Thursday, November 29, 2007

ATTACHMENT

We've had Vu four weeks now. It seems like so much longer. It feels like months ago that we were in VN; is it really possible we were there only two weeks ago?

I am so, so amazed at how well Vu has integrated into the family. I am even more amazed at how much love I feel for him. I actually feel guilty saying that because I know it takes many adoptive parents months and sometimes years to feel so attached when adopting an older child. I don't want any of those people to feel guilty that they don't have these same feelings. But I need to speak from my experience and it has been beyond amazing. The fact that he is so loving and a little tease of a show-off and a cuddler makes it easy to love him.

That doesn't mean every day has been easy--it hasn't. For the first couple of weeks he was a joy . . . 23 1/2 hours a day. The other 30 minutes he had temper tantrums where he would sometimes get so upset he would scream, spit, try to knock things over and even try to bite himself or me! Yeah--that part wasn't joy. Those were the times I would wish I could just call up his nannies at the orphanage and say, "Give me some advice!" Since our social worker was the next best thing, she suggested we let him hit the couch, pillows and the bed and that actually helped A LOT! Thank you Kathie! (We have the world's most awesome social worker.)

During these episodes I would tell him it is okay to be mad and sad. I would say it's going to be okay, over and over, in VNese. I would tell him I love him. I would hold him when he would let me. I tried the forced Holding Therapy Thing once and just didn't feel comfortable with it. It wasn't right for me. And if there's one thing I've learned about mothering, it's to trust my instincts and my heart. But once he would calm down (and stop trying to give me dental imprints), we always ended with holding and cuddling and "I love yous."

I am happy to report that his temper tantrums have disappeared. I am sure we will still see them from time to time but I feel like we have a good handle on HOW to deal with them. Prayer and love do wonders.

As a funny, his first English sentence was, "No kicking!" He soon learned, "No hitting, no punching, no biting." Will taught him to say, "NO FARTING!" Vu thinks it's funny because any type of talk about farts is funny to boys. Will thinks it's hysterical because Vu says it, "No FURKING!" This might be funny at home. It will not be funny in the middle of church.

Anyhoo, attachment in general is going very well. He prefers our family members now and will not let random strangers hold him. He sticks close to us on outings instead of just taking off in any direction. He loves us. We love him. When we drive up to our house we say, "Here's our house!!!" And then Vu loves to go over each family member and say it is that person's house too. In between each member he will say, "And Vu's house!" squealing with delight each time I say that yes, it is Vu's house too! He never tires of hearing it.

Here is what we are doing to promote attachment:

Holding him and carrying him as much as possible

Co-sleeping. He falls asleep in his own bed (Eric or I lay by him until he falls asleep) and then comes into our bed in the middle of the night.

Daddy reads his bedtime story.

I rock him in the special blanket I made for him which he LOVES. I sent pictures to him in VN with sample quilt squares and he knows I made it just for him :-) I sing "Hush Little Baby" AND I give him a bottle. Yes, a baby bottle. He loves it! (Before you think I'm weird, this is actually a highly recommended practice for attachment of an older child.)

I keep him with me. On the two occasions I've left him, he was with his daddy.

We stay home as much as possible. This has been a challenge for a you-go-girl like me, but I really think it has helped in his adjustment.

We have limited visitors and asked them not to hold Vu (another "adoption expert" idea). This has been a really hard thing to do. We LOVE having company over! Since Vu is doing so well now, we will start adding more people into his life.

Love. It's a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pictures After Two Weeks Home

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Vu LOVES to be outside even though he thinks it is too cold!

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Thanksgiving day. James and Sara joined us for dessert after dinner with her family. Vu loved all the food--especially the turkey, corn and jello!

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The kids love making forts underneath the new loft bed. I rearranged the bedroom yesterday and it now seems much roomier. It is a large bedroom but fitting in two bunkbeds makes any room seem small. The kids love sleeping in their fort. Why do we have beds again???

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Paul helped his daddy make the pies. They also made the Oreo cookie dessert. Yum! I made the jello. I'm one smart woman, huh?

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Vu loves playing the piano. He also loves to sing and already knows several songs in English.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Flight to Seoul and HCMC

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Here is Kim on our initial take-off. She said, "I'm SOOO excited!!!"


So, going back to the trip once more. I feel excitement just remembering the day we left. We were busy right up until the end. The two little boys were going to be watched by our dear friends G and K. K offered to come to the house to pick them up. That was a blessing as it somehow seemed less sad saying goodbye that way. I still cried.

Will drove us to the airport. He was staying home, being watched by his girlfriend . . . ur, uh, I mean, his older brother. Uh-huh. But hey, he is a senior so he will be in college next year. I guess one has to let go sometime!

A few notes:
*Luggage will be checked all the way to VN
*Bring a 3-day carry-on bag in case luggage gets lost (clothing and basic necessities for 3 days)
*Bring a sweater as airplanes get chilly
*Bring gum or eat/drink for take-off and landing (give babies a bottle)
*Take decongestant/ibuprofen if you or your child has a cold (to prevent ear pain)
*Remember the 3 oz. rule for liquid carry-ons. Keep in quart size ziplock and display at security. I forgot this rule and had to go three weeks without my Oil of Olay. I now have ten more wrinkles. Eric lost his deodorant and shaving cream. He smelled horrible the whole trip! LOL! Actually, for some strange reason, he smelled like women's deodorant for a few days.
*Bring movies and books. You may get the planes that have individual screens for movies and you may not. We had both.
*Bring snacks. I had better luck with the vegetarian meals on the way back. The omelet was veggie as opposed to a seaweed.
*Put colorful ribbon or other marker on luggage for easy I.D.

