Sunday, December 30, 2007

In With the Old- No, Wait a Minute... That's Backwards. You Knew What I Meant.

Well, for starters- I've been monkeying around with my blog again, obviously. Sorry. Hope you don't mind because it's probably going to continue. I'm not one to leave things the same way for long. I'm getting extremely frustrated (no- make that *angry*) trying to make it do what I want it to do, and it's just not happening. I'm a little bit tech-stupid and anything I do to this dumb thing is through a lot of trial and error. All I want now is to add this picture into the header behind the title. Is that so hard? That's all I want (well, that and this thermos. I bet most of you have no idea what that means). I've only tried to add the photo now about 253 times. Does everyone else but me know what they're doing? Am I the only one who's clueless... Again? This is just like high school Biology all over again.

Anyway... New topic. Another year is coming to an end. What a year this has been for us! We've definitely seen our share of ups and downs, which is no different than the rest of you, I'm sure. But, in spite of our down times, this year is leaving me feeling humbled and bowled over by God's goodness to my family. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong this year, I'm choosing to end it by focusing on what went right, and looking forward to the good things on the horizon for next year. I hope you're able to do the same.

A few of the people I love and treasure have experienced serious downs this year- deaths, divorces, break-ups. I know that putting a positive spin on the past year would be difficult for you, and who could blame you? My heart aches for you and I'm praying that this coming year will bring nothing but good things; healing, peace, and blessings. You remain in my thoughts and prayers. Good riddance, 2007. Right? Now, it's on to better things.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, one of the goals of this pudgy little house frau is to become considerably less pudgy. And as we close out this year, I wanted you all to be a part of the dramatic weight-loss unveiling. Drum roll, please...
Isn't it astounding? I went from looking like sad, chubby House Frau Chelle on the left... To happy, skinny, Gorgeous Chelle on the right. And it was a snap! Admittedly, losing the weight in real life has proved to be a tad difficult- I've actually gained weight since the last time I brought it up- but changing my little Cartoon Chelle was easy. I don't know why I didn't do it sooner.

Really, I AM going to get this weight off and 2008 is the year it's going to happen. I've been a Chub since 1989 and that's waaaayy to long. My children have never even met Skinny Chelle. She was swallowed up by Chub before they were born. So, this is it! You heard it straight from the horse's mouth. I may never look like skinny Cartoon Chelle, but I'm going to look and feel better starting now. But not right this second. I hope you didn't think I meant right this second when I said "now." Stop pressuring me. I have to finish this bag of M&Ms, then I'm starting now. So "now" is, like, in a couple of minutes.

I have a great motivation to get the weight off because my son is getting married in June and... Well, I'm vain. So, here's my Big New Year's Pronouncement: I'm going to post real before and after pictures of myself at the end of May 08 and tell you how many pounds I lost. I think I may even tell the truth. I might even post my final weight (But that's probably stretching it a little bit. Don't count on that one).

Back to the ups and downs of 07... I guess one of the bigger ups for us this year was just in making the decision to pursue this adoption in the first place. I know some of you had even bigger ups than that because you received your referrals, or were able to bring your little lambs home this year. Congratulations! For those of you like us, who are still waiting for your child- 2008 is going to be our year! Amen?

One of my little ups came along as a result of our decision to adopt, when I started this blog. What began as a simple way to inform my family and friends of our adoption news has turned into a fun and creative outlet for me and a way to connect with other adoptive families. As of this, my 93rd post, I've had 3,252 people visit my blog from:
Africa, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, England, France, Germany, Greece, Guam, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, A few other countries that I'm forgetting right now, And... Almost all 50 States.

And yes, I realize that's small potatoes to those bloggers who are talented writers with something of value to say, and have a regular following of "devoted fans" (including me). Some of you could boast of much higher numbers from more locations. But, that's not the point. The point is: We're talking about me right now. Let's make a big deal about me, OK? lol! Hey, when you start out with a fan base of 2- husband and mom, you have to celebrate every little achievement. Seriously, no matter how long I keep this blog, I will never get used to the idea that someone on the other side of the world is reading something I said. Absolutely mind-boggling to me! You would think the weight of this awareness would cause me to be a little more concerned about saying something worthwhile, something more substantial than idiotic ramblings on my skinny cartoon alter ego, but... No.

I would like to thank all of you for taking your time to visit me this year. I've learned a lot from visiting your blogs, and enjoyed "meeting" so many wonderfully supportive people. I'm really thankful for the new blog buddies I've made. You have blessed me these past few months and I sincerely thank you. I'm hoping for blessings back to you in the coming year.

To all of you:

Purple Year

“Whatever your past has been, you have a spotless future.”
Melanie Gustafson

Have a Great 2008! God bless!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Dear Moms,

I just love this E. T. Sullivan quote:
"When God wants a great work done in the world or a great wrong righted, he goes about it in a very unusual way. He doesn't stir up his earthquakes or send forth his thunder bolts. Instead, he has a helpless baby born, perhaps in a simple home and of some obscure mother. And then God puts the idea into the mother's heart, and she puts it into the baby's mind. And then God waits. The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies."

I don't know what it is exactly about these words that I like so much, but they are full of hope and comfort to me as a mom. I think it's just that I like the reminder that God's plans for my children are bigger than I am. Maybe it takes a little bit of the pressure to be the perfect mom off my shoulders.

When you're "just" a mom, it's very easy to lose sight of the big picture, isn't it? I remember about 15 yrs. ago, a close high school friend asked me when I was going to "do something with my life." He said it was sad to think that this was all I was going to do, and he really hoped I was planning to finish my education, etc. because I was "capable of so much more." He meant that as a compliment, I guess. He said he was worried that I'd let too much time pass and I'd never wind up doing anything but staying home with my kids. Guess what? I never wound up doing anything but staying home with my kids! His comments hurt at the time, but still- I understood his point. I once had "big" plans for myself and my future. I wanted to be someone important; do important things. Now, I perform the same repetitive, mundane tasks every day. At times, I admit, it's easy to feel unimportant. Very unimportant. I am a housewife, after all- which is not one of the most complimentary labels to stick on a person. And what's really cruddy is- I'm not even all that good at it! lol! My home is a constant disaster. I can never keep up with it all. Nowadays, my life revolves around cutting-edge, serious matters such as comparing prices, getting stains out of shirts, being home in time to get someone somewhere, and helping a kid learn phonics. I'm overweight. I'm not beautiful. I have no impressive degrees. I'm certainly no Einstein. I will never reach the masses with my powerful opinions or words of wisdom. Instead, I go to Wal-mart more times each week than I want to think about right now. Whoop-dee-doo. Yet somehow, I have been blessed with the privilege of having the most important job on earth. You, too. Do you ever take a minute to really stop and think about that?

All I am is some obscure mother. I will probably never be anything BUT some obscure mother. But God has a plan for my children that I can't even see right now- and, amazingly, He's allowing me to be a part of it! What's even more amazing to me is that He can nudge and direct my children into His plans for them, not because of what I do as a mother; but in spite of it! Good thing!

Here's to all the other obscure mothers out there! I hope you'll be reminded today of the importance and blessing of being "just" a mom. What you do every day DOES matter. Don't forget it. Have a great day!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Is it time for my nap yet?

So, how was it, everybody? Did you all survive Christmas? I'm going to need some time to recuperate. I tried to cram way too much into too short of a time, and also tried to cram way too much into my mouth. But of course, that's not much different than any other day. I'm only slightly fatter than I was last week, so that's good. I can't remember the last time I felt so desperately in need of a vacation. It's been a hectic month.

