Friday, March 30, 2007

Bathing Beauty

Last night, for the first time, Lana took a bath. By which I mean she sat in the tub, with water up to her chest, played with toys, and splashed around. She had to be coaxed into the tub by her big brother (they were in the big jacuzzi tub in our bathroom.) Once she was in, she had a great time. She laughed, she loved the jacuzzi jets. When we told them it was time to get out, she raised up her right hand, all five fingers extended and said, "Five Minutes!! Five minutes more!!" Sometimes, she cracks me right up. The only tears came when Husband washed her hair. They were brief.

Lana also had her first hair cut in the United States yesterday. I took her to my good friend, J~, who also does my hair. She was very nervous when we went into the salon, and she clearly DID NOT want her hair cut, but, she sat on my lap and J~ patiently trimmed. She looks so much better without her hair hanging down into her eyes.

When we got home, Lana curiously told Husband, "Look Lana's hair! Lana's hair pretty. No cut. No cut hair. Pretty hair."

I'm not sure what to make of this - except that Lana may be trying to make a distinction between the "hair cuts" she got in Vietnam (in which her hair was basically shaved down to about 2 inches long) to the trim she got yesterday.

What was explained to us by our agency's social worker, when we arrived in Danang, was that Vietnamese children have very short hair until they are about 4 or 5. I am not sure if she meant "all Vietnamese children" or just ones in foster and orphanage care.

This morning, Lana let me put a clip in her hair. (We are growing part of her bangs out long - and that part of her hair needs to be pulled to the side with a barette.) The barette lasted about 10 minutes in her hair before it started to fall out. Her hair is so straight and so fine, it's like there is nothing for the barette to keep hold of. We may have to look for some clips or something...


Thursday, March 29, 2007

This probably isn't kosher...

There is a waiting child who has been waiting for a family for a long time. He was one of the files my husband and I looked at and ultimately, our agency steered us away from him, because his age is so close to Gabriel's. He's been a waiting child since the time that Lana was a "waiting child".

If you come to my blog because you are considering older child adoption, please have a look at this sweet little fellow. There is grant money for him, but, time is running out on the grant.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lawsuit filed over Wrong Sperm

No, I'm not making this up. Not even a little bit. Go read about it here and then come back:


Are you back?


While a part of me can understand why this couple might be upset...another part of me is truly disturbed by the following statement:

The couple says that they have been forced to raise a child who is "not even the same race, nationality, color ... as they are."

The couple also complains that the child is "darker" than either of them. "Darker"?

Okay, first off, I would agree that the couple SHOULD be FULLY reimbursed for the cost of the infertility treatment and any costs related thereto. The clinic made a mistake and these folks shouldn't have to pay for their services. And I would say that the couple should be provided with a full medical history of whoever's sperm DID get used to produce their child.

But, to ask for MONEY DAMAGES because your child is "darker" than you are? To suggest that the child is "not even the same race, nationality, color" as they are?

The child is, IN FACT, biologically related to the mother. So, any "race, nationality, color" coming from the mother are THE MOTHER'S race, nationality, and color.

And they have not been "forced" to raise her. The differences were apparent at birth. They could have chosen to place her for adoption. (I realize that is extreme. But, no one put a gun to their heads and said, "RAISE THIS CHILD OR ELSE.")

I believe I have previously discussed my cousin R~ on this blog before. R~ is tri-racial (her mother (my aunt) is white, and her father is black/Native American. R~ is stunning to look at. Seriously, she's gorgeous. Her skin is dark - kind of a beautiful coffee-with-cream color. (Do not flame me. R~ describes her own skin this way.) When R~ got married, she married a man named L~, whose mom was white and whose dad was black, and whose skin tone matches R~'s skin tone almost perfectly.

And they had a baby. A baby who is blonde and blue-eyed and whiter than a Swede in the middle of January. Seriously. And, since I am hestitant to post pictures of family members who have no idea I'm blogging about them, I will send you here to read about a couple who had the same thing happen to them (coupled with the fact that the mother delivered twins. It interesting. Go look and then come back again. Yes, I know I am sending you all over the internet today. Sue me.

Anyway, my cousin and her husband are (happily) raising a child who does not APPEAR to be of the same "race, nationality, or color" they are, but who is, in fact, biologically their own. (And they APPEAR, to many people, to be a part of the somewhat largish Dominican community in the Pacific-Northwestern city where they live, which is just completely a false appearance. People speak Spanish to them ALL THE TIME. Neither of them speaks Spanish. R~ likes to respond by going, "Dude, I'm from Detroit. Speak English.")

My point is, APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING. So, while I am sorry for this couple for probably having paid up the wazoo for a shoddy fertility clinic that mixed up some sperm, I am certainly not feeling any sympathy for them for raising a child who doesn't "look" like them. These plainitiffs would be a lot more sympathetic if they had chosen to couch their arguments in other terms.

But, what do I know? Since I actually chose to parent a child who "isn't even the same race, nationality or color" as me. Is there someone I can sue about that?

Feeling a bit snarky today,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lana's Name

I've been following some discussions about name changes on other blogs. These discussion started with Angelina Jolie's choice to change her son's name from Phang Quam Sang (I could have the spelling wrong here) to Pax Thien Jolie.

Many people are upset that she changed a three-year-old's name, since he is old enough to know what his name was. On one blog, the discussion then switched gears to discuss family names.

