Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

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Preparing for some Halloween fun--a cowgirl and a belly dancer:
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Vu's excited for his first Halloween!
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Vu is a Star Wars pilot, Paul is a ninja and Patrick is a soccer player!
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First, we went to visit James at his work. My James is a smart boy. He is dressed up as a hunter. Wanna know why he is so smart? He was heading out for hunting later in the evening. Un-huh, smart costume, huh?
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Everyone minus Kim who was with friends but plus a neighbor kid but minus Will (working) but plus James' girlfriend. That pretty much sums up how most of our family pictures are--pluses and minuses.
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Ready to hit the neighborhood for some candy:
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First stop, our super fantastic neighbor K who always has a special goodie bag for our kids--this was Vu's first trick-or-treat experience:
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Two hours later--mission accomplished:
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The king was in his counting house, counting out his money. I mean, candy . . .
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Sorting the loot--with a look of dreamy chocolate drunkeness:
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Eating, and eating, and EATING! For some reason, he now has a stomachache.
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The funny comment of the night. I had little containers of playdough to hand out to the Trick-or-Treaters coming to my door. (For the record, I also had candy for bigger kids.) I always like the idea of giving something other than candy like pencils or bubbles but my kids say it's SO lame! Anyhoo, I thought I was being creative with the playdough and Lizzy looked at it, picked one up, sighed and said, "Really mom? Playdough? Next year you're probably going to hand out broccoli!!!"

Don't tempt me girl! Don't tempt me!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gotcha Day

365 days. Can it be?

Today is Vu's "Gotcha Day"--the day he legally and physically became our son--though he was born into our hearts the day we first saw his picture on the waiting child listing, April 6, 2007, Good Friday.

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We don't really celebrate Gotcha Day in our family, though we always let our child know it's a special day. In many ways, it's a bittersweet day--one that is happy for me but sad for those my child had to leave behind. In Kim's and Paul's case, they had foster families who loved them so much. In Vu's case, he left the nannies at the orphanage, many of whom had cared for him since he was first admitted, weighing only four pounds. I know they wanted him to have a family because they loved him so much, but it was heartbreaking for them.

I guess I just feel reminiscent on this day. It seems like so long ago and yet just yesterday. That whirlwind day that was in slow motion and yet I can hardly remember any details. Now that I think about it, his birth was like all the others--a foggy whirlwind!

I remember we got to the orphanage and it was very quiet. We had a mix up with the cab and we were a few hours late. We were brought into the office and sat down in a very serious discussion with the staff. I was certain they were going to tell us we would have to come back another day and my heart was pounding with trepidation but they simply were very apologetic about the mix up and wanted to get some paperwork out of the way.

Then, I heard a little boy crying in the next room and I was sure it was Vu. I asked, but the director smiled and said that no, it was not Vu. She said Vu was very excited and had been going around the orphanage that morning telling everyone, "Goodbye! My family is coming and I am going to America!" We continued to sign paperwork and I looked up to a quiet little boy on the other side of the room--I hadn't even heard him come in. He smiled shyly--oh that beautiful little smile! And of course, at that point, my eyes brimmed and spilled with tears. It seemed impossible that after waiting so long, he was finally there, right in front of us. He came into our arms so easily and happily it was almost like a dream.

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Adopting Vu was one of the easiest/hardest things I have ever done. It was easy to love him, that's for sure! He made that very easy and he still does! And I think I read so much about all the possibilities of "things that might go wrong" that when we only experienced some of those, it still seemed easy!

But it was also hard. Sometimes, I think I didn't realize just how hard it was when I was in the thick of it. I do remember feeling like I had to be on high alert for the first few months. There were so many aspects I hadn't anticipated. He didn't know the stove was hot, the street was dangerous, that he couldn't just walk out the front door to explore whenever he wanted. In many ways, he was like a 2yo.

I hadn't anticipated how curious he would be about everything. He wanted to look inside every single game in the toy room, every single storage box up high--and he would try to climb up onto things to discover.

I hadn't realized how hard separation would be--he wanted ALL the family to be together ALL the time. When the older kids had to go to school he would cry like they would never return even tho we had VNese friends explain they would always return. When I would drop Kim off at piano he would do the same or if one of the kids wanted to spend the night at a friends--same reaction. It took a long, long time for him to overcome this. Come to think of it, he STILL likes it best when we are all together. But then, so do I :-)

There were many things he just didn't know because he had never experienced them, things I never even thought about like, he had a hard time holding onto things in the car. It never occurred to me before but kids actually LEARN how to hold onto things while moving. We had many dropped toys, Happy Meals, drinks etc. He has just recently really learned to hold on which is a good thing considering the amount of time we spend in the car!