My mom came to visit last Sat. and left today. It was really nice having her here and I wish she could've stayed longer, although she was probably about to pull her hair out putting up with all of us these past few days. It's a major adjustment to go from living alone in peace and quiet, with nobody to worry about except 2 dogs, to staying in a house of 8. There is NEVER quiet here. NEVER. An afternoon with us is enough to make an alcoholic out of anybody, I don't care who ya are (not meant to suggest my mom ever was, is currently or plans to become an alcoholic. I'm just saying...).
She heard a LOT of this:
Hey, Nana. Nana. Hey. Nana, wanna hear somethin', Nana? Hey. I know a joke Nana. I made it up. Wanna hear it, Nana? Hey, Nana? You're still gonna do that puzzle with me, right? Nana. I'm ready to start it right now, Nana. Hey, Nana. Guess what my mom said not to tell you, Nana- Oh, look at that, Nana. The dog just threw up on the floor. Can you stay here with us longer, Nana? Don't you wish you could, Nana? Huh? Hey. Nana- I taught myself how to play "Heart-Shaped Box" on my electic guitar. Wanna hear it? Here- let me turn up my amp. This one's "Sweet Home Alabama." Oh, thanks. Can you tell what this one is? Nana! Polar Express is on! Sit by me, Nana! NO!! She's going to sit by me! She said. Uh-huh. Yes she did. Nana? Didn't you just say you're going to sit by me? See? She did. OK then- can I sleep with you tonight, Nana, since I can't sit by you during the movie? Nana? Do you smell that smell, Nana? HEY! You little kids get out of here, we're gonna play Madden 08 on the big TV. Yuh-huh. OH YES WE ARE. OUT, NOW! Dad said. Yes, he did. Did too. Go ask. See? Nana, wanna watch us play Madden 08? Do you know how to play, Nana? Where are you going? Hey. Nana? I think you just stepped in the dog vomit, Nana. Can I come in there with you? Why are you crying, Nana? Why are you locking the bathroom door and sobbing, Nana? Hey, Nana? ...Mom, I think something's wrong with Nana. I think I just heard Nana say a bad word. Again.

"Mom?" I say, as I tap on the bathroom door. "Mom. Hey. Mom. Mom. Hey, Mom?"

On the night we picked her up, Brianna started repeating something in the car she'd heard in a Christmas movie that mentions "Herod, King of the Jews." So she loudly blurts out, "You can all just call me 'Bribee of the Jews." This comes out of nowhere, mind you (and for those of you who haven't experienced the joys of parenting yet, it is a rule that it will always come out of nowhere, at a time and place that will cause maximum parental embarrassment, and in front of the last person you'd want around to witness it. Write it down. You have been warned.). My mom got this scowl on her face that I recall seeing several times during my childhood which was typically a precursor to something- oh... we'll just say -*unpleasant* about to take place in my future. She goes, "Ooooookay," in a tone that immediately made me think, "Cr*p. I'm in trouble." It was a tone that sounded like she was thinking, "What are these idiots teaching those poor kids now?" So I felt like I needed to hurry up and explain that Bri didn't know what she was saying, she didn't mean anything by it, she was just mimicking something she heard- doing her own unique and slightly twisted rendition of the "King of the Jews" line-yada, yada, yada. And I'm doing that nervous little laughing thing that people do when they're thinking, "Cr*p. I'm in trouble."

My mom says, "Oh, I thought she said 'Call me Bribee apple juice.'"

So the scowl wasn't because she was offended- only confused. Good times. Family fun.

I didn't get many pictures this year. Someone (read with an accusatory, sarcastic, and slightly hostile tone, please- directed at my husband or one of his spawn) misplaced my battery charger and the camera conked out after just a few pictures. Great. My mom comes here about once or twice a year. We'll remember what you look like, Mom. No biggie. Catch ya next time. Course the kids won't be quite as cute next Christmas. They don't stay little for long, do they? Oh well. And I may never be this thin and good-lookin' again. But, hey. Who needs a picture of me at my sexiest? Not me. Nooooo biggie.

Gosh, I hope it doesn't turn out that I'M the one who misplaced that charger. That would be embarrassing, huh? Ya know, now that I think about it... There's this box under my bed that... Oh, cripes- I gotta go.

I'll leave you with a few pictures I took before what will henceforth be referred to as "The Battery Incident of Christmas 07."

Nana with the kids, FREEZING at Silver Dollar City

And a couple shots of "Bribee Apple Juice" on Christmas morning:

After all the gifts were opened Bri said, "Boy! I REAAALLLLY love STUUFFFF!"

Yep. We're doing a great job teaching our kids the meaning of Christmas.
It's all about being Bribee of the Jews and the stuff.
If you'd like any pointers on how to instill these same treasured values into your own children, you just let us know.

Have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays???

For most of us, Christmas is a joyful time. It means family and food and all kinds of good memories. It's Stressful- but joyful, just the same. But there are some of us whose hearts are feeling anything but joy right now. Some of you are spending your first Christmas without a loved one who passed away this year. Others are struggling with broken families, broken relationships, and broken hearts. Some of you are waiting to complete your adoptions and FINALLY bring your child home. The waiting seems endless and it is agonizing. Especially if this is your first child. It's hard to celebrate when something or someone so important is missing. And then there are a few who have suffered great financial hardships. The stress of the holidays coupled with the stress of money problems is almost too much. Some of you have created your own problems and are suffering the consequences (been there, done that!); while others have been thrown into the middle of something they never imagined having to go through. None of us will get through life without pain, but something about Christmas sure makes it harder to bear, don't you think? I want you to know you're being thought of and prayed for today. You are being lifted up to The One who can bring you peace in the midst of your sorrow. I'm sorry for the hurt you're feeling this Christmas and my sincere hope is that the coming year will bring you blessings. Hang in there.

Love and Blessings to you!

Michelle, Darrell, Alex, Michael, Evan, Tucker, Olivia, Brianna... and Sam (who will hopefully be here next Christmas)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bring on the Christmas Music!!

If you're one of those people who gets irritated when a blogger sets music to play automatically, you'll have to keep me on mute until after the holidays because I LOVE CHRISTMAS MUSIC! And here- on Chelle's Blog, where Chelle is the Boss- we are going to have Christmas music until Chelle decides to take it off. Come on- don't be a Poopy-pants, Scrooge. Turn it up, grab a sugar cookie (it's always about the food with me, isn't it?), and enjoy!!!

(Edit- OK, after making my threats to torture you with auto-play music, I found I'm not as tech savvy as I'd hoped and it's not working well. I'm tired of trying to monkey with it. For the most part, you only get a small snippet of each song unless you click "launch stand alone player" at the bottom of the play list, then you can listen to any of the songs you want in their entirety.)

"...I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round... as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely... And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!" A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

"My Christmas Tree" By Tuck

"Jesus Wants to Give Me a Hug and an Angel is There, Too" By Brianna

"A Happy Snowman" By Olivia

A few quick thoughts, then I'll leave you to enjoy your cookie(...s): How many of us would ever say "No" to a gift that was carefully and lovingly chosen just for us? Most of us would view that as rude, or even heartless. We would never casually toss a gift aside and move on to something "more important" while the giver eagerly waits to see our response. We'd never dream of saying, "No, Nana! I don't want your stupid hand knit socks!" Out of love for the giver, we accept the gift. We appreciate the gift. It becomes valuable to us because the giver is valuable to us. Correct? Warning: Jesus Alert!! Here comes the sales pitch-God chose a gift for you, far more valuable than anything from your beloved Nana, spouse, or best friend. Maybe you've never considered God much, or His part in your Christmas celebrations. Maybe you've already asked Him for something that He hasn't given you, or feel like you're waiting for a "sign" or an answer from Him. He may never solve all your problems, nor did He ever promise to do so. He may not ease every ache and pain. He may never pour material blessings and money upon you. But He took the best gifts He could offer- forgiveness, redemption, eternal salvation- wrapped them up in swaddling clothes and lays them at your feet. What will you choose to do today with THE Gift? How will you respond today to the Giver?