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Here's Lizzy with a blue tongue after just getting a refill from Airheads candy.



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Scrapbooking on the way to Korea. The U.S. allows scissors shorter than 3" but these were confiscated when boarding in Korea to VN. These books were for Kim and Paul's foster families with pictures of them growing up.

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Seoul has the most beautiful airport ever!

If you have a long layover there you can leave the airport. U.S. passport holders do not need a visa to enter the country. This means you can leave on the way to VN but not on the way home since you will have your new child with you. There are tours available right from the airport--some lasting only one hour.

If you fly Korean Air they have a large lounge for those with layovers. It is on the second floor. Showers and massages are available as are computers with free Internet. don't buy coffee there. It is $5. for a small cup of bad coffee.

There is a hotel in the airport. It is $95. a night for two people from midnight to 7 am. This may be the only time you buy a hotel room for a few hours and for those there overnight it may be some of the best money spent. Other rates/hours also available.

U.S. dollars are readily accepted in the airport. Get Won if you are leaving the airport.

You can have your carry-ons stored for a small fee in the airport--well worth it when we went on our day tour of Seoul.

There are playrooms with play area, T.V., small potties, changing tables, cold and warm bottled water.

There is a food court with a KFC, Burger King and Subway. We were very happy to eat at BK on our trip home :-)

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Lizzy crashing after a busy day in Seoul. By this time we had been traveling 36 hours.

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Eric sitting across the aisle trying to pretend he doesn't know the three crazy girls across from him.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gifts For Vietnam

Gift giving is an integral part of Asian society. Actually, most countries consider it polite and mannerly to bring a gift when visiting another person. I have noticed that when dh brings company home for dinner and they are from another country, they always bring a gift. It was the same when we lived in Germany.

When adopting, a small gift is a way of saying thank you. Money isn't appropriate and gifts should NOT be expensive. Often, parents want to bring a meaningful gift to their child's favorite caregiver or foster family and to the birthmother, if she will be present. Gifts are usually given to officials at the Giving and Receiving Ceremony as well as to the orphanage director. The gift is usually given at the end of the meeting and the person receiving the gift will generally put it aside to be opened later. It is considered rude and greedy to open the gift in front of the giver. If the receiver does open it, they will usually be reserved in their emotion.

Having said all of that, deciding on which gifts to bring can be difficult! It is hard to know what to buy, what will travel well and is not too bulky or heavy? Our agency did give us some examples but I worried that the receiving people had more socks and lotion than they knew what to do with! I mean, if all APs picked from the suggested list, that is exactly what would happen.

So, as I would come across suggestions from other AP's, I began to make a list. Here it is:

Do not give gifts that are made in Vietnam. It is best to give gifts made in the USA.


Calendars with US pictures of landscapes, fancy cars, kids, animals etc. This is one item I brought. When I picked some with dogs Lizzy said, "Mom, not those! They might think it's a menu!" The family sense of humor coming out! I stuck with fancy cars and state landmarks.

Items that feature the animal in the current Tet/Chinese New Year. We are still in the year of the pig, 2008 will be the year of the rat.

Assorted teas
Hard candies and gum, especially mint or cinnamon flavored
Cosmetics
Manicure sets
Lotions/Body Butter
Key chains with U.S. landmarks
Shirts--size small
Baseball hats
Clothing that says "California"
Dried fruit like cherries and blueberries
Bubbles (one of the best things we brought. We gave the orphanage children wedding size)
Dove/Irish Spring soap
Swiss Army knives
M&Ms--esp. with peanuts
Chocolates--must hand carry to prevent melting
Towels-- bath or hand, but not king size as their washers are not large enough. I found very nice towels made in USA at Costco for $5.

For Vu's favorite caregiver and the orphanage director I made photo albums (thanks for the help Lisa!). I copied pics I had from our agency reports covering from the time Vu was a baby. I thanked them for helping him achieve each milestone and loving him. I wrote a letter of thanks in the back and had this all translated into VNese.

Another idea I considered was a locket with Vu's picture inside. This is an especially meaningful gift for a birthmother. (In VN many birthmothers are present at the G&R.)

Gift ideas for the children in the orphanage:

Small bubbles
Marshmallows
Cookies, candy or fruit snacks--individually packed makes handing them out easier
Educational toys, games, craft items
Balls
Blocks-- Duplos or wooden
Cloth diapers and pins
Vitamins, medications, Desitin
Bottles and teething rings
New or gently used clothing/shoes. In warmer areas, only summer clothing and flip flops.

I brought gift bags and tissue and assembled the gifts once I arrived in VN.

I also had a couple extra gifts which I gave to the hotel staff. They helped with translations for Vu over and over again. I miss them!

Happy Shopping!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Homecoming Pictures

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So happy to be home! By this point we had been up for 52 hours!! Vu slept about 6 of it.

