Wednesday, May 30, 2007

We Have A New Son!

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"What would you say if I told you that you have a new son?"

These were the incredibly wonderful words of our social worker yesterday.

WE HAVE A NEW SON!!! The way it happened, the way it unexpectedly happened, made it one of the happiest moments of my life.

Our new son's name is Minh Vu, he is five years old, he loves to sing, laugh, play soccer and entertain. He is a favorite of the nannies in his orphanage. I still can't believe he is OURS!

I first saw my son nearly two months ago on a photolisting for waiting children. I looked at his picture and thought, "he's the one." Eric looked at his picture and said, "Let's request his file."

Up until that point we were still set on adopting a girl although every now and then we would question that decision. When we requested a daughter we knew there were more families who wanted a girl but we had no idea that a whopping 85% of families only want a girl. Older boys, especially, seemed to wait and wait, even healthy boys; while older girls, even with special needs, seemed to find families immediately. Over time, our hearts began to be pulled towards the waiting boys. After all, we love our boys as much as we love our girls.

Boys are fun! They are curious and full of energy. They love to build and dig and create and get dirty. And boys get along better with their friends than girls do. Yes, I realize I am being sexist here and when I was in college I would have argued to the ends of the earth with that kind of thinking. But having the experience of raising five boys and two girls, having done daycare off and on for the last 27 years, and being surrounded by a multitude of children every day of my life, I have come to this conclusion. Boys ARE different. And boys are SO MUCH FUN!

Still, it was hard to switch gears from a girl. We had a girl's name all picked out. Our girls wanted a girl and we thought it would be fun to have a girl again after our last two being boys. We looked forward to buying dolls and jeweled high heeled shoes and Hello Kitty accessories.

And yet, those boys pulled at our hearts. I started to pray about the issue and I immediately had a most memorable dream about adopting a little boy and in the dream we were so happy! Two days later, we saw Vu's picture on the photolisting. I had an immediate connection to him. So did Eric. That night I had a dream that we adopted Vu-and his brother too. (Not sure where the brother part came from but it was most definitely Vu.) Monday we called to tell our agency we wanted to be considered for a boy and I talked to someone about Vu. We got his file.

We spent the next few days falling in love with him but when we talked to our agency about him we found they had a general rule against adopting a child into a family where there would be two same age, same gender children. Vu is five, just like our Patrick. We decided Vu must not be meant for us.

The next two months were so hard. Often, I would lie awake at night thinking how Vu was meant for our family and certain the two boys would get along well and be a great match for each other as they have very different personalities. During the day, I would try to talk some sense into myself, knowing that our agency has 50 years of experience in international adoption and have their "rules" for a reason. I respected those generalizations and the people making them. Surely, if God meant for Vu to be our son, He wouldn't make it so hard.

And yet, every chance I got, I asked about Vu. I have no doubt our social worker tired of me constantly asking little questions about him; about the possibility of making him our son. We all agreed we would wait until the expected referrals were made and then proceed from there if we didn't receive a referral.

The rest, as they say, is history. I expected that we would receive a referral of the child meant to be ours, and that didn't happen. We considered adopting a 4 year old and agonized over that decision for a week but in the end, we knew which child was meant to be ours. It was Minh Vu.

Minh Vu is our son! Minh Vu was meant to be ours from the moment we laid eyes on him. We can't wait to bring him home. We are so happy!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

We had a weekend full of lots of driving. First we went to my parent's cabin (when I say "my parents" I am referring to my mom and step-dad but he's been my step-dad since I was 10 so I call him dad and he is!). Then we went to my other dad's cabin (bio dad is also "Dad" and he is also very special to me). It was his 70th birthday party! There was a party with 80 people including my step-brothers, step-sister and a bio-sister. It was fun for the five of us to be together for the first time in 20 years! We were only missing one other sister - we missed you Texas!! (I also have another sister, Nicole, born when I was twelve to my mom and step-dad. My first baby! You'll always be my baby sister Nicole! :-)

Now that you are completely confused about my modern day family, let me tell you there are wonderful things about spending 16 hours in a car on Memorial Day weekend. We got lots of time to talk, figure out the summer calendar and figure out some answers to where we wanted to go in our plans to adopt a waiting child. More on that in a future post-sorry to keep you all in suspense. I don't like suspense but that's really all I can say right now . . .

Anyway, between all the driving we caught lots of fish, roasted marshmallows, and I started reading the second Harry Potter book. Last year, I made this promise to Lizzy that I would read all the books before the seventh came out and we would go to the local bookstore which has a midnight party to release the new book. Lizzy is a FREAK about H.P. (At 14 she would be embarrassed to admit this.) She is most definitely a H.P.L. I always tell her she is going to name her first child either Harry or Hermione! Anyhoo, I have a lot of reading to do the next seven weeks! Yikes!