The main point of Christmas,
boiled down to its simplest form, is this:
God likes you!
He thinks you're worth saving.
You are valued.
Your life matters.
You are in His thoughts today.
Is He in yours?
YOU are treasured
by the Almighty Creator Himself.
And He went to great lengths to make sure you know it...
You are loved!
What an awesome gift that is!
~God bless you~
Have a Very Merry Christmas,
from our family to ours!
When Adoption Goes Wrong
Most Americans who adopt children from other countries find joy. But others aren't prepared for the risks—and may find themselves overwhelmed.
By Pat Wingert NEWSWEEK
Dec 17, 2007 Issue Updated: 3:16 p.m. ET Dec 8, 2007

Have you seen this article yet? If not, be prepared- this is not something cheerful and lighthearted to start your day with, as I'm sure you can surmise from the title. Once again I'll keep my judgments and opinions (of which there are many) to myself, and allow you to form your own. This upsets me on so many different levels, I wouldn't know where to begin anyway. Taken along with a couple of recent posts from Mrs. Broccoli Guy about this article, I'm really starting to wonder what in the world is wrong with people. Disturbing and heartbreaking.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


As of one hour ago...
City On A Hill - S...

We Have Power!

God is GOOD!!!

Let's all do a little Happy Dancin' with Chelle, shall we?

OK, done. I'm going to go praise God by taking a HOT shower.

P.S. Today is our oldest son Nick's birthday. Love you, babe! Happy Birthday!!!

Day 52

52 days... Actually today marks one week, but I'm a drama queen, so 52 days it is. Our city sent out a letter yesterday saying the additional bad weather that's expected to roll in today (which it hasn't, so far!!!) is probably going to slow down the progress with restoring the electricity.
Seriously? Are you KIDDING me?
There are trucks working up and down our street- so maybe not. I hope...

We had the Nat'l Guard come check on us yesterday and tie a white string around our doorknob. They told my son not to take it off unless we need assistance. What happens to little old people or someone disabled who needs so much assistance that they are unable to step outside and untie their strings? That doesn't make much sense. Maybe Evan misunderstood what he said.

Thank you all, for the kind comments, prayers, and emails. In all seriousness I must say we are doing very well and feel so blessed to have the heat on, keeping our babies warm. There are so many others affected by this storm in ways FAR worse than us, and I don't mean to trivialize what they're going through by my daily barrage of complaints. I'm grateful for God's goodness to our family. I'm a big baby, and never have been a very happy camper (I mean, in the LITERAL sense- I don't like camping). But, in the realm of suffering, I know ours isn't significant enough to even make it on the list. We haven't truly suffered yet at all, and I praise God for that (although the cold showering DOES come close).

In the past week, I've been blogging about my "suffering" but in real life, I'm thinking not only of the people in my own town without generators, whose homes are cold and dark, but also of the people in our area who don't have homes at all. No problems with backed-up laundry because the clothes they're currently wearing are all they have.

I've been thinking of the precious children we sponsor through Compassion International and all the things they do without on a daily basis; things that my spoiled children, and their spoiled mother take for granted and consider necessary. We send them each extra money for their birthdays and Christmas, and it's not used to buy Barbies, and Transformers toys. It buys really stupid, trivial things like a pair of pants 3 sizes too big so they'll fit for a couple years, and new shoes. We usually get a picture of our kid holding up the items they were able to buy with their gift money. They have these huge beaming smiles, like our kids here at home would have holding up a new PS2 game or something, except they're holding up chickens, goats, and other things to benefit and feed the family. One of our little boys in Tanzania asks in every single letter he writes for us to pray for his father to stop drinking, and ask Christ into his heart. He's proud that the support we're sending is being used little by little to buy bricks, cement, and wood to slowly build his family a new house. It will have a roof and a floor, he tells us. He says he spent a recent break from school helping his mother haul water and take care of livestock. My boys think school breaks mean "sit on your butt like a zombie until you're yelled at to get up." I sit here, worrying that it won't feel like Christmas because I can't bake cookies with my kids, while other Mamas worry and wonder if their babies will eat today at all. I know I'm sounding nauseatingly preachy here, and I don't mean to. My point is- I've got it good and I know it. I am spoiled. I am a brat. But this brat is very, very thankful to my good and gracious God who goes above and beyond every day to care for me and my babies.
Every. Single. Day.
...Even- no ESPECIALLY- in the last 52.

(BTW- If you've ever considered child sponsorship, I can vouch for Compassion. We've been very happy with them and have used them for years. Our sponsorship started out with one child and we are now up to 6, in 6 different countries- 3 in Africa, and 3 in South America. And in all of that, we've never had one single complaint or problem. One hundred percent of any additional gift money you send, over and above the monthly support, goes directly to your child. I like that. None of it is kept for overhead, etc. They're very good about sending letters, pictures, and frequent updates. I know there's also other reputable organizations out there, but I've only had personal experience with this one. I'd highly recommend them. In fact, I'll be preachy one more time and encourage you to consider sponsoring a child. Go take a look at those little faces, then prayerfully consider what God would have you do. If you're in limbo, waiting for your adoption to go anywhere, what a great way to get a jumpstart on being a parent, huh? Can't afford it? We couldn't either. We couldn't afford to get started with one, and now we always *think* we can't afford 6. God makes a way. All you have to do is be a willing vessel for God to help a child. He is the provider. He's only using you as a funnel. How hard is that? You don't have to do anything but say "Yes." And believe. He does the rest.)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sarcasm Free Version of an Update for the Humor-Challenged

OK- for those family and friends that do not appreciate my sense of humor as much as I do, I'll give a short and sweet update of where we currently stand.

  • Still no power, so no hot water, no clean clothes, no cooking.
  • Generator still keeping heater on, for the most part (it gets tired sometimes and decides to take a little break).
  • School is still closed.
  • Liv had the flu, but is better. Alex has a sinus infection that wants to hang on. We're all getting colds.
  • Darrell tried to help me yesterday by gathering up some of the dirty clothes (*some* as in 7 large Hefty bags), and taking them to a laundromat. He left before lunch and drove around our town and one other one, looking. The ones that were open had so many people waiting, that he returned home at 4 p.m. without ever getting his turn to use the machines. We're trying again today. We're all out of clean clothes, although I still have clean underwear, Thank God, so I can at least change those and put my dirty clothes back on. I'd probably be ready to put my head in the oven if I was stuck wearing dirty underwear for days. Of course, putting my head in an electric oven without any electricity doesn't seem all that threatening- just kinda weird. I'm proud to say that I have enough underwear to last me for weeks. I have amassed this impressive underwear collection for just such a time as this. So, "In your face!" to all who made fun of my compulsive underwear purchasing and hoarding. How crazy am I now, huh? I told you this day would come. If there's ever a nuclear attack and we have to live in underground shelters, I'll be set for months, while others sit and cry over their sorry, panty-less plight. Whoops... Veering off into Smartypants Territory again. Sorry. Can't help it. My apologies to my unfunny friends. You know who you are. I'll get back on track.
  • While searching for a laundromat, as the frustration and stress of the past week took its toll, Darrell finally snapped and yelled something "unfriendly" at an old person in a parking lot. Isn't that the kind of thing you go to hell for?
  • Situation not good. No way to prepare for guests coming on 22nd and 23rd. Feeling embarrassed, hopeless, and helpless. Wishing Christmas wasn't coming- which I cannot believe I'm saying, because Christmas means more to me than any other holiday. Sitting around crying, worrying over all this (There, now, that's way more enjoyable than trying to be funny, isn't it?)
  • Will be serving Oreos, and cold hot dogs for Christmas. No, that's not the hor d'oeuvres, that's dinner. Uncooked Ramen noodles broken up over crackers is the hor d'oeuvre.
  • Need to finish Christmas shopping. Don't want to go shopping with dirty hair, clothes, etc. Much too vain for that, and don't want to ever take another cold shower again. Took paramedics 10 minutes to revive me after the last one (see yesterday's post). Oh, I'm doing it again. Sorry.
  • By the way, my recent post "Captain's Journal: Day 47" was written with thoughts of those old Civil War, or Donner Party diaries in mind. I love reading that kind of stuff, and love the verbosity in the writings of those days. If you go back and read it in that context, maybe it will make more sense. I'm really not as strange as I seem (ok-that's not true). There is a method to my madness.
  • Anyway, that's it in a nutshell. This was boring. I must say that funny is more fun. I'm doing it my way next time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I believe everything negative that God allows us to experience can be used to help others. So, with that in mind, I'd like to offer some advice you may want to file away for future use. Hopefully you'll never have to use it, but if I can help just one person, then my pain and suffering will be worth it. Today's lesson will be on showering in icy cold water. Incidentally, I came out of an icy cold shower only a few short moments ago, so this advice is up-to-date and personally tested. Also, my fingers are quite frozen and slightly shaky, so if there are typos in this post, you'll understand and cut me a break, right? Future topics will include: "How NOT to sob when trying to convince your child 'everything is going to be fine, Sweetheart, just fine.'" AND "How to eat yet another PBJ without triggering your gag reflex."


