Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas pics

I told all the kids I wanted a picture before they could open presents.

My mom seems to be enjoying "Hungry Hippos" as much as the kids.

We love James' girlfriend S.

Here's Lizzy's boyfriend--Mater from "Cars". We hope she sticks with this guy for a long time. She's not allowed to date until after she's married. An arranged marriage of course!

The kids get a new book every Christmas and birthday. Here Kim gets the latest version featuring Walter The Farting Dog

Another satisfied customer--after initial disappointment that he didn't get a DS like some of his siblings. The kid's already taken with video systems. Sheesh!

Time for a lesson in making Creepy Crawlers. A blast from the past for Will.

A shiny new bike for Paul. Notice the snow that Santa leaves every year?

After my recent retelling of our "Woody" Christmas and the fact that Paul eventually left his on a vacation, Santa sent me a new one! He's not quite as big as the first one but he does talk :-)

Christmas dinner. Yes, I let the kids stay in their p.j.s all day on Christmas.


Christmas was happy but of course, Christmas was sad too. The saddest part is knowing it will always be happy/sad. We will always miss our Joe.

One thought I had was how our sadness is similar to how Vu's caregivers feel. He had at least three of the same caregivers his entire life. Women who loved him and nursed him back to health so many times, not the least of which was when he first arrived at the orphanage weighing only four pounds! There was one woman in particular and our reports even say that Vu called her "Ma."

I know these women are sad this Christmas and yet, I know they are happy too. Sad for themselves. Happy for Vu.

I feel the same way about our Joe. I am happy he is in Heaven, playing baseball every day, free in every way. I feel a sense of peace that God had good reason for bringing him Home now. Yet, I miss him so much. But my sadness is really just selfishness and I know that. If I was given the choice, I would still want him here-- with me. With us.

And I think that as happy as Vu's nannies are for him to have a family I am sure they wish he were still there; laughing and teasing and singing songs.

I'm sure they're happy/sad too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Traditions: Church and The Christmas Elf

Christmas Eve photo with my parents at our church. James is with his girlfriend's family and will join us later tonight.


The Christmas Elf brings matching pajamas every Christmas Eve. We hear the doorbell ring and there they are! The trick is finding a matching theme for sizes toddler through mens! This year the theme was Transformers--we know Joe's smiling.
Here's some of the fun getting ready for a picture. I couldn't coerce Will and James into the picture.



Finally, I get them all looking at the camera at once!

Christmas Eve pics

Wanna see the new love of my life?

Double oven baby! With convection! That means I can cook FOUR sheets of cookies all at once!

Wanna see the real new love of my life?

Vu, hamming it up for the camera. He is such a comedian. As you can see he fits right into our family!!!!

I bought matching Christmas sweaters for the boys. I bring them home, show them to my 18 yo and he says they are ugly!!! As in, "Mom, you aren't seriously going to put them in those are you???? Brown? How could you go brown???"

Me: Well, I didn't want them to scream "Christmas sweaters" when they are wearing them in February.

Will: So you are going to have them scream, "Leftover Halloween costume?"

Me: Long pause . . . Huh?

Will: Yeah, I was a big TURD for Halloween!

Tell me people, do these guys look like turds? They may ACT like turds, but they most definitely do not look like turds! Lizzy loved them. So do I.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Adoption Video

I always feel uncomfortable with the comments of others of how lucky our adopted children are. I feel like WE are the lucky ones. The reason we have so many kids is because we love being parents!

And yet, this Christmas, I can't deny that Vu would be singing the song on the following video clip. One of my biggest surprises in this adoption is how much he LOVES having a family--and how afraid he is of going back. I know he was very loved and cared for at his orphanage . . . but, there's nothing as wonderful as having a family of his own. He LOVES being LOVED. And of course, we LOVE loving him!!!

Here's to all the kids still waiting. I hope that someone out there will watch and consider adopting--especially a child with special needs and/or a boy over the age of two.

This video was made in reference to the children in China, but it could be anywhere. I don't have any information on the makers of the video. I recommend the agency we have used for all of our adoptions--Holt International--

(Give the video a moment to load.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas--When someone's missing

There are so many thoughts and feelings this Christmas in regards to the loss of our son. There are also weird decisions about things. For instance, what do we do with Joe's stocking? Do we hang it up with all the others just like every other year? That seemed odd and not quite right.

Do we just leave it down? That seemed like we would be forgetting him.

Should we just hang the stockings of our children still living at home? That didn't feel right either since we have always hung them all, even once they have flown the coop.