I wanted to update everyone as to Joe's progress. He is now in his final weeks before the stem cell. He is actually doing better now than he was a few weeks ago. He was more energetic and robust looking than he has been in a long time. The new chemo is working wonders. True to form he is upbeat, ready to get the transplant over and done with so then he can just get better. That sounds so wonderful. Let me say it again, so he can GET BETTER. Transplant is expected around mid-June. True to form, he was funny, funny, funny. He also suggested what our new son's 'famous baseball player's name' should be. (I'll reveal it when we decide what the Americanized name will be to go with it.) He was bummed to miss the new "Pirates" movie tho- more to look forward to once he builds up his immune system. Somehow, I continue to have a sense of peace about it all and have faith that God will continue to carry him through anything and everything that happens.

I'm thinking of all our soldiers and veteran's today. THANK YOU! We truly are the land of the free because of the brave.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

God Confuses Me

Sometimes it is so easy to see God's hand in life. Sometimes it is not.

You all know how anxious and excited we were to get "the call." The referral!!! Our match at long last! OUR CHILD! Well, the call came. But it didn't turn out as I had dreamed all those months. We had to say no.

No? How could we possibly say no??? We were matched with a baby who was just over a year old. I LOVE babies. LOVE babies, but not like a normal human. I really, really, really love babies. This baby had a special need that we were very open to so it wasn't the special need, it was the age.

Since we began this adoption journey almost a year ago we agreed that this time we would adopt an older child. Our youngest child is now five and our oldest is 24. We had our first baby at the tender ages of 19 and 20 and we are now 44. As sad as it was to admit it, we felt it was time to leave the baby years behind. We were ready to adopt an older child. One who might find a harder time finding a family simply because they are older. We were excited to have someone closer in age to Patrick since Paul and Kim are a year apart in age and are like two peas in a pod. We knew that this time, an older child would be a perfect match for our family.

So, when we finally got that magical call and we were told it was a young baby I didn't really know what to say. "Yes!" was my first thought! "Oh, no!" was my second thought! "How did this happen?" was my third thought. I can't even remember what I said to our social worker but I think I mumbled something dumb like, "But we were thinking we would be matched with a child who is at least three." Eric and I briefly conferred, but we both agreed, this wasn't the match for us.

Here's what's weird. I feel strongly that matches are almost always God given. I had prayed about this issue SO MUCH! I prayed God would bring the perfect child for our family. I know our agency actually prays before selecting which child will go to which family. I just couldn't see how God would let this happen. I wasn't mad or upset. I was sad. And confused. I still am. I've thought over and over again that maybe God really did want us to have this baby but I keep coming to the same conclusion.

Just when I think I am figuring out how God works, He sends me for a loop!

Well, there's going to be a happy ending. We WILL have our match soon. Even though I am confused by how God is working in all of this I know that He DOES have a plan. God will bring the right child home to us. STAY TUNED- YOU WILL HEAR SOMETHING VERY SOON :-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New pictures!!

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Here's Kim at our traditional Easter brunch. My mom's birthday is always near Easter so my parents take us out to brunch as part of her present. Let's see. They pay for her present. Hmmm. . . not sure how that works but they insist on paying and with my parents, there's no arguing where that's concerned. I am blessed with great parents!

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Kim appears to have grown a third arm! Our biggest eater can now shovel it in faster! Also in the pic are Paul, my nephew James, and Ethan, the little boy I babysit. His family joined us for brunch. Oh! And the arm belongs to Patrick!
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It's baseball season for Paul! He's a pitcher just like his brothers :-)

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Our oldest son, James, with his girlfriend Sarah. A beautiful couple! We love them!

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Here's Lizzy trying to talk me into buying a new puppy-
she wasn't successful but it was hard to say no.



Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Importance of Good Teachers and Coaches

My last post was kind of a sad one. This one is happier! Things are happening on the adoption front. We should know something soon . . . stay tuned!

Since it's nearing the end of the school year, I think about all the teachers and coaches who have positively influenced my kids this year. These people have helped my children in wonderful ways they will carry for the rest of their lives. They are mentors, role models, life coaches and truly, friends. I have the highest regard for these professionals who obviously do not do it for the money.

Unfortunately, there is one coach who very negatively affected our child and our lives this year. Having a family of athletes we have had hundreds of coaches over the years; most are great, some are incredibly exceptional. This one was devastating. We will never forget the hurtful things the coach said both to our son and to his teammates. It hurts.