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In The Big Blue Beast driving home including one of Lizzy's friends and Will's girlfriend.

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First night home--learning the ropes.

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Making cookies with Daddy. A family tradition.

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Marbleworks! Fun! The bandage is from falling into the banister on the staircase. It is now off and healed.

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Impressed with the fridge and still wants to eat all the time :-)

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Enjoying the good things in life like going to the creek and playing with sticks.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Medical Supply List

I am sorry to say my alarm did not go off today so I did not hit the stores until almost 6! I still got lots of shopping done before Vu woke up (dh called) so now I am feeling much better about the gift buying thing!

As promised, I will go back in time with our trip. Todays topic is putting together a medical supply kit to take.

VN has very limited medical care. It is best to bring whatever you think you might need for both yourself and your new child. Even though we used very little, I felt a sense of assurance having it with me.

Here's what I packed. Keep in mind we adopted a 5 yo, not a baby:

LOTS of small containers of hand sanitizer. I put these at each sink, the table and in our bags. Prevention is the best step to staying healthy.

Powdered Gatorade
Power bars
Pedialyte--I brought the type that comes to be made into popsicles--individually wrapped.
Thermometer
Antibiotic cream
Hydrocortisone cream
Benadryl cream
Athletes foot/anit-fungal cream
Benadryl for both adults and children
Pepto Bismol tablets
Immodium
Decongestant for adults and children
Emalite Cream for scabies. I treated Vu as I thought he had them tho I'm not certain--maybe I just really zapped his bug bites!
Alcohol wipes
Band-Aid wash
Mosquito wipes
Baby wipes
Tylenol for adults and children
Ibuprofen for adults and children
Band-Aids
Visine
Lip balm
Lotion
Child Laxative
Antibiotic prescription from our doctor to be used for Ho Chi Minh's Revenge, which we were happy to avoid, esp. given the outbreak of Cholera while we were there: Cipro for adults; Septra for kids

I had everything in original containers. I double bagged liquids in ziplock bags. I hand carried anything I knew I couldn't live without (in case our luggage was lost) remembering to keep liquids to less than 3 ounces.

I have also heard it suggested to bring lice medication and motion sickness medication but I did not.

We donated all the children's medication we did not use to the orphanage in Hanoi. I just gave it to our Holt guide for delivering. It saved me from hauling it all home and I know they are always in need of medication in the orphanages.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving

When we landed at LAX we cleared immigration and customs. Both were very quick and easy. Vu is now an American citizen! The process was very organized.

My next agenda was to get a Starbucks. Ahhhhhh! It was so good! I had great coffee in VN but missed chocolate so a mocha was heaven. When I got the cup tho I laughed out loud and said to Kim, "Look at this! It's a Christmas cup! Why would they start to use Christmas cups when it is still October?"

Then it occurred to me. It was not October. It was November 14th! My oh my how time flies when one is out of country! I usually have lots of shopping done by now. The day after Thanksgiving will be quite the shopping day! Yes, I am one of those crazy shoppers standing in line at 5 am. This year will be no different, esp. since I will be fitting in shopping before Vu wakes up. After that, I will come home and send Eric out. Can you just imagine how excited he is? Ha!

Okay, so I keep promising pictures and details of the trip. I am going to go back in time and post on a day to day basis, giving explicit details, tips etc. And pictures to go with, of course!

A couple tidbits on Vu:

When asked yesterday by our friend who speaks VN if he still likes it here he said, "Well of course!" complete with a big smile!

Vu and Paul were playing tag in the house. Just after I said, "Slow down! Some one's going to get hurt!" Vu tripped on a stair into the banister and split open his forehead. He didn't need stitches but now has a butterfly Band-aid decorating his hairline.

Vu does NOT like the cold. He will say, "Lun! Lun!" everytime we go outside. Even though it isn't that cold, I have pulled out all the snow gear and he happily bundles up.

Vu is obsessed with our Marble Works. It is a marble maze that can be put together in many ways made by Discovery Toys. We had had it since James and Joe were young so we can certainly say we've gotten our monies worth out of it.

Vu's fine motor skills are amazing. He loves to cut, do beads and make things. Today he made a kite!

Vu and Patrick get along very well. In some ways Vu is like a 3-4 year old and in many ways Patrick is like a 30-40 year old but they still have great fun together. I am sure eventually the honeymoon period will end and they will be the best of friends and the worst of enemies--but all in the same day.

Vu loves being part of our family. On our first movie night he just kept moving from lap to lap, smiling and looking at us with adoration. I did not expect this overwhelming love from him so soon. He's just so happy! He exudes love and happiness! And even more surprising is how bonded we all feel to him. I honestly expected it to take years before I felt this in love with him. I know bonding with an older child can take a long time. I was prepared for that. And even though we've had some really hard moments, I feel as in love with him as I did with all my babies.

It's been a hard year, but I can say it will be a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Boys Are FUN!

How, oh how, did I live my whole life without this sweet little boy in it??? It seems impossible that he has been in our family less than three weeks. He brings so much laughter and happiness into our lives with his charm and sweetness I can't even imagine life without him now. He is funny and smart and loving.

