Category — Uncategorized
Just as a heads-up, I’m still thinking through my career dilemma and want to do some semi-private writing about it. It’s not that I don’t want people reading, it’s just that I want to be totally honest with my thoughts without worrying I might be burning bridges if people who only know me in a professional context happen to read those posts (med school deans, residency programs, etc.). The password will be different than what it was in the past, so if you want access, just leave a comment here. If you think its appropriate that I give you the password for these few protected posts (as in, you’re not affiliated with medical school administration or a residency program), just tell me who you are if I don’t *know* you already.
July 28, 2008 224 Comments
Once again , we’ve been having major issues with our hosting company. I highly recommend NOT using dot5hosting. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Also, for anyone who tried to send me an email to laurie at goodhappenings dot com yesterday, we also ran into a problem there since my email was hosted by that same aforementioned crap company. Soooooo, I’m not even sure you would have gotten a notice that it bounced…obviously a problem for me right now as I’ve been trying to contact people (deans, program directors, chief residents, etc.) regarding my career decisions. To say this has led to some stress is a bit of an understatement. Nonetheless, I think we’re close to having everything back in working order (thanks to Travis). If you did email me and don’t mind hitting resend, I’d greatly appreciate it!
I have a serious backlog of posts that I’ll be publishing over the next few days. If you are reading this, THANK YOU for bearing with me. I was pretty sure I’d have lost all my readers and blogging buddies after this, and that would just make me really sad.
July 12, 2008 36 Comments
We have an exciting weekend coming up! Gramma is coming to visit, and we’re having our Christmas morning on Saturday. Yup, Christmas in February. I figure, what the heck; we have all these gifts from friends and family for the boys from the Christmas we missed, and it’s not like they know December 25th already came and went! We borrowed an artificial tree from some friends of ours, and we’ll be getting Jackson all hyped up about Santa Claus coming, just to create that Christmas morning magic we missed out on. Course, it won’t be the same, but I think it’ll still be pretty priceless to see the look on his little face when he comes downstairs and sees what Santa brought him! So, Merry Christmas;) Pictures to follow…
Also, someone requested I post a link to this family’s adoption site to raise awareness. They are trying to raise money to adopt a baby with very significant medical special needs from Liberia. Please take a look - they’re only asking for $1 donations and their story is very touching.
February 8, 2008 19 Comments
We have Shane’s visa in-hand and will be on our way home tomorrow morning. We had the option of leaving today and arriving into LA late, then having to find a hotel there, or staying 1 more night in Hanoi and flying straight through to CO tomorrow. It wasn’t quite enough of a layover for us to get significant time with our friend, Mark, and Jackson’s buddy, Evan, so we opted to stay in Hanoi one last night instead. We got to meet up with Shannon and family last night and again today, which was just awesome! Amelia is just GORGEOUS, and we had a really good time with Shannon, Manny, and Madeliene. We also got to meet up with Cindy and Trey very briefly this evening to celebrate their I-600 approval before they head home too. Ok, so onto the “dirt…”
Having completed our adoption under the new I-600 procedures, we wanted to share what we learned about the new processing guidelines implemented by USCIS in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and the Department of State (DoS) in Hanoi. Also, we’re hoping agencies can inform PAPs of more accurate info after tomorrow’s JCIS meeting in Hanoi. Travis and I co-wrote this post, and I’d like to preempt it by saying we initially stood by the hope that perhaps the implementation of this policy might curb some of the unethical behaviors that have been plaguing Vietnam adoptions. We have sadly come to realize the inherent systemic defects that allow agencies to learn from past mistakes that have earned them NOIDs (ie: paperwork flags/errors), while continuing the actions that resulted in the NOIDs to begin with (ie: unethical conduct in obtaining orphans). When you have bad agencies in practice, it’s tough to get around having unethical adoptions. The new I-600 procedure just forces them to cover their tracks more carefully but, imo, doesn’t do anything to thwart the underlying problems. If the goal, though the US would never admit to it, is solely to slow down adoptions from Vietnam, that has certainly been accomplished. Additionally, the way in which it has been implemented only really hurts families whose cases were clean to begin with and rewards those who standby agencies with questionable practices. We will try to write a follow-up post to explain more of what I am getting at.