Oh, but I said this was going to be a happy post, and it is. I found this great quote on my Starbucks cup and thought it appropriate. It shows the power of positive teachers and coaches.

"It's relationships, not programs that change children. A great program simply creates the environment for healthy relationships to form between adults and children. Young people thrive when adults care about them on a one-to-one level, and when they also have a sense of belonging to a caring community.

Bill Milliken

Founder and vice chairman of Communities in Schools, author of Tough Love and The Last Dropout.

I love that quote. It is so true.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Adoption Is Happy. Adoption Is Sad.

It's been a long week. Not a bad week, just very, very LONG. I thought that if I kept busy (I kept CRAZY busy) the week would go fast. It didn't. It's like I have peaked from the excitement of expecting the referral, week after week, and now I almost feel like it will never happen! And yet I can't get my mind off of it. Anyhoo...

One thing I did this week was go with Kim to do a presentation on Korea in her class. I will do one with Paul next week. It's a great opportunity to talk about their birth culture which I feel is very important to feeling positive about themselves. I also explain adoption to their classmates. The trick for me is to not get teary eyed when I get to the part about how birth mothers make an adoption plan and the child goes to live with their forever family-forever. Is it possible to not feel emotional when I feel such a sense of awe, respect and love for their birthmothers? Not to mention the feelings of love beyond comprehension for my kids. I am my kids forever mother. I get teary eyed just typing it!

That reminds me of the time while making Kim's lifebook, which is the story of her birth and adoption, and we were working on the page where her birthmother made an adoption plan for her and it was time for her to relinquish her. I could only imagine how she must have grieved. I couldn't help but cry. Kim gave me a hug and told me, "It's okay Mom. Don't cry, it was for the best." I felt a reverse of roles, that I always expected to be the one comforting her, not the other way around. Adoption is happy, but it can also be sad--for everyone in the adoption triad.

Just today we were at the zoo and completely out of the blue Paul asked me if his birthmother was married. More questions followed the answer. There was nothing that I could attribute this question coming from. I think it just shows that our kids do think about their past a lot. Our adopted children DO have a past and they always will. I'm so glad my kids can come to me and talk about it and I like to make them feel like it's the most natural thing in the world. And it's not like a daily conversation, we actually often go months without talking about it. But it's hard. It's a loss. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes I cry. And I'm sure, sometimes their birthmothers cry.

It's a sadness that will always be there for my kids; sometimes deep down inside, others, right at the surface. And as much as we might like to erase the past, to keep them from feeling sad, to keep ourselves from feeling sad, we can't erase it.

And we shouldn't try.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY

One of the best things about being a mom is all the laughs. We love to act silly in our family, to dance crazy, tell jokes and LAUGH.

Here are some of the funnies I remember this year:

When asked how many siblings he has, Will said six . . . and one on backorder.

Lizzy coined a new favorite phrase--"I'm all that! . . . And a roll of toilet paper!"

When James heard I started a blog he looked at me in disbelief and said, "My mom has a blog??? The woman who was the last person on the planet to get a cell phone and to get rid of dial-up Internet!!"

I was getting upset one day when all of a sudden Kim looked at me, gave me a big grin, put her fingers in her ears, squatted down and shouted, "She's gonna blow!!!"

I was talking to Paul about his talents. He agreed with me that he is talented in many areas. Reading, math and music. And then he looked at me excitedly and said, "I'm also really good at holding my pee!" (When I asked him about it he said his reading teacher won't let him go to the bathroom during reading so he has learned to hold it.)

I can't just pick one for Patrick. He is a laugh a minute. Here's three of my favorites.

We have a bit of an ant problem in the kitchen right now. One day Patrick was gleefully terrorizing the ants and stomping them with his feet. Kim reprimanded him telling him those were little living creatures and they had feelings and deserved respect. Patrick looked at her like she had NOOO CLUE and informed her with, "What? I'm just helping them get to heaven!"

Eric was cutting up some meat for his homemade jerky. He was explaining to Patrick the difference between "thick" and "thin." Patrick was silent for a moment, then looked at his daddy and in a very serious voice said, "You're thick, right Daddy?"

Patrick was upset because he had lost a game of checkers to Paul. I was making dinner and gave him a little lecture on the importance of having good sportsmanship. He listened intently and a few moments later told me I absolutely HAD to play him a game as he was CERTAIN he would win. I looked at the table. I had to agree. He had given himself a full board of checkers. On my side . . . he had placed only three!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Being An Advocate For The Children I Love

So, we found out today that there will be no referrals until the week of May 21st (of course, it could end up being later) and that we will not necessarily have a referral at all. This is hard! I would have been fine with waiting if I had not known referrals were coming . . . now time seems to be going very slow. I am guessing there was a miscommunication of some sort between Holt and Vietnam as I know our agency expected the referrals the beginning of last week.