But the hardest thing was the raging fits he would throw. They weren't long or often but when he got going, it was just downright scary! He would go off into his own little world and be unknowing and unseeing and try to kick and bite and spit and I wondered if he would always throw fits like that!

The answer is, no. There were times I wondered if I should start to handle them with discipline but deep in my heart I knew it was just all the anger, frustation, sorrow and grief coming out. I would tell him over and over that I loved him and he would always be my son and I knew he was sad. I would hold him and rock him and tell him over and over, in Vietnamese, that it was going to be okay.

And it was.

Those fits became non-existent and he began to understand that siblings returned from school and daddy returned from work. We eventually went through every closet and drawer to show him the contents and his curiosity was fulfilled. He learned to speak English faster than I could have ever imagined and most importantly, he began to understand that he was really here forever.

Through it all, his energy, love and joyful spirit has added a dimension to our family that we didn't fully realize was missing. His amazing spirit of joy has conquered all, this brave little boy who trusted us on that day, one year ago; he trusted us enough to say goodbye to everyone and everything he had ever known and loved. He has blossomed. So have we. He loves having a family and we love him more than words can say.

If I had to use one word to describe Vu it would be--JOYFUL!

This is the smile we get to see everyday! We are so blessed!
Happy Gotcha Day Vu!
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Friday, October 24, 2008

Catching Up

My two beautiful girls--one dressed up for homecoming and one dressed up for a dinner outing:
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A visit from Nicole and family:
Isn't Etame adorable!:
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A trip to the zoo:
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Last days of fall at the pond:
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The new craze--Bakugan (magnetic overpriced transformer ball things that my boys are absolutely crazy about):
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Tattoo Advice Please

First of all, I wanted to comment on how truly wonderful it really was to get Vu back together with his friend. I wish we lived closer so our boys could see more of each other but we are already making plans for future visits.

Since that night, Vu has talked about Vietnam every day and a flood of memories have come back including adventures he had with his dear friend-- including one where they locked themselves in a room and helped themselves to some medicine! Let me tell you, I am CERTAIN those two kept their nannies on their toes! :-)

Next, it is midnight, but I couldn't let another day go by without telling you I've missed posting and have been a real slacker lately! LOL! Classes are settling in so hopefully I'll chat a bit more!

Tomorrow . . . I promise, an update and lots of pics!

For now, a question I've been pondering for a long time--what should I get a tattoo of? I'm serious! And no, this is not a mid-life crisis question! I am way to busy to have a midlife crisis! (Perhaps just the last bit of my teenage rebellion coming out tho.)

Now's your chance to throw out some ideas for me! Absolutely Yours--please chime in!

Rules:
1.) Must be relatively small
2.) Must have something to do with my kids, peace, and/or my faith
3.) Must be able to cover it up if desired (no ankle tats)
3.) Must be able to show it off if desired (no butt tats)
4.) Must be on an area that will not shrivel up (no boob tats--also see #3)
Honest advice--even those who think I shouldn't do it

Will finally gave up waiting for me to go with him and have dual tattoos. Here's his--with his brother's name (Drew aka Joe) and a cross--got a big stamp of approval by me :-)
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Pretty baller, huh? For all you old foggies, "baller" is the new word for "cool"! I gotta keep up with all these young kids!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time there were two beautiful baby boys, born just days apart, sleeping side by side together in a Vietnamese orphanage.

The two tiny babies took bottles at the same time every day and soon grew bigger and bigger. The babies developed happy personalities and were a joy to their nannies who decided to name them, "Mr. Personality" and "Prince Charming."

The nannies loved the boys very much and hoped they would find families soon, but both boys continued to wait. Together, they learned to sit and crawl and walk.

Then, Vietnam closed their adoption program. Children could no longer be adopted by Americans. The nannies were very sad the boys did not have families.

Mr. Personality and Prince Charming continued to grow and spent their days together laughing and sharing secrets. They played tag and hide-and-go seek with the other children. Sometimes at naptime the nannies would make them a special little fort with a sheet spread between two cribs and their sleeping mats underneath. The boys would giggle and tickle one another until the nannies made them go to sleep.

Years went by and the boys grew into active four-year-old boys. They filled their days eating, playing and sleeping together. One day, the nannies buzzed with excitement--adoptions between the U.S. and Vietnam would resume! They loved the boys and would be brokenhearted to see them leave but because they loved them so much, they wanted them to have a life they could not give them in the orphanage.

One day, Mr. Personality was told his forever family would be coming very soon to bring him home. Soon, the nannies made a cake and had a "Going Party" wishing him good luck and kissing his little head and crying sad farewells.