I just don't understand why so few parents want to adopt boys, especially older boys. I want to shout from the rooftops that boys are GREAT! Five year old boys are WONDERFUL! And experiencing all these firsts with an older child is even more fun than watching a baby achieve their firsts.

Boys are mischievous, affectionate, creative and curious. Boys are FUN!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Plan

Up in the middle of the night again . . . hoping this isn't a sign of things to come. We had a very hectic day today and it ended with Vu in a meltdown. He finally had his Ba and his blankie and fell asleep . . . but then woke back up two hours later and went right back into crying but this time it was a sad cry. That is so much harder than the mad cry. After lots of hugs and some on-may (noodles) and a drink and more cuddles, he is back to sleep.

I find myself awake and kicking myself for not following "The Plan."

The Plan was to keep Vu's life as simple as possible the first few weeks. To limit visitors and trips outside the house and separation. The Plan was set after reading everything I could on adopting an older child; specifically adopting an older child from an orphanage.

The Plan also included having everyone outside the immediate family refrain from holding Vu. If he asked, they were to gently direct him to an immediate family member. That part of the plan is perhaps the hardest for others to understand but with a child who comes from an orphanage, the child doesn't know the boundaries to be had with strangers or even personal space boundaries. Children in orphanages often reach out to whoever offers attention and cuddles, whether it be someone they know or a visitor they have never seen.

I have noticed Vu will hug people he has just met and while that person may love it, the stranger sitting next to us in the restaurant doesn't. We have actually followed the Personal Space Boundaries Plan fairly well. I can already see Vu learning that family bonds are different. It's the other part of The Plan that so easily went out the window--keeping life simple.

Is that really possible in a family like ours? We love having friends over and going places. We thrive on activity in our house and especially on the weekend there is a cacophony of activity, friends, people going here and there.

It crept up on us easily today. A few friends of the kids coming over to play, a few more neighbors and friends coming over to meet Vu. Paul going to a friends house and Vu crying as they left. A trip to James' and Sara's house to see the new digs. A trip to the pizza parlor to pick up pizzas. Add to that a wild game of tag out in the garage that included the dog and some neighbor kids (Vu was both thrilled and terrified but wanted to be there) and you have a recipe for disaster.

Tomorrow we really will go with The Plan. A quiet day at home. As hard as it can be to put the brakes on life it's what Vu needs and I think it will lead to some very special family time and memories.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Bringer Of Light

I am up in the middle of the night. I had a dream about our son who died. Sometimes the grief just overwhelms me. But I just went up to check Vu, soundly asleep next to his Ba, and I am so thankful God gave us this precious gift in the midst of our grief. I can't imagine getting through without this bright, shining light.

Those words remind me of what Vu's American name will be--Luke. When deciding on an American name to add to his Vietnamese name, we asked our son Joe his opinion. I remember that day so well; it was one of our many visits in the hospital. When asked what he thought of the name Luke, his eyes lit up! I should have known he would love it being the Star Wars fan he was.

Eric and I liked the name, all of our kids liked the name--no small feat as there is usually one child who greatly dislikes the name of their future sibling with comments such as, "But there's a kid in class named that and he picks his nose ALL the time!"

I looked up the name Luke, and was disappointed in the meaning--"from Lucanus." Boring! I wanted a name with meaning; a name that portrayed how much hope and happiness Vu gave us during Joe's illness.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I later discovered there is also a Latin meaning, "the bringer of light." God orchestrated the name along with the adoption. Of course.

On long, sad nights like this Vu is certainly a "bringer of light." I know God is smiling. And I know Joe is smiling too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Firsts

We let the three little kids stay home from school for family bonding time. It's been wonderful.

Vu is saying many English words. My favorite, "I love you." His affection has changed in the last week. He has gone from a type of global affection to true love. He will come up and kiss me over and over with big hugs. He loves to be carried too. Kim was a little irritated with it at one point and I said, "But Honey, he's never had a Mommy to pack him around." He's never had a mommy for a lot of things. He likes having a Mommy. He loves having a family.

He is warming up to the dog and will even pet him as long as we are holding him. Progress.

There are so many firsts. It is FUN! It is cute to see him wearing his first jeans today. He thinks they are very stiff and will sometimes try to pull the legs up so they are more like shorts.

I have much to recount on our trip to VN. Once Eric left (taking his computer with) my posts were written on the hotel computer by the front desk with Vu trying to push buttons or take off running. I will be posting things I wanted to but had no time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

AMERICA!

Two blogs in two minutes! I had to add something. Vu just received a phone call from Lizzy's friend who speaks Vietnamese. He had a big smile and told her, "I just came to America. I like it here!"

How cool is that!!!

AMERICA!!!!

We're home!!!! After 40 hours we are finally home! That was one LONG trip!!!

I will tell you trip details later but things went well over all though Vu only slept six hours of the trip! Can you believe it? He was confused over the long layover in Seoul and kept wanting to just go get on the plane! If it had only been that easy!

I kissed the ground when we got to our house! Seriously! I was so happy to see my boys (all met us at the airport except James who was at work). I will NEVER leave my kids for that long again!!!