I will admit to feeling conflicted about the fact that we changed Lana's given name. After all, she is four years old. She knew what her name was. And because she knew what her name was, we elected NOT to use the name we had chosen for a younger child. Had we adopted a female child as an infant or young toddler, her name would have been Sophie. But, Lana KNEW her name was Lan, or Bich Lan. And because of that, we didn't feel completely comfortable changing her name to a totally different name. BUT, the fact that her name was Lan was kind of a gift. It was an EASY change - from Lan to Lana. Lana isn't a common name in the US, but, it struck me as classy and elegant. Images of old Lana Turner movies and whatnot. I like the meaning of Lana, which means "peaceful", and because I thought it was important to preserve the meaning of her original name (Lan means elegant or orchid in Vietnamese), we chose a middle name for her that also means elegant.

But, truthfully, had Lan's name been, say, Phuoc...or Huong...let's be honest. She would be Sophie right now. Or maybe Phoebe or Hope. But, she wouldn't be Phuoca or Huonga. It's difficult to preserve the sound or feel of many Vietnamese names. Changing Lan to Lana seemed like an easy way to preserve her sense of who she was, while at the same time giving her a name that would help her assimilate into a new culture and family and language.

I will further be honest and say that I am not invested in the name Lana in the same way that I am invested in the name Gabriel. We chose Gabriel's name with great deliberateness. The meaning was important to me. The sound was important me. The fact that I like both the nickname of "Gabe" and the entire name "Gabriel" equally was important to me. The significance of the Archangel Gabriel in Christianity, Judism and Islam - that was important to me. The fact that we waited to see his face, to know if he was a Gabriel or a Sebastian, before making a final decision, it was IMPORTANT to me. So, if Gabriel woke up tomorrow and insisted on being called "Sebastian" or "John" or "Firebender" or something - I would be upset. I would be confused. I would be p*ssed off.

Conversely, if Lana woke up tomorrow wanting to be called Lan or Bich Lan (pronounced Bit Lan) - I would probably be undisturbed. We do occasionally call her Bich Lan anyway. (Not as much as we used to, but, every now and then.) If as an adult she wants to change her name back to Bich Lan, well, certainly I am in a position to quickly assist her in that effort. I mean, I'm the attorney who prepared the original name change petition, for Pete's sake. I would worry, if she did, what kind of reaction she would get from people. I would worry about how often she will be called "Bitch Lan". But, I wouldn't stand in her way.

But, her FAMILY name? Never once, not for an instant, did we consider not changing her family name to our family name. From my point of view, leaving her with the family name she came with is tanatmount to rejecting her outright. The same as saying, "we are taking you on as a charity case, but, we don't really love you the way we love Gabriel. We don't love you enough to give you our name, to make you one of us." Doesn't our family name indicate the clan to which we belong? Lana is one of us, now, she is no longer part of the family who left her behind. When Husband and I got married, I took his name - not because of some patriarchal ideal, but, simply because it was important to us to show the world we were ONE, not two, but ONE, a cohesive whole. If we failed to extend our name to Lana, we would be keeping her separate from us, at arm's length. We would have failed to invite her to become a part of us.

I understand that she may someday be unhappy about this and any or all aspects of her adoption. She may be angry with me, she may be angry with her birth mother, and with the orphanage direction and with her foster mother and with the government officials who made decisions about her future. Bich Lan didn't have any say in these choices. And frankly, there weren't a lot of good choices to be made for Bich Lan. Her birth mother could not keep her. Despite my agency's efforts to arrange a domestic adoption for Lan in Vietnam, it didn't happen. The choices remaining were to stay in foster care until she aged out, or be adopted by an American family. I have to believe that being adopted by an American family was preferable to never having a forever family.

Because she is ours, we give her our name. If she is angry with us, later, so be it. I will make sure she knows that she can talk to me about her anger, her sadness, her frustration. That is the best I can do. That is the only thing I can do. I cannot go back and change what her birth mother did, what the orphanage director did, what her foster mother did or didn't do. I cannot change the decisions made by people who weren't me. (For that matter, I cannot change the decisions that *I* made. *I* chose her. I chose her from a stack of files of children who needed families. I cannot undo that, and I cannot undo the fact that right now, there are children who need families who don't have them and whose files I didn't choose. I chose her. I'm not sorry and I hope she won't be either.)

Right now, Lan has embraced her new identity of Lana W~. She likes to tell everyone, "I Lana W~! This Mommy W~! This Daddy W~! This Gabriel W~!" Right now she is rejecting Vietnamese food and Vietnamese people (to the extent she tried to hide under the table at a Vietnamese restaurant the other day because the waitress was talking to her in Vietnamese.) I will continue to take her for Vietnamese food, and I will continue to make sure she hears Vietnamese spoken, because it has never been my intent to erase the fact that she is Vietnamese.

It is only my intent to be her mother.


Monday, March 26, 2007


Yesterday was my thirty-fifth birthday. On many levels I cannot believe this is even possible. Wasn't it just yesterday that I was living in my sorority house, running late to play practice?

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was a graduate student in Tucson, Arizona, trying not to melt in the heat while writing enormous papers on a WORD-PROCESSING TYPEWRITER? (It is when I think about the enormous leaps in technology that I realize it wasn't yesterday. It was 12 years ago.)

Wasn't it just yesterday that Husband and I were teaching English in Hitachi City, Japan, and writing ACTUAL PAPER LETTERS HOME because email wasn't commonly available in Japan (outside of Tokyo)? (Nope...11 years ago.)

Wasn't it just yesterday that I had a tiny baby boy keeping me awake all night? (Nope, 7 years ago...)