When I read the latest the verse that immediately popped into my head was Ecclesiastes 3:1, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven." I am absolutely certain that God has perfect timing in all of this-but I am still impatient!

Changing the subject, I was thinking about the comments posted on my last blog about how I am a person who was able to advocate for my daughter "without causing a scene." That is true, I have learned to advocate in a very quiet, polite way. I have learned to simply say things like, "Well, I think that option would work well for most kids, but I'm not sure that would be best for Kim. What are our other options?" I say this very politely. What I really mean when I say that is, "There is no way on the face of the earth that I am ever, ever going to let you do that to my child and you better give me another option or I am going to start bawling my head off!" But I don't even let on that I am freaked out. And I am always amazed that the doctor/dentist/other professional gives us another choice that is a perfect fit for our child and I always think, "Now why didn't you offer me that choice the first time?"

For instance, when Kim recently had a CT scan they asked me to go out to the waiting room when they were ready to do the actual scan and I knew she would be scared so I asked if I could stay. They said that of course I could if I would wear a lead apron and didn't mind getting a little radiation. I was thinking, "Hmmmm . . . getting a little radiation or being there for my daughter when she needs me. That's a hard choice!!!" (NOT!)

But here is what I am getting at that I find so amazing. When I think about it, I am the one who has been the butterfly spreading her wings. I don't like conflict. I will avoid conflict like I will avoid a port-a-potty at a baseball tournament on Memorial Day weekend. I like to be liked! I want to be the good little girl who does what she is told. I want to be the parent that teachers smile at and not the one who creates the lunchtime discussions in the teacher's lounge.

But, what I discovered, once I had kids, was that there were times I had to advocate for them. And while I may find it hard to advocate for myself, it is something I simply must do for my children. And with Kim, I found myself having to advocate for her on a regular basis. And though I will never like it, I've learned how to do it pretty well-thanks to Kim. If I wouldn't have had her, I would have never learned to advocate in the polite, peaceful, but firm way that I have learned.

Sometimes I really do wonder who is raising who.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A Butterfly Slowly Spreads Her Wings

Last night Kim had her piano recital. She played beautifully and finished with that smile of hers that lights up a room. About half way through her first piece I thought of how far this sweet little angel of ours has come and I thought of her birthmother.

Kim came home from Korea at 6 months and soon began years of surgeries to repair her cleft lip and palate. I think most kids are resilient and get through hospitalizations well with preparation and time for healing. Kim did not. Those years made Kim an emotionally fragile mess. She had the greatest stranger and separation anxiety of any child I have ever known. She was such a fearful child she could not even handle being touched by friends at church or her speech therapist whom she saw on a bi-weekly basis. She didn't talk until she was nearly four.

She's come a long way baby!! We spent many years just "meeting her where she was at". We didn't push her to overcome her stranger anxiety, we kept her with a family member at all times, usually me. When her Child Intervention Services insisted she needed to go to preschool we said no. When they insisted she needed to learn to separate from us, we said she wasn't ready. We felt like we were labeled "bad, uncooperative parents." When the dentist said we would not be allowed to be present with her when she had a filling we switched dentists - twice.

We worked with the Child Life Department at the children's hospital, and spent countless hours before and after surgeries talking about her feelings, playing doctor and hospital, making picture albums of her stay so we could walk her through her feelings of fright and lack of control. When she had a hospitalization we made sure we got the same anesthesiologist every time, the one who would allow us to be in the recovery room with her before she was even awake.

When it was time for kindergarten, we hand-picked her teacher (we continue to do so) and we spent time in the weeks before school started to visit the classroom and teacher. Once school started, I stayed with her part of the first week. She thrived.

Basically, we let her go at her own pace. It was slow. Many professionals thought we were doing it all wrong-that was hard. But we knew what our little girl needed and we stuck by our beliefs. We surrounded ourselves with doctors, nurses, teachers and speech therapists who worked with us and not against us. We filled Kim's life with love and laughter and security and friends and loving relatives. It worked! We can't take credit for everything, LOTS of people helped our little girl blossom-and it worked!

Now, Kim exudes confidence! I wish every 10 yo girl was as confident as she is. She is confident despite the fact that she has a serious speech impediment, a noticeable scar on her lip and a nose that needs more plastic surgery. This little girl who wouldn't talk now talks so much we sometimes want to wear earplugs! She loves herself, she loves her many friends, she loves life! She has a shirt that fits her well. It says, "Yes, I'm perfect! So stop starring!"

