Saturday, December 27, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The kids' school music program was canceled tonight because of the storm, and they may very well miss their day of movies and parties at school tomorrow if the storm is still raging. Poor mites. What am I going to DO with them all day to make up for missing movies and parties with their classmates? Maybe some holiday baking would be good. The kind where I put my OCD fussing about messes on the back burner (hee) and just let the kids go crazy. Of course we're having a church function here at the house tomorrow night, so maybe I don't want to go making even more messes to clean up before company arrives. Guess we'll see what the morning brings.
The Little Princess watched parts of the Nutcracker yesterday and today on TV. After I changed her diaper tonight she refused to put her jeans back on. "Pretty," she announced, meaning she wanted to put on a skirt (that's her term for girly clothes) like the ballerinas. Man, that girl is a dancer and/or musician in the making. It's pretty much a foregone conclusion. Have I mentioned that when I leave the car door open and it makes that prolonged beeping sound, she'll sit in her car seat and hum the exact pitch until I close the door? She's done that with the garbage disposal too (matched the pitch, I mean). She can also play the rhythm to Jingle Bells on the piano while she sings along. She's 26 months old.
Middle Child is worried about whether Santa will make it on Christmas Eve, what with all the bad weather. He's also asked me several times if he's on the "bad" list. Poor guy. I hope he has a sufficiently wide-eyed, magical Christmas morning. He deserves it. Even if his eating habits make me want to pound my head against the wall.
The First-Born is reading the first Harry Potter book. It's like a rite of passage. I can't wait to hear what he thinks. His school reading program rocks. I'm still in awe of the progress he's made in just a few short months.
Hopefully next week will be calm and full of Christmas cheer. The shopping's done, the packages and cards are mailed. Other than the standard baking and wrapping marathon, I think we're in good shape. Dear Husband is off work all next week (theoretically), so that will be a treat.
The past few weeks have not been kind. Mom went into the hospital on Thanksgiving with pneumonia and intense muscle/joint pain (plus some confusion and slurred speech, which was scary). She's home now but still struggling with some of the same issues. The day she came home our house got hit with a violent flu bug. Mom escaped getting sick, thank heaven, but the rest of us took turns with an evil array of symptoms. After that the Husband had to go to India for eight days. Not Mumbai, but still, it was enough to make his nervous wife keep checking the news.
Calm. Christmas cheer. Say it with me. Calm. Christmas cheer. Here's to a peaceful--and magical--holiday season, and an uneventful 2009!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I explained to him that animals had boy parts and girl parts, just like people.
"Oh," he said as realization dawned. "You mean like girls have headbands and stuff."
Yes, exactly. :)
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Wood, American Gothic
And this too:
van Gogh, The Poet's Garden
I could have stood and stared at van Gogh's work all day. Many of the paintings were off display due to renovations, but we still saw Pissaros, Monets, Giffords, and a bunch of others I can't think of right now.
Yeah. I know embarassingly little about art. But still--culture! Grown-up time! (Even though the kids were there and quite loud and not even a little bit patient. I'm so used to people staring and/or giving me dirty looks it doesn't even faze me anymore.)
*happy sigh* It was heaven.
There are colorful leaves on (and off) the trees. And it’s cold outside. Like chattering teeth and dry skin kind of cold. Well, except for today, and yesterday, and Sunday and Saturday and even Halloween. Our little warm spell is making it hard to hide the fact that I started this blog update a week ago.
Still, it's our first fall since 2004, and it’s fabulous. Gorgeous. So nice to be shivering instead of sweating.
We visited a pumpkin patch with the kids a few weekends back. We bundled up in cozy sweaters and everything. Of course it was 80 degrees that day, but at least the pics of us in our sweaters look fall-appropriate.
The husband and I drove to Chicago on the 18th to watch a preseason Jazz/Bulls game. The seats were tenth row, the closest I’ve ever been to the floor. As a die-hard Jazz fan it felt a little weird to be in enemy territory, but it was still very cool to see a game at the United Center. Plus I’m 90 percent sure I saw Cameron (Alan Ruck) from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off sitting courtside with his kids. He seemed like a great dad. Very cool.
Now that we’re Midwesterners, we’re slowly getting accustomed to rooting for Illinois teams, plus the Cardinals since they’re so close. I’ve been to see Wicked in Chicago and the arch in St. Louis. It’s amazing to live in a completely new part of the country and visit places I’ve never seen before.
Owning cars and a home again has not been pretty. Since June we’ve experienced:
-Flooded basement, not covered by insurance or home warranty. On the upside, we did get to replace the yellow paint and ugly blue carpet down there.