I know it's a cliche, but, seriously, where does the time go and how the hell is possible that I am THIRTY-FIVE YEARS OLD?? I have wrinkles!! Wrinkels! And a zit! Wrinkles and a zit AT THE SAME TIME? How is that even FAIR??

I did have a nice birthday. Husband and Gabriel and Lana showered me with gifts in the morning - new clip-watch for my purse (my lady-bug clip-on watch died, and I hate wearing a watch on my wrist, so, I need one to clip to my purse. Husband found me a Japanese "good fortune cat" (maneki neko) clip-on watch (you can read about maneki neko here: ). There is a picture of my cool new maneki neko watch, from the Yoshi Oshi company, at the top of this post. How cute is it? Also, gifts from Husband and children - new games for my pink Nintendo DS, a travel case for my Nintendo DS, and a box of drinking chocolate. I was over the moon with these gifts. Evidently, deep inside, I am still a 12-year-old girl.

My sister watched Lana and Gabe yesterday afternoon and evening so that Husband and I could have a birthday dinner out. Lana absolutely ADORES my sister and her children, so, it was nice to know that I we could go to dinner and leave Lana in a place she is comfortable and happy. Husband and I met our friends for dinner, M~&R~, who we usually go on vacation with every spring. They are leaving for Jamaica in two weeks, and I made them promise to take a ton of pictures so I can leave vicariously through them! And we are making plans for next year's trip that will include Gabe and Lana - I know it's a year away, but, I need to know that I will walk along the perfect sandy beaches of Jamaica again sometime in the future!!

Well, it's a beautiful day, spring has finally sprung and it's 70 degrees. It's a good day to start a brand new year.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Is she a Pirate?

It is astonishing to me how quickly Lana's English is coming now. I heard about a group of DVDs (from another mom who adopted a four-year-old through our agency), called "Sesamee English". These DVDs are from the Sesamee Street people (obviously) and they teach English as a Second Language, and also have some of the soundtrack in Vietnamese, Hmong, Mandarin or Korean. Lana really seems to be learning from these. Also, I think being in a classroom with other children every day is helping a lot.

This morning, while we were dropping Gabe off at school, she said, "I stay in car, mommy." !!! A whole sentence! She has also said things like, "Mommy, I cold," and "Daddy, I hungry, want chicken, want pony!" (Um...I am embarrassed to say that what she means is she wants chicken nuggets from McDonalds and the My Little Pony toy that is currently accompanying them. She has a collection of three of these little ponies, and, left to her own devices, would evidently eat McDonald's chicken nuggets around the clock.)

But, the one notable word that Lan DOES NOT SAY is "Yes". She has "NO" down pat. "NO" was one of the first English words she used. But, not "yes".

Instead of saying yes, Lana says, "ayuh" or "aye" or possibly "hai". We are trying to figure out if a pirate has sneaking in and teaching her to speak. Or a person from Maine? Or possibly a Japanese person?? It's the funniest thing.

Also amusing - one of Lana's best pals at school is a little boy named Nico. Nico's mom is a German professor at the University where the school is located. She is actually FROM Germany, so, she speaks to Nico only in German while her husband speaks to him only in English. The result is that, at four, Nico is bi-lingual. So, as we were leaving school the other day, Nico held the door open for Lana and said, "Komen Sie Aus, Lana, Komen Sie Aus!" Which Lana promptly did. Nico's mom and I laughed that Lana is going to be speaking German, too, pretty soon!!


In other news, the school counselor called me yesterday afternoon after meeting with Gabriel. She told me that he was "a delightful and articulate child" and that "all things considered, I think he's doing remarkably well, and I think you and your husband prepared him well for becoming a big brother." She said, "I really wouldn't worry about anything other than making sure he gets to bed a little bit earlier." She did mention that Gabe said that he had been having trouble sleeping since Lana came home, because she is "so loud at night." I didn't realize that Lana may have been waking him up. (She talks in her sleep. A lot. In the last two weeks I have been able to learn to ignore her nighttime exclamations. I had been getting up and running in there only to find her fast asleep. If she actually needs me, she yells, "BAFROOM!! BAFROOM!!" I still do wake up for that.)

Anyway, I've been letting Gabe sleep in the room across the hall from Lana, instead of next to Lana, and Gabe reports that he is sleeping better...


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Good Book and Veronica Mars

Good read:

I've recently read the book, Stealing Buddha's Dinner by a Vietnamese-American named Bich Minh Nguyen. I loved the book and I recommend it to everyone who loves a good story and loves to read about food. The author came to the US in 1975 as an infant with her father and grandmother and uncles. Her mother is conspicuously missing, but, there is an explanation towards the end of the book.

Veronica Mars (do not read if you are still netflixing Season One - spoiler alert):

Last night I watched an episode of Veronica Mars from Season 1. It was an episode in which one of the secondary characters, Mac, finds out that she was switched at birth with another child, and when she discovers that she is not biologically related to her family, many things make sense to her. (I.e. she has never felt like she belonged in her family.) The casting director of this show did an amazing job of filling the roles of Mac's biological mother and sister - who look ASTONISHINGLY like the actress who plays Mac, while the actress who plays the other "switched at birth" child looks remarkably like the actress cast as Mac's non-biological mom.

