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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Good Morning, VietNam!


Monday, 01 Sept, 2008, 11:00am ish

We MADE it! Very uneventful flights, and to those of you adoption buddies about to travel, EVA is wonderful and the Evergreen deluxe is worth every extra cent for the long leg of the journey. Very comfortable, and we all got some good sleep.



Our hotel, The Renaissance Riverside, is a very nice western style hotel that pretty much resembles a business class hotel. Not my first choice, but AmEx is taking care of the bill due to our surpless of points. So the price is expensive and free for us. The hotel is right on the Saigon River and the sight of the river is amazing to see, barges, ferries, tug boats all driving on the river, just as crazy as the motorbikes.





I'm not sure where Sunday went, but we are in Saigon and setteling in. Oh MY! I love this country already! Smiles on so many faces and bold colors and sights and smells right in your face. The motorbikes are a scene in them selves, and I think I could spend hours just watching them. I can't wait to get out and explore more of this facinating city.


Currently, we are sitting here munching on a bowl of complimentary fruit. We can't recognize anything but a persimmon, nor are we sure about how to each any of it. There is some thing that we peeled, and it squirted everwhere. Its like a blob inside of gelatanous clear goo thing with a black pit all about the size of a walnut. It tastes like it's a cross between a honeydew melon and an eyeball. Strangest thing! Olivia says it tastes sweet and gooey, and she's contimplating trying another one but not sold on it yet. It's all an adventure! (Just found out it's an "longin." Try googeling that one!)


For now we wait to hear from the adoption staff here in Saigon about what the plan is for getting the babies.





Just wanted to let you know that we have arried safely.





PS-Can't get the spell check to work to you'll have to make do will all the spelling errors.



Papa-The ironwood carving drew a lot of concern going through security at each airport. (3 of them!) But it's here too. And one security agent even commented, "neat fish!" when he unwrapped it looking for illegal contriban.

In LAX waiting to board the plane

1:05am-getting a little sleepy waiting to board the flight to Taipei. Timmy is looking pretty tuckered out too. Livy is still pretty energetic however.

It's Sunburn's birthday today. Happy birthday sweetheart!

The international terminal of LAX is a good transition to the culture shock. At midnight it is a hoppin' place full of life and TONS of folks going to each corner of the globe. A wonderful place to people watch!


Saturday, August 30, 2008

For all the excitement that we're feeling now about to meet our children, I'm also feeling so so sad for them. We're excited and joyous for sure, but they are about to lose all that they know and the only family they have and their home. After a year, surly the nannies that care for them are their mother figures, and their cribs and this orphanage are their homes. I can not imagine what it would be like to be uprooted from all I knew and all I felt safe with, to be put in the arms of a stranger and driven away, to new sounds, and smells and new people who you've never met. I hope that I know the right thing to do, or not do. The right thing to say to them and the right way to say it. Adopted children at any age, do grieve for their losses. And we know Sunburn and Little Man will grieve too for the loss of their home and family as they know it. We hope that we will be able to provide comfort to them.



Except for that, I'm so so excited to see them and hold them and wrap my arms around them.

Airport Bound in 7 hours!

Our agency has moved our G&R to Monday so we'll be receiving the babies that afternoon unless it changes again. Which I think is your middle of the night on Sunday. Coincidentally, Sept. 1, is Labor Day, which I think is mighty appropriate as this has been a most difficult "labor."

We're all packed and surprisingly it's very calm here. Finally getting excited to get this show on the road.

Not sure when I'll have the opportunity to blog next, as we need to take care of ourselves and the children. But I'll try.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Airport bound in 23 hours!

Just as I get one list finished, another, with a whole new list of things to do, appears. Sigh... I'm exhausted and surprisingly think I'll sleep well tonight. Tim is wrapping up some loose ends at work. He has NEVER taken this much time off work. Hopefully, he'll be able to get up early in VN and get some work done with clients (AZ afternoon the day prior)

Adoption buddies- We had the infamous "travel call" with Jenny yesterday. Again, this is one of those areas where I thought I had it all covered, but then got a new list of things to do. We'll try to get photos of and review the hotels we stay at for you all that will be traveling after us. I will advise to get as much done as early as possible cause things keep popping up and my head is SO full that it's difficult to prioritize. Have the hotel choices figured out and packing lists finalized and travel agent arranged (Yes, Todd is a miracle worker and there's no need to call him more then a few days ahead, only when you KNOW absolutely when you are leaving. He WILL get you a great deal even on that short notice. But know which air line you want to take ahead of time.)

