Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Very Happy 6th Birthday!

A very big Happy 6th birthday to our darling Luke! He managed to get 3 different days of celebration this year~

This evening was our family birthday celebration. At Luke's request we dined at Pizza Hut. Then we returned home for SpongeBob cake and presents.

Earlier in the day we had a very special treat. Friends of ours came to see us during their move back to the US from Spain. The Brownwell family is one of the sweetest, funnest, and most adventurous families that we know. They have 3 daughters adopted from Haiti and the oldest, Kerline, was at NLL/HFC with our children. I had the honor of traveling with Kerline and her Mom as she was being brought home to America. What an honor that was! It was a sweet reunion.

Kerline and Lovenie~ Lovenie would not leave her side.

The Brownwell and Laughlin kids together. Just as soon as they left we all were saying we wished they would come right back and hang out with us some more!

Over the weekend we took the family for Luke's birthday activity request~ Glow in the dark miniature golf at Super Franks!~

Even before these celebrations, Luke had a little celebration at his Nana and Papa's house as well. One of the highlights was that 6 is the jackpot age that he is no longer, by law, needing to use a booster seat. He sat for the first time with only a belt buckle and grinned all the way to the pizza parlor. I'm pretty sure he thinks he's all grown up now. His presents were WII games he really wanted so the boys have been given permission to stay up all night playing together (as long as they are quiet enough to not wake up Mom and Dad)!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Adoption Adventure Continues On

Adoption is a roller coaster ride. In the last week or so we have certainly been reminded of that again. We are plugging along with the adoption of Jacques. His adoption is especially tough because he is 16. 16 is the magic age that kids are suddenly no longer adoptable (by law) so we had to be at certain stages of the adoption before his 16th birthday. Because of his age we have had to file his immigration forms before his last birthday and if they are denied we will not be able to refile. We've got one shot with no room for anything to go wrong. So what happens?... Things start looking like they could go very wrong very fast!

When we turned in Jacques' immigration forms we were told we would only need to submit a couple more things of paper work, including a home study update, and an adoption decree (which we can not get until the adoption is complete in Haiti). We were told that we were automatically given one year to turn in the remaining paper work, but if we needed more time it would be no problem to extend that.

Fast Forward several months~ We moved from Southern CA to the Bay Area so we had to transfer our file from USCIS (immigration) office in LA to San Francisco. The transfer went just fine. Once we were moved into our new place, and got everything settled for Stephanie, we were now finally able to move forward with getting our home study update done. I spent some time researching the many adoption agencies in our new area and eventually chose one to begin the process with. We needed a simple home study updating the changes to our last home study update. At least... that's what we needed according to the USCIS website and the letter we got from the LA USCIS office. A quick home study update still usually takes about 2 months to complete and we had only 2 months until we needed to have our paper work turned in. Knowing that it was going to be a very close call I contacted USCIS and asked them how to go about getting the extension for more time (as we were told by the LA office). The SF office responded and told us that they would not give us an extension. We were very disappointed but also motivated to hurry up and complete this update. USCIS also sent me a long list of additional information that they wanted (some of it were things that we do not receive with a Haitian adoption, and most of it is not what the instructions say to include). Ah, the stress! If only that was all that happened~
So I got my hands on the home study paper work and started in on it at record breaking speeds! During the week we received another blow when the agency called and said they contacted USCIS and were told that they would not accept a home study update from us but were requiring us to do an entirely new home study! A new home study done quickly usually takes 2-3 months at least. We didn't have that long! What can we do? We had to give it a shot. So I got back to the paper work and making contacts to gather everything asked from us. I was just wrapping up the majority of the paper work and feeling really encouraged when we got another phone call from the agency. They told us that they suddenly realized that, due to a new law that affects their license, they might not be able to complete our home study at all. Are you kidding me? So all the work was a waste and we were back to square one. In my last conversation with them they told me that our home study was so complicated that they didn't think they would be able to have done it in time for us anyways. Nice! So now all the work we had done was unusable, very valuable time had been lost, and we needed to start all over again. We also learned that the decision of USCIS that we needed a whole new home study was due to the agency misrepresenting the home study we did have. :(

With a sense of dread I started calling around agencies to see if any of them thought they could complete a whole new home study in just 7 weeks or less. At last I spoke with someone totally unfazed by our deadline. They are working with us in an attempt to complete it in just 3-4 weeks!!! And, by the way, they are willing to do it for us for less then a third of the cost then the last place. My jaw dropped and I was so relieved. So here we are again, working non-stop on our new home study but this time without feeling as stressed about it. We still do need to receive all of the paper work, including adoption decree, from Haiti before the deadline. If everything does not fall into place on time then we will have a legally adopted son in another country with no way to bring him home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A twist on the fairy tales~

The boys try to reach us as me and Lovenie await our rescue from our balcony.