Vu is already acclimating to our crazy family. I am sorry to say that in the hour we have been home he has already played his first video game--after I went to all the trouble of taking all the battery operated toys out of his room before we left! He and Patrick have played with Tinkertoys--building swords just as I imagined they both would-- and is now in a big wrestling match with his Daddy.

I wish you all could have seen his phone calls to "Ba"--what he calls his daddy. We called once we arrived in LA and he was just talking to him a mile a minute and kept telling me we would ride the airplane to see his Ba and then he would jump up and down!!!

No doubt he is overwhelmed but he also seems happy and knows the house from pictures we sent him. He is terrified of the dog. I didn't send him any pictures of the dog because I didn't want him to worry about it--most VN children are very afraid of dogs. I'm sure he will become less afraid of the dog over the next few days.

Time for some sleep!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SEOUL

We're in Seoul! It's going to be a long 36 hours before we get home with long layovers all the way. Nine hours here.

So far, so good. I was worried in Hanoi as Vu was getting upset and wanting to leave the airport. He finally fell asleep on my shoulder. Then, we got on the plane and he woke up with a tummy ache and is telling me he needs to go poo-poo and I don't think we have enough time to go before take-off. We head back to the potty but he can't go so we get back into our seats and he's crying, holding his stomach with one hand and his bottom with the other. I am imagining diarrhea everywhere! Somehow, we still have time to run to the potty again but he still has no luck. Soon after he fell asleep and slept most of the way.

Kim slept too and I am tempted to get a hotel here at the airport since it was 3:30 am our time when we got in but I want them to sleep on the way to the States.

More later . . . Vu's out of patience for a mom trying to blog.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tomorrow!

WE'RE COMING HOME TOMORROW!!! By the time most of you read this, it will be TODAY!!

I have so very much to tell about all our adventures and our adoption but no time. I will tell you that when I had the hotel tell Vu that we would be coming home, riding on an airplane and going home to Ba (Daddy) he was soooo excited, jumping up and down. He keeps asking me to confirm that tomorrow we will go see Ba and Lizzy and when I tell him yes, he jumps up and down again!

Pray for us to have a safe trip :-)

See everyone soon!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Brothers

We are out of shampoo (using hotels), conditioner, toothepaste (will replace) and most importantly, Top Ramen! We have found a VN type that is okay. There is even a packet of fish oil that can be added which Vu loves! but the main thing we are out of it (almost) days until we get home!!!

Three weeks without my other boys is too long!

Speaking of boys, Kim has made a disappointing discovery. Vu is a brother--her sixth.

Perhaps she feels a little tricked because this brother comes in a smiling, cute, entertaining package. But alas, he can be as irritating as the others. What she doesn't realize (tho Lizzy has tried to explain) is that little sisters can be just as annoying as little brothers; tho perhaps they don't spend quite so much time doing things like using a karate chop for a wake-up call!!! Despite her discovery, she and Vu have great fun together, esp. in the pool.

As anxious as we are to get home we continue to use this opportunity to explore Hanoi.

Yesterday we went to the zoo. Kim loved the animals. Vu loved talking me into buying things. He came home with a whistle, a sword, and a balloon. Yes, spoiled.

Today we went to the Temple of Literature with Kelli and her family--fun. Many beautiful sights and a VN musical performance. The Temple was built 1,000 years ago in honor of Confucius and to encourage higher learning.

One last thing! James (brother number one) just bought his first new home! Congratulations James and Sara! I can't wait to see it!!!!

Friday, November 9, 2007

APPROVAL!

"Adoption is like crossing the street in Vietnam. You have to push forward, merge, and trust that you'll get to the other side even when seemingly random and very large objects are speeding toward you."

I read this quote last night as I neared the end of Leslie Gould's book, "Beyond the Blue." I enjoyed the book as it is set in Vietnam (and portrays the country very lifelike) and the PNW. Its greatest strength is getting inside the hearts and emotions of the adoption triad.

I felt like I would never get across the street this morning when I was told we would not be getting our visa today which would mean we could not come home until at least next Thursday--maybe later. I was told some families have waited three weeks!!!

Due to a lot of prayer and a very sympathetic woman at the Embassy who didn't mind listening to a crying American woman, we did get our approval today and will pick Vu's visa up Tuesday afternoon! Praise God! Thank you to everyone who prayed!

So much more to say but I write from the restaurant at the hotel--the only computer for me right now. More later . . .

Thursday, November 8, 2007

No Visa Yet

Please keep us in your prayers. We are doing fine but haven't yet received our visa approval. There is apparently a backlog right now. I had hoped to come home early but will feel lucky to come home on time now. Hopefully we will have more info tomorrow. We are getting VERY, VERY homesick and family sick! Missing everyone SOOOOO much!

Vu is still a kick in the pants with an occasional whopper of a fit! Seriously, when he gets going I wonder if the hotel will call Children's Services he yells so loud. I expected it and he also cries (sad) so I know he is now grieving those he has lost.

The kids love to swim and went twice today. The pool is COLD even though it is getting warmer everyday.

We went to the Ethnology Museum yesterday and it was great! Even Kim thought it was awesome! What a great education and very hands-on museum celebrating the various heritages of people that make up Vietnam. There was even a Korean section!

Today we went back to Big C--the market that is the Costco of Vietnam. Our big outing of the day!