My solution came from another family who lost a child. Not only do they still hang their child's stocking, Santa still comes for him :-) Santa brings gifts that their son would have wanted the family to enjoy.

This solution feels right and good. I love seeing Joe's stocking right where it always has been. Santa will fill Joe's stocking with goodies he loved and Santa will bring a gift that Joe would want the family to enjoy. I know he will be smiling with our solution. And 18yo Will might be smiling too. He's insisting that Joe would really LOVE for our family to have an X-Box 360 for Christmas. And he's right, Joe would love it. Lizzy thinks Joe would want us to have Guitar Hero and Paul thinks Joe would want us to have a little pool table.

This might be a very expensive Christmas.

Vu is thrilled that his stocking is hanging with everyone else's. He picked out the color and watched over me all day, making sure I was going to complete it. I've never had a boss "helping me" so much. I couldn't procrastinate, that's for sure!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Love Letter

Here's a letter my sweet Paul wrote. My teenagers insist he is just trying to get in good with Santa but, since he still believes in Santa, I think it's legit. Guess who's my favorite child today ;-)

Dear, mom & dad

I love you guy as much as God & Jeasus. I do fun stuff with you guy's like mini golf and wii sports. One day I'm gona do that stuff with my chidren. You guy are the best mom & dad in the whole world. I like having a huge family.

Love, Paul

Monday, December 17, 2007

In Search Of A Woody

NOTE: You probably won't believe it, but the following story is 100% true. One thing you have to understand is that I was raised in a family of GIRLS! I have three sisters and all girl first cousins, sans one lone boy. This story comes up every Christmas.

Okay, first, you have to go back in time. Go back about seven years when "Toy Story" was at its height of popularity. Paul LOVED the movie and was obsessed with the main characters, Woody and Buzz. Here is the true story of a mother simply trying to find her son his Santa gift.

I'm in Target searching the shelves for the lovable little cowboy. I can't find what I'm looking for so I find an employee in a red shirt, a young man, early college age.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for a Woody."


"You know, Woody, the toy? I saw you have the little Woody's but I want a big, soft Woody."

The guy gives me the strangest look and snickers. I can't figure out what's so funny. I mean, it's pretty obvious to me that lots of moms are wanting big, soft Woody's because they are so hard to find.

He laughs a little more and then walks with me over to the stuffed animal aisle. On the way, we pass his male co-worker and he tells him that I'm looking for a Woody. They both give each other this strange look and smile.

The second worker explains there are some on the action figure aisle.

"But I don't want a small, hard, plastic Woody." I explain. "We already have one of those. I want one that is nice for cuddling and sleeping with. You know, a big, soft one. And I want the one that talks."

Now, the guys are cracking up, giving each other the strangest look, and I seriously CAN NOT figure out what is so funny.

We walk over to the next aisle and sure enough, they are sold out. Apparently big, soft, talking Woody's are all the rage. I am very disappointed. The guys are now trying to be more professional and one asks if I would like him to check in the back for "a big, soft, talking Woody." The other guy busts out hysterically laughing and leaves.

The guy checks but they really are sold out. He tells me both hard and soft Woody's are always very popular. I leave, still perplexed at the laughter.

Later, going over Santa's to-do list, I recount the story to Eric. His eyes get as big as Woody's and then HE bursts out laughing. He can't believe what I am saying. But, I seriously still don't get it. Eric is happy to explain.

Remember, I was raised in a family of GIRLS! I was (was, as in now past tense) naive and sweet and innocent. I didn't know every word ever used in the history of the human language for that part of the body!

I'm sure those sales associates still talk about the crazy lady who didn't want a small, hard Woody; no, no, she already had one of those. She wanted a big, soft, cuddly, TALKING Woody.

Friday, December 14, 2007



Today I am happy to report a very great accomplishment! I was able to turn in Vu's stool samples! If you have a weak stomach, you will want to stop reading now.

Seriously people, have you ever considered how hard it is to communicate with a nearly six year old, VNese speaking boy, to tell him he needs to poop in a Cool Whip container??? (No, you cannot simply fish the poop out of the toilet. That would be too easy.) Oh, and while he's at it, if he could be so kind as to not get any pee in it--against the rules! For three days in a row no less! Yes, we needed stool samples from three separate days. All part of the routine adoption medical check.

To add to the challenge, said nearly-six-year-old-VNese-speaking boy does not tell his mother when he is going to be using the bathroom. So I followed him around all day carrying a Cool Whip container reminding him to tell me when he needed to go poo-poo. He will probably need therapy for this.