Preparation is the key to success...
1. Make sure someone in the house knows you're going in to take a shower. That way if you don't come out, someone will know to come looking for you and be ready to call 911 if your shower should take a turn for the worst. Speaking of which, I cannot be held responsible for any showering tragedies that may occur after following my advice. Shower at your own risk. Really, the best thing to do is have someone sitting outside the shower waiting to help you when you get out. You may want to agree in advance upon a safety word you will holler out if you feel you're losing consciousness, or otherwise need medical assistance. Important tip: Make sure your safety word is NOT a curse word. That way, when the urge to shriek curse words hits during your shower, which it will, you will be able to do so without causing an unnecessary emergency assistance call.

2. Call your pastor or a prayer partner from your church before getting in. You WILL NEED prayer support while you're showering. If you are an atheist, I would suggest skipping the shower and spraying your armpits and nether regions with Febreeze instead.

3. Gather your supplies: In addition to shampoo, soap, and a towel, also grab a thick robe, a stocking cap, insulated socks, a few warm blankets, Kleenex, decongestants, and one of those emergency paddles-on-your-chest thingies, like they use on "ER," to keep within quick and easy reach. Lay these items right outside the shower.

4. After you are naked and standing in the shower, turn on the water. DO NOT wait to see if the water may warm up a little more. I cannot stress this point enough. This is a rookie mistake that will cost you. The water will only get colder as it runs. TRUST ME IN THIS. The water that comes out first is as good as it's going to get, and should be used to wash your hair. Turn it on and IMMEDIATELY get started. Quickly wet a wash cloth, put some soap or body wash on it, then set it aside for later. **I like to use "Baby Magic" because it doesn't irritate the skin too badly if it's not all rinsed off, and it smells nice enough to make you believe you accomplished something close to cleanliness, even if you really didn't.

Washing your hair FIRST...
5. This is important. Stand in an extreme version of the "Paris Hilton Pose" (see photo) with your back arched like you are about to do a back bend (you do not have to keep your hand on your hip like she does... unless you just want to), and your head bent waaaay back. If you are over 40, as I am, and haven't done a back bend since the Carter Administration, just do your best. Nobody's grading you on this. What we're going for, here, is to make the water run off your head without running down your back, buying you a few more precious seconds before the hypothermia sets in, which it will- I'm not gonna lie to ya.

6. As quickly as possible after turning on the water, wet your hair. Resist the urge to scream, because your family members will mistakenly believe they've just heard your safety word and think you need medical assistance. You don't want the EMTs to burst in and see that Paris Hilton Pose, do ya? It's quite embarrassing. Don't ask me how I know. I just know. Now, TURN THE WATER OFF. Lather your hair, remembering to scrub really, really well the first time. We're in crisis mode, man; this is not a time for Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

7. This is where the process starts to become physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually difficult. You are about to test and challenge yourself in ways you never have before. You will not want to stand under that water again, but you must. The shampoo must be rinsed out, or it will begin to irritate your scalp later on. Again, please trust me in this. I really do know what of I speak. Remembering your Paris Hilton Pose, turn the water back on, suck it up, and begin to rinse the shampoo out of your hair. Do not use your hands until you absolutely have to. After a few moments, your scalp will begin to sting quite badly, as if the water has suddenly turned sharp and is now stabbing you. You will feel as if the skin of your scalp is actually shrinking. You will be tempted to stop at this point, but DON'T. This pain and discomfort occurs only momentarily, and right before the numbness sets in. Numb is good. You will like numb, just don't overdo it, as it is a sure sign that hypothermia is just around the corner. It's OK if you cry, but resist the urge to squat down and rock yourself. If you feel faint, use your safety word now and do it quickly. You must keep going. You can do it. It will be hard to know exactly when all the shampoo is out, because your head and fingers will have lost all sense of feeling by now. Make your best guess and then TURN THE WATER OFF.

8. At this point, I like to take a little break. You may want to do this, too. You've earned it. Wrap a towel around your head to restore some much-needed body heat. Take a moment to consider all you've accomplished, but then move on. **Some people will just want to stop here and call it done. That's understandable. This is commonly referred to as a "Skank Shower" and is actually an acceptable method, especially if you're a beginner. If you can't go on, don't beat yourself up. Maybe next time. Skip to step #11 and congratulate yourself on a brave first attempt!

Washing the rest...
9. Leave the towel on your head, if possible. You may notice that your thoughts are becoming delusional and attempts at speech may be slurred. If so, no time to lose. Work as fast as you can. Grab the wet, soapy wash cloth you set aside earlier (in step #4). Use it to wash your armpits and naughty bits ONLY. We're not going for a complete, total scrubbing here. Nastiest parts ONLY. Face, feet, legs- Skip 'em. Who cares? And DO NOT WASH YOUR BACK. Dear Jimminy, what are you thinking? Do not shave ANYTHING. Save it for another day. You may be only seconds away from passing out now, do you understand that? Make every second count.

10. DO NOT turn the shower back on if you don't have to. If you have a tub spout, use that instead to splash water onto your soapy parts. If you must stand under the shower spray (God help you), do it quickly, hit only the soapiest parts, and TURN THE WATER OFF.

Getting out and getting warm...
11. I feel I must warn you, here. If you have a mirror located where you will catch a glimpse of yourself when you exit the shower, you need to be prepared for what you are about see. It won't be pretty. Your fingers, feet, lips, and dangly parts will all be blue. Your hair will most likely look and feel crunchy. It is frozen, after all. Work quickly to get warm. You will feel listless, weak, shaky, and woozy at this point so you must dry off as fast as you can. This is where having a waiting family member is most helpful, especially if you collapse and cannot go on. After drying yourself, put on the stocking cap, robe, and insulated socks. Wrap up in the blankets. Have the family member hold the Kleenex while you blow your nose, or just hold you while you quietly sob. Take a couple of the decongestants. You will need them here in a minute, even if you don't realize it yet. You will not be able to pat your own back right now, so ask your family member to do it for you. You deserve it!

You did it! And hopefully, you were able to do it without a pesky hospitalization. You may find in the near future that a little counseling, for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, will prove to be both helpful to you and appreciated by your family. I'm proud of you. You have inner strength and courage that you never knew existed. Now, you know what you're really made of. Reward yourself by taking the rest of the day off. You've done enough.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Captain’s Journal: Day 47

It is just before dawn. We survived another night, albeit narrowly. Our harrowing plight continues. The generator heating our camp began sputtering last night, leaving us dark, cold, and, I must admit, sorely afraid for our circumstances. It was off for hours, and is now only working sporadically. Upon hearing the news of its failure, in a moment of angry delirium, I shot it. This impulsive, foolish act served only to hinder the progress in repairing it. The officer charged with keeping vigil over the generator during the second watch of the night was strapped to a tree and whipped before it was discovered that the complications were no fault of his own. A regrettable consequence indeed.

It's quite cold. I cannot feel my extremities. The temperature within the compound registers an icy -28 degrees. Outside, it is 35 degrees. Our supply of warm clothing is dwindling. My sympathies are with the pitifully unfortunate one who is doomed to cleanse this camp and wash our garments at the end of this abysmal mission. Only Divine Intervention will relieve the agonies inflicted upon that poor, wretched soul. The putrid stench rising out of this encampment, and off of each and every unclean soul within it, is so sinfully wicked I cannot speak of it. Young gentlemen, when left without the aid of soap and water, are an abomination to all that is good and holy.