Anyway, this got me thinking - how much of our personality is defined by biology and how much is defined by sociology? Obviously, my daughter will be aware that she is not our biological child - aside from the obvious physical differences, she will have a memory (I hope anyway) of our becoming a family. Will she be a teenager filled with angst about not "truly" belonging to us? I'd like to think that there is more power in environment, and making one feel like one belongs in that environment, than in genetics, but, I guess it's an age old question, isn't it? In a way, the episode made me sad, because Mac longs for the family she belongs to biologically (and not just because that family is rich and hers is not). But, in the end, she turns and walks away from her bio-mom's car and gets into a camper with family, i.e. the family she was raised in, to go on their annual camping trip.

(On a separate note, I thought the episode raised some interesting legal questions, such as, who would be entitled to inherit from the estate of the wealthy family? Probate court is an area of law that favors blood ties...I started to think that, in such a situation, the children would need to be formally adopted by the alternate families...obviously, the show didn't delve into the subtleties of Probate Law in California.)


Monday, March 19, 2007

A Series of Unfortunate Events

What a disastrous weekend we had!!

The fun began Friday evening. Gabriel had gone to the "family sock-hop" at his elementary school with our neighbors, since we were not up for taking Lana to an event we didn't entirely understand, that was sure to be loud and noisy and crowded. (Since when do kids have dances in elementary school? Since when do parents GO to dances at their children's schools? I just thought the whole thing was weird, but, Gabe really wanted to go, and our neighbors were taking their child, so, Gabe went along with them.)

Anyway, David and Lana and I were eating dinner. I'm not entirely sure what happened, but, one second Lana was eating a piece of a tortilla and the next second she and the chair were on the floor and there was blood EVERYWHERE. I was cutting into my enchilada at the time, but, Husband said she just fell off the chair, caught her mouth on the corner of the table and kept going down.

When she finally let us get a look at her lip, it appeared that it had a hole all the way through it from where her teeth had punctured it. David paged my cousin B~ (who is a dentist) while I ran two doors down and, behaving as the worst neighbor on the planet, pulled my neighbor, who is a doctor, down to my house. While Dave talked to B~ on the phone, my neighbor looked at Lana's face and said, "I think she needs a stitch to pull her lip together. I wish I had the stuff to do it, but, I don't."

Meanwhile, B~ instructed Husband to run his fingers over the tops of her teeth gently, to test if they were loose. They weren't thank goodness. (There was a lot of screaming to accomplish this.)

We packed her up and went to the ER. I called my neighbors to tell them what had happened and they said they would just keep Gabe overnight. (Thank you neighbors!!)

When we arrived at the ER (oh, my favorite place) - it was FULL OF PEOPLE. (Maybe because it was the day before St. Patrick's Day, and a Friday, so, people had evidently been drinking heavily since noon? (Just conjecture on my part.) We sat in the ER for an hour and a half. We did get into triage at one point, where they took our info and a copy of our insurance card. Then, because there was no room in the actual ER, sent us back out to sit in the hospital lobby. By about 9:00, her lip had long since stopped bleeding, and she was giggling and running around the lobby of the hospital with another 4 year old girl, who had had a television set and entertainment center fall on her. (She had also stopped bleeding, but, she needed some further testing to make sure she didn't have internal bleeding/a concussion, etc.) I turned to the other little girl's mother and I said, "We give up. If they call for us, take our spot." And we left. Lana wasn't bleeding anymore, her lip had closed up, and what she really needed, most of all, was to go to sleep.

The next morning, we put Gabe and Lana in the car and headed up to my in-laws in Detroit. It had been my mother-in-law's birthday last week, and also we had plans to go together for a St. Patrick's Day dinner (i.e. "boiled dinner" or "Jiggs Dinner" or "corned beef and cabbage and turnips" whatever you want to call it.) We arrived at my in-laws and visited for a bit, and then went their club for dinner (they belong to private club that has a bar and hosts events. It has a name, but, for the sake of anonymity, I'm not saying). We did this last year and it was delicious. This year, it was INEDIBLE. The corned beef was much like shoe leather. The vegetables were crunchy. The cabbage was just...awful. We were all extremely disappointed. It was, hands down, the worst corned beef dinner I have ever had.

We went back to my in-laws and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and their kids joined us. We were all sitting around eating cheese and crackers and cookies, when my niece, J~, came running up from the playroom in the basement calling, "EMERGENCY!! EMERGENCY!! Gabriel is stuck!!"

Visions of the child who had the TV fall on her came to my mind as we rushed downstairs. Gabriel's foot was caught in the mechanism of my in-laws Elyptical Fitness Rider. His foot was extracted, and fortunately, he could move all his toes and his ankle bone, but, the skin was badly scraped up and bruised and purple-ish. Out came the first aid kit and we bandaged him up.

Not an hour later, my father-in-law announced that he was still hungry after "that awful dinner" and pulled out some leftover ham to cut up. Can you sense what is coming?? Can you?

My father-in-law, working on the ham, SLICED HIS FINGER TO THE BONE. COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF BLOOD ensued. Out came the first aid kit again, as my father-in-law turned vaguely pale and held his hand over his head to stop the blood. (I personally thought that he should go to the ER, but, he didn't go. And what do I know, what with my two disastrous ER visits in the last month??)

We decided that we were about the sorriest bunch of folks in the State of Michigan, what with three of us being pretty banged up. We decided to put in a movie so the kids could get settled down, and the DVD player BROKE! Good grief, what else could go wrong?