-Broken garage door spring, not covered by home warranty, though we had to pay the warranty-approved garage guy $95 just to come out and tell us it wasn’t covered. The spring was an extra $350.
-Broken pool pump, partially covered by home warranty. Cost of redeeming the disgusting, algae-filled pool: not covered.
-Broken truck (starter)
-Broken car stereo
Add this to all the things we bought for the house when we got here (planned and unplanned), and our savings is gut-churningly small. Scary stuff, considering the state of the economy these days.
But we also have these gorgeous woods behind our house, with wild turkeys and squirrels and all kinds of birds I’ve never seen before. Apparently once the leaves are gone we’ll be more likely to spot deer. It’s a lovely, quiet street. I love that the kids can go out and play all day and be safe and happy. It’s a very good thing for my peace of mind.
The boys love school. It’s great having them in the US school system again. Of course it helps that they both got glowing reviews at their first parent/teacher conferences. \0/ Kid #1 even made the honor roll.
I’m taking a photography class at the local art guild. It’s fabulous, and something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve got this great camera the dear husband bought me for Christmas last year and I’ve been too afraid to use anything other than the auto feature. I’m about two years behind on photos, so scrapbooking is probably a thing of the past. I’ve scrapbooked each of the kids’ first years, basically, so that’s good enough for now. I’m stuck with a ton of supplies though. And I love buying supplies, I do, I do! Guess that’s part of the problem.
I can’t wait to take pictures of the kids when we get our first snowfall.
What I miss about Manila (because I have days when I do, weirdly enough):
Our neighbors, the Ross family
Garrett and Kelly, even though they had already moved to China. At least they were CLOSER than they are now.
Our favorite mall/restaurant hangouts
Cheap kid clothes
Every once in a while I’ll have a nightmare where we didn’t get out of Manila and we still have a ton of paperwork for the adoption, and I’m running around yelling at people and freaking out. I think it’s the new version of that old dream where it’s the end of the semester and I have a math final and haven’t gone to class all year. The other twist is the one where I’m in a play on opening day and don’t know my lines. I’m afraid the books on dream interpretation wouldn’t have good things to say about how this reflects on my state of mind and/or organizational skills.
Lastly: The writing is slow, slow going. For goodness’ sake, I’m just now getting around to updating my blog after five months. I’m still working on my most recent YA story a few times a week. Maybe when I finally manage a first draft I’ll allow myself back on the writing message boards. At the moment I’m in no state to handle other people’s writing success. (It’s petty, I know, but all too true!)
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
But about a week ago, because of a speaking assignment at church, I relearned what it means to have hope. And today, while calling on every ounce of faith we could muster, we witnessed a triumph over government bureaucracy that was nothing short of miraculous.
We have plane tickets to fly home June 6. We're signing the papers on our new house June 9 (also the day dear husband starts his new position at work). We received the final court document for the adoption on May 20. Since then we've obtained a Certificate of Registration from Pasig City Hall, an annotated birth certificate from Quezon City Civil Registry, an amended birth certificate issued by the National Statistics Office, and an approved I-600 form from the American embassy.
The movers were at the house last Wednesday from 8 am to 11 pm while dear husband was in China (and while mucho birth certificate and other assorted drama was taking place). We lugged ten suitcases to the temporary apartment that night and got settled in. The movers came back Thursday to finish the job they didn't finish on Wednesday (after I took a half-day side trip Thursday am to the embassy to turn in documents). The husband got home about 1 am Friday morning; we spent Friday at the Department of Social Welfare and Development and then the US embassy again, then waited around for a passport interview that never took place.
Sunday: church; mega internet research on US IR3 visa process; internet cafe to print applications; photo place for new visa photos for the baby; paperwork bonanza
Monday: back to the US embassy to turn in appeal letter for early visa appointment; we're informed the process normally takes three months; rest of the day is spent wailing and gnashing teeth and making backup plans
Today: 6 am to 4 pm spent at Department of Foreign Affairs with some incredibly helpful people who waited and ran around and made calls and got signatures until eventually we got someone to promise us a passport by tomorrow at lunchtime. HALLELUJAH!!!!!! In the middle of this we get a call from the embassy promising a 7 am visa appointment on Thursday (an appointment we wouldn't be able to keep without the passport, so HALLELUJAH!!!!!!).
A great deal of praying took place today. We are incredibly humbled and grateful and still in shock that it looks like we'll make our Friday flight.
