be! Thank you so much Auntie S for demanding to see the ALL the videos of the babies and gushing over them just like they were here already. Thank you Auntie K for letting me cry. Thank you monkey #2 for enduring my silence when my heart is so tender.

After all the "going-ons" of last week, I was left hopeful. But Monday hit me like a ton of bricks. There have been 3 more approvals since then, but there are still none for our agency or any of the special need's kiddos, and that seems odd and scares the pants off me. In spite of the trickle of approvals, there are several indications that things do NOT look good. The head hancho at the USCIS in HCMC is making things very clear to a couple different sources. (I have a very detailed legal brief that explains things better than I could, but it's just to complicated to go into.) Several families have decided to hire an attorney and take action. For now, Papa and I have decided to wait until we get a block letter, or our case is at least at 60 days, (the original frame USCIS quoted it would take to process i600s) before we lay down even more thousands of dollars as a retainer for the attorney.

I MISS THEM! AND I HAVEN'T EVEN MET THEM! I miss them. They are growing up with out me.

In the excitement of last week, I applied for our visas. They arrived, and now we can hop on a plane at any moment as soon as that pesky i600 approval email comes. Again it seems in vain as there is NO sign that we're going anywhere. Our visas are good for 90 days until early Oct. I can't even bring myself to look at them and have left them in the FedEx envelope.

I sent our international adoption doctor updated weights and measurements of the babies. She asked me for more information regarding their "development." Isn't that the million dollar question? Ya, doc, I'd just love to know that myself! How profound will the developmental delays be after the babies have been in an institutionalization for more than a year?
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