My brother-in-law and I took the kids in the front living room to watch the movie (there is a smaller tv and dvd in that room.) The kids and I were all watching the movie, when, my brother-in-law sat down in an arm chair, leaned back AND THE CHAIR BROKE. So, my brother-in-law just kept going, dragging the chair over on top of him as he fell backwards, whacking his head and neck on the stone floor of my in-laws entry way. I yelled, "OH MY GOD ARE YOU OKAY?" to which he did not respond. I started to run into the kitchen to dial 911 (I honestly thought he had broken his neck), when a feeble voice beneath the chair said, "hey...yeah, I'm okay...I think I'm okay." And he was okay, mostly. By which I mean, his neck was not broken, but, he still was sore and had a big goose egg on the back of his head.

After that incident, we all decided to go to bed, so as to avoid further injury. We managed to remain injury free through Sunday, but, I have to tell you, I was nervous about driving home. I thought for sure we would get into an accident with the kind of luck we were conjuring up!

But, we're safely back home. Lana's lip is very black and blue, and Gabe's foot is black and blue, but, other than that, I think we're okay.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Moving Forward

I'm still on the hunt for a family therapist with knowledge of attachment and adoption issues...

Gabe has been to bed an hour earlier the last two nights, although he has slept with David and I have slept alone. I realize that this is not the healthiest solution, but, Gabe seems deeply troubled by bad dreams lately. He has asked for a 'dreamcatcher' for his room, and until I can find one, I guess we do what we have to do. Enough sleep is essential and has to come at all costs. (I am sure SuperNanny would tell me differently, but, I spent almost three years in a state of constant sleep deprivation, I feel qualified to say that sleep must be a priority and other things must be sacrificed in order to attain it.)

Additionally, I am having Gabriel eat a banana with his breakfast cereal. This seems like a small thing, but, since we've come home, I've neglected to make sure that Gabe eats fruit in the morning. I always had him eat fruit for breakfast before Lana came, and I am grasping at straws in terms of "what am I doing differently that might make explain Gabe's behavior at school?" Changing his breakfast habits is one thing that jumped out at me.

I've been noticing deep purple rings under Gabe's eyes the past several weeks. These make him look very tired - but, then I remembered a conversation I had with his eye doctor over a year ago. At that time, Dr. R~ was examining him and he said, "you know he has allergies?" And I said, "Pardon?" And he, Dr. R~, who is an M.D. type of eye doctor as opposed to the type of eye doctor who just deals with eyes, said, "the purple rings under his eyes? That's caused by allergies. Some people think they are caused by exhaustion, but, the only thing that makes eyes look like that, generally speaking, is allergies. I'd get him some pediatric Claritin if I were you."

So, I gave him the Claritin for a while, and then, I don't know, summer came or something...I stopped giving it to him. I'm starting it again. His nose is running constantly and the purple rings are back under his eyes. It's worth a try, I think.

Lana had a fit last night, and this time, she threw a fit for Husband, because Gabriel and I left to go to his cubscout meeting. This is new. Heretofore, she has thrown numerous fits for Husband, but, never because I left. David said last night she cried, alternately, for Gabe and then for me.

I'm beginning to suspect that the person she is truly the most attached to is Gabriel. Even though he is probably the one who is mean to her most often, she loves him best of all. And so, when Gabriel leaves with one parent, leaving her behind with the other parent - that is when the worst of her fits happen. Curiously, she does not throw a fit when Gabe gets on the bus in the morning, but, she likes to busy herself "helping" him get ready. She runs to get his coat, to help him put his backpack on his back. Then she stands at the window and waits and watches him get on the bus. Then she announces, "Gabriel DI HOP!!" (I'm spelling phonetically, here, I have no idea what these words actually look like in properly written Vietnamese. It means, according to our friends Vinh and Minh, "go to school.") Then, after Gabe gets on the bus, Lana runs to get her own shoes on, and says, 'Lana DI HOP!!" Then she dances around and says the name of her school excitedly. She likes to go to school. She also likes the ride to school because she knows mommy is a pushover who will let her have a piece of candy for the ride. Or gum. She loves candy and gum and she really needs one of those shirts from the children's place that says, "I LOVE CANDY." Much of her day is spent being thwarted in her efforts to obtain candy. So, she knows she will get a piece on the drive to school.

She is learning English at a rapid pace. Some things she has said in the past day include:

"Baby Morgan doctor go." (I.e. Baby Morgan (a baby in her life) went to the doctor. I checked with Baby Morgan's mom, and, in fact, Baby Morgan did go to the doctor for a well check this week.)

"Candy Lana pocket!" (i.e. Lana has candy in her pocket. Again, I checked the pocket - it was true. There was a piece of candy there. A very fuzzy lifesaver. Yum. NOT.)

"Lana NO GO BAFROOM." (I.e. "at the present, mother, I am not interested in taking time out of my very busy day playing with these checkers to use the toilet, despite the fact that I am holding my crotch and clearly need to urinate.")

"Gabriel Lana Jammy La." (I.e. "It is time for Gabriel and Lana to put on jammies. NOW. If we do not put on jammies right now, I will jump around saying 'Gabriel Lana Jammy La' indefinitely. Because I like to.")

That's all for now.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

So...this sucks

Remember yesterday, when I said that my issues with Lana were just that, i.e. MY ISSUES.

Yeah, I guess I was WAY OFF THE MARK.

Because, I got a call from Gabriel's teacher yesterday. And the phrases, "not behaving like the same child he was before" and "not concentrating" and "not finishing work" and "unmotivated" and "extremely tired" and "recommend that he meet with the school counselor" were used.