Just a little run down of our schedule in the next couple days-
  • Phx to LAX departing tomorrow/Saturday evening 8/30/08
  • LAX to Taipei, Taiwan departs at 1:50AM Sun. morn, 8/31/08 and arrives 6:10am Mon. morn 9/1/08 (13:20 flying time)
  • Taipei to Saigon, departs 7:20am (3:20 fling time) arriving at 9:45 am 9/1/08
All in all about 25 hours traveling with lay overs, and hopefully we make all our connections.
Still no names for these beautiful children we are about to meet. My head just can't seem to think about that right now. I thought I had his name all figured out, but now I'm switching again to an old favorite. And her name is still up in the air and down to about 5 of our favorites. Everyone in the family seems to have their favorite choices, but none seem to agree. I'm hoping that when we meet them, the right name will just "appear" and match their personalities. I guess that's one of the fun parts of naming an adopted child, we get to see what they look like and their personalities before settling on a name. Still no guarantee we'll get it right.

I'd like to say that I'm excited and overjoyed, but honestly there are so many thoughts in my head that it's just a garbled-up, jumbled mess in there! Maybe it will hit me when we are on the plane. For now, I'll have to settle for anxiety and exhaustion.

Robin and Chantal-Your things arrived safe and sound (in the picture) and are packed too!
Susan- Thx for squeezing me in this morning!
Julia- Keep talking to Olivia. She's gonna get bored eventually!
Grammy and Granna-Please take good care of the most important things for us. We know you will.
Auntie S- You seem to say everything in just the right way and always choke me up. Thank you!
Missy- You out there? More cousins! Whoo Hoo! Can't tell if Sugar is "hooked up" to the blog.
Monkey #2- We love Spirit too but she's quite the little devil
Papa- If we need ANYTHING, we know you'll come instantly. Thank you thank you thank you.
Freshman- I MISS YOU ALREADY. Please write us!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Packing...

Well as you could probably guess, my head is spinning! All swirly and another moment in my life that I thank heavens for my fine "list making" skills which I am heavily relying upon. There have been suit cases and legal documents strewn everywhere. The plane tix just arrived via FedEx this afternoon. I purchased diapers and cheerios and the cutest little t-shirts for the babies. For the flight I brought a few "magic sleepy pills" and the series/season #1 The Tudors (Thx Deb for the suggestion!) and hope these will get me through the 27 hour trip.

Here are all the suitcases. Livy still has to add hers. I'd like to think I travel light, so know that 2 of the larger cases are donations for the orphanage. And the 2 smallest bags are things that we ABSOLUTELY couldn't live without if our luggage was lost, so they are carry-ons. The pink binder carries the Holy Grail of adoption documents and is the MOST important thing in the pile.