Hopefully I can report tomorrow we have visa approval. Pray, Pray, Pray!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tidbits

It's weird having endless open days to fill. I thrive on activity--I'd be in a LOT of trouble if I didn''t!

We are settling into a routnine of going somewhere every day, then the playground, the pool, watching Cartoon Network--such a VN thing to do :-) Oh and baths! Vu loves baths and takes three a day!

He has been very happy today, teasing and being a comedian. I forgot to add one part of the story the day he wanted the kite and threw the two hour raging wall-kicking fit. My blogs these days are lightening fast with no time to even re-read so I forgot to add that even tho I had some "oh crap" moments, those were quickly followed by the reassurance that God planned for Vu to be in our family. I knew it the moment I laid eyes on his picture on the waiting child listing. And I know it every time I lay eyes on him now. I am so thankful to God for this little charmer, this energy pistol, this affectionate little tease. Even when he throws a tiny fit in the market like today. (Do VN kids throw fits? I haven't seen any and we get quite the horrified looks.)


Tidbits of the day:

We have a LARGE gecko in our kitchen.

Vu continues to love to eat--esp. meat, fruit, sweets and "on-may"--Top Ramen, we brought a suitcase full :-)

There were whole, cooked, little birds for sale at the market--beaks and all.

Vu settled for skinny hotdog things. Now he smells like a giant Vienna sausage.

People who only have a few items will cut in line in the grocer store. We were in line a long time.

I cooked pasta for dinner for Kim--her favorite--but it had weavels in it so . . . room service.

Two new Holt families arrived including Kelli! yeah! It's like having family around. Kelli and her dh are so sweet and Jude is even more beautiful in person.

More later . . .

Monday, November 5, 2007

Rules

Rule #1 When adopting a child who doesn't speak English--learn as much of their language as you can. Every word is a jewel.

Rule #2--Don't pretend you know what they are saying when, in fact, you do not. I learned this the hard way yesterday.

Vu kept saying something over and over--Mow-gone-dew. He wanted his coat so I thought he wanted to go outside. Later, he kept crying about it and I asked the hotel desk, they didn't know what he was saying. We went out to eat, he kept saying it, I kept nodding my head thinking he was talking about going outside. Again, I asked the waitress if she knew what he was saying, she didn't.

We come back to our hotel and he is crying about it again. FINALLY the new lady at the desk figures it out--he wants a kite.

It is too late to go back into town. He proceeded to throw a two hour fit during which time I was thinking "Oh crap! What have we gotten ourselves into!!" He was MAD! Hysterical really. I don't blame him, I mean, I did keep saying yes, and nodding my head when he was saying it! But I have to admit, I have never seen a fit like that--and I've seen a lot of fits!

He did understand when I would say, "tomorrow," which just made him madder but finally he calmed down and told me "tomorrow" so first thing thing morning we went to town and bought a kite.

There is a whole other story on how we found a place to fly it. I'll post that later. I will say that Vu had a very good day today with only one tiny little tizzy fit. The rest of the day was filled with swimming, the playground, kite flying and finally, sun!

More later, Vu is done with his Skittles which means my time is over :-)

To our family back home--we miss you so much!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

first day alone

Vu is having a much better day today--back to his happy self! He did cry terribly when the taxi pulled away last night with Eric and Lizzy in it. That was heartbreaking. If I had it to do over again, I would not have done it this way. I think, esp. for an older child, it is too hard to let them start to attach and then give them another loss they don't understand--even if it is temporary.

Someone asked about how bringing our older daughters has been and that was the best decision we made. They helped Vu feel comfortable immediately and have helped him bond so much. For anyone who is adopting a child over the age of one, if you have an older child, I would highly recommend bringing them. It is also great for our older kids to see a different part of the world and I know they will forever look at the world in a different way and feel lucky to live in America.

Vu found the balloons I brought this am and he has been in heaven. He is one smart boy and figured out how to blow them up quickly.

Last update before the computer goes away

Not to mention my two great helpers--Eric and Lizzy. They will certainly be missed!

Kelli, we changed hotel rooms and I am sorry to say the new room is not nearly as nice as our old one--tho it is less expensive. It is about 1/3 the size with just a balcony and no deck. It is fine for our needs tho. One other thing I forgot to tell you is it is very hard to walk around near the hotel as the few sidewalks are usually full of scooters or vendors so you have to walk out in the street which can be an adventure :-) Once you get further into the city you will have sidewalks (for the most part). Vu told Truong that he wants to see the zoo while he is here so perhaps we can take in the zoo together.

Vu has had a couple more meltdowns today. I am sure the move to yet another new place only adds to his confusion. He is happy right now though, playing with his playdough and making a sword. He also covered a chopstick with playdough and then stuck it half way down his pants. It is some type of ninja sword--once again I find myself saying he and Patrick will be two peas in a pod! The energy level at our house will be off the scale! It is going to be a lot of fun!

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Hard Day

Vu is really confused right now as we have all our suitcases packed up because we thought we could change our room this am but now we have to wait. I know he wonders why we have all the bags packed up and he knows Daddy and Lizzy are going home today so it's just very confusing all in all.