Tomorrow: after we pick up the appointment letter from the embassy and the passport from DFA we have to take the baby for a medical exam in preparation for the visa interview (something else we couldn't do without the passport). Then dear husband has a dentist appointment at 5 pm because he broke a crown eating duck tongue or some such thing in China.
Thursday: Visa appt. 7 am. With any luck they'll approve and stamp it the same day, and then we can go back to the apartment, pack our strewn belongings, and head to the airport at 4 am the next day.
Once we hit Utah we'll grab some sleep then pick up our van and drive to Illinois. Dear husband's fabulous family has already cleared out our storage unit (thank you x a million; we love you!) and loaded our stuff in my dad's semi trailer, which he'll be driving out when he gets another delivery in the area.
So many people have helped us make this happen. The only way I can even dream of making it right is by paying it forward, and by making sure my faith never falters again.
There's a line in one of my favorite movies, While You Were Sleeping, where Dad Callahan says something like, "You work hard, you struggle, face your trials, etc., and for one moment, everything's right, everyone's happy." Then Jack, breaking the news about wanting his own business says, "This is not that moment." Or something.
It's not just that I'm afraid to be happy about all this, even though I am a little afraid. It's not that once we get home we face making new friends, settling in, starting over. The potential there actually has me excited. It's the news we received a few hours ago: our yaya (nanny) had a great job lined up after we leave, but after a medical exam found out she has primary complex (a noncontagious tb infection of the lungs). Today her employer withdrew the job offer and she now has no way to support her family. :( Aw, man. She so does not deserve this. We're currently brainstorming ideas on how to make this right.
Someday we'll have time to take a breath and have our peaceful moment. Until then, we have hope, and gratitude, to carry us through.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Now there are only about sixty bazillion little pieces that have to fall into place in order for us to all fly home together June 6 (embassy form submission and approval, visa appointment and approval, medical exam, certificate of finality from the courthouse, filing with two separate civil registry offices, amended birth certificate, and passport).
After the last two years of paperwork? We can do this blindfolded, underwater, standing on our heads. As long as I don't smack somebody first.
Oh, and we bought a house in Washington, Illinois. (Always with the paperwork!) It's gorgeous and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Well, for the decorating part. The cleaning part, not so much.
*claps hands and is giddy*
Yay for the good old US of A. Our current image of perfection is a backyard barbecue on the Fourth of July, lighting sparklers with the kiddos, with Ray Charles's America the Beautiful on the iPod.
Eyes on the prize, baby.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Sounds awesome. Beats airline food any day of the week.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
"I wish I was an All-Star so I could teleport."
"If I was an All-Star I'd have a sensor that would find animals that didn't have a home and I could take care of them. I'd keep them in my underground command center where it's nice and warm so they could sleep."
"I just saw one piece of water come down from the sky."
"I'm going to be a plane that talks."
"She's a queen. All that's missing is a crown. And a dress. And a castle. And a country. And knights and armor and stuff."
This is gold. I gotta do this more often.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
-3 child car seats
-A huge pile of paperback books
There are no laws requiring child safety seats here (or if there are nobody follows them), so no big surprise there.
The books--again, not a surprise. As a rule, you're more likely to see people reading fashion magazines (my Oprah magazines sold like hotcakes). There are many good reasons for this, including the cost of books and the language issue, and some not-so-good reasons, like Manila's incredibly pervasive fashionista fetish. It still makes me sad. Even though I like saying "fashionista fetish."
Friday, March 28, 2008
Garage sale tomorrow. Quotes from international shippers pending. Final adoption paperwork still MIA.
Summer's here, and it is HOT. The kids are out of school until September. Ack! Thank heaven for the neighbor kids and the pool.
So before we can turn in our I-600 form to the embassy to start the visa application process, we have to have ANOTHER home study report done. Number four. We actually found out about this last month and I'm just cooling down enough to write about it. It has to be from a US-accredited agency and completed within the last six months. Can I just say, "AAAAUUUGGGGGGHHHHH!"? More physicals, more applications to fill out (16 pages this time, per parent), more letters of recommendation, another home visit, lots of photocopies, and another $500. Phooey. Luckily all we have left to do is the physicals. Meanwhile the decree could come through any day--or it could take another two months. After that:
-amended birth certificate
-physical and immigration appointment for the baby
Citizenship gets taken care of once we're home, and I have a feeling that compared to this, it will seem like a cakewalk. And then we're going to have the party to end all parties, even if it's just ourselves and some loud music and lots of junk food, since we know exactly zero people in Peoria, Illinois.