I stupidly tried to explain to Vu that it was something the doctor needed and he proceeded to hold his poop for two days. Do you blame the guy??? So far, "doctor" has meant shots and blood draws! Which, BTW, the blood draw went as well as could be expected, I guess. The translator didn't show up but we were able to get her on speaker phone and it did help calm him. Four people held him down. The worst part was him looking at me with big tears in his eyes and the look of total betrayal. I hate this part of parenting!!!

But the poop part wasn't much better! I'm telling you people, you know how you used to be able to go to the store and buy something and it actually came already assembled??? Maybe you are too young, but it used to be you could buy a stroller and pull it out of the box and use it! Now, a stroller is a two day, fifty I-want-to-swear-words project.

Well, let's just say stool samples ain't what they used to be. In the past, on the rare occasion our doctor needed one, all I had to do was collect and deliver. THAT was bad enough. And THAT was with a baby who wore diapers! NOW one has to practically have a chemical engineering degree for all the mixing and scooping and scraping. (Hey, I warned you about the nature of this post.) Do the lab techs have to do anything??? Fun peoples. Really fun.

I'm just glad it's over. Eric has added it to his list of "Why We Should Not Adopt Again" just in case I ever bring up the subject in the future.

I'm traumatized. And worse, I will never be able to eat Cool Whip again. Vu will have this aversion to Cool Whip that he never understands. (The reality on that though is that Vu didn't think it was a big deal at all. Apparently he just thinks it's another weird thing Americans do--setting a Cool Whip container into the toilet and then pooping in it.)

Note to self. Do not use Cool Whip containers as poop collection devices.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More Prayers Needed

Levi is recovering from RSV and was moved out of ICU today. He may even go home tomorrow but we were all shocked when doctors discovered a congenital defect with his heart. He will need to undergo open heart surgery in a few weeks. He is a strong little boy but of course, we are scared for him. At the same time, we know he is in good hands and in God's hands.

Having just returned from Vietnam, I feel luckier than ever to live in a country where we have access to world-class medical care for our kids. We truly are blessed.

Please keep him and his family in your prayers. My niece is the sweetest person you could ever meet. She also has a 3 yo son, so it has been hard being separated from him during this. Her husband has remained in their hometown to care for him. A really great family who love their kids so much. Thanks for the prayers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Levi Update

Levi is holding his own and is quite the little fighter. He is in ICU but his doctor expects him to recover.

Thanks for all the prayers. Will keep you posted.

We are actually on our way up there right now. Vu is getting his six vials of blood drawn for all the normal bloodwork international adopted kids endure. I know it's necessary but it won't be fun! It took three of us to hold him down to get the TB test done. We have asked an interpreter from the hospital to come so I am hoping that will help. I also have a Power Ranger toy to bribe him with :-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Prayer Request

Please pray for my precious little nephew, Levi. He is 6 months old and is being life-flighted right at this moment to the Children's Hospital here. He has RSV, pneumonia and is having heart problems.

Pray for a safe flight, for healing and for God's peace to surround his mother (my sweet niece, Katie) during the flight.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Yesterday Will shared a little football moment between him and 5 yo Patrick. They were watching the Patriots. I don't know who they were playing but I do know they were winning.

Patrick told Will that the Patriots were, "kicking booty."

Then, Patrick looked at his big brother mischievously, smiled, cupped his hands around Will's ears and whispered, "I could say the Patriots are kicking ass, but I'm not allowed to say that."

Favorites in Hanoi

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Old and new. A woman using traditional methods to carry a load in front of modern clothing store.

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At the zoo. I chose the ride that looked the safest :-) Vu was all about the rides, the food and the toys. Kim actually enjoyed looking at the animals.

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One of our favorite places-The Museum of Ethnology. There are many ethnic houses to go into. This one had a very steep ladder. This is also a famous place for wedding pictures. We saw many couples.

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Inside the Temple of Literature. There are some shops inside that sell lots of good tourist type things.

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Our traveling companions--another Holt family that arrived about mid-way through our trip. Kelli and Adam are only 25 which means I could be Jude's Grandma! Man did I feel old! But, I still look 25 so that's what it's all about, right? We enjoyed the company. We miss you Kelli! The picture was taken at Jaspas--our favorite restaurant in Hanoi--inside the Somerset Grand.

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The Water Puppets. Vu was mesmerized. I loved them. Kim thought they were "dorky" and Eric and Lizzy took one for the team. A must see as far as I'm concerned.