Vu wants us to all go everywhere together. Lizzy and I tried to go downstairs without the others and Vu had a complete meltdown. We asked him to come but he was torn between the various family members. I think this is going to be very hard on him to see Eric and Lizzy leave now that he is so attached.

Later, Eric and I went downstairs with him and he had another meltdown acting like he was terrified. If I had to guess what he was thinking it was that we were taking him back to the orphanage. We will have the front desk do more translating for us when we go back down. He was too upset to even listen before. When we brought him back to the room he ran inside and gave both sisters a relieved hug.

I just wonder what goes through his little head sometimes. I can usually tell what he is saying or what he is wanting just from being around kids so many years and with the little bit of Vn we have learned but this is different. I also think the busyness of the past few days is catching up and he is very tired and cranky today.

On another subject, Will lost his game on the last play of the game in what sounds like a bad call by the referee. What a heartbreaker. They needed to win to go to state. I read that most of the team and fans were crying. I hate feeling so far away from my family, esp. when they need mom to give them a hug. I love you Will! I am so sorry your season had to end this way!

Sounds like it's just a sad day all the way around.

Our Hotel

Kelli, you asked about our hotel so here is some info:

The hotel is very, very nice. The rooms are huge and I feel like I am in a house. We downsize to a one bedroom tonight since Eric and Lizzy are now leaving. We have a HUGE deck off our room overlooking the lake. There is a big swimming pool and smaller baby pool but it has been too cold to swim. There is also a workout room and a nice little playroom but, unfortunately it has some type of mold problem going on and the smell of mold makes it very uncomfortable to be in.

For breakfast, there is a buffet and they will also cook eggs if you ask. The cost is $6.50 and children are free. I think they also make food other times in the day but we have never eaten there and I haven't seen anyone else eating there during the day but maybe I am just not walking by at the right time.

The hardest part about being out here is it is about a 15 minute drive to downtown and most of the siteseeing you might like. The taxi fare should be about 60,000 dong tho we paid twice that last night so probably smart to ask before getting in.

The front desk has been very helpful and have helped us translate for Vu a couple of times.

Can't wait to meet you and see your precious Jude!

Picture update

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Too Cold To Swim

Today we are all feeling a little morose knowing Eric and Lizzy have to leave and it will most likely be ten days before we can follow. It is still chilly and overcast here--too cold to use the pool tho we did make fools of ourselves one day and attempt it. I think we gave the hotel staff quite the laugh watching us. Even the kids thought it was too cold. Vu thought it was a big bathtub and started to strip off his shorts! As much as the VN think kids need to keep covered in the cold, they probably thought we were horrible parents!

We finally got the cell phone to work and called home. Patrick was home with Grandma so we got to talk to them both. Paul was spending the night. Everyone seems to be doing well and it was great to hear their voices. Will has a big football game tonight--wish we could be there to watch. It's been a great experience to be here but I think we are reaching the point where we have been there, done that, and ready to go home.

Vu continues to do well. He is opening up a little more and being more active and testing the boundaries a little more. I expected that so it's no surprise. I also see some behavior I would expect from a child growing up in an orphanage, for instance, he doesn't seem to realize all the dangers around--like the street and the stove. In many ways, we will have to teach him these things as if he were a baby. Still no grief and at this point, I will be happy to see some as grief is a good sign for future attachment. If we don't see any it won't worry me too much, I will just know we have to be especially vigilant in making attachment happen. I think he is having so much fun right now he still thinks he's in Disneyland and doesn't yet realize that he will truly be leaving those he loves behind.

More later--this is the last day I have a computer as Eric will take ours home tho I can use the one in the hotel lobby. I will have two kids alone tho so don't know how much blogging will happen.

Lizzy strikes back

Eh. Decided it's been a few days since I've posted, so I may as well.

I leave tomorrow night- Sad day!! I'm going to miss the new little boy who calls me em-ME with such a funny accent. :]

If I have to describe Vu. . .Hmm. HE LOVES FOOD. Haha. He eats just about anything and everything and loves it. Today at the puppet theater he found a granola bar in his backpack after the show, and despite us telling him to wait until we got outside he seemed determined to get the darned thing open.

Mom keeps asking me if I can stay longer. The more comfortable Vu gets with us the more energy he seems to gain. Here I was expecting this shy little boy and instead I have one who runs screaming down the hall just to give me a hug.

Last night I decided he could have a turn to sleep with Mom and Dad, however as soon as I put him in bed next to Daddy he jumped back up and ran into mine and Kim's room. We had to pretend to fall asleep with him, so we could get back up to watch our Grey's Anatomy marathon.

This trip has been amazing. I look at things in such a new perspective, and am really greatful for what I have. I've also learned that procrastination STINKS. Yes guys, it's taken 14 years to grow on me. I now have quite a bit of homework to catch up on. Good thing for long plane rides!!

I've learned more on this trip than I ever thought I would. One of the main things being that I now know I will never, EVER, drive over here in Vietnam. Just kidding. (...well, kind of. :]). I had no idea how much of a difference there would be between America and Vietnam, and my eyes have now been opened to that.


And now I would like to tell you the first thing I'm buying in America.

A cheese burger and french fries!!! Sorry guys- this food just isn't my style. I've been living off noodles and Pho.