I'm trying to answer the questions that I've been asked recently-
  • When are we going? Our flight leaves Saturday evening. Gulp! Yep, ONLY 2 days from now!
  • Who's going with us? Livy will be traveling with us. It was a natural choice as her spirit has always been very adventurous and her soul has huge place for compassion and she's also a work horse, which we will need with both babies. The other children are staying home.
  • Whose watching the kiddos while you're away? Grammy, my mom, is coming down to stay with the boys. And Sunny will be staying with Granna & Grandpa, Tim's parents. Thank you guys so so much for watching over and parenting our sweeties while we are away. They are our treasures and we know they are in the best hands. Thank you thank you thank you!
  • How old are the babies now? Just 1 year old. Sunburn's 1st birthday is Sunday, and we will miss it by 3 days! Shucks! And Little Man's 1st birthday was in early Aug. But we'll have to have a big celebration when we are there for them.
  • What are their names? They do have Vietnamese names given to them by hospital staff. Sorry, but I'm not allowed to post this until legally these kiddos are ours, 6 days! We will be giving them names and incorporating part of their Vietnamese names into their name as well.
  • Where are the babies now? They live in an orphanage in Saigon and have been there since they were approx 7 weeks old. Their cribs have been next to each other since they were matched with us, so we hope they know one another at least. Go back to June 18th post and there some great pictures and history about the place.
  • Where are you going in VietNam? Saigon and Hanoi - 13 hour time difference (ahead of AZ time)
  • How long are you staying in VietNam? Right now we are planning on two weeks. But the timing is VERY flexible as gov'ts tend to have their own agendas.
  • What's the weather going to be like in Vietnam? HOT HOT HOT STICKY HORRIBLE, about 95 degrees and 95 % humidity all day every day! This native Arizonan, who is good up to 110 degrees, does NOT do humidity past 15% well. I'm just planning on melting.
  • Do you need and help? Anything? Wow, this is the most amazing part. We don't really need anything. We've been amazed and frankly shocked by the out pouring of support we've gotten just in the last 24 hours. Tim even JUST called me to say his good friend Jimmy called him several times yesterday just to say "if you need anything, I'm here." This support means the world to us. We feel so so very loved and can't wait to share our family with these babies. We can never say how thankful and lucky we are to have such a support system behind us. From Grammy and Granna for will look after our most precious treasures, to the Aunties S and K who have let me cry, and the children's teachers, the whole Trace family who we know are there for anything at all, Susan who fit me in for an appointment last minute tomorrow, Sugar whose has a special place in her heart for these kiddos and is helping out with the flight home, and Monkey #2 who never get tired of my griping, and so so many more I'm leaving out. Thank you thank you thank you for being our support system. We have the BEST family and friends ever!
Back to packing and list following. I think our poor dog, Spirit, is just tired watching me spin around these last two days!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

To those of you new to the blog!

Many of this blog's readers, didn't know that up until now we've largely kept our adoption plans private from most of our family and friends. Many of them didn't have a clue what was happening till just recently.

To my new readers, our dear family and friends-When things were at their very lowest, the looks on your faces were more than my heart could bare. And when we resumed our journey last fall, it just never seemed like the right time to tell. Then again when things started to look so so very bad again, I just couldn't stand to burden most of you with our problems and fears. We just never knew if this adoption was going to work out or not or what plans God had in store for us. So we buried ourselves in prayer and purposefully decided not to tell hardly anyone until things looked more optimistic.

We're so sorry we kept this from most of you but hope you will understand. We love you all so so much, and we know that we have the most wonderful friends and family that love us and would have been there to support us at any moment had we just asked. I hope you can understand why we weren't so eager to the share the news with everyone else.

Today, we find ourselves in a different frame of mind, and it finally looks like this adoption will happen after all! So now we welcome many of you, those that closest to our hearts, to our crazy adventure.

You may want to go back to early March '08, and get some of the details. I'm sure some of you may be shocked to see 2 sets of hands and feet, and 20 fingers and toes, or be curious about the title, Sunburn and the Little Man. You may also want to bookmark this page if you want to comeback and see what's happening in the next few weeks.

Yep, we know that 4+2=6. Yep, we know we're crazy! But please know that as crazy as this adventure is, it is about so much more than just us. We truly believe that we have been inspired through God's grace and wisdom, and He has put this path before us to follow. And it looks like it's leading us directly to Saigon! Stay tuned for more adventures of this crazy journey...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A New Day has Come

I was waiting for so long for a miracle to come


Everyone told me to be strong, hold on, and don't shed a tear



Through the darkness and good times I knew I'd make it through


And the world thought I had it all, but I was waiting for you


Hush, love I see a light in the sky


Oh, it's almost blinding me


I can't believe I've been touched by an angel with love



Let the rain come down and wash away my tears


Let it fill my soul and drown my fears


Let it shatter the walls for a new, new sun


A new day has come



Where it was dark now there's light


Where there was pain now there's joy


Where there was weakness, I found my strength


All in the eyes of a boy



A new day has come.

Day #90 Approval! Approval! Approval!

Message sent @ 7:38 pm
Message opened @ 7:41pm
Having reviewed the petition and documents submitted, I am pleased to inform you that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has determined that the children identified, "Sunburn" and "Little Man" does qualify as an orphan, as defined by section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended.

We're going to VietNam!!!!!!!!!

Day #90...

...and no word from the US gov't re the approval of babies' visas.

Friday, August 22, 2008

day #86 & Good News Finally

Not THE good news of approval, but some good news...

STOP reading here if you're prone to dozing off while technical terms are used, and my apology in advance for the heavy use of adoption lingo.