This post is intended to bring a little more transparency to the I-600 process, since the US gov’t has failed us PAPs in improving Vietnam adoption transparency, despite giving lip-service to that goal. Instead, it has made things much more convoluted and confusing for the families involved, not to mention adding a layer of bureaucracy that has caused our children to spend unnecessary months institutionalized. When this new procedure was first implemented in October, our understanding was that it was solely a CIS process, which we learned was not accurate. Apparently the new procedure involves 2 stages, referred to by USCIS and DoS staff as stage 1 and stage 2. The irony of it all is that despite it being a multi-agency process, there seems to be little to no communication between these 2 US agencies. One gives info the other refuses to disclose, one says something that is totally contrary to what the other demonstrates through actions, etc.
Stage 1 starts with the initial logging of your I-600 when it is received in HCMC. This simply means that a staffer, one of 2 Vietnamese women at CIS, opens the envelope that your I-600 arrived in and sends you an email telling you that you application has been received. From this date, the US side has 60 days to complete your investigation and email you a determination (approval, further investigation, NOID, etc.). This in no way means that your investigation has started. What it actually means is that your application has been placed in an ever growing box of applications in Ms. Mary Ann Russell’s office. As of the middle of December, USCIS had received over 280 I-600 applications, according to a phone conversation I had with Ms. Russell on December 17th. When Ms. Russell gets to your application, which she intends to process within 2-3 weeks of receipt, in the order it was received, and comes up with a recommendation of either approval or further investigation. USCIS and Ms. Russell have been very good at keeping up with I-600 applications and are not the reason for the extended processing times most families, including us, experienced around the holidays and will most likely continue to experience. From my experience with Ms. Russell in person during our first adoption with Jack and over the phone several times with Shane’s adoption, I really think she is out to help families and has her heart in the right place.
The result from USCIS is then forwarded, along with your file, to the DoS in Hanoi and Stage 2 of the process begins. This is the bottleneck. Your file sits and waits for one of 3 officers, Monica B_something, Donald Mattingly, or Eric Alexander, to open it up, review it, conduct a field investigation/verification (at least in the short-term, this is what they have been doing in “70-80%” of cases), and issue a determination to the PAP via email. The party line at DoS, at least the one I got from 2 staffers and 1 officer, is that “our 60 days is not up yet so we should be patient and enjoy the holidays.” When I retorted that it is not that simple; it is not easy to “be patient” and sit back and wait for approval while our baby waits an extra 6-8 weeks in an orphanage, while we miss more and more milestones, the resounding response was that they don’t care (they used kinder words for this) because from what they have seen in VN adoptions, this new process is best for everybody.
Another misconception is that the US gov’t needs all 60 days in order to conduct a thorough investigation of each case. NOT TRUE. For some reason, be they political (internal DoS or external US / VN) or otherwise, the DoS is not in a hurry to process I-600s and send out approvals. We know this because Mary Ann Russell confirmed to us, on December 17th, that our paperwork had cleared her desk the first week of December and had been passed on to the State Department level, where it was awaiting final approval. We continued to visit our son’s orphanage almost every single day, awaiting the State Department’s final approval. Ms. Binh, a staff member at the State Dept, was the first to confirm that our application was past USCIS and sitting in Hanoi. She informed us of this in a face to face meeting on December 18 in Hanoi. We were then told by Don Mattingly at the State Dept on December 20th that he had our file in front of him, was looking at the cover sheet but would not open it because once it was opened, an investigation would take place and a determination would be issued. Mr. Mattingly again confirmed our application was sitting at his office on December 27th, without being processed further. On Thursday, January 3rd, we were made aware that the State Department had initiated a field investigation of our case and showed up, unannounced, at our son’s orphanage to interrogate its employees. A HUGE amount of tension and confusion ensued between the Vietnamese side of things and the US side, and the provincial police were even called to the scene. No one knew, at that point, whether this was standard operating procedure under the new I-600 process, or if by being in-country prior to approval, we’d brought added scrutiny to our case. Either way, we were asked not to visit for 3 days, until the dust settled in our son’s province.
What I’m saying is that our paperwork SAT, UNTOUCHED, for 4-5 weeks AFTER it had cleared CIS on the desk of a State Department officer, before anything was done with it. The crazier part of it all is that our investigation happened in the afternoon on a Thursday. The next day, Friday, the officers showed up at another orphanage used by our agency, which also happens to be accessible from the Danang airport, and conducted another investigation. I’m assuming the officials then flew back to Hanoi, and our paperwork didn’t actually reach the office until Monday, January 7th. On Wednesday morning, January 9th, we received the email saying we’d gotten I-600 approval. Since it’s a 2 part approval, there was an attachment from CIS with its approval, signed and dated by Mary Ann Russell. Funny part about that was it was dated January 7th!! That’s hilarious for 2 reasons: 1) Mary Ann Russell explicitly told us she’d passed our application on in early December, and 2) Mary Ann Russell was allegedly on vacation at that time! I guess even the State Department realized it seemed absurd to take THAT long to issue our approval, when CIS had issued theirs a month earlier.