Our depleting resources continue to cause great consternation. I am now M&M-less and consequently, hopeless. I had what turned out to be the grave misfortune of eating the last M&M in the camp; one that was found in a dank corner. I deceitfully hid it from one I was charged to protect and the shame I feel now is almost more than I can bear. This agony would not be, had the candy offered up any satisfaction. The unbearable need for the chocolate overpowered my guilt, as well as the voice of reason that would have otherwise convinced me not to consume such a discolored and disgustingly dusty scrap. The will to go on was swallowed up with the distasteful morsel. These long years of difficulty have taken their toll on my youth, my vigor, my dignity. Can it be possible that I have only been entrenched in this misery since last Saturday? Surely not. It must be another cruel trick of the mind, as insanity begins to take its toll.

The delirium affects others as well. Last night, I was sure I heard wolves howling outside the camp. Alas, it turned out to be my fellow leader of this outfit; the one I once called Husband and Friend, but is now known to me only as Loon. I fear I will not make it, and can only hope my remains will not be eaten by either wild beast or ingrate. The camp's mascot, a lazy canine, looks at me with fearfully suspect glances. I no longer trust him. God help us. God help us all.

Last night, in the dark, one of the smaller members of our party began to heave and retch violently. Could it be that she also found and ate a bad M&M? There was no time to inquire. One of the responsibilities entrusted to me as Capt. is to hold the hair of a vomiting underling. This task proved to be quite difficult, if not impossible, as I was also charged with the duty of holding the lantern so that the ailing subordinate could aim the fetid expulsions into a suitable vessel. Alas, I admit with a head hung in shame, I failed at this task quite miserably. It continues to amaze and confound these aged eyes that one so small and frail can spew forth such great measure of unspeakably vile and unholy matter. The weakling has been banished to the wilderness, so as to avoid infecting the rest of the camp, but also-in some small measure- as punishment for inflicting upon me such an atrocious, horrific experience. The full account of last night's terrors are more than I can bear to tell. I must try to forget; to block those sights, sounds and smells from my mind forever. I can only tell you this. I will never be the same. The socks I was wearing at the time had to be destroyed.

I'm continually reminded by one of the more irksome young lads in our expedition that a holiday is approaching. I have lost all track of time and know not when the celebrations are to be held, but I see no possibility of joining in the merriment. I am a sorry, pathetic leader indeed; incapable of making merry during such a time as this, although my charges are in great need of holiday cheer. I am quickly losing the will to "suck it up" as they say, and feign joy for the sake of the troops. I cannot bake a cookie or prepare a ham, nor do I possess the fortitude to wrap a gift. A can of Pledge sits within my grasp, but I am too weakened by sorrow to make use of it. I can only sit in my own filth and pray for swift and sweet release from this interminable suffering, mostly for myself, but at times, for the subordinates as well.

We've heard faint rumblings among the heathen inhabitants of this wasteland that rescue teams are approaching. It is said they wear bright yellow coats, travel in large orange wagon trains and bring with them the ability to restore, within short order, warmth, light, and all forms of comfort and normalcy. In my youth, I would have readily believed such fantastic claims. However, I have been forced to contemplate these ideas through the tired eyes of cynicism, born from the continual disappointments wrought upon me since Saturday last. I can no longer afford the luxury of such sadly naive flights of fancy.

The vast majority of my malodorous minions continues to show great courage and generosity of spirit during these sad and trying times (save for the whipped one, who disgracefully weeps like a young lass, and the vomitous creature, who is a young lass) and I must say it is an honor and a privilege to have served such a fine group. If I do not make it, please tell them I did my best (most of the time), I am beyond sorry for the moment of cowardly weakness in eating the last M&M, and I wish them courage and strength as they continue on without me. Tell them also, not to forget the tragically exiled member who committed the crime of falling ill on my watch and upon my feet. Allow her to rejoin our group when she can assure those in charge that her disgusting projections have ceased. Thank you. That is all. God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This Whole "Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland" Thing is a Bunch of Poop

First of all, the good news: Our dossier is finally on its way to Vietnam! We got a call from our coordinator last night saying it was sent out yesterday. So, I am doing a Happy Dance about that... However, this is probably a more realistic depiction of my appearance and mood right now: As some of you know, our area has been hit hard by an ice storm. We do have M&M's in the house, thank God, so we're okay. But please keep us in your prayers. We are currently without power (as is most of our town and a few other neighboring towns), and we're hearing the city's water supply may be gone sometime today (I hope not). We do have a generator (an even bigger "Thank God") that is keeping our heat on, but that's about it. I don't know when the power is expected to come back on, but it could be out for several more days. So much for baking Christmas cookies with my kids, but at least my babies are warm- which is more than some folks around here can say. Trees and branches are down all over town. Power lines are down all over town. We've seen electric company trucks out working, however it kind of appears that they maybe starting at the south end of town and working their way north. Guess which end of town we live on? We are on the northern side, of course. Can you feel my joy? We do have food in the house, but much of it is perishable and requires cooking. We moved some of it outside to keep it cold. We used the BBQ grill outside to heat water for Ramen noodles for lunch today. Ramen and M&M's. It's just like being in college again. Cell phone service comes and goes, and our land line is intermittent as well, and very crackly. Darrell went up to the roof yesterday to remove some large limbs laying on it, over our bedroom. We were right in the middle of installing new flooring and painting our bedroom (to make everything look pretty for Christmas company... LOL!) when this hit, so our bedroom is completely emptied out and the furniture is crammed into a spare room, and everything is in a state of chaos here. There's more freezing rain expected today, and rain and snow until Thursday, when it's supposed to clear off. The amount of laundry backing up around here is... I can't find the words... *Terrifying* comes to mind. Wait, here's a few more: Depressing. Daunting. Impossible. Unbelievable. Insurmountable. I know this is a silly and minor thing to gripe about right now, but keep in mind that as a family of 8, we can create more dirty laundry in a couple days than many families have in a week- especially with all the wet, muddy clothes from going in and out to work on the limbs, and the clothes that reek of gas and oil from monkeying around with the generator every few hours. I'm envisioning the mountain of laundry I'm going to have waiting for me when the power comes back on and, frankly, it's more depressing than the idea of living without electricity for days. We have out-of-town company coming in for Christmas on the 22nd and 23rd. I can just see it: "Why, sit right down here, Mom, on the wet, mildewy towels. Softest spot in the house. We saved it just for you!" "...Oh, don't mind the dog, Grandma. He's been walking around with someone's underwear in his mouth for weeks. It doesn't bother you, does it?" "Wasn't able to get to the store for dinner napkins, everybody, but I have placed a child's T shirt next to each plate for you to wipe your mouth on. Don't worry, you can't hurt it- it's already dirty." "That smell? What smell? I don't smell anything. What? A mix of armpit, gasoline, and feet, with just a hint of dead animal scent? Oh Nana, you say the funniest things!"

I've already decided... I'm going to pack up the Christmas tree and put it away, build a laundry pyramid in its place, hang ornaments from it, spray pine air freshener on it, and call it done. Merry Christmas. Can you tell my Christmas spirit is kind of... um... deflated? It's hiding under a pile of dirty socks.
While typing this, my mom called to tell me it's 80-something degrees where she lives. "That's nice," I say. Of course, I can see my breath while saying it, but whatever...

The view from my front door:

A few images from around my poor, little town: Is this a winter wonderland...

or a winter wasteland?

And finally, I leave you with a PSA entitled "The Evils of Stocking Caps": BEFORE
This is what can happen to a perfectly good coif, kids, when you dabble with the dangers of stocking cap overuse. Let this be a lesson to you.

Does he look like the love child of these two, or what?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My Favorite Christmas Tradition...