(Hey, just be glad I ate the Pho. See? I didn't just eat american food the whole time! Though the french fries I had at lunch today were rather yummy...)

Can't wait

From Kim

I can't wait any longer to get back in OR.Right now it is Nov. 2 and the time is 6:30 at night at Vietnam.I have so much to tell you guys and probably I won't even know where to start.

When I was in Vietnam it was so hot there that I couldn't even stand it,but in Hanoi it's much cooler then Ho Chi Minh City.

Hanoi has much harder beggers for you to say no to. My hotel is really nice, because it has swimming pools and little pools for little kids. The bad thing is that we haven't gone swimming ,because it's been to cold.


We went to a very dorky puppet show but I liked it a little.The show was a hour until it was over.Then we walked for a couple of minutes.Then we went in a cab also we went out to eat for lunch and a little dinner.


See you guys in a couple of days.

A scared little boy that discovered kung dow

Today was a very busy day! We had to be at the SOS clinic this morning at nine. This was for Vu's physical so he can get his visa to enter the U.S.

We got there just a few minutes early and I started to fill out the paperwork they gave me and then our Holt worker (Truong) came and he already had all the paperwork filled out! It was great having everything organized and easy. He had also contacted the orphanage where Vu is from, just as we had asked, and told them how well Vu is doing. He said they were very happy and relieved to know he is doing so well.

I could tell Vu was wondering what was going on and I didn't want him to be scared/surprised about getting a physical so I had Trung explain it to Vu. Vu was very scared! He started to whine and when they called us he cowered in the corner and started to cry and didn't want to go in. I started to cry too as it was so hard to see his fear; Eric picked him up and we all reassured him by saying "Kung Suh" and "Kung Dow" our baby language of don't be scared and it won't hurt. Truong also reassured him. The physical went fine and he was declared a very healthy boy. He does have some cavities in his back teeth. The doctor did not think he had scabies but I treated him the first night as I wasn't sure--guess his bug bites got really zapped! When he was all done he was very excited and told us, "Kung dow! Kung dow!" And so we continue this parenting adventure in helping him to trust us. I will not be able to tell him "kung dow" when we get to the U.S. as he will need blood work. That should be fun--not!

We spent the rest of the day walking around the lake, shopping, going to the big indoor market, and eating in the restaurant of The Somerset Grand. It was really nice to eat somewhere clean and American. The kids even had chicken nuggets and french fries. Vu knew all about dipping them in ketchup too!

After that we headed to the puppet theater. It is a tourist attraction worth the visit with live singing, musical instruments and of course, water puppets. It was worth the money just to see Vu's excitement and reaction! He especially loved the lions at the end and the smoke coming out of the water.

After a taxi ride back to our hotel which included a tour of the city we had not anticipated and the high fare to go with it (Eric was NOT happy about that) we are now back at our hotel and Vu is watching his Power Ranger movie and Eric is packing up as he and Lizzy go home tomorrow. It is going to be so hard for Vu to understand where they are going and why. We have had two different people explain to him that this would be happening and we will explain it again tomorrow. Hopefully, those explanations will help. It is going to be a long ten days without them; I am still hoping things will go faster with the visa but with the new I-600 changes that probably will not happen. We were one of the last families able to travel under the old rules.

More later . . . one last thing tho. Vu says "Mommy" so cute. He says it with a British accent and like a question--"Mummy?". It's the sweetest thing you have ever heard and music to this Mummy's ears.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The computer is being slow and we are having trouble loading pictures--hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Today was another great day even though it was rainy and cool here. APs--bring pants and jackets.

Our Holt representative met us here at the hotel to make sure we had all our paperwork in order for the visa interview at the U.S. Embassy office. One of the best bits of advice I received in terms of organizing paperwork was to get an accordion folder and label each item. It is easy to pull out and find items easily. I did this with our original application, then with our Dossier and again with our visa paperwork. It works!

All our paperwork was in order and our Holt worker later met us at the Embassy building, which was actually the Consulate just down the street. Our actual interview was fast and easy, just a couple of questions. I have heard that Holt has such a good reputation in the country that the interview is always quick and easy. They know Holt is one of the most ethical agencies out there.

Vu was great while we waited at the office. He enjoyed stickers and drawing while waiting.

After that we went to see all the Uncle Ho buildings. Ho Chi Minh is a big hero here. It was very interesting to see the museum, memorial and palace.

Dinner was at Hua Sua, a cooking school for disadvantaged youth. It was very good food for a great price. If you are heading to Hanoi soon the address is 28a Ha Hoi St.

Vu talks all the time, mostly in VN but he is also picking up English quickly. We discovered he can count to 10 in English and he was playing with playdough, made it into the shape of a birthday cake and then sang "Happy Birthday" in English.

While Vu learns English, we are learning more and more Vietnamese. Sometimes Vu will laugh at our interpretations of our dictionary. I wonder what exactly we are saying sometimes as changing the tone of a word changes the meaning.

Vu came to us with a backpack which included a DVD of what is apparently one of his favorite TV shows--Power Rangers. It is hysterical to watch the intro as he does all the karate moves the Rangers do and he sings the intro. He knows he is cute and shows off for us.

Missing my little and big guys at home and hoping Vu's visa gets done quickly.