That night, Prince Charming and Mr. Personality slept side by side one last time.

The next morning a Mommy and Daddy came for Mr. Personality! He was very excited to finally have a family and go to America!

Mr. Charming watched them drive out the front gate. He was sad. He knew he would not see his friend again. He missed Mr. Personality's laughter and the excitement he brought to the orphanage. He missed the way he and his friend would hide from the nannies in the baby room, laughing as the nannies would feign an inability to find them.

That night Prince Charming cried. He asked his nannies when he would get a mommy and daddy. The nannies looked at each other sadly and said, "Someday, Prince Charming . . . someday."

Another year passed and Prince Charming said goodbye to nearly all his little friends. As each left, one by one, part of his heart left too and every night he would ask his nannies when he would get a new mommy and daddy.

"Someday, Prince Charming . . . someday."

Months passed until one day, the orphanage director brought him to her office. She was both smiling and crying. She had a package in front of her with toys and Skittles and Superman pajamas. And a book. A book filled with pictures. A book filled with pictures of Prince Charming's new family.

"Vu, you finally have a forever family! They will come very soon!"

And they did! And he was very, very happy.

Vu loved having a family but sometimes, late at night, as he drifted off to sleep he would hear one of his nannies in a distant land playing hide-and-seek and calling out, "Where are you two boys! Prince Charming, Mr. Personality, where are you?" He would remember how he and his special friend would run and laugh and hide. He missed his friend.

Then one day, Vu's mother told him she had a very special surprise for him! She told him he was going to get to visit his long-lost friend, Mr. Personality.


And they laughed:
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And they shared secrets:
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And they played tag and hide-and-go-seek and Bakugan and Star Wars and they made plans for their next visit together:
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And they were very, very, VERY happy!

And when they left each other this time, they knew they would see each other again.

As they live happily ever after!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Vu's First Year Home

One year ago today we received our travel call for Vu. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

When Joe died I didn't think I would ever feel "utter and complete" happiness again. I was wrong. That phone call is forever etched in my mind and the best part is, the happiness Vu brings was just beginning.

Here's a video montage featuring our trip to Vietnam, our first moments together and Vu's first year.

I hope that someone, somewhere, will put their fears aside about adopting an older child, especially an older boy, and see that the joys far outweigh any difficulties. His first year has been full of all the "firsts" of a baby, just in fast forward!

He truly is a JOY and we thank God every day for His precious gift!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Well

College classes started up again and to be honest, I was a little freaked. I was worried about a lot of things, not the least of which I decided to bite the bullet and take a full load.

And I'm still worried. I'm worried about how I'm going to do it all. I mean, I thought just taking one class was a lot. How am I going to handle THREE? AND do all the other things in my life WELL. Not perfect (I gave up on that long ago) but WELL.

One of the things I've done this week is look at how I can organize my time to do all I need to do--WELL.

I haven't come up with a perfect plan (remember, I gave up on perfect?) but I'm making sure my lessons from McDonald's are alive and well and I'm making sure I prioritize. I'm learning that even with homeschooling I must start with the most important subjects every day.

Most importantly, I'm remembering to prioritize people over things and the eternal over the here-and-now.

Hopefully my lapses in posting will be shortlived but if not, you will know I'm working on doing the eternal--well.

Some of my reasons for wanting to organize, prioritize and do things well:
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Friday, October 3, 2008

Courthouse, Jail, Baseball and Pho

Yesterday was an exciting day! We went to the court house and filed Vu's final adoption papers. His name will also legally be changed. We will keep his Vietnamese name for his middle name and also give him a second one, keeping in tradition with all six of our boys. And of course, he will be named after a famous baseball player--Cal Ripken Jr.--the official choice of his late brother Joe (named after Joe DiMaggio) and approved by our own Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Alex Rodriguez and Lou Gehrig.

I should be labeled worst procrastinator of the year but I just wasn't ready to dive into all the paperwork after that hideous dossier (we were so spoiled with our Korean adoptions which do not require a dossier)!

Always out to save some cash we did the paperwork ourselves--just before going to the courthouse I made sure everything was in order:
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Two cute boys at the courthouse. They were VERY impressed when I pointed out the jail cells!
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To celebrate we went out for lunch at our favorite VNese restaurant:
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Vu ate and ate and ATE! Pho (VNese beef noodle soup) is his favorite. Patrick loves the VNese chow mein.
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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

For Your Viewing Entertainment

We took a little homeschool detour this morning. Patrick wanted to find a "You Tube" of his favorite song, Awesome God. We played the song at Joe's memorial service during the slide-show montage of Joe's life. It will always hold a special place in all our hearts.

It's a great way to start the day! Our God is TRULY awesome! Enjoy!