Attention book lovers, Christmas lovers, Sunday School teachers, Moms, and Dads: Have I got a book for you! During our read-aloud time in school, the kids and I have just started our annual reading of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," by Barbara Robinson. I can't begin to tell you how much we all enjoy this story and how much I love the tradition of sharing it with them year after year. It's something they always look forward to, although they've heard it many times, and as far as they're concerned, it seems to officially mark the beginning of the Christmas season at our house. If you're not familiar with the book, I would STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you to get a copy and read it to your kids. If you don't have children of your own yet, read it to a nephew, or cousin, or neighbor. Borrow a kid. RENT one, if necessary. You will be blessed by reading it, even if it's only to yourself! The reading level is for ages 9-12, roughly- but my 6 y.o. and even my 8th grader, who seems to think almost everything is stupid right now, are both sitting here with us, listening and laughing (in all the right places). Each year we come across something in the story that provides an opportunity to delve into deeper spiritual issues, even though the book itself is not presented in a deeply spiritual way. It's light-hearted and funny, but we get to explore topics like judging others, self-righteousness within the Church, pride, how God's love and message is for EVERYBODY, and the importance of sharing that love with others (even with those you may not like!), etc., all without the book ever feeling "preachy." Every year, I'm crying as I get to the end (my kids would probably wonder what was wrong with Mom, if I didn't). It really is a beautiful little story, wrapped up in only 80 quick and easy pages. If you struggle, as many parents do, with trying to preserve the *true* meaning of Christmas for your kids, this may be a good way to start off your Christmas season. I don't want to talk this book up so much that I ruin it for you by kicking your expectations into high gear, so that you can't help feeling let down... so I'll shutup. But read the book. Really. OK, done. But, seriously- It's good. Give it a chance. Done.

A quick P.S.- Go over and give a big congratulations to Anne and Grant who are DTV! YEAH! Your little fella is getting closer, guys! Congrats!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Another VN Article in the Ventura County Star

Paperwork problems in adoption of two Vietnamese orphans bring heartache
A nursery awaits its second occupant
By Rachel McGrath, Correspondent
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Note the last lines of the article: "Rummery (a California spokeswoman for USCIS) said the U.S. government has always encouraged people adopting abroad to file all their paperwork first and get visa approval before traveling to get their children... 'Whenever you travel first and then file,' she said, 'you take a risk.'"

I had no idea that it was *always* an option to file the visa app. and be approved before travel. I thought this was a new change because of all the recent problems. Were you guys aware that this was always an option in the past?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

CNN Video

"Baby in Adoption Limbo"

A U.S. couple has been waiting 7 weeks to obtain a visa for a Vietnamese boy they adopted. CNN's Alina Cho reports.

Friday, November 30, 2007

MSNBC Article

Foreign Adoptions in U.S. Decline for Third Year
Tougher policies in China and Russia are partly responsible
Associated Press

NEW YORK - The number of foreign children adopted by Americans has dropped for the third year in a row, a consequence of tougher policies in the two countries — China and Russia — that over the past decade have provided the most children to U.S. families...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dossier Going to Vietnam Soon!

We just heard that our dossier is back from the consulate, and will be on its way to VN in a few days. Our agency is holding it for a couple more days to send it in with another that will be ready soon. Yippee! I'm so excited and can hardly believe that after all this time, our paperwork will soon be in Vietnam. Of course, there's no telling how long we'll wait after that, but still- it feels like progress!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Spotlight on Lavender... Time for knees to hit the floor

I hope you'll forgive me for being repetitive, but I wanted to pull an item off the prayer list and make sure this little girl gets the attention and prayer she deserves. Lavender, of Sweet and Sour Chicken fame, is scheduled to start pre-op procedures for her cleft repair in just a couple days (the 28th). I believe her first surgery is still slated to begin on Dec. 6. I've asked her mom for permission to request your prayers on her behalf. If you don't know this family's story, go over and take a look. Make sure to go back to the beginning to hear Sabrina's difficult journey in bringing Lavender home. And while you're there, scroll down to the post titled "Wonderful Support" from Sept. 21st, to see and hear Lavender talking to her mommy and saying her ABC's (or skip directly to it here). She will steal your heart! Once you see her, there's no way you'll forget to pray for her. I know I have some faithful, praying people reading this, so I'm counting on you. Let's lift her and her family up!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Alex's Senior Pictures

Family and friends,

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Are you able to zip your pants? That's actually kind of a personal question, isn't it? Alex's Senior pictures are now available to view on the photographer's website. If you would like to see them, email me and I'll send you the link. I'm really happy with how they turned out, although I'm still trying to come to grips with the idea that I'm the mom of someone who looks like such a man. He's really messing up my standard lie of saying I'm only 32. I can't pull that off anymore. Darn these kids!
Here's a picture from yesterday of the old man with all 9 of his children and 1 of his grandchildren. He was so happy and proud to have them all home together. Also pictured is my awesome Mom-in-law. If you look closely, you will see Nick has a black eye. He tripped over his dog (yes, it's ok to laugh at that part) and fell off his deck... landing ON HIS FACE (that part's not funny. It's a good thing Mommy wasn't there to see it. I would have been a mess). He dislocated his shoulder, blackened his eye, and hurt his knee. Amazing that he didn't break his neck. My precious Evan (front and center) apparently thought these were mug shots. Can't you just feel the holiday cheer oozing out of him? I was on the other side of the camera this time, but just picture me looking fat and fabulous, as always.

Back row: Mike, Kindra, Nick, Darrell, Wanda, Alex, Kyle
Front row: Braden, Tuck, Evan, Bri, Olivia

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Start Counting Your Blessings

This is a very sweet video. The song always makes me stop and think of my many blessings.

I hope it does the same for you!

We're going to have ALL NINE OF OUR CHILDREN here for Thanksgiving. It's a real trick to get them all in the same place at the same time anymore, so I'm excited! We'll also get to have my mother-in-law (whom I adore) and 2 of the grandkids. I hope I bought enough turkey!

Just a few of the many things I'm thankful for today and every day:
I serve a God who loves me and proves it to me over and over, even though I don't deserve it.
I've been with the same wonderful man for HALF MY LIFE, who still thinks I'm beautiful even after 20 yrs, 60 lbs., and 5 pregnancies (and you know what those pregnancies do to a body, don't you?).
I have healthy, happy, wonderful kids who make every day worth getting out of bed for.
I don't have many friends. In fact, I can count my true friends on one hand, with fingers left over. But those I do have are loyal, wonderful, and irreplaceable. They truly know me, yet somehow they still love me... Amazing.
God has blessed my husband's work, allowing me to be here with my kids and teach them at home. How many families of 8 are able to do that? God's hand is all over that. Though not always easy or fun, I wouldn't trade those moments sitting around the "school table," discussing God's Word, or watching the light bulb come on in their little heads, after struggling with something difficult. Homeschool has been one of the most overwhelming, difficult roads God has ever asked me to follow, and it has also been the most rewarding privilege I've ever been given. I can't imagine some other teacher getting those precious moments with my babies instead of me. What a gift!

Now, stop reading my list and go make your own...

I hope you spend the holiday surrounded by those who love you!

A quick P.S.: I know some of you reading this are spending Thanksgiving this year separated from family members who are in the military. I'd like to say Thank You! to all the men and women who serve, and their families. As I sit down to count my blessings this year, your dedication, sacrifice and faithful service will be at the top of my list, along with prayers for your swift and SAFE return. May this be the last Thanksgiving you will ever have to spend apart.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Making Cupcakes

My little cutie-pie is working so hard to decorate a cupcake for Mama.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Shocking, Disgusting, Deplorable, Heartbreaking, Wicked...

I've typed and retyped my comments about this video ("Tied to Cribs, Left to Die" CNN), but am still at a total loss to find the words that accurately convey how I feel about this. I realized my words really aren't necessary, and I just need to let the video speak for itself.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Great Articles At Second Generation

I have another good link for you. When I have nothing interesting to say, I figure I might as well redirect you to someone who does. If you haven't visited the "Second Generation" blog, check it out soon. A recent post links to 3 articles, written by adoptees. They are well worth the time to read. See them here: I think it's so important as APs to listen and learn from adoptees (and that's not because I am one).

I realize that as a plain old boring Caucasian, adopted by Caucasians, and brought up 30 minutes away from my place of birth, I will never completely relate to the transcultural/transracial/international adoption experience. And my perspective may be discounted as irrelevant to PAPs and APs adopting internationally. But, what really struck me as I read these was that my feelings, growing up adopted, were similar in many ways to what was expressed in these articles, even though the specific circumstances and experiences differed greatly. I got the feeling that, from the POV of the authors, they see their thoughts, feelings, and emotional struggles as being unique to a Korean adoptee's experience (or Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.), whereas I see it as possibly being a common part of an adoptee's experience, regardless of race, ethnicity, or culture. The underlying feelings are the same. Of course every adoptee's experiences are unique and I'm not trying to cram us all into the same box. I'm just saying that I was white (and still am, incidentally-lol) with white parents, surrounded by white people, and still felt in many ways that I didn't fit. I didn't belong here, there (where ever "there" was), or anywhere. It didn't take a difference in facial features or birth country to remind me that I was different. I just WAS. I have so much to learn from internationally adopted adults that will help me parent my children, but if I could tell them anything, it would be this... We're not as different as you might think. Just tossing it out there. Go read the articles. They're good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Birthday Boy

This is our cutie-pie grandson, Braden, who is having a birthday tomorrow. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LITTLE BUDDY! See you tomorrow at your party!

Friday, November 9, 2007

I think we all need to stop and take a Smile Break

This is so cute! Just what we all need right now- something to get our minds off all the negative stuff for a minute!

A quick adoption update: I called our agency today (I was feeling too impatient to wait for an answer to my email), and found out our dossier did get there, it all looked good, and it is now on it's way to the SF Consulate. Our coordinator thinks it should be submitted to the DIA within the next 6 weeks.

So... How is your adoption going?

Edited: See bottom of post...

Most of you in Vietnam Blog World have already been bombarded and overwhelmed by everything that's going on in Vietnam recently, which is why I haven't said much on the subject. There are other bloggers who have summed up their thoughts and feelings more intelligently, eloquently, and boldly than I could have done (, Stepping on Legos , and many others). I directed you to Desserich Family the other day, and Our Vietnamese Ladybug or VVAI are always good for keeping up with what's going on. So- with so many bloggers and groups sharing enough information and opinions to make our heads spin... Who cares what I have to say (at least that's what the mean little voice in my head is always telling me)? I figured my 2 cents really isn't necessary, especially since, as I mentioned the other day, I haven't completed my VN adoption, and I'm in a pioneer program with an agency who does not have an established record in Vietnam (WACAP).

BUT, you know what I was forgetting? I completely forgot that my family members and friends are not plugged into the latest happenings in Vietnam and are completely in the dark about what's going on. Some of my posts, like the recent one about the Desserich blog, make absolutely no sense if you're not on top of all this stuff. When they read my blog or ask me how the adoption is going, they have absolutely no idea about the current grim state of affairs. Yes, I'm admitting I forgot my family and friends. Gee, I'm nice. My apologies to all of you for not doing a better job of keeping you informed.

Here is a very basic recap (for more detailed facts, explanations, and opinions, see the links above and also the US Embassy): Everyone who knows about all this already will want to stop here... I am going to try to stick to what I actually know personally (which is pretty limited, frankly), because the negativity and bashing people are taking, for giving their opinions on their own personal blogs no less, is getting crazy out of hand- just look at all the fur flying over at Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds ...Yikes.

The back story: A few years ago (2003), Vietnam adoptions were closed down due to corruption, and just recently reopened (I believe in 2005 or 06?). After VN reopened, suspicions and rumors quickly started to swirl again about various agencies and questionable practices in certain provinces.

The current situation: Many in the adoption community (including, apparently, the US govt) question some agencies' abilities to "acquire" very young babies, very quickly, when other agencies are giving referral times of 9 months, a year, and more. At this point, let me reiterate that I have no first-hand knowledge of any of these agencies, and since I'm not interested in furthering the spread of Internet rumors that I cannot personally back up, which would not help anyone but offend plenty, I'm keeping my mouth shut about specific agency names. The point here is- we're talking about rumors of baby selling/buying, bribes, birth parents being misled or outright lied to in order to get them to give up their children, etc... Horrible stuff of all kinds. (Rumors, judgements, and accusations are FLYING online, regarding which agencies are involved, who's doing what, and who's most at fault. It's been a regular Peyton Place lately and people are getting Nasty).

My 2 cents: You can certainly understand how agencies promising very quick referral and travel times, and very young babies are obviously going to be a powerful temptation to adopting parents, even when your common sense may be trying to tell you something fishy is going on. To be quite honest, when we first started researching agencies, we were heavily leaning towards several agencies in the hot seat right now, who refer young babies quickly. Why not? Until you start doing some digging, it all sounds great. In the long run, we made what we believed was an ethical and well-researched choice, and the best one for our family, even though it meant (most likely) sacrificing speed, and accepting the uncertainties of a pioneer program. I'm not saying that quick referrals automatically equate to illegal adoptions with unethical agencies. I said before on this blog that I do not believe that. What I am saying is that the speed of a referral should be one of the last things people use as criteria in selecting an agency. The agency's ethical reputation needs to be #1. Unethical agencies will continue to exist as long as people keep using them. The only way corruption will stop is when PAPs stop bankrolling the agencies behind it.

The first steps toward a solution: The US Embassy recently made some changes to the filing procedures to obtain a child's visa and then issued a statement regarding "the number of irregularities appearing in orphan petitions and visa applications in Vietnam." These irregularities are leading to the issuance of NOIDs (Notice of Intent to Deny a visa application for entry into the US) for families currently in VN, with the likelihood of more NOIDs on the way. NOIDs are bad... Very, very bad. Basically, once you get to Vietnam, you have a G&R ceremony (Giving and Receiving). This is when you have officially adopted the child in the eyes of the VN govt. Then, the US govt gets involved- to start the process of obtaining your baby's visa and going home. If they see something in the child's paperwork that raises a red flag, they will issue a NOID. The kid is legally yours now, but you can't bring him into the US. You're stuck in limbo. Sometimes the issue in question is resolved and a visa is given, sometimes not. My heart goes out to anyone stuck in that horribly scary, miserable situation. The statement continues: "The ongoing number of irregularities that we are currently seeing strongly indicates that the adoption process in Vietnam still lacks sufficient oversight and regulation. Specifically there is insufficient control of the so-called child finders and an inadequate regulation of the fees paid to individuals and institutions. Despite its stated intention to do so, Vietnam has yet to publish a schedule of fees. We are extremely concerned by reports of significant increases in the number of abandoned children since 2005, especially in the provinces of Phu Tho and Thai Nguyen. We recognize that a decision to deny a petition is an extremely undesirable outcome for adopting parents and for children, who themselves may be the victims of unscrupulous agents. For this reason, we urge adoptive parents to be extremely diligent in reviewing qualifications and standards before selecting an adoption service provider. Unfortunately, as news stories and blogs often reveal, the glowing report of an adoptive parent who successfully “brought home” a child cannot be taken as evidence that the adoption was ethical or fully legal." The statement can be read in its entirety on the Embassy's website.

The consequences: So what does all of this mean, both for us personally, and for Vietnam adoptions? The short answer is... I don't know. I don't even have a guess as to how our adoption will be affected by all of this. I'm hoping it's a good thing; that the changes and the increased attention currently being paid to ethics and transparency in adoption will have a positive impact on our adoption and those of other parents in the future. I'm hoping the USCIS will be able to crack down on the bad guys, making the adoption process better and easier for ethical agencies to do their jobs, and for adopting parents to feel more confident that the process is an ethical one. I'm hoping all this light being shed on the subject will cause adopting parents to be more diligent in researching the agency they're about to choose, thereby driving the crooks out of business. I'm hoping. There are also faint, fearful rumblings that things could go the other way and Vietnam could close down again. I'm trying not to think about that right now.

So, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. Frankly, I'm sick of hearing and thinking about the whole thing, and I'm feeling... overwhelmed and tired, I guess. My feelings fluctuate depending on whose blog I'm reading at the moment. To some, this situation spells hope and progress, while others see it through clouds of doom. For the most part it's been a pretty negative, depressing couple of days around Blog World, and I just want to escape to my happy place for a little while.

So, you ask me... How is our adoption going? It's not! Right now, it's not going at all. Our paperwork is still here in the US and today I feel no closer to bringing our child home than I did 6 months ago. Your guess is honestly just as good as mine as to when our adoption will happen. I've been feeling very restless lately, as I wait to hear if our dossier has been received by WACAP, and also wait for the next step. I emailed our coordinator on the 7th, but haven't heard back from her yet (hoping today's the day!), so I'm just feeling kind of... Well, *Cruddy* is the most appropriate word that comes to mind (it is not however, the first word that comes to mind :D!). Today, I'm very down, drained, discouraged and questioning everything. But thank you so much for asking- lol!

Before I shut up, I should mention- our agency does not work in the provinces called into question by the Embassy. They have not received a single referral yet (I mean in VN. They are well-established in other countries), so they can hardly be accused of anything questionable with their referrals in Vietnam, and they have stated several times that they absolutely will not engage in any bribing or illegal practices to get referrals, and say so on their website as well. We obviously trust this to be the truth or we never would have signed with them in the first place. We truly believe we are with an agency who places the welfare of the child first, which was what was most important to us.

I don't want to leave you all with the impression that every VN adoption is sleazy and corrupt. They're not. We would not continue to pursue this adoption if we believed that. I hope you know us well enough to know we would never knowingly participate in removing a child from his family and birth country, just to satisfy our own desires for a child, or use an agency whom we suspect of doing anything illegal. We are only interesting in adopting a child who needs a home, and following the law to do it. There are babies and children legitimately in need of families in Vietnam. There are ethical agencies working in VN to match those children with families. I hope and pray that the recent uproar is only going to improve things for the children, and the adopting parents. Please keep us in your prayers, as well as the poor families caught in the middle of all this turmoil.

I know I left out a lot of details- I was trying to give the Evelyn Woods version of a long, drawn-out story. If you have a question or feel I glossed over something, feel free to leave me a question in the comments.

Quick advice to new adopting parents: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Ask questions of each and every agency you consider. When you're finished; ask some MORE. Choosing an agency is a confusing and stressful process, but the information is available out there if you keep digging.

Update- A few more blogs to throw at you with more information on this topic than I can give (both posts and their additional comments), and then I'M DONE. I need a little break from all this. Be forewarned: Some of these posts mention agencies by name. If you're with one of the agencies getting negative attention right now, and you're sick of hearing about it, don't read these. If you want to hear more, see:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A "Heads Up" to parents on what "The Golden Compass" is really all about

Have you heard any of this stuff swirling around the internet regarding "The Golden Compass?" It's a "family" movie starring Nicole Kidman, coming out in December. One of those fantasy type things that kids love, along the lines of "Chronicles of Narnia... Or so you would think. It's NOT going to be like Chronicles in any way. There's an email going around cautioning that the film is anti-Christian. I'm very leery of most email forwards and always like to check them out, myself. In this case, the forward seems to be pretty accurate, sadly. Any Christian parent needs to be informed about this film before taking their little ones to see it. We definitely won't be going to see it. I wanted to provide the links for you, so that you can also see for yourself.

Here's what says about it:
And this is backed up by Truth or

I hope these links work. Let me know if they don't.

Looking for Their Children’s Birth Mothers

Long, but interesting NYT Magazine article. Allow yourself some time, or print it off to read later. As a PAP or AP, some of it is difficult to read, and you may not agree with all of it, but...

Looking for Their Children’s Birth Mothers
Published: October 28, 2007
Adoptive parents are increasingly trying to pry open international adoptions by searching for the biological mothers of their children. But finding them can turn out to be the easy part.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Check Out Desserich Family Blog

If you're a regular reader of VVAI, or belong to any of the VN groups, then you already know about the statement released recently by the US Embassy. If you don't know what I'm talking about, either the news doesn't apply to you, or you've been hiding in a hole (if so, you can click on either link above to get caught up :-) ). I have not completed my VN adoption, and I have no first-hand experience or illuminating insight to share, so it's not my place to start spouting my opinions or speculating about agencies I've only heard stories about. However, the Desserich Family's blog has two recent posts that you need to read, if you haven't already. They are excellent and my hat's off to Tracy Desserich for having the guts to speak up and also the willingness to share her heart and her concerns. Thanks, Tracy! I can only hope I would be willing to do the same (and hope I'll never have to find out). So, go. There's nothing interesting going on here... Go take a look.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Research-China; Brian Stuy

I wanted to make you aware of a link I've added on the side (scroll down to "Other Interesting Links"). It's getting pretty "full" over there, especially after combining two sidebars into one, and I don't want a good link to get lost in the crowd. For those of you who have also adopted previously from China, or have a friend/family member who has adopted from China and you'd like to understand more about the culture as it pertains to abandonment and adoptions, you need to know about Brian Stuy and Brian is a China AP. I've linked to his blog, but from there you can also go to his website. The blog has all kinds of educational nuggets about China (like "Why Girls Are Abandoned in China," and "The Other Mother," about our babies' foster mothers). Brian has done more research regarding China adoptions than anyone else I've heard about. I don't always agree with everything he says, but he provides much-needed information and services. We used him to track down our daughter's finding ad for us; a service he provides for a reasonable fee (a "finding ad," is a classified ad which must be placed in a newspaper, for each baby found before the child becomes eligible for adoption. This offers birth family an opportunity to come forward. Sometimes the ads include photos of the child at a very young age, which can be an important keepsake for both parent and child. Something to include in a lifebook or to save for the child when she's older, as it may be one of only a few links to her life in China. Ours was a text only ad unfortunately, but we received a blown up copy of the ad itself, which was translated for us, and a copy of the front page of the newspaper it appeared in). He has also visited many provinces and finding sites and taken photographs for families, which can be purchased on his site. His blog and website are great resources. Check it out if you're interested. I don't believe he has worked in all of China's provinces, and his services are limited to China only (not VN). There are other sites and organizations providing similar services, such as China Born Kids, but I've only personally used Brian. If any of you have had good experiences with China Born Kids, or others to share, let me know and I'll post those links.

BTW- Thank you for the birthday wishes! I had a great day. I got the bunny slippers I've had my eye on, and I say getting old is worth it if bunny slippers are involved. We went to a theme park over the weekend and had a lot of fun. My 7 y.o. daughter wanted me to ride a roller coaster with her, which isn't exactly a "kiddie ride," but it's pretty tame and very kid friendly. Two of my older sons, Mike (15) and Ev (13), wanted to ride too, which I thought was odd. This particular ride is sooo not scary, and at their ages, it's all about the thrill factor. What I was forgetting is that a teenage boy's whole reason for getting out of bed every day is to cause embarrassment to his mother (and also to look at pretty girls, but mostly the first thing...). We got on the ride, right up front, with my daughter next to me, and Mike and Ev right behind us. Almost as soon as it took off, they started screaming (and I mean blood-curdling, horror movie, I'm-being-murdered types of screams), "AAAAWWWWW! MMOMMMMMY, I'M SCAAAAAAAARED, MOMMY! AAAAHHHHWWWWWWWW, MOMMMMY, PLEASE, GOD HELLLLP US! AAAWWWWWW! I CAN'T DO THIS! I WANNA GET OFFFFF, MAW-HAW-HAWMMY! Complete with fake sobbing and everything. It was so incredibly embarrassing, that I couldn't help being impressed by their level of commitment and the quality of their performances. They kept it up through the whole ride. I was embarrassed to be associated with such complete imbeciles. but kind of proud for giving birth to such funny imbeciles at the same time. I laughed so hard, I couldn't breathe. Evan also resorted to his usual tactics of walking directly behind me, doing something really silly and stupid (you know- like spazzy dancing, trying to look like an escapee from the state hospital, or walking around with crossed eyes... that kind of thing), to further the embarrassment for poor old mom. They made sure it was a birthday to remember. Gosh, I love those dorks! They keep me laughing or screaming- one or the other- all the time.