I agree that the new I-600 process is at least an attempt to eliminate some of the most egregious actions of agencies and provinces, but the way it has been implemented is exceptionally flawed, and we as parents are not getting accurate or complete information from our government. This adds yet another layer of black box for PAPs to be frustrated about. I’m sure they have seen things that would horrify us all, but why not share that info with APs and PAPs so we can make more informed decisions and put more faith in their new process? Why won’t the DoS tell us what is really happening? Why not publish what agencies and provinces have NOIDs and the reasons for those NOIDs? Aren’t some of the investigations complete so the “ongoing investigation” excuse is invalid? Whichever agency or agencies have been linked to “child trafficking” should be thrown out of VN and the USCIS should not accept I-600 applications from them.
There has been a lot of speculation online and apparently here in VN about the reasons for the DoS slowing down adoptions in VN. Some people think it is a pissing contest so the US can flex a little muscle in the adoption process before the MOU is renegotiated this year. I’ve also heard that the DoS is stalling so they can internally demand more resources for the process (”Sorry boss, you wouldn’t be getting calls from all those congressional staffers if we just had more people to work on adoptions”). Either way, families and kids are stuck in the middle. I have no problem with an investigation taking 60 days if it is an active investigation. The problem is that I-600 applications, including ours, are getting to Stage 2 with USCIS approval and sitting at DoS waiting for an officer to pick them up, finalize them, and send approval emails to waiting PAPs so they can travel. My opinion is that DoS decides exactly how many approvals are going to go out each month (maybe each week) and they do their best to not beat their own very low expectations. I think they decided before the November meeting with agencies in DC that 9 approvals were going to go out in order to keep parents from going ape sh*t before the holidays and to quell some of the speculation (some of which has been propagated by certain agencies - read PLAN’s very unprofessional APV post) that VN adoptions are going to shut down in 2008. I think they can set that kind of target number because it really takes very little time and resources to process I-600s that have already been approved in Stage 1 by USCIS.
So what would we do differently if we had a better understanding about the process before we got into it? First, I would not be hesitant to call about status. I called USCIS and left 8 messages before I finally got Mary Ann Russell on the phone. After getting stonewalled and/or pushed off to 1 of the 2 staffers in the international adoptions group at DoS the first 3 times I called, I insisted on being given the names of the officers who actually send approvals and then asked to speak to whichever one was available. In terms of status, the first reaction I got from everybody at USCIS and DoS was a rather cold “How long has your application been in process?” They say this just to push you off again with the “we have 60 days” excuse, which now doesn’t even apply because they have gone over for several families with 11/20 acknowledgment dates. Invariably, when pressured, USCIS told me exactly where my application was and that I was approved by their office. I followed up with the DoS and the information was hesitantly confirmed by a DoS officer after I answered his question, “how do you know that??” I can’t tell you the frustration I had while I was on the phone with a DoS officer who was telling me my application was sitting in front of him but he could not open it because they were not processing any approvals that week!
It is amazing to me that families with NOIDs get to be with their children while they await appeals but those of us awaiting approval are told to be patient and enjoy our holidays while our kids spend them in orphanages.
Some other miscellaneous things we got from USCIS and DoS…Apparently the process, post I-600 approval, is supposed to mirror the China process, whatever that means. The goal is to have people get I-600 approval, travel and G&R, submit paperwork for the visa, wait 48 hours, have an interview, and return to the Embassy in 2-3 hours later to pick up a visa. This was not the case for us as we interviewed for our visa 24 hrs after submitting our paperwork, then returned 24 hrs later for our visa (this is the same as it was last year for us). Also, special needs and older child should move faster to I-600 approval because there is less concern about their orphan status, not because they are given priority (Mary Ann Russell was clear nobody gets priority in this new process).
Nov. 15 - agency submits I-600 petition
Nov. 20 - we receive email confirmation of receipt of I-600 from USCIS
Dec. 17 - finally speak with Mary Ann Russell, who informs Travis our application has passed USCIS with approval and has been forwarded on for final determination by the State Department in Hanoi
Dec. 18 - face-to-face meeting with Ms. Binh at the State Department in Hanoi. She hesitantly confirms the information given to Travis the previous day by Mary Ann Russell (that our application was in Hanoi awaiting review)
Dec. 20 - phone conversation with Donald Mattingly, who seems perturbed by the amount of information Travis had obtained about our case from USCIS. He, again, hesitantly confirms that our application is in Hanoi with approval from USCIS, but has not yet been reviewed by the State Department. Informs us of the “best case” possibility that a few approvals will be issued the following week.
