Not flesh of my flesh
nor bone of my bone
but still miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute
you didn't grow under my heart
but in it!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Visit to Sharlotte's House

Today we visited Sharlotte's house and had a wonderful time catching up with old friends.
Gabriella had a very fun time playing with her friends, Jack and Lydia.
Gabriella picked mommy flowers from Sharlotte's flower beds!
All three kids were coincidentally color-coordinated!:
Gabriella loved Sharlotte's very old ceramic cat and even tried riding it like a horse!
It was such a nice day with old friends.

One Year Ago Today...

One year ago today, my mother (Grammy) and I arrived in Guatemala for Gabriella's pick-up trip and Gabriella was placed in my arms FOREVER!

Gabriella was FINALLY coming home. Oh boy, was I thanking God! FINALLY...I would now be able to live more in the future (what would we do next week...such a nice question to be able to finally be considering) rather than living in the past (memories from past visit trips, etc.) or in the day (who would I call today to harass to move on to the next step of the adoption process or what is my sweet baby doing right now 2,000 miles away or is she safe, happy, well-fed, etc.)

This photo was taken moments after the foster family had left the hotel and she was MINE, OH MINE! (They had taken her to the salon that day to get her hair styled at a "salon for princessas (princesses)," as they had described it!):

The day was chock-full of emotion that ran the full gamut:
  • Pure Excitement and Joy - I had waited for this day for just shy of 13 months and it was finally here
  • Relief - the wait was FINALLY over
  • Guilt - my excitement and happiness in welcoming Gabriella was Gabriella's foster family's simultaneous pain and sadness in saying goodbye to Gabriella
  • Nervousness and Apprehension - I was really a mommy who would be completely responsible for this precious life
  • Anxiety - we technically still were not completely "done," we still had the US Embassy appointment and had to get Gabriella's Visa so I was very anxious that with the way my luck had been running, SOMETHING could still go wrong
  • Worry - I was very concerned about doing what was best for Gabriella and making the transition from her foster family to our family as easy for her as possible. I had to minimize her sadness, anxiety, and fear.
  • Doubt - would I be able to effectively parent this very active toddler and make the best decisions for her
  • Pride - SHE is MY baby girl
  • Sadness - we knew we would not be visiting Guatemala as often as we had been and we were essentially saying "Goodbye for now" to the beautiful country of Guatemala and the AMAZING friends we met along the journey
  • Thankfulness - how did I possibly deserve such a blessing from God

Gabriella's "other family" who loved and adored her so dearly:
In our arms FOREVER!:

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Economist - Malnutrition in Guatemala: A national shame

There was an article published in "The Economist" yesterday entitled, "Malnutrition in Guatemala: A national shame." The article expands on the fact that, "according to Unicef almost half of Guatemala’s children are chronically malnourished—the sixth-worst performance in the world. In parts of rural Guatemala, where the population is overwhelmingly of Mayan descent, the incidence of child malnutrition reaches 80%." The article has had me crazed and the reality of these facts has had me sick ever since my first trip to Guatemala.

The thought of children suffering because they do not have enough to eat is despicable. Food and clean drinking water are basic human needs and there is absolutely no reason that in the year 2009 there should be malnourished children, never mind almost half of a county's children.

An article like this makes me really look inward and makes me feel so bad for how much I take for granted. It is not uncommon for me to throw food away because we had had too much food in our refrigerator for the week, had not had a chance to eat it, and it went bad. Pathetic.

This article makes me crazed because UNICEF was a leader in the fight to shut down inter-country adoptions, including Guatemalan adoptions. Their main stand was that children should be raised in their own country. How ironic that UNICEF has miraculously discovered the problem of malnourishment in Guatemalan children only after taking this stand and leading this effort! Now, inter-country adoptions from Guatemala have ceased and thousands of Guatemalan children continue to be malnourished without the hope of a life in which basic needs could actually be met. I have seen these children with my own two eyes during my numerous trips to Guatemala and it is heart-wrenching to essentially "walk away" from the issues.

I will soon be ready for my second baby and, although conception is a possibility for me, I will choose adoption again. There is nothing I desire more than to adopt again from Guatemala and have countless reasons as to why. But, Guatemala is not an option because it is closed and I am having such a difficult time trying to decide whether to move forward with an adoption from another country and, if so, which country to adopt from. Believe it or not, there is a very disproportionate number of adoption options as compared to the number of children in need (I will not even get into how few Central and South American countries are open for adoptions. I have my theories as to why but will table this topic for another day.). I have a loving home and I have the means and support system to be a wonderful mother to another child. Yet, I am not allowed to provide a home to one of these Guatemalan children who is currently malnourished! I am not alone in this. I personally know at least five other families who would jump at the chance to adopt again from Guatemala but cannot - five more children who are denied the opportunity for a wonderful life with more than their basic needs being met. Instead these children are homeless, literally living in dumps or walking the streets. Absurd, right? Makes my blood boil.

Prior to adopting from Guatemala, I tried to pursue an adoption in the Dominican Republic. I hired a private attorney in the DR because, from what I understood, there is no law against single people adopting, but CONANI, the agency that oversees DR adoptions, does not approve single adoptions. I obviously got nowhere even with an attorney. There is potentially a child in an orphanage in the DR who needs a family and could have been my son our daughter, but is still sadly without a family. Nonsensical.