The funniest part is the look on Johnny's face and when he cries out "Be careful guys, we're going to tip up here!" BOOM!!!!!

My First Shoeshine

The day I left Port-de-Paix, Haiti, was an emotional journey. I spent the last hour or so in a room alone with Stephanie. We talked, prayed together, and sobbed through our goodbyes. I was still ill and, combined with the emotional drain, I was totally depleted of any energy.

I climbed into an SUV for our trip to the Port-de-Paix airport, along with 3 pastors. I was certainly in good hands! ;) As Keith and I were dropped off at the airport, the very kind Pastor Andy looked me straight in the eyes and told me that Stephanie was going to be just fine. I was so thankful for his kindness but had to jump out quickly before bursting into tears. You know the law of tears... once you let 'em loose it's hard to keep them from continuing! We got checked in at the tiny little airport and then were sent behind the building to the "waiting area". Never before had I seen such a beautiful waiting area. It was outdoors and looked like a little spot of paradise! While we were outside waiting a young boy approached me (I'm guessing he was about 11 years old) and asked me if I would like my shoes shined. I politely told him no thank you. I was so wrapped up in my own exhaustion and sadness that it did not occur to me that this little boy is probably in great need of the money for food and is only seeking work. As he walked away it hit me and I wondered why on earth I would have told him no. Then I looked down at my shoes and thought "YIKES!" they were caked with mud from walking the wet dirt roads.

After quickly asking Keith how much I tip for a shoe shine I went after the boy. He sat down and spread out his supplies. He took off the first shoe and I had no idea where to put my bare foot until he put down a rag and motioned for me to put it there. Honestly the ground probably would have been a cleaner spot to put my foot down, but the little boy's act of kindness was heart warming. The shoeshine boy was quiet and shy so did not speak much to me. While watching him work another boy came over to chat with me in English and Creole. He was so cute~ wanting to know what it is like in America. I enjoyed chatting with him and hearing about his life in Haiti. The shoeshine boy continued to work on with my shoes. When he was done I was blown away. They looked better then new! They were spotless and shiny black! I tipped him generously and told him what a wonderful job he did. He was all shy grins. I have been home now for a month and my shoes still look better then new. Every time I look at them I think of the sweet shy boy making it on his own and say a prayer for him. He has likely forgotten about me but he will remain in my memories forever. There was just something so special about that little bit of time with him.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lovenie's 5th Birthday Celebration

I think it's safe to say that Lovenie had a FANTASTIC 1st birthday in America and with her family! It started with lots of primping to make her Princess Lovenie in the morning. She was then on her way to her last day of preschool. I had heard they were having an ice cream party for the last day of school so we picked up these cupcakes and I left them with her teachers.

They were kind enough to take some photos for me of her celebration with her classmates.

Already on a sugar high, we also had this cake for the family party.

I keep marveling at how big our baby girl is getting... at least I was until I saw this picture of her with Chuck E Cheese. She looks so tiny!

I think the following photos prove that by the end of the day the tiara and attention started to go to her head~


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Princess Lovenie turns 5

What happened to the little tiny girl we brought home just 10 months ago? She's all grown up and five years old now. What a very special and wonderful day when we at last get to hug, kiss, and spoil rotten our little Lovenie on her birthday!

We have some fun things planned for her today. These photos are from this morning before school. How fun is it to have your birthday on the last day of school?! Score, a double celebration today!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mama said there would be days like this

Yesterday I laughed when I found Lovenie crashed out at the top of the stairs. It's so exhausting being 4 years old!

Tomorrow will be Lovenie's 5th birthday. It's so hard to believe! It's so wonderful to finally get to be together on her birthday.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Family, Funeral, Friends, and Shopping

What a weekend! Seems more like we managed to cram a weeks worth of things into a couple of days. Last week Jim's Grandmother in Wisconsin passed away. We managed to get him a ticket for a flight there to be with his family. So happy he was able to go! I wish me and the kids could have gone too but last minute flights for 7 people.... yikes.