Dec. 27 - phone conversation with Donald Mattingly, who informs us no approvals would go out that week, but that several would on January 3rd (a few did, in fact, go out the morning of January 4th)
Jan. 3 - officials from the State Department in Hanoi arrive, unannounced, at our son’s orphanage in Central Vietnam.
Jan. 4 - officials from the State Department in Hanoi arrive, unannounced, at another orphanage with which our agency works in Central Vietnam (accessible from the same airport as our son’s orphanage).
Jan. 9 - approval issued at 11am via email to us and the other families whose cases were investigated Jan. 3 or 4
Jan. 22 - visa interview
Jan. 23 - visa issued
January 23, 2008 41 Comments
Well, we’re done with things in HCMC and will be flying out to Hanoi in the morning! We’ll turn our paperwork into the Embassy as soon as we get there, camp out for the day in Hanoi, then hop on the overnight train to Sapa. Yes, we decided to go! We figure it’s a trip we probably won’t have the chance to do for a loooooong while, and we’re here now, just dying to see it. We are SO excited to be headed for the mountains and even more excited to see that region of Vietnam. Too bad we won’t be climbing Mt. Fansipan this time, but there’s still plenty to see and enjoy in that area. It should be a pretty relaxing weekend, actually. Don’t worry about me delivering on a train, or in a rice paddy. It’s not going to happen…and if it does, this will be the kid with the coolest birth story ever!
Jackson got a new item that he is just glowingly proud of!! It’s this adorable alligator backpack that he LOVES to wear around. He checks himself out in every mirror he passes, and would happily wear this thing to bed if we allowed him to!
I’m really tired and don’t have it in me to finish a post I was working on during the boys’ naptime, so a few pictures will have to do for today. Shane is doing REALLY REALLY well. He’s so damn easy (knock on wood) and such an affectionate little guy. I’m absolutely loving the snuggle time with him. He’s not quite the ham for the camera that Jackson is, so we’ll have to work on that. But he’s really not as serious as he seems in all the pictures. Check back for an update later b/c Travis promised to help me post a video of him laughing in the morning (Travis is already snoring at the moment), so you can see for yourself.
We went to a very interesting locals’ restaurant with our friends, Bethany , Kevin, and their baby, Leah, who was in Shane’s orphanage with him. It was great to get some more time in with them before we leave tomorrow, and they’re a family with which I am very confident we’ll keep in touch. The restaurant we went to with them tonight had a VERY interesting menu that included dishes such as fallopian tubes, cat entrails, chicken testicles (which we decided can’t possibly be a very filling meal!), armadillo, and others. We stuck to the shrimp, beef, and cooked veggie dishes this time. I told Travis I really didn’t need us getting sick right before boarding an overnight train with 2 babies - can you imagine (knock on wood again)?! Other than that, not much to report. Just thankful to have Shane’s passport and paperwork in hand and be on our way to Hanoi, then Sapa! Hope you all have a great weekend. We’ll try to post from Sapa, and will be back in Hanoi on Tuesday morning. We’re hoping to meet up with another good friend of mine on Tuesday or Wednesday in Hanoi, who I know through bloggerville, but have met in person in the past - stay tuned!
January 17, 2008 22 Comments
That’s what we feel like these days. Everywhere we go, for onlookers around us, it’s like the circus has come to town! I have that circus theme song playing over and over in my head (you know the one). I can only imagine what people around us must think…and since other hotel guests, at breakfast, for example, are not always very quiet with their whispers, we are occasionally privy to knowing exactly what they think! I walked by one table and heard a woman with an English accent say “well I don’t see 3, Henry,” and then I heard Henry reply “it’s in her belly, Margaret!”
Aside from feeling like a freak show, we’re doing really well. We had the chance to meet up for dinner and drinks last night with 3 other families who just flew into Vietnam and are with our agency. I’ve known them by their screen names or through email for a long time now, and it was really fun to meet them in person. One of the families is adopting a precious baby girl, Leah, from Shane’s orphanage, and Travis and I have been in touch with them for months now. We are looking forward to meeting up with them again on Thursday when we overlap for another night in HCMC, at which point, all of our agency’s families who are here will have their babies. I can’t wait to see them all, and it’ll be a fun reunion to have Shane and a few of his orphanage buddies together again too!