Friday, February 22, 2008
This is definitely a kid who likes to blaze his own trail. Should I be worried?
I think maybe I should be worried.
We went to the US Embassy Wednesday to file our I-600 form, declaring our adoptive daughter as a dependent. We were hoping they'd accept it for preapproval, even without the Adoption Decree in hand. No luck. The guy gave us a phone number for an immigration specialist at the embassy, told us to make an appointment if we needed more info.
We needed more info. We retrieved our cell phones (they're not allowed inside), went outdoors, and called the number. The woman asked a ton of questions: what documents did we have, what agency did we use, etc. etc. Finally she tells us to come back inside and she'll meet with us. Long story short, she took our fingerprints and documents and told us she'd get the ball rolling while we wait for the Decree. We were petrified that the immigration end of things could potentially take months, but we learned that after we hand in the Decree the approval could be a matter of a few short weeks. So the day was not wasted.
We attended our second court hearing on Thursday. We were last on the docket and had settled in to wait out all the other cases, but the judge sent us straight to the stenographer, who took the statement of the court social worker. We were home by 10 am. The bad news: they set another hearing date for March 27, where the prosecutor would be given a chance to present any appeals before the decision was handed down. After that, it would take 30 to 90 days for the Decree to be issued. Yikes. Our plans to be home by June 1 flew right out the window.
Luckily our attorney is made of awesome. We paid extra for her to rush her pending submission of the final court documents; paid the stenographer extra to rush the transcripts; paid a courier to hand-deliver all pertinent documents to wherever they're supposed to go, and were able to score a revised court date of March 13. Yet another sign that Someone's looking out for us and/or wants us home. Now if we can get the Decree in 30 days instead of 90, we'll be happy campers.
The hard lesson we've learned in all this is not to take no for an answer. Or rather to ask the question, "What else can we try?" I've been amazed that more often than not, when you push just enough without actually being pushy, you quite often get results. This does not come naturally to me, at all. At least it didn't used to. Not sure yet if this is a skill I'm proud of.
We're nearly there. Praise the Lord, we're nearly there.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
And I have to say, my dad's a pretty hip guy: cargo pants, a Palm Pilot and digital camera--and of course the willingness to fly halfway around the world. Very cool. I'm pretty sure an MP3 player is in the near future. (Let me know when you're ready for iTunes, Dad. It'll knock your socks off.)
Plus we ate out a lot and I didn't exercise. So...bonus! Or not, since now I have to work twice as hard before our trip to China next month. Blah. If I collapse climbing the steps to the Great Wall, at least it'll be kind of a cool place to bite the big one.
A few pics from our visit to Intramuros:
Friday, February 1, 2008
1) The judge was friendly and in good humor. 2) The prosecutor had some connection to our lawyer's husband through his family in the Province. 3) We were the first case of the day. 4) The judge said something about adoption being a great thing and not wanting to stand in the way of adoptive parents and their child. 5) He allowed us to give testimony and be cross-examined in front of the court stenographer in a separate room. We went in that morning fearing that neither of us would be allowed to testify due to time constraints, that we'd have to wait several weeks for another hearing for Bryce's testimony, and several weeks after that for mine.
The court social worker will give her statement Feb. 21. Then it's a matter of waiting for the court to hand down the adoption decree, probably sometime in April.
Of course we still have to work with immigration and the US Embassy to get all the travel papers in place, but it finally feels like there's an end in sight.
Say it with me: Boo-yah!
If all goes according to plan, we'll be on our way home June 1.
Now that I'm not so preoccupied with all the what ifs, I feel like reading books again, like writing again. I grabbed my tattered copy of One Man's Meat to ease myself back into the reading scene with a few of E.B. White's incredible essays.
Here's my (his) gem of the day:
"The intellectual who simply says 'I am a writer,' and forthwith closets himself with a sharp pencil and a dull Muse, may well turn out to be no artist at all but merely an ambitious and perhaps misguided person. I think the best writing is often done by persons who are snatching the time from something else--from an occupation, or from a profession, or from a jail term--something that is either burning them up, as religion, or love, or politics, or that is boring them to tears, as prison, or a brokerage house, or an advertising firm. A great violinist must begin fairly early in life to play the violin; but I think a literary artist has a better chance of producing something great if he spends the first forty years of his life doing something else--grinding a lens or surveying a wilderness."
Putting mechanics aside, as well as the fact that great writing is often hard-won and develops only after years of mediocre writing (in other words, you have to work at it), I kind of agree with him. And not just because it's likely I won't be published before I turn 40. :) I like the idea of perspective, of bringing decades of life to the table and digging deep to put the relevant pieces of that life down on the stark, empty page.