When I began Gabriella's adoption, an adoption professional who I was working with was simultaneously beginning an adoption from a South American country. This family was maybe a month or two ahead of me in the process. I waited thirteen months for Gabriella to come home and she has now been home almost one year. For 25 months and counting, this family has been waiting for a referral of a child. I do not know the details of their situation, but I would bet my house that it is not because they do not meet the country's requirements or that there are no children waiting. Doesn't make sense, does it.

I am listing all of the frustrations of how the systems are broken in pursuing an adoption. This does not even get into the frustrations that arise when all does go well and an adoption is initiated and in-process - the background checks, the social worker reviews, the medical reviews, the home visits, the recommendation letters, the tens of thousands of dollars to lawyers. How Angelina Jolie seems to be able to bypass all of these steps is beyond me, but this is also another rant for another day! I understand that many of these systems are in place to protect the children being adopted, but the systems are clearly broken.

I could go on and on because this topic is so near and dear to my heart and I am insanely passionate about it. I feel guilty that, up to now, all I've done is rant and have not actually done anything to initiate change. I feel so insignificant to this enormous issue, but if everybody does nothing, nothing improves.

"Mama. Hi Baby."

Gabriella went to sleep extraordinarily early yesterday because she was exhausted from her playdate with Ava and had not had a nap. She woke up around 4:00 AM and was WIDE awake. She wanted milk and wanted to watch an Elmo DVD. I was hoping that she would fall back to sleep and she did, in fact, try. Gabriella sometimes likes to snuggle with me and for me to cuddle her when she is trying to get to sleep. So I asked her if she wanted to snuggle and she said yes and crawled up close to my body. She was in the fetal position facing me and I was holding her tight to me. When she cuddles with me like this I always say a silent prayer thanking God for this amazing blessing. She melts my heart. So, after a little bit, Gabriella thought I was asleep and whispered, "Mama. Hi, Baby." She sent me to the moon. It was so sweet and such a precious moment.

Playing with Bella

There was extra laughter in our house this morning. Cousin Isabella spent the morning playing with us. The laughter (and play screeching!) truly was ringing through the house; it was fabulous! These are photos of Gabriella and Isabella playing today:Isabella was "roaring" at Gabriella and Gabriella was cracking up!:
Isabella is definitely a girly girl! She spots every bug and even bugs that are nearly impossible to see and wants them removed immediately! She wanted to ride the play roller coaster. She walked over to it and saw dirt that had collected in the orange "valley" of the roller coaster. She said, "that's nasty" and walked away because she was disgusted! We convinced her that the car would go right over the dirt and she wouldn't get any of it on her!
Bella was hysterical, she tried to get "into" the play car in the pool!:
Enjoying a snack:
Today was truly a joyous day with two precious girls.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Playing at the Children's Museum and in the Pool with Ava

We had another fun playdate with Ava today. We went to the Children's Museum and then to Aunt Kathy's and Uncle Al's house for some outdoor fun!

The girls brought two of Gabriella's dolls along for the journey. Gabby had two of the same doll; she got one for Christmas and one for her birthday! I LOVE having duplicates of toys so that there is no arguing when two little ones are playing together...especially these two little ones!
The Children's Museum had a petting zoo set up in its yard today. There was a calf, bunnies, a goat, and chickens.
Gabriella and Ava each held a bunny. They were so soft.:
Ava was very brave and held a chicken! Gabriella wanted no part of it!
After we left the petting area (and after we sanitized very well!) we played in the Museum's yard.
Gabriella walked into the gazebo and wanted me to join her in there so we could dance together!:
Cute, little butterflies!:
Getting ready to leave, literally!:
After the Museum, we went back to Auntie Kathy's and Uncle Al's house for lunch and for more fun in their yard.

Enjoying lunch:
"Swimming" in the pool:
The activity that appeared to be the most fun for the girls today was dancing on top of this upside down bucket! It was highly entertaining for me, Auntie Kathy, and Uncle Al, as well! Gabriella and Ava start dance lessons in September, so this was an introduction of the entertainment to come!Gabby looked so cute dancing. Sadly, though, her dance moves resembled those of Ken's! She dances just like him! Poor girl! Hopefully the dance lessons will straighten her out!

On a side note, last night Gabriella's dance shoes came in the mail. I had Gabriella try them on and told her they were her dancing shoes and asked her if she wanted to dance. She did, so Gabriella, Ken, and I had a little dance party! We were all laughing and I loved every second of it. Gabriella was having a blast just as she was while dancing on the bucket with Ava today!
Ava had some FIERCE dance moves! While Ava was dancing she looked so much like, and reminded us of, her mom, Kerri. Luckily for Ava, she learned Kerri's dance moves and not Ken's!
Who knew a bucket could be so much fun for two toddlers! They were all smiles!:
Ava is older than Gabriella by fourteen months, so she acts like a big sister to Gabriella. We have spent a good part of the summer explaining that "Sharing is Caring!" Well, today we had a bit of a turn of events! I had to take Gabriella aside a couple times and tell her that she had to share with Ava! Gabriella wanted the bucket for herself and when Ava was on it Gabriella even tried pushing her off!
I am in LOVE with this face!: Winding down the visit with Gabriella's favorite, furry, red friend:
It was another fun, tiring day with good friends!