Speaking of the munchkin, Shane is doing really well. Yesterday was a good day for him, last night was moderately restful, and today has been great so far. He’s spending more and more time awake during the days, sleeping more peacefully when he does go down, and is much happier and more playful when he isn’t asleep. He’s also eating much better and has had a few spontaneous (as in, no Q-tips involved) BM’s! And for the parent who asked what to do with the Q-tip, here’s an article g00gle came up with that sums it up nicely. Here’s my guy after one such spontaneous and joyous event, which warranted a little sink bath (the little guy on the left, for gosh sakes people):
He had one crying fit before going down for a nap just now, and I played the video of Nho’s lullaby on repeat, and he was totally comforted just listening to it and laying against my chest. It was crazy how fast his crying turned off as soon as he heard that beautiful singing. He continues to amaze us with his sweetness and his snuggly nature. I seriously don’t know how I got so lucky with these boys - they’re just awesome (even the one in the middle).
Jackson is so much fun, and such a little trooper, and Shane is just a little lovebug. He loves attention and has learned already to cry like hell when he’s put down. He also rolled over today on the bed for the first time! He was able to roll at the orphanage on a bamboo mat, but a mattress requires more “umph!” He’s also bearing weight on his legs now when we hold him up and let him bounce, something he wasn’t doing even 1 week ago!
Other than that, we’ve been finding little ways to cut corners on expenses. One of those is to maximize breakfast by FEASTING, so that we can snack on fruit or baguettes off the street in the afternoon, and then only pay for 1 meal at night (and it’s usually just $2 for Pho). This doesn’t help make us look like any less of a freak show in front of other hotel guests, lemme tell ya! In the mornings, I typically eat 6 hard boiled eggs (you should see the look on the employees’ faces when they ask how many we’d like and Travis holds up 6 fingers!), a bowl of pho, a plate of fruit (pomelo, pineapple, passion fruit), a bowl of yogurt with muesli, and an fried egg sandwich on fresh bread with tomatoes and cheese. Jackson eats like a madman too, and of course Travis is the king of getting his money’s worth at a buffet. Yesterday though, was the all-time funniest moment of pregnancy eating. We indulged a craving for KFC’s soft serve ice cream. I was DEVOURING mine…as in, voraciously eating without coming up for air. Travis reminded me to share a few bites with Jackson, so I did. I handed over what little was left for Travis to feed Jackson, and he looked down to scoop a bite and pointed out that a chunk of my plastic spoon was chipped off and missing. He asked me what the hell happened to it, and without even registering how disgusting a human being I’ve become, I answered “I dunno, maybe I ate it on accident.” As soon as I said it I laughed so hard I seriously pissed my pants! Travis and I were in tears laughing about it for hours afterwards too. Gross, I’m seriously just grotesque. Man I love not having to suck my gut in though! And I figure, while I’m here and there are no scales, no prenatal checks, and I have no clue what my current weight gain is, I might as well just relish every minute of it. Afterall, there’s only about 2 months left (we’re 31+ weeks now)!
As for Sapa, we haven’t decided yet whether or not we’re going. Looks like Shane’s passport will take a little longer than we’d hoped, so we’re in HCMC until Friday morning. Might be a little too quick a turnaround to fly to Hanoi, then hop on the overnight train that evening. We’ll see though; the train we’d be on is a luxury train and we’d have our own room with beds and all. And in case anyone misunderstood, it’s NOT that we don’t love Hanoi. We absolutely do. It’s more that with 2 babies it’s tough to really enjoy it, and we’re so burned out on hotel rooms. It’d just be great to get out of the cities and go someplace with crisp, refreshing air, mountains, and fewer street sounds and people for a weekend. Hmmm, actually, that sounds a heck of a lot like Colorado! Hanoi is a city we would consider living in, and it’s home to 1 of Vietnam’s 3 medical schools (HCMC, Hue, & Hanoi), so it’s a place Travis and I have discussed returning to in order to teach for a few years when our kids are older and we’re further along in our careers. We’d just love a weekend getaway at this point, as we’re now approaching 6 weeks of hotel living in bustling cities with a toddler who has nowhere to run, and a new baby. We’ll keep you posted on our decision there though.
January 14, 2008 25 Comments
This post didn’t get as much attention as I’d hoped, and I’m not sure if that was because of its timing (over Christmas), or if people just didn’t bother commenting. Either way, I decided to re-post it for them because they leave tomorrow for Tanzania and I really wanted to help them raise awareness and money for NIWH. Our local paper in South Florida just did a cover story on them, and it was picked up by a local TV station and the story aired yesterday there. Don’t feel obligated to donate, but I would really appreciate it (as would my little brothers!) if a few more people could take the time to cheer them on and wish them luck on their climb! Oh, and Lina, Jeremy replied to your comment in an email to me…he says “hook it up Laur!”