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The lake near Ho Chi Minh's Stilt House.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Somerset West Lake Hotel--Hanoi

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Our own gigantic personal deck overlooking the lake!

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Looking down the shore.

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Vu's favorite place to be--the baby pool is over to the side.

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This was our computer once Eric left. We're outside looking in. Kim loved checking our e-mail. I was usually out keeping Vu from jumping in the pool.

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We spent lots of time at the hotel's playground.

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Big C Market---the Costco of Hanoi complete with escalator. We bought lots of our snacks and easy-to-make food here. There were grooves in the wheels to keep it from rolling down. As you can see Vu got a new toy!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Somerset Westlake Hotel--Hanoi

The Somerset Westlake was very nice. While Eric and Lizzy were there, we were in a premium 2-bedroom which was like a very nice condo! There was a large livingroom, dining area, kitchen, large master bedroom, another bedroom and two big bathrooms.
We also had the biggest private deck I have ever seen!!! Nice, very nice. 5-star hotel for $140 night (5 people) including all taxes, charges etc.

After they left, we had to move to the hood. A studio 1-bedroom, which was a large room, divided with shelves, computer table and TV with living area on one side and bed on the other. Small kitchen and one bathroom. It was still nice, but not the luxury of our first room. We only had a balcony on this room. $99 night.

I appreciated a washer/dryer in each room--would recommend you bring your own stain stick and detergent as the hotels was not very good at getting stains out.

Lots of storage in both rooms.

Two T.V.'s in first room, one in second. Lots of English speaking channels.

DVD player in both--though the other Holt family didn't have one.

Breakfast was $6.50 for a buffet/kids free. Not as nice as our hotel in HCMC but not bad. They also had a very limited menu for lunch/dinner/room service.

Great pool and baby pool. It was cold in November but we still swam almost every day.

Great workout room. I worked out for two hours every day. That was a lie.

Indoor playroom but it had a mold smell. We still used it as it was nice to have a place the kids could get wild and crazy.

Outdoor play structure with swings and a slide. This was SO nice! It was also a nice place for adoptive families to gather.

Internet was $10/day or $50 for a month. There was also a hotel computer that could be used for free in the restaurant.

Phone calls (local) were just a few cents.

Beautiful Ho Tay (West Lake) right next to the hotel. I enjoyed watching the fishermen, kayaks and the larger boats.

It was quiet and peaceful being further out. It was also nice to go for walks along the lake.

Very nice staff with great English skills. They were so, so helpful with translating for Vu, helping us get to where we wanted to go, doormen were wonderful etc.

Maids were friendly and they cleaned every day. They even did the dishes :-) I miss my maid. Please come to my house here! I used to have a maid. Well, not really a maid. I used to have a woman who cleaned my house twice a month. Oh, how I loved her. Estela. She was the greatest. She was my best friend for five years. Then, we started sending kids to college. My life changed. Sigh.

Anyhoo, back to the subject.

Two things I didn't like about the Westlake.

Location. It is a taxi ride to go to the center of the city where most of the shopping/tourist attractions are. To get to it's sister hotel, the Somerset Grande, it was 60,000 dong unless you got a bad taxi driver. Then it was 120,000. We actually only got ripped off once. Oh, and often, the taxi ride will be more coming home because there are one-way streets. The zoo, Big C Market, The Museum of Ethnology and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum/Museums were fairly close.

Food. The hotel did not offer much in terms of lunch/dinner and there were no restaurants around that were recommended. It made eating interesting. Luckily, we took quite a bit of food, went to the grocery store while there, got take-out (ask for menus at the front desk. We esp. enjoyed Papa Joe's and Pepperoni's.) There is also a dinner shuttle in the evenings which goes to various restaurants.

Bonus: Westlake is about $40 a night cheaper than the Grand. I am sure I would have spent more money being in town in terms of shopping and eating out so the savings was even more substantial. We spent $5-10 day in cab rides but still, a significant savings. All things considered, I still would have rather been at the Grand. It was booked when we were there.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Back In Time: Pictures From HCMC

Here's more pictures from HCMC.
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Ben Thanh Market. I loved how the fruits were set up.

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Ben Thanh Market, close to where Eric got his butt pinched :-)

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In the center of town with Ho Chi Minh. City Hall is in the background.

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The girls were good at making deals with the street vendors. I just sat back and watched. Here we bought a dozen paper snake puppets.