I am ashamed to admit the things I have thought in the last 24 hours. I am ashamed but here they are, in no particular order, because if I don't write them down they will drive me to the brink of the cliffs of insanity:

~What the hell have I done to my life?
~What the hell have I done to my son's life?
~How is that I had one normal happy kid and now I have two unhappy ones?
~What the hell have I done to my Gabriel?
~What haven't I been doing for Gabriel?
~Whose life is this that I am leading right now because I am failing to recognize much more than a thread of it?
~Can I go to the damn beach now?

Anyway, I've basically been crying on and off constantly. I'm trying to find a family therapist in the greater metro-area with any adoption-sibling issue experience that is, oh, I don't know, covered by our insurance. These crazy expectations I have.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mad as Hell

Until yesterday, I didn't really have any thoughts, one way or the other, about the fact that Angeline Jolie is adopting a child from Vietnam. I have enjoyed some of her movies, and I think she has genuine care and concern about the orphans of the world. I do.

But, I am mad as hell today, about two articles I have read in the last 48 hours.

The first is this article:;_ylt=A9G_RxLZKfhFxswA6hNxFb8C

and the statement that has me hopping mad is this:

"The adoption is being processed quickly because the boy is an older child, and his files were nearly complete before Jolie decided to adopt, Trung [the orphanage director] said."

UM? WHAT? And HUH? And COME AGAIN??????????

I suggest that anyone who thinks that the paperwork of older children gets completed more quickly go have a gander at Mrs. Broccoli's Guy's blog. ( Or, you know, MY blog. Or THE CURRY SEVEN ( or any number of other "regular Americans" who blog about their adoptions of older children from Vietnam.

And if somebody can find me a blog of someone who is NOT Angelina Jolie whose adoption was processed this quickly, I would like to see it.

And THEN, this article is just the icing on the cake:;_ylt=A9G_RxLZKfhFxswA6hNxFb8C

"If all goes according to plan, Jolie could bring the child home by the weekend, officials said."

UM??? Yeah, Jolie arrived in Vietnam TODAY? So, evidently, even the US government is bending over backwards for her, because, you know, those of us who actually FOLLOWED THE GUIDELINES stayed in Vietnam for TWO TO THREE WEEKS in order to comply with the interviews and medical exams required by the US Embassy.

But, if you're Angeline Jolie, I guess you don't have to play by the rules.

And it's not that I am really all that angry that the rules are being bent for her. I KNOW money talks, and I know that fame opens doors that others of us don't have the opportunity to even knock on.

What really ticks me off is the IMPLICATION and the SUGGESTION that this is all "normal" - that she ISN'T GETTING SPECIAL TREATMENT.

Because she is. Call a spade a spade. Call it like it is. But don't try to shove a bunch of b.s. down my throat that her adoption was processed quickly because she is adopting an older child. Because that simply is a false and misleading statement. I adopted an older child. It took me six months to bring her home. I took me a year to complete the process!!


I need to go walk on a beach somewhere

It's that time of year when my whole body longs for the beach, when I would normally be gearing up for spring break someplace warm and covered with palm trees. And there is no beach to be had.

I realize how incredibly petty and silly this is, to be depressed about this.

We've been incredibly lucky with how well Lana is transitioning - truly we are. My issues with Lana, for the most are MY ISSUES. She is attached to Husband and Gabriel, and is beginning, by bits and pieces, to attach to me, and it is unreasonable to ask for more than that at this point.

She could be curled up in a ball in a fetal position smacking her head repeatedly against the floor. Instead she is giving us a hard time about pedaling her new Barbie Princess bike. That's her biggest issue - not pedaling. She's not stupid, so, we figure, you know, eventually, she'll give in and start to pedal.

She eats, she sleeps (mostly), she loves her pre-school, she plays with her cousins, her English improves every day. What more could we ask for?

Evidently, I could ask for the beach. I can't have it (not this year anyway.) But, I can ask.

But, the answer is still no. No beach for me.

Sad and melancholy in the midwest,

Friday, March 09, 2007


This morning, whilst driving Lana to her pre-school, we were listening to the BBC World News Hour on NPR. (See, that's why I used the word "whilst" - to be all British and such.)

Anyway, we were listening to the BBC, and I thought Lana might comment on the fact that the announcer was doing a story about Vietnam (evidently, there has been a crackdown on dissidents of late), but, she didn't say a word about that. (Although, the British newcaster's pronounciation of the word Vietnam is very very far from Lana's own distinct pronounciation of "Viet Nam" - she may not have even registered that they were talking about her homeland.)

However, the story after the story about the jailing of Vietnamese dissidents was about Cuban refugees.

Suddenly, from the quiet back seat, Lana yelled, "Mommy!!! Cuban!!"

I said, "What?"


Me: "Huh?"

What the heck is that about? She continued to say it, all the way to school.

It just leaves me scratching my head and wondering what she thinks "Cuban" means...

Perhaps she is hankering for a lime-and-cumin spiced pork sandwich?


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Feeling More Human

I'm starting to feel better. Which is shocking, considering that last night about this time I was lying under my comforter, shivering, with a fever of 102 degrees, and every muscle in my body hurting like hell.

So, feeling only slightly nauseated and beat up is an improvement. I made it to work for a few hours today - some things HAD to be taken care of. I was forced to call the federal court in Cleveland (2 hour drive each way) and beg his clerk to reschedule a hearing that was set for 1:30 this afternoon. There was just no way I could make a four hour drive in this condition. Fortunately, I came to an agreement with the other side over the telephone, and judge's clerks are OH SO MUCH willing to work with you if you say, "A Consent Entry is Being Submitted" - that phrase is like magic...