This post is on behalf of 2 of my awesome brothers, Alex and Jeremy. Perhaps you remember my 2 Most Eligible Bachelors post from awhile back? If not, check it out…it’s my personal favorite because these 2 clowns just crack me up!
Anyway, I am hoping a few people out there are looking for a charity to donate to right about now, just as Christmas rolls around. My brothers will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro at the start of the New Year and are trying to raise money for a really awesome cause. Here’s their website. They are raising money to benefit Network for the Improvement of World Health (NIWH), which is an NGO that was founded by a really close friend of mine, Kaakpema Yelpaala, with whom I roomed at Brown for a while. Kaakpema is Ghanaian, graduated from Brown, went on to complete an MPH from Yale, works for the Clinton AIDS Foundation, and heads his own NGO that works with the Volta Lake region of Ghana to bring medical services to the people on those remote islands. He’s probably the most impressive 27 year old I’ve ever met! His Boat Project has been very successful in Ghana, and NIWH hopes to expand its services to regions to which Kaakpema has ties in East Africa as well.
If anyone is interested in helping my brothers raise money for NIWH through climbing Kilimanjaro (they are funding their own climb, but hoping to raise money for NIWH and awareness of African heathcare needs through reaching the summit at over 19,000ft), please consider donating to through my brothers’ website here.
December 29, 2007 6 Comments
I gotta thank you, buddy, for taking one for the team! Since you been gone, I’ve been eating steak and hanging out with the fam. I got to ride with the owner in the passenger seat of the moving truck, and he’s even been wiping my butt again so I can come inside. I can’t believe they actually bought the “cardiac event” thing. Oh, and about that, sorry for feeding you that poison…I hope it didn’t taste too bad. You understand though, right?
Anyway friend, we moved to a new house. This one is SWEEEET! I thought about crapping on the new cherry floors, ya know, just to break ‘em in like I like to do? BUT, then I remembered you’re not around anymore, so surely they’d know who did it this time. Damn, it’s those simple pleasures, like seeing you tuck your tail and hide in fear after I dumped all over the basement floor, while I’d casually greet the owners as if I had nothing to be ashamed of. Man, you had “GUILTY” written all over your face. And you fell for that one every time!
Anyway, that little pesky kid sure has taken a liking to me ever since you dropped. Ugh. But the owners seem to be right there, hovering, every time I feel like biting him. I don’t know how you tolerated that kid; he’s always pounding on my back, throwing his toys at me, tugging my ears. Every now and then he throws food off his tray for me until the owners bust him, but I do wish you were around to absorb his attention. Well, take it easy up there and have fun chasing lizards and squirrels.
Winston Neville Good
I know I have a sick sense of humor, and I really do miss our dog, Tigger. But I wrote this the week after he died and I’ve come to realize we’ve managed to slip right back into old habits with Winston, for which I am feeling horribly guilty. His life sucks again and he’s mostly banished to the basement or garage. There’s actually an irreconcilable problem that has recently come to light - Winston has the potential to be aggressive with Jackson. He’s growled at him twice now, ducked his head in defensive posturing, and who knows what else he’d have done if I didn’t scoop the baby up right away. I love this dog, and God knows Travis adores him. He’s 5 years old, and we’ve had him since he was 8 weeks! Once you get past having to wipe his ass, his incessant gas, the pooping in the house when he’s pissed, and the other quirks that go along with being a Bulldog, he is the most fantastic dog…just not for kids under 5.
So we’ve started talking with the Bulldog Rescue program about placing him with a new family in Colorado. How bad does that suck though?? I’m at the point where I realize there is a better life for him, and I cannot possibly trust him around my babies, so I’m ready to move forward with finding him a new home. Travis though? He’s taking it pretty hard and is really dragging his feet with it. It’s too bad our families and friends always thought we were crazy for being obsessed with such a bizarre little animal - I wish someone we knew could take him. But then there’s the kid factor again - even if they did love Winston, everyone we know has small children, or will have small children in the near future! So, one last ditch effort: anyone out there know of a good home (without other dogs or children) for the cutest, most hilarious, stinky, funny-looking, loveable, fat dog in the world?
November 26, 2007 22 Comments
So guess what Jackson found today??!!
Travis called to me from Jackson’s changing table, and when I entered the room, I found Jackson poking, prodding, pulling, and stretching it. I would have cringed because it looked so painful, except that he was CRACKING UP, as if it was the funniest discovery he’d ever made. And I guess it very well might be the funniest discovery he ever makes!