After having our file for nearly 3 months, the USCIS is just now requiring an addendum to our home study. This addendum will also be reflected on our I-171H. There is a summary built into the I-171H that has the bare bones of the home study. So when we turn in the addendum, we also wait for the info to go through the system and show up on your I-171H in HCMC. So this leaves the obvious question... how long is all this gonna take!!! Weeks? Months? (Thus the doom and gloom of my last post thinking this would take 3 months like it when we originally got our I-171H)

Well, God shined His blessings down upon me yesterday, and it was ALL complete within hours. Not only was this new addendum completed, notarized, and turned in, but it was also scanned and forwarded by Phx USCIS, and received by the proper folks in HCMC within 36 hours of when they first told us we needed it! What we thought would be a 3 month process was only 1 1/2 days!

And more good news... ALL the blocked cases before us, approx 33 of them, were approved last week, except 2 that seem to have some issues specifically related to their case. These families are traveling right now, are scooping up their babies, and this is very good and very long overdue. So we now know that approval from TuDu is possible, but not a given. This gives us hope that there is a way for them to approve our case too. When?? Hmmmm...

Slept better last light than I have in a long time! Optimism prevails once again! And so I'm unveiling these incredibly cute bathing suits!! Oh my, I hope they still fit the babies when we get there.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day #84 & My Sparkle and Shine to Camouflage Crappola

Long story short, the U.S. CIS has given us yet more hurdles to jump, hurdles probably not required two months ago when we should have had the the approval in the first place. This led to a lengthy discussion with my daughters about what a "Catch-22" is. (And what was better than Alan Arikin and Art Garfunkel set during WWII?!) The babies continue to wait while this bureaucracy continues to muddle through and attempts to save face. If we ever do get approval, no doubt they will look like heroes.

The call confirmed how completely ridiculous this situation has become and how few people in this world are willing to make these children a priority.

Speaking of which, my girls say there are not enough pics of them on the blog. So here are my sparkle and shine that get me through bad days like these.




Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day #83 Part II

AMAZINGLY, this afternoon, USCIS officials called us, (yes, I said "called" as in on the telephone! I know this is SHOCKING to those of you in the adoption community!) to schedule a private phone conference for just us and them for 6:00am tomorrow morning.

Those of you not is the adoption community should know that we have never heard of ANYONE ever getting a phone call from these guys, much less a request to schedule a phone conference to discuss details of their case. Maybe my constant badgering finally tapped into the Nordstrom branch of the USCIS known for it's excellent customer service. Go figure!

So I've been running around the house gathering up the docs they have told us to have on hand to "reference" during the call. Hu?? I don't get it either. I'm scared to death about what they will say. The children's lives are in their hands.

I think a little magic sleepy pill is in order for tonight.

Day #83 and the New and Improved System

No news yet...
Reportedly, the computer system in HCMC has been down for 4 days now.
Really? A U.S. government building with the computer system down for 4 days? Do they expect me to believe that?
Or perhaps this just the latest in a long string of strategies to delay uniting orphaned children with loving families... If this is their highly touted "new and improved communication system" then we're up the proverbial creek.
How long would you accept this excuse before going ballistic?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Day #78, Home Again, & Conference Review

"But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, be patient! For it will surely take place. It will not be late by a single day." Habakkuk 2:3

We are finally home from the cabin. We stayed at the cabin, up in the cool mountains, for as long as possible, just over 2 months. Now we are back to the desert and home again. 104 degrees for a high today and honestly, everyone's talking how the heat isn't that bad right now! This immersion therapy has my body in shock, and daily I find myself melting into the car's leather seat during carpool. The dogs look at me funny as if to say I'm crazy if I suggest they go outside. Even the pool is a bit too warm to swim in. The cacti are faring wonderfully however.