As I watched her play her piano piece I thought of her birthmother and how I wished she were there to see how far Kim has come. I would love to sit shoulder to shoulder with her, our hands clasped; two mothers beaming with pride, as we watched our daughter together. I know she would be proud too-beyond proud. And she would know that she made the right choice. She wanted Kim to have a life she couldn't have in Korea, where she would have been hidden away her entire life, simply because she was born with a cleft.

And she does. Oh yes, she does!!

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Waiting Game

So, word on the adoption. It's not going to happen this week. And probably not next week either. I was told today the referrals haven't even been sent yet from Vietnam! Holt hopes to receive them next week.

I know Holt expected to have these this week so they are as surprised as we are. So goes the world of adoption. It is an emotional roller-coaster ride, an incredible exercise in patience and a chance to get really good at The Guessing Game - all at once. Although I am not surprised at the delay, I have to admit, I am disappointed. I really thought we would get to meet our little one today :-(

This morning, I made sure I put the phones in the house where I would be able to find them when they rang. Finding a working phone is quite impossible at times as we have two teenagers who seem to think I will be able to find an almost dead phone under a pile of laundry in their rooms. Then too, I am as guilty as they are. Once I actually left the phone IN the fridge! I have also left the phone in the car (not talking cell phone here), in the garage, on the porch swing and outside on the BBQ grill. And I'm not a phone talker!!! Just a multi-tasker who has no brain! And phones aren't the only thing I lose although to date I have never lost a child. At least, not for long. I admit it, I'm an airhead! Don't pass that on to our social worker. I mean, technically, we ARE getting very close to receiving our referral! And I want the referral of a child, not a referral to a shrink specializing in memory loss!

Anyhoo, I also made sure I charged my cell phone and leached it onto my body. I just KNEW we were going to hear this morning!

Eric called me about 10 to see if I'd heard anything. In an optimistic way (not) he declared that if we hadn't heard yet, we were not going to hear anything today! Then, I spent an hour toying with the idea of calling our social worker. It's like this voice goes in your head saying, "I really want to know something. I can't go all weekend without knowing something." Followed by, "Oh, but I hate to be one of those parents. The kind that drive their SW crazy with phone calls and e-mails."

Finally, I could stand it no longer and was able to discover the delay.

And so, we wait.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Heaven

First off, no news to tell you on our adoption. We continue to wait . . . . We had originally thought Holt staff would bring the referrals back in hand but they have to wait for them to come from Vietnam. Where is that Fed-Ex???? The waiting game is never easy.

So, I got the book and it is powerful. Beyond powerful. I think everyone should read it.

90 Minutes in Heaven is the story of a minister who has been to heaven - and back. He was dead for 90 minutes after a car accident. The fact that he lived is a miracle. The fact he came to share his glimpse of heaven is an even greater one.

I know many people have heard life after death accounts. Some believe, some don't. The author himself says he finds many of these accounts to be questionable. After reading his book, I believe his account 100%. He actually has been reluctant in sharing his memories of heaven, at first because he felt people would think he was crazy; later because he simply didn't want the attention it brought him. And it's painful for him to talk about heaven. He loves his life here on earth and has a wonderful family, friends and congregation, but his greatest desire is to return to heaven. He misses it that much. It was that good.

One thing is true. Heaven is heavenly. I always believed it, but Piper's account gives even more depth and light to the subject. His description makes me look forward to heaven even more.

After reading the book I have an even greater sense of peace that when loved ones die, they truly are in a better place. When I think about Mark I know it. And as Joe continues on with his cancer treatments I can't help but come eye to eye with the fact that we just don't know what the future holds for him. Hopefully he will have the stem cell (pushed back another three weeks while they try a new chemo they hope will be more effective on his cancer), be cured, and go on to be the wise-cracking firecracker he has always been.

But what's really, really, possible is that Joe is going to be in heaven before me. (I have a whole blog I will write about what it's like to be a mom and know that.) I hope that doesn't happen for a long time because I love him so much and can't imagine life without him. But when I think about heaven, it would only be for selfish reasons that I wouldn't want my son to be there before me- or anyone I love for that matter.

Heaven is perfect peace, happiness, love and acceptance, music, joy, light, brilliance and more, all at once. And being in heaven means being with God, forever. And being with those loved ones who have gone before us. Why wouldn't I want that for Joe, for Mark and for all those I love? Yes, I would miss them during my years on earth, but that is such a short time compared to ETERNITY.

Good things come to those who BELIEVE.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16.