Travis and I were dying laughing too. The funniest part for me though was hearing what happened when Travis covered it up with a clean diaper. Jackson tried frantically to tear off the diaper and started crying in frustration when he could no longer find it. Travis’ pep talk almost made me pee in my pants. It went something like this:
“Don’t worry buddy. It‘ll ALWAYS be there. It can come out to play again tomorrow maybe, but for now it has to go night-night.”
We had a great day today. We decided to pick out 2 new recipes from a new Vietnamese cookbook we bought on sale last week and give ‘em a try.
We chose a soup that’s popular in Vietnam and Cambodia, chicken rice soup with lemon grass, as well as Vietnamese crunchy summer rolls with shrimp. One of my favorite parts of making these dishes was shopping for the ingredients at our local Vietnamese supermarket. How fun is a supermarket where you can pick out your own live frogs from the seafood / meat section?! BTW, to make Pho Bo, which we have not yet attempted but plan to soon, the broth recipe calls for a few pounds of ox tail. I, incorrectly, thought this might be a tough ingredient to find…little did I know ox tails would be neatly packaged, shrink wrapped, and placed in the section with the pork, beef, and chicken. I can’t wait to attempt Pho next week.
So, dinner tonight was delicious!!
If you’re interested, here’s how to make the soup to serve 4 (we eat a lot:):
2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed, cut into 3 pieces and lightly bruised
1 tbsp fish sauce, such as nam pla
1/2 cup short grain rice, rinsed
1 small bunch cilantro leaves, finely chopped, and 1 green or red chilli, seeded and cut into thin strips to garnish
1 lime, cut in wedges, to serve
ground black pepper
For the stock:
1 small chicken or 2 meaty chicken legs
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 oz fresh root ginger, sliced
2 lemon grass stalks, cut in half lengthwise and bruised
2 tbsp nuoc mam
Here’s the recipe we used, word for word. Enjoy!
1. Put chicken into deep pan. Add all the other stock ingredients and pour 7 and 3/4 cups water in. Bring to a boil for a few minutes, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer with the lid on for 2 hours.
2. Skim off any fat from the stock, strain and reserve. Remove the skin fom the chicken and shred the meat. Set aside.
3. Pour the stock back into the deep pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and stir in the lemon grass stalks and fish sauce. Stir in the rice and simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste.
4. Ladle hot soup into individual bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and thin strips of chilli, and serve with lime wedges to squeeze over.
As far as the summer rolls go, they’re REALLY easy to make, you just need some easy to find ingredients, time, and counter space because it’s all just prep work. Here’s an online recipe that’s similar to ours: http://www.chow.com/recipes/10641.
August 23, 2007 13 Comments
We’re back from Peru and drove straight to a small town (population 5,000) in Western Colorado, where Travis was matched to work with a family doc as part of his rural track program. It’s the kind of practice we’re interested in post-residency, so it’s good to see what life and medicine will be like in a rural mountain town. It’s absolutely gorgeous out here, and the doctor was kind enough to let us stay in his guest house on 10 acres up in the mountains in a horse neighborhood until we find somewhere else to say. How did we manage to find this AND get paid for it?! No clue, but what a deal. Oh, and we’re planning on taking Jackson to “climb” (he’ll be in the hiking pack) his first 14er this weekend. We’d had the goal of completing all Colorado’s 14,000 ft. peaks (there are 53), but there are a bunch that are off-limits now because they require technical climbing or scrambling that’s obviously not safe with a baby onboard. This will be our 4th one, as we did 3 last fall, pre-Jackson. I think the climb will be much harder for Trav now that he’ll be lugging an extra 19ish lbs on his back + all Jackson’s baby junk as well! Should be fun though. I still do not have internet access, but have been doing brief drive-by’s in the parking lot of a local coffee shop that has internet and mooching off that (yeah, I’m cheap). So, I’m writing while Jackson is napping, and posting on the fly. Still feel out of touch with Bloggerville, but I’ll have plenty of time to catch up when summer is over and we’re forced to stop living the life of rockstars and revisit reality;)
I’m working on my last Peru post, but in the meantime, I felt like posting something potentially useful to my readers, for a change! I know there are mom groups who rank these things, but thought I’d contribute my own 2 cents about the baby items we’ve found most useful. Of course there are the obvious ones (crib, rocking chair, pack’n'play, etc.), but these are the one we wish we would’ve known about early on to register for. Oh, and I am not getting any kickbacks for advertising, other than for the Hotslings (obviously), and that’s only if you buy 1 from me! Most of these things can be found at BabiesRus or target.