At 20 I thought I was pretty good at the writing thing. At 30 I thought I had it down cold. Only now, halfway to 40, have I taken to heart that humbling truth that the more I learn, the less I know.
But I also feel a comfort with my own voice, both as a person and as a writer, that I've never known before. Dare I call it maturity? It's a knowlege of what drives me, of what I feel passionate about. It's a deeper understanding of pain and joy. It's a willingness to place less importance on the opinions of others, and an ability to discern--and take to heart--the voices that truly matter.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Our adoption hearing is three days away. I guess in this case we know something significant's about to happen.
We'll most likely have a few more hearings after this one, but there's also a chance the judge will have mercy and get things over quickly. How soon we move back home hinges on this court date. It feels like we've spent our whole lives leading up to this one point in time. I'm just hoping that Thursday will feel like a step forward, after standing still for so long.
It's not just the hearing on my mind this week. My mom's health is not good. Worse than usual, actually. I hate being so far away and unable to help.
My father-in-law got a concussion working in the yard this weekend. Apparently he went inside after and went to sleep, then later woke up with double vision and drove himself to the ER without alerting his wife or any of his kids. On the way home from the hospital he went to the store. Just another typical day in the Hayes family.
My younger son told me the other day I'm not allowed to call him "Baby" anymore. Sheesh. Kick a girl while she's down, why don't you?
President Gordon B. Hinckley passed away Sunday evening. He was an amazing man. His wit and wisdom deeply impacted my spiritual growth, just as his life and service touched millions across the globe. He will be missed.
And just to keep things interesting: my dad and his wife are coming to the Philippines next week. (This is actually a good thing. Just...Dad? While you're here? I'm 35. I always carry emergency money and lock my doors at night. Come. Relax. Have fun. Enough said.)
Change is in the wind.
And since I'm all about the metaphors and the purple prose: I'm hoping as I sit here at the top of this hill that my sled is the kind with runners and a way to steer, and plenty of room for a passenger. Forget the goofy plastic disk with the flimsy yellow handles. Ditto on the overstuffed inner tube with the poky metal arm that jabs you in the butt; those things toss you off at the first hint of trouble. And don't get me started on the drawbacks of cafeteria trays...
Okay, now I'm just missing the cold weather and getting all maudlin about childhood snow days.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Then we had a nice Indian family over for dinner--my husband's co-worker plus the man's wife and daughter--and I made a total idiot of myself, exclaiming "Holy cow!" halfway through dessert when I saw the crumbling mess Son #2 had made of his cake.
I think only the wife heard me, and she was kind enough to pretend she didn't notice. I still wished the floor would open up and swallow me whole.
They've promised to host the next dinner, complete with homemade, authentic Indian cuisine. That's a good sign I didn't scare them away, I guess.
I plan to make sure I'm too busy eating to say anything incriminating.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sigh. I had such great plans for the New Year. Yet here I am mid-month, all those good intentions nothing more than a list I made and stuck in a drawer somewhere.
I blame it on that huge red Reset Button (which was pushed against my will, I might add). You know the one where life throws huge, uncomfortable changes at you, new problems and plot twists to throw you off your game, and you adjust, realign, make peace with How Things Are Now, and even manage to make wonderful new friends, amazing friends, and then THEY MOVE AWAY. To CHINA.
I feel like I'm eleven years old, looking out the back window of the car as we drive away from my childhood home to start a new life somewhere else. It STINKS.
Now that I've had my tantrum...
Yes, our most wonderful friends the Openshaws have moved to China. We went to Singapore together, shared Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, went to movies together and played goofy board games and generally commisserated about life here in this weird, weird place. Now we're left behind in the Philippines waiting for the glacially slow adoption process to be finalized before we can figure out where to go from here, and when. The lawyer says plan for June or July. We were hoping for April. And some dark, ominous murmur deep in my gut says it will never be over.
So I blame my lack of productivity on dragging my shredded resolve back together one more time, hitting Reset and gearing up for this final stretch of our time overseas. I have to keep reminding myself that there are lots of good things about being here, that ultimately we're happy, we're blessed, we have our little girl already and are just waiting for it to be official.
Plus there are things to look forward to: the court hearing at the end of January, my dad's visit in February, and a trip to China in March. And if any more Reset Buttons rear their ugly heads in the meantime, I'm slowly learning that instead of reaching for the Self-Destruct I can grab the controls and pull up, dang it, pull up, right out of that tailspin and into the great beyond.