And this week Papa and I sent our oldest child off to high school and our youngest child off to kindergarten. On day #2 of Kindergarten, Boo brushed me off with his elbow in my ribs and a whispered in my ear, "You can goooo now!" I relented and went. I think I was more excited than either of them, and now I find myself anxious for them to come home so I can ask them a zillion questions about their day. Do the math and that leaves the house empty of children for the first time in almost 15 years. You might think the quietness would be deafening or that I might welcome the missing little piles of sand that a preschooler frequently leaves around the house. But truth be told, I've been so so so busy that I haven't had a moment to notice any difference... yet.
On to the adoption updates...
Rumor has it that the U.S. CIS phone system at the HCMC consulate is out due to some unpaid phone bills. Honestly, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

My assigned staffer in Senator Kyl's office continues to ignore my calls. I've called daily and faxed.
The phone conference with U.S. CIS in D.C. this afternoon was like nothing I had never participated in. I'm guessing there were about 40 participants including Department of State officials, immigration attorneys, adoption agency administrators, the acting director of the U.S. CIS dept of children services, many prospective adoptive parents, Senators, and one lowly soccer mom from Arizona! The U.S. CIS committed to completing all the waiting cases soon, but it did not promise approvals for everyone. The good news is that they committed adjudicating these cases very soon and to on going communication. (That's a FIRST!) In one brave moment in the Q&A, this lowly soccer mom got brave, turned off her mute, and boldly asked a question about prioritizing special needs cases. He prompted me to forward our case info to him directly, which I did within 30 minutes! AMAZINGLY I had a reply within 2 hours directly from the D.C. office saying they would get back to me by the end of the business day tomorrow... (2+ months of BEGGING for info and I've NEVER had a response. So this 2 hour response time was SHOCKING! But I'll still only believe it when I see it!) Rest assured, you'll find me not far from my computer's refresh button tomorrow. Not a guarantee of good news, but it was a commitment to ANY news, and I'll take that.
We thought that we might travel to North Carolina to attend a meeting with Senator Dole's office next Thursday, but with all the info from the conference, call we're still trying to process information.
Let me finish where I started... surely and slowly the vision will be fulfilled, and it will not be late by one single day. Breathe...

D.C. Conference Call

Keep the prayers coming Melissa and Heather and Grammy and all of you that pray...
The winds are changing...
Although not all the news is good, but some is, and we hope we will know more soon.
I was brave and spoke what Sunburn and Little Man needed me to say. It wasn't easy but they deserve and have this mama's courage even though they've never felt the joy of her kisses.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day #74 & a Sliver of Hope

The good news... There have been a couple more TuDu approvals in the last few weeks. Including a family with a case EXACTLY like ours... from our agency, never got a block letter, same orphanage, around the same birth dates, baby was born and abandoned in the TuDu hospital just like ours, and our i600 applications were submitted together at the exact same time! I don't know them, but I am happy for them. It has given us hope again and has me again checking my email regularly for our approval notice.

I have a conference call with Michael Valverde on Friday. Only those of you in the adoption community probably have any idea who I am talking about, acting Deputy Chief, USCIS Office of International Operations in Wash. DC, in other words, the boss of the folks making the decisions in VN. I've also been invited to a group meeting with Senator Dole's office/staff in North Carolina this week. Senator Dole has been a huge advocate for families struggling with VN adoptions, and her staff has made it a priority to advocate for us, remain knowledgeable of the TuDu situation and is very sympathetic. Not sure we can swing the extra money it would take to get to NC, especially on such short notice. (And as OR says, "especially in THIS market!)

Now if you are thinking any of this is progress, then I've misled you. There is no concrete progress yet, but it looks like there may be a more open discussion of the lack or progress in the future. Maybe that is progress after all? (insert a confused and exasperated look of exhaustion here)

The bad news... I can NOT say that our own Senator's Kyl's office here in AZ has had the same commitment to it's own constituent. I have had several phone conferences but none have produced ANY information. His aide even stood me up for our last 2 conference calls including the one we had scheduled last Friday! I'll start bugging them bright and early Monday morning.

We are now in the mid 70's, and there is still nothing for us but hope and prayer that this be over soon. Ultimately is IS all in His hands, and those of you that know me well know that I don't give up control easily. It does feels good to have even the faintest glimmer of hope again.

Lauren,
Many many congratulations to you and your new family of 3! I am so so happy for you. I will miss your company and your words of wisdom.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Happy Birthday to our Little Man

Happy birthday sweetie!

We're going to celebrate soon, when we get together. We'll have cake and candles and presents and the whole kit and caboodle.

If you ever think that just maybe you might want a pony sometime in the future, now would be a GREAT time to ask! I couldn't deny you anything right now.

You have cheeks to die for and a smile that shines in many of your photos. We can't wait to get to know you better.

All our love,
Your mama and papa half-way across the world
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