1. Portable changing mat - it’s small, it’s simple, it’s awesome. Ours is from BabysRus and folds up pretty small. It stores a smaller container of wipes and a diaper or 2.
2. The Chicco Caddy Hook on chair - we use it in place of a high chair usually, and keep it in the trunk of the car for restaurants. The high chairs they have in restaurants often don’t line up with the table, and we’ve had some bangs and bruises from Jackson leaning his head down and bumping it on the table. This one folds up for portability, and clips onto the edge of just about any table. Probably my overall favorite baby product.
3. Aveeno & Aquaphor skin care products - we’re seriously writing to them to see if they’ll sponsor us in exchange for us recommending their products to all future patients with eczema! It’s expensive stuff, but worth the money. We use Aveeno lotion, shampoo, the oatmeal baths, sunscreen (ok, we haven’t used it, but we own it and know we should!), and the hydrocortisone cream on Jackson like they’re going out of style. A must for our kiddos with dry skin / eczema. For his most severe spots though, we use the Aquaphor ointment. There are little Aveeno gift baskets you can even register for.
4. SwaddleMe blankets - can’t imagine having to do the down, up, down, up folding technique like they use in the newborn nurseries at hospitals and hoping it holds (which it NEVER would with our squirmer). The swaddle blankets have been a Godsend. Jackson has a very hard time calming down before naps and bedtime and had the nervous habits of scratching and rubbing his face. Without this, his limbs would be waving frantically, and he’d wake himself up from naps because he’d flail while sleeping! Swaddling him makes him feel safe, secure, calm, and lets him know it’s bedtime. These blankets have the Velcro already in place, and are super easy to use.
5. Baby Einstein and Planet Sleeps lullaby CD’s - CLUTCH for calming and sending the “it’s bedtime” vibe. Since Jackson also had a tough time sleeping and would wake-up at the sound of a pin dropping, playing background music was very helpful for us, and these 2 selections have been our favorites. Planet sleeps has lullabies from around the world, including Cambodia, Cameroon, Haiti, and India, so the music is beautiful.
6. Glass bottles - simple, healthy, environmentally friendly. We started out using the Dr. Brown’s bottles (God help us!), which were AWFUL because of all the small, difficult to fully clean pieces. Plus, they’re plastic, and heated plastic leaches harmful compounds. We got our glass bottles at BabysRus and they’re made by Evenflo.
7. Weebles - “they wobble, but they don’t fall down!” These are Jackson’s all-time favorite toys. He’s been into Weebles for about 5 months now, and they still hold his interest. They’re easy to thrown in a backpack, and he loves to knock them around and then chase them around.
8. Bumbo Chair - this thing is great. It got all sorts of mom awards, and I now know why. The box claims it lasts up to 14 months of age, but that didn’t quiet hold true for our wild man. We’d read books to him while he sat in it, he’d watch daddy do yardwork (very rarely:) while sitting in it, and he’d have snack-time in there. It was fantastic until about 7-8 months old, at which point Jackson was strong enough to fling himself out of it and no longer content sitting still in it. This was largely a personality thing though, and I think for most babies, it’s a useful product until close to a year old. There’s also a tray that clips on, so you can use it as a more portable high chair as well.
9. Tub mat - we usually do bathtime together, or bring Jackson into the shower with one of us. However, there are those occasions when he’s lovely and soiled at an inopportune time and requires a quick “bird bath.” For those times, we kneel and lean over the side of the tub to wash the little man. The tub mat provides a padded surface to kneel on, and another that drapes over the tub, which have saved my knees and arms. I think ours is called the tub mate foam tub mat or something.
10. Formula dispenser - it’s great for on-the-go. It has 3 compartments to hold powder formula, so you don’t have to travel with your tub of formula just because you’ll be out for the day.
12. Thomas the Tank Train Humidifier - there are lots of other cute designs too. If you’re baby has eczema (which is VERY common), and/or you live in a dry,arid environment, this is very very helpful.
13. Hotsling - you knew I had to have this on my list of best baby items!
14. Sherpani Rumba Baby Backpack - if you’re into hiking and wondering how to bring baby comfortably along, I highly recommend this. We use ours whenever we hike.
There is an unbelievable amount of baby crap on the market and buying things requires careful scrutiny. We wasted more than a few dollars on things that turned out to be useless. If anyone wants to add anything you’ve found particularly worthy of a purchase, feel free to drop a comment! Oh, and how cute is this shirt I designed for Jackson from Mandysmoon:
July 10, 2007 14 Comments