While he was away we decided to go on an adventure of our own. So we did our own packing and as soon as Jude was out of school on Friday we began our little road trip to my parent's house. This road trip was extra fun and special because we managed to talk my dear friend Juliette into coming with us. Oh the fun we had with her! We laughed, had serious talks, ate candy, and danced danced danced in the car. We may have been having a little too much fun because Jude asked us to quiet down a bit.

Time at my parents house is always a treat! Our kids prefer to see them even over going to Disneyland (now THAT is saying something). My parents even watched/spoiled all the kids by taking them out to ice cream and giving me and Juliette some shopping time! The town my parents live in has a cute little downtown area that is home to one of my all time favorite shops. It just does not get any girlier then this place. It's called La De Da and is jewelry, purses, shoes, etc. The good news bad news was that they are going out of business so everything was at clearance prices. Whew, did we ever score! Then we hit the second awesome girlie store, What To Wear, and picked out a couple of very unique pieces of clothing. Fun FUN stuff.

The adventure back home was just as much fun with more singing, dancing, and candy eating. We even had arranged for a lunch date with another dear friend that we had not seen in around 7 years. That was awesome!

It was great too to return home to Jim who beat us home and BBQ'd for us all. Now it's Monday and we are back to the grind. I really need to get motivated to work on arranging a home study update done for Jacques' adoption. I'm not a big fan of dealing with the adoption agencies but it needs to happen.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The World's Last Hope

My favorite quote from today was when Kyle said "I'm going to clean like the whole world is dirty and I am it's last hope!" and then he jumped in and worked his tail off. I could get used to this~

Here are some other random candid photos of our darlings that were taken recently~

Joy riding

Just Chillin'

Check out my new haircut! Maybe less people will think I'm a girl now. Mom loves my hair long and silky.

Park day tree lounging
The most recently photo of Johnny is when he was in the dog kennel (charming). I'd snap a quick shot of him now if it wasn't for the fact that his hair is WILD today. Silly home schooled kids~ fix it if you want to, and if you don't does it really matter?

Monday, June 01, 2009

10 Months Ago

10 months ago today we brought home our three little Haitian Sensations. In some ways it seems like time has gone by so fast and in others it seems like the LOOOOOONGEST 10 months of my life. ;) Only because of all that has happened though.

Even after 10 months there are electric moments with the kids when I just look at them and am still in awe that they are really home. There are so many little moments like that with little Lovenie. Just to kiss her pumpkin face leaves me giddy with gladness that she is here. And Jude... oh boy, do I love this boy! Some of my favorite moments with him are at bedtime when I'm tucking him in. He lets me kiss his face again and again and give him lots of hugs. At the end of the day he often tells me that I'm the greatest mother ever. Sweet!

Hang in there dear friends that are waiting for their home comings. It really does happen and it won't be long until you are saying "I can't believe they are really home!"

I couldn't imagine our lives without these darling kids!

How Could I NOT Have Fallen?

Often when I talk to people about trips to Haiti I hear the comment "I would want to bring them all home!" I usually laugh and then explain that I thought I would feel that way too. However, every time I've gone I have never met a child and came back home feeling as if I was supposed to adopt them. I've had a strong connection to the children we were adopting. I've always enjoyed loving on all the other babies, and pray for homes for them too... but just never had a "connection" with any of them. Well, that's all changed now! Meet little, darling, adorable, baby Thomas~

After just rolling onto his tummy for the first time!
Sucking on his big toe. A trick I was very impressed with.

Just being precious.

When I went to say goodbye to him he was sleeping so I just took this farewell photo. It's just as well, it was hard enough saying goodbye!
Now, before anyone gets any funny ideas.... Thomas is possibly spoken for by another family. I'm so thrilled to know he will be going to a loving home! However it did not keep me from falling crazy in love with this little baby. I hope one day to know his new family. I have so many pictures and videos from my time with him I would love to share. I hardly ever had him out of my arms the whole time of my visit. He's just way beyond precious!!!
The day I left we were at the airport getting ready to have our bags searched when Keith whispered to me that it was time to confess if I had stuffed Thomas away in one of my carry on's (something I threatened to do many times). If I could of I would have. ;)

This video is just a glimpse of the many moments we spent together. If you were there you most certainly would have fallen in love with him too~