During my misery confined to my dark bedroom, I watched four episodes of Veronica Mars, 3 episodes of Gilmore Girls, and the movie The Lake House.

Other than that, I mostly shivered. And moaned. And threw up.

Things you don't want to hear your seven-year-old son say:

"Sorry, we can't play at my house right now, my mom is puking." Also, "Can I have dinner at your house, 'cause my mom is puking?"

I had to drive Lana to school yesterday because I COULD NOT keep her from burning the house down in my completely wretched state. I thought I might kill both of us trying to get to her pre-school, but, we did okay. Fortunately, she was happy to go to school. School is infinitely preferable to staying at home with the aforementioned puking mom...

Not much else to report.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007


dear god i am sick...not sure if it is flu or food poisoning...going back to curl up into a lump and shiver and shake some more.


Monday, March 05, 2007

She Loves Me Not?

We had a difficult day on Saturday with Lana. I have several theories on why it was so hard, but, who knows, really?

Her schedule had been all messed up since Wednesday, as Wednesday evening we had a Lenten dinner and lecture at church (during which Lana happily went to the children's program with her cousins and brother), and Thursday we were at the T~'s house having Vietnamese food and didn't get home until 10:45 PM, and then Friday night my niece, Taylor, spent the night.

Gabe and Lana and Taylor played well together, until it was time to go to bed. As is customary for when Gabriel and Taylor have sleepovers (and they've been having sleepovers for 3 or 4 years now), I put in a movie and put them, along with Lana, into the guest room to watch a movie and drift off to sleep.

Except, that's not what happened because Lana does not have 3 years of cousin-sleep-over-experience to draw on. She did not lay down quietly (and it was 10:00 by this time and way past her usual 8:30 bedtime for the 3rd night in a row.)

So, I ended up turning the movie off for a few minutes, and taking Lana to her room and putting her to bed by herself. And she fell asleep. Until she was awoken by Gabe and Taylor having an argument about (of all things) the Statue of Liberty. (Taylor had recently been to New York City with my brother, and she insisted that you could go INSIDE the statue. Gabriel had been studying the Statue at school, where his teacher had told them that visitors were no longer allowed inside the statue. If any New Yorkers are reading this please let me know which of them was right!!)

Anyway, the ridiculous argument woke Lana up, and she was crying and upset (probably feeling left out of the fun, but, what was I supposed to do? If she won't lay down and fall asleep to the movie, what are my options, really?)

She fell back to sleep with some comforting from Husband, and Taylor and Gabriel fell asleep soon after. Taylor and Gabe were up again at 7:30 AM (what the heck??), but, Lana slept until 9:45. There was arguing about whose My Little Pony was whose, and arguing about this and that. Typical arguing among children who haven't had enough sleep, nothing out of the ordinary.

My brother came to pick up Taylor, and we went out the mall to run some errands.

Lana was absolutely atrocious at the mall. She ran away from us, she refused to hold anyone's hand, she pushed another little girl...Husband ended up practically dragging her by her arm because she was refusing to walk if either of us tried to hold her hand. There was fit throwing and screaming.

We went home without our errands finished because she was just being impossible.

Around 7:00, Husband and Gabriel left to go finish the errands, and I planned to give Lana a bath and put her to bed on time.

The best laid plans of mice and men...

Lana lost her mind when Husband left the house with Gabriel. She went ABSOLUTELY BANANAS. She tried to run after him, running into the garage as she tried to put her shoes on (after he had driven away). She screamed. She bawled. She was in hysterics.

I put some water in the bathtub and she ran away from me yelling "NO NO NO NO NO NO NO". She ran into her bedroom and LOCKED THE DOOR. When she came out of her room she was wearing pajamas and running shoes. I physically tried to pick her up and take her into the bathroom, telling her she needed to get clean. She is strong. She made it physically impossible for me to get her into the tub, or even out of her pjs. She ran down the stairs and back into the garage, screaming, "BA! Ba! Ba! Ba! Ba!" (Daddy).

I dragged her back in the house. I offered her food. She refused. I told her it was bedtime and she went into her room and threw herself on her bed and cried and kicked some more. I offered to read her a book. "NO BOOK! NO BOOK!" she screamed. I sang her a song (the one I usually sing at bedtime) and she screamed "NO MOMMY NO MOMMY! NO LOVE YOU! NO LOVE YOU! NO LOVE YOU!"

She was covered with tears and snot. I told her I loved her (although, truthfully, at that moment, I was not feeling very loving) - she pushed me away from her. I told her Ba would be here when she woke up in the morning. I closed the door. Her angry cries turned to sad cries. "Ba...Ba....Ba....Ba..." I went in the room to comfort her and she screamed "NO MOMMY! NO MOMMY!" again. When I left she switched from crying "Ba" to crying "Daddy...Daddy...Daddy".

It is hard to hear a child tell you they don't love you. And when she says, "no mommy" sometimes, I believe what she is saying is that I am NOT her mommy. It is painful to hear this from a child you have, literally, been to the ends of the earth for. I will be honest and say that, mostly what I felt about her, at that moment, was frustration and anger and hopelessness. She fell asleep a little before 8:00, and I laid in my bed and cried for a while. I turned on the TV and saw that the Oxygen Network had attempted to turn Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride (one of my favorite books) into a movie, so, I watched that for a while. (Um...they tried, and they used Mary Louise Parker as Xenia, really didn't work out very well.) When Husband and Gabe came home, I told them about the last two hours and I curled up like a lump on the couch to watch the end of the movie.