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Can you tell we are tourists? Actually, we saw many VNese wearing these hats. Lizzy ended up hating them as she had to pack them back home. She tried to "accidently" leave them in Seoul but Eric caught her!

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Notre Dame Cathedral, built in 1883 with bricks brought from France.

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Yes, we are actually in the middle of crossing this street. We learned to wait until trucks, buses and cars went by and to cross in the midst of motorscooters, which we figured would be the least painful way to die. Watch for people turning right and keep crossing at the same pace-they just go around you.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pictures Of Hotel in HCMC

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Here's the view from our balcony at the Vien Dong in HCMC.

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Our Dong Millionaire! Lizzy sitting in the master bedroom. The little couch/bed was for Vu but he slept with us :-)

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Kim slept on this couch out in the sitting/living area. Lizzy had an actual bed. There was also a large computer desk, coffee table and chairs.

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Looking straight down from our balcony. What do you think of all that wiring???

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Back to Vietnam--Hotel and Food HCMC

Okay, I'm going to try to finish up our trip this week--esp. since I know many of you will be traveling soon! I heard the I-600's are being approved now!

Our hotel in HCMC wasn't our first choice or even our fourth choice. (We give our agency our list of choices and they book it for us, which is nice, one less thing to do :-) At the time of our trip it was almost impossible to get a room in both HCMC and Hanoi.

We ended up at the Friendship II Hotel (Vien Dong). It ended up being perfect. It was a two room suite with a large sitting area and large bedroom attached. A 4 star hotel for $115 night. A good price considering how booked HCMC was. There were enough beds/couches for all five of us. Two bathrooms, fridge, hotpot and free Internet. Breakfast was also free. At the time I thought the food was so-so but by the end of our trip I would say it was very good! They had both VN food and American and we all enjoyed their made-to-order omelets.

The staff was friendly and helpful. They insisted on keeping our passports the first night, which we were nervous about, but now we know that is protocol in VN. Our second hotel just made copies.

The downfall of the hotel was it was loud, being close to downtown. But I loved just going out on the balcony and watching the people and the scooters/bikes carrying their amazing loads.

The Vien Dong is an easy walk of a few blocks from downtown. It overlooks a nice park and is very close to the Ben Thanh Market.

Ben Thanh Market it a great place to buy all those tourist necessities. Inlaid wood, shoes, knock-off purses, clothing, watches, food. We bought three ao dais here for $7-$10 each. Not the best quality but fine for what we needed. It is fun just to see the people and their wares. If the price is not marked they will bargain. If it is marked they generally will not.

Street vendors tended to give us the best prices. Sunglasses were as cheap as $3. T-shirts were $1. There were a few persistent postcard peddlers. I got to where I just kept a dollar handy. I'm the type of person they love!

Speaking of dollars, they were as readily accepted as Dong, for almost the same exchange rate--often 15,000 dong to the dollar.

For food, we liked Pho 24 (almost next door to the hotel) and the Asian Kitchen, down a small alley near the hotel (185/22 Pham Ngu Lao St.). An amazing variety of food, tasty, good price. The only downfall was they allowed street peddlers in, constantly asking us to buy items.

If you go around the block from the hotel, there is a nice convenience store.

I will post pictures tomorrow. Speaking of which, have you noticed I am posting a lot more pictures these days :-) I finally had Lizzy explain how to once again and I finally have it all figured out! If you are under 40 you think I'm slow. If you are over 40, you understand!!!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Many Sides Of Patrick

5 yo Patrick was cuddling up to me this morning, gave me a big hug and sweetly said, "You know Mom, I AM your number one fan!"

Oh, if only my kids still felt that way at 15!

An hour later I hear this, from that very same child. "Mom! Stop being so happy and get over here and help me!!!"

Maybe with him, I should be hoping he will continue to head up my fan club until he is six!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dancing Kids

Star in Your Own JibJab! It's Free!
The kids have been taking some lessons too.

Dankish Dorks

Will recently said something was "dank." He went on to explain to this "so out of it" woman that dank means "cool." Here's our conversation:
Me: I'm so glad I know that! So now, when I go on your Myspace I'll know what it means when I see: "My mom is dank!"
Will looks at me, rolling his eyes and says: "It might say, "My mom's a dork!"
So I turn to Lizzy and ask her if I'm dank or a dork. She wisely replies, "Your a dankish dork!"

Here's proof! Eric and I have recently been taking some dancing lessons and you can see how all that Vietnamese food had helped us lose some weight!
Ethan's mom sent this: