Friday, July 11, 2014
Monday, June 30, 2014
Colin finished elementary school! His school is K-8, so he will still be at the same school next year, but middle school is set up a lot differently. He is excited to move around to different classes and interact with new classmates.
His “Moving On” ceremony was wonderful. He was awarded a President’s Award for Academic Excellence, along with one for Chinese excellence (only three his grade was awarded this one), and a couple of other awards. This boy, he makes me proud every day.
Colin’s teacher this year, Li Laoshi, was a gem. She told me that her one problem with Colin was that he could not stay sitting in his chair – he was always standing up . She always joked with him, asking if there was a tiger in his chair…but for practical reasons she always just assigned him a desk where he wouldn’t block anyone’s view when he stood up. This made me love her – she just wants her students to be successful and she appreciates their strengths. I got to be in her class a few times and they responded so well to her.
Colin with two of his good friends. I had to leave the guy on the left in the picture because he was just too awesome to crop.
Can you tell I love him? Can all of you believe this is the same little guy we all oohed and ahhed over in Provo?
Colin with his good friend Charlie, who is in the French program and goes to the same church and scout group. Charlie’s mom is obviously way more awesome than me, with all those leis.
Gabe happened to have lunch during Colin’s program, so I grabbed a piece of cake and took it to him. Speaking of good friends, the little guy peeking out behind Gabe has been such a kind friend to him this year. He has just made Gabe’s social life.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
I loaded the dishwasher today as Carina kept her little finger busy with playdough. As often happens when she is playing alone, she occasionally lapsed into her imagination and uttered a few of her thoughts aloud. I heard her say, “This is me, and this is_______, and this is _______” using her sister’s names. I looked over at the little friends she had made in bright orange and tears came to my eyes.
I often wonder what Carina must think about her sisters. She has heard about them for a over year, probably the only year of her life she remembers. She will point to the clothes I have bought and laid aside for the day they will join us and tell me who they belong to. Carina has seen little toys, shoes, and necklaces mailed off, and she solemnly nods her head and tells me, “Those are for my sisters.”
I wonder if her sisters are like Santa Claus to her. She has perfect faith that they exist and that someday they will come, but they hold a mystery that she doesn’t even want to question.
It is hard not to feel like the information I am feeding her is as much a myth as Santa Claus. Some days I feel the full weight of the reality of our situation – that we have two daughters thousands of miles away whose health and happiness we have little to no impact on, two little girls who have personalities and smiles that will someday bloom before our eyes, but we have no idea when. The weight of that reality is just too heavy to carry every day. It is paralyzing.
Many days I make a deliberate choice not to embrace that reality. I let their faces remain a little blurry in my head and I let the mystery of their homecoming glide across my consciousness like a water-bug skims across a lake.
It might not be the perfect choice but I am learning how imperfect many of my choices have to be in such a flawed situation.
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Thursday, April 3, 2014
We began our adoption of two sisters from the DR Congo last February after a ten year long desire to adopt. This adoption process has been intensely invasive. It started with our home-study over a year ago, where we sat with an almost stranger for hours and discussed our values, parenting beliefs, life experiences, religion, and home life. We sat with this social worker in our home, let her look at every nook and cranny, and let her ask our children questions. It continued with background checks and multiple sets of fingerprints sent to the state and the FBI. Add in physicals for everyone in our family and a complete disclosure of all our finances to every party involved, and endless paperwork filled out for the Department of State, the Congo courts, and our adoption agency. We have never exposed ourselves so completely and been scrutinized so closely.
AND THAT IS OKAY. It is for the sake of the the children who deserve to be placed in home where they have a chance at love and safety.
We are in the very final stages of our adoption. We got through court in the DR Congo last summer and are the legal parents of our girls. We have passed the immigration steps that we need to, and are currently 4 months into the 3-6months it is supposed to take for the US Embassy in Kinshasa to investigate our adoption to ensure it was completed ethically. Once that step in complete (which could happen any day), they will set a date to issue our daughters’ visas to come home.
Sadly, these visas will be worthless. In the DR Congo, even when you have your children and their visas in hand, the last step to leaving the country is obtaining an exit letter from the entity of their government that handles immigration – this entity is called the DGM. Last September, the DGM decided to stop issuing these exit letters to adopted children. They made this decision amid rumors of adoption fraud and “rehoming”. Their stated plan was to shut down for up to a year to restructure and investigate.
Chad and I, and every adoptive parent I know, are firmly committed to ethical adoptions and we want the DGM, and every party involved in adoption, to do all that they possibly can to ensure that each child placed in a home truly needs a home and will be treated well. We are in this for the children.
This shut-down is complicated and I am giving you all these details so that you know I am not trying to oversimplify the issue or turn a blind eye to the issues in adoption. We want the DGM to dig deep into whatever suspicions they have.
Our problem with this mess is the complete freeze of exit letters that has taken place and the lack of a plan. It has been over six months. What exactly is the DGM doing to investigate? How will this change the adoption process? Exactly how many families and children are being affected? How will they work through the enormous backlog when they finally do issue exit letters again? Do exit letters have to stop completely while all of this happens? Can they let families who were through court before the shutdown take their children home? The U.S. Department of State cannot answer some of the most basic questions put forth to them. Just a couple of weeks ago in a conference call with adoptive parents , they told us that the freeze would be in place until at least September, and gave us little hope that it would actually be lifted then. So we are left with a hundred questions and no answers, and very little hope. If the US Department of State isn’t asking these questions and getting answers for us, who will?
In the meantime, literally hundreds of children are waiting for their families. The Congo courts are still (more slowly) issuing adoption adoption decrees and the US Embassy is still (more slowly) issuing visas for these children to go home. Every day that passes with this suspension in place adds to the number of children waiting and adds to the wait once the suspension is over.
Our situation, as depressing as it is, it not as sad as other families I know – a mother who went to the country to pick up their daughter after being promised they would receive an exit letter, stayed with her for five months, had to return to her children and husband at home and is still waiting to bring her home… a father missing the birth of a child while trying to get his adopted children home….. and so many families who have spent every dime of their savings on their adoption and who are now scraping together money to pay monthly foster care fees that have no end in sight.
If these children are waiting and waiting to begin their lives with families, it needs to be for a real reason.
We want a voice. We want our children to have a voice. That voice should be coming from our government and it is not.
We have answered every question asked of us and we deserve the same respect.
This isn’t an issue of diplomacy, this is an issue of apathy. We need the U.S. Department of State to care. These children matter.
These are our daughters. We received these pictures the day we were matched with them over a year ago. Although I have looked at these faces countless times since then, my heart still beats fast every time, because I know they are worth it. These two girls matter. Every day of their life matters.
Today, please take the time to sign this petition and fill out letters at the end of it. Please share this blog post on Facebook, through email, on Twitter, and on Instagram. Use the hashtag #DRCStuck.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Before Carina was born, I had a feeling that there was a reason she was joining our family when she was. That her soul and body had come together at this particular time and in her particular fourth-child spot, for a purpose.
As my transition from three to four kids was my hardest, her disposition made that feeling grow and grow. She just fit.
And as this past year has been one of my more difficult ones, having her home with me all day every day has been a blessing. Her chipmunk voice, her spunky attitude, going all day long, often insistently pulling me out from under the cloud I am under. It is a phrase that is used often, but she is a ray of sunshine in my life. I am so thankful for it.
Today on her third birthday, I knew exactly what she would love to do. After a breakfast of sugary cereal we went to my parent’s house, where they gave her their gift to her – “Frozen.” Then Granny came with us to Old Navy, where she got to pick out whatever dress she wanted. We brought six or seven options into the dressing room and when she tried the second one on, no other dresses would do. I encouraged her to try the others on, but as she did she kept saying, “I like that one,” pointing to #2. Library was next, where we ran into some friends going to story time, so we joined then. After that we dropped Granny at home and had lunch. She wanted to watch Frozen with her new dress on. I told her she couldn’t eat lunch in the new dress, so she wouldn’t let me start the movie until she quickly gobbled half her bean burrito down, declared she was done and got the dress on. When the boys and Dad came home we went to Nothing But Noodles and then SAS Cupcakes, where she got to choose her own (pink) cupcake. She only ate the frosting (no surprise there).
Saturday, February 8, 2014
When it was time for this year’s Polar Bear Plunge, I found that there wasn’t a fiber of my being that wanted to jump into a freezing cold pool. It has been a dreary winter for me and I think my spirit of adventure has been hibernating. Chad was the good parent and agreed to do it will the boys – Ollie decided he was in this year.
Here is Ollie afterwards. Chad sorta, kinda, accidentally let him go under when he jumped in next to him. Oliver was not expecting that, and added to the cold, it was just too much to bear. He needed my robe, some hot chocolate and a lot of cookies to recover.