Lana woke up around 9:30, and David went to comfort her. She was furious with him, but, she did quiet down. Ten minutes later she was screaming "bafroom, havva go bafroom" and I went up to take her to the potty. She pushed me away, and then she saw David was right behind me. She jumped into his arms crying, "bafroom, bafroom" - he took her to the bathroom and she fell asleep again. She was up once more at 11:30, but, went back to sleep when David tucked her back in. She slept the rest of the night and was in a much better mood yesterday.

She finally consented to a shower (she has lately decided that she hates water worse than a skittish cat), but, yesterday, we finally had a clean child with no tears and no screaming, a first for her in the last three weeks.

And this morning, she came to me for comfort when she woke up, and let me help her get her clothes on. She happily got in the car to go to school, and, when I was threading the seat belt through her car seat, she kissed my cheek and say, "Love you, Mommy."

I'm trying to focus on that postive response. It's not easy. But, I'm trying to focus on it.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Mad Chopstick Skillz

Last night, our Vietnamese friends, the T~ family, invited us over for Chicken Pho. My sister's family was also invited, so, there were 5 children from my sister's family, my two children, and the child of the T~ family, so, eight children all together.

Most of the kids ate pizza, rather than Pho, except for Lana and my sister's older daughters. The kids were all eating in the kitchen and the adults were eating in the dining room. I walked into the kitchen to check on Lana and Gabe, when I heard the most hysterical thing come out of my 12-year-old niece's mouth. "Hey, Aunt Gretchen, check out my mad chopsticking skillz!"

This sent me into a fit of giggles. My niece, for one, is extremely tiny for 12. (She was born 10 weeks prematurely, and her height has never really caught up, so she is only a bit taller than Gabriel). She's thin and petite, so, to see her being "gangster" with her bowl of Vietnamese noodles the size of her head, it was just...too...funny.

She actually is impressively adroit with her chopsticks. So, perhaps it is okay to say that she does, in fact, have mad chopsticking skillz. :-)

Once again, Lana was in heaven with the Vietnamese food, but, refused to speak to the T~ family. She was so shy that she actually WHISPERED to me in Vietnamese and English. HONESTLY! The one time when she could really get her point across and she was not going to let anyone who might understand her hear what she had to say.

One of our friends did tell me that she was contributing to the children's conversation upstairs. She said the kids were talking about school, and Lana piped up and said, in Vietnamese, "I go to school!" We were impressed that she understood what the conversation was about, even if she wasn't ready to really to speak in English, that she is understanding so much.

By the end of the evening, she was responding to questions to her in Vietnamese by shaking her head or nodding her head. (Considering that one of the questions was "do you want a cup of Coca-cola?" I'm not surprised.)

It was a lovely evening and delicious food, but, here is a friendly piece of advice - Don't drink a big glass of iced Vietnamese coffee at 8:30 at night. You will be up FOREVER.
Changing gears here...

Lana threw me for a loop on Tuesday with her use of the word "Brother."

She was home from school (still sick from the fiasco that sent us to the hospital on Sunday). We were looking at pictures and trying to decide which pictures to put in collage-type frame, when she picked up a picture of Gabriel and said, "Ga-bri-el!" And I said, "yes, that's your brother, Gabriel."

"Brother!" she said, happily, pointing at other photos of Gabe and saying, "Brother! Brother! Brother!" I was proud of her for learning a new English word and I gave her a "high five". (She high fives everyone right now. EVERYONE. She tried to high five the check-out girl at the grocery the other day.)

Then, all of the sudden, she dug threw a stack of pictures from our trip to Vietnam, until she came to a photo of several children at the orphanage. She pointed to a child named S~, the child who had been fostered in the same foster home as her, and, in all seriousness, looked at me and said his name in Vietnamese and then said, "Brother."

I looked at her completely stunned. "Brother," she said again, pointing at S~. "Brother mo? Brother mo?" She took my face in her hands and said it again, "Brother mo?"

"Mo" means "where" in Vietnamese.


I felt like someone had poored ice water down my spine. It has been weeks since she said S~'s name (admittedly, she did ask about him in Vietnam, and on one occasion vomited when he and his new parents got out of the agency's van to go to their hotel.)

I would venture a guess that she has not mentioned S~ since we left Vietnam, but, it was clear, Tuesday, that his absence was weighing on her. Where is my brother? Where is my brother?

It is at moments like those, it occurs to me how much this child has lost. And I do not have the ability to tell her, "S~ is with his new family in Chicago" because "Chicago" means nothing to her. Ultimately, I pulled out a photo of S~'s parents and I said, "S~ co Mommy" and "S~ co Daddy". *

She looked at the photos of S~ new parents (thank God I have pictures of them at least) for a second and shook her head. Then she picked up a different photo of Gabriel and she hasn't brought up S~ since. I don't honestly know what to think about the whole conversation, except that it makes me sad to think she has been wondering what happened to her foster brother, and it never occured to me to tell her where he had gone.


*I believe that "co" is a possessive marker in Vietnamese, based on Lana's speech - i.e. if she picks up her socks or her shoes, she says, 'Lana co sock" or "Lana co shoe". Even though she refers to herself as Lana, and uses the correct English word for shoe and sock, she hasn't discovered the "'s" that word mark those items as "hers" i.e. Lana's sock, Lana's shoe.

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