Category — In country
Our Sapa excursion was well worth the trek out there! We had the most amazing day yesterday with Yem, our guide who is a member of the Black Hmong ethnic minority. She took us on a several hour hike down to a Black Hmong community. It was a typical day in Sapa for this time of year - VERY foggy - so, unfortunately, pictures could not capture how incredible the scenery was.
We hiked several miles, mostly downhill, and across several swinging bridges, which Jackson LOVED. I was worried he’d be scared, but he danced all the way across as the bridges swayed back and forth! We hiked past a waterfall, and through a village called Cat Cat. Yem was very informative about Hmong culture, showed us the indigo plants from which the Black Hmong dye comes, and the process that’s used to make their clothes, brought us inside a traditional home, and answered every question we had regarding Hmong belief system and traditions. If anyone visits Sapa, please email me if you’d like Yem’s contact info so you can book her directly (versus having a travel company skim off the top).
Here’s the part where you learn the winner of “2008’s Worst Parents of the Year” award…after a few hours of hiking, we were at the base of a very steep hike back up a dirt road. There are a few things that reliably induce my Braxton Hicks contractions: bending over, walking long distances, going up steps, or carrying heavy things. Hence, hiking a few miles, up a steep hill, while carrying Shane in a sling, was sure to bring them on! So after a short distance, we had the option of continuing to hike, or hop on the back of motorbikes to get back up the mountain. I had to weigh which seemed less irresponsible, and we opted for the motorbikes, with the agreement that they’d go VERY slowly. With Shane in my sling, Jack in Travis’, and Yem lugging our backpack, we got on the back of 3 different motorbikes and made it safely to the top. I’ll never forget the look on Jackson’s face when his motorbike passed mine and he flashed me the most devilish little grin. Again, I’d worried he might be scared! After 10 minutes of looking like a little badass on a motorcycle, he passed out with the wind on his face, snuggled comfortably in his daddy’s sling. I’m not trying to raise Evil Knievil…but I’m sure his mom said the same thing!
Anyway, back to the Hmong people…the most interesting things Yem shared with us were about her own family, and one of her brother’s marriages. She informed us that the ethnic minorities (Red Dao, Hmong, Giay) rarely mix, and marriages are sometimes arranged, sometimes for love, and occasionally, they happen through a different means, like in her brother’s case. He saw a pretty girl walk by (a teenager), grabbed her and dragged her onto his motorbike, then his family helped lock her inside their house. After 4 days, she had the option to marry him or go back to her family. She married him. Yem says they are now living happily, have a few kids, and love each other very much. According to Yem, this tradition of “wife-napping,” for lack of a better term, is why she doesn’t dress up and attend big social events - as a female, you can be snagged by force at any time and have to wait out those 4 days if you want to say “no” to the proposal. Isn’t that fascinating?!
Carissa - I’m very interested in the name of the book to which you are referring. I’d love to read it if it isn’t Tragic Mountain, Ravens, or the popular non-fiction novel most medical schools now have students read, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which are all great reads for anyone interested in learning more about Hmong history or culture. Let me know if you remember the title.
Not to be redundant, if you watched the slideshow above, but these are a few of my favorite pictures from yesterday. Here are the boys wearing their traditional Black Hmong hats, and Jack in his full Hmong outfit:
Here’s Yem making Shane giggle:
And I think these 2 photos perfectly illustrate the contrasting personalities of our boys. Jackson has to be the craziest kid on the planet, and Shane continues to be the sweetest, most calm little guy with such an inherently content nature. Something strikes me as hilariously ironic about Jackson reeking havoc while wearing a shirt that says “Peace on Earth!” Those shirts, btw, were a gift from Granjoe. Speaking of Granjoe, every time Jackson sees a picture of Kernel Sanders on the KFC signs here, or a picture of “Uncle Ho” on the currency, he points and starts screaming “Janjoe! Janjoe!” I guess it’s the mustache and/or glasses. We crack up every time though!
We made it back to Hanoi via the overnight train this morning and our visa / exit interview is this afternoon. Hopefully we’ll have Shane’s entrance ticket to the US by tomorrow and make our flight back home tomorrow night!!
January 21, 2008 32 Comments
I have no idea how it happened, but I swear, we went to bed on a train that left Hanoi on Friday night, and woke up 8 hours later in the Sacred Valley, Peru. Seriously, we CANNOT get over the similarities between Sapa and the Sacred Valley. Or some of the ethnic minorities here and the Quechua people in the Andes - their textiles, their communities, their physical features, their bright clothing and hats, and sadly, their recent dependence on tourism. Obviously, the resemblances I’m noting are very surface, as these are vastly different cultures with different belief systems and histories. But on the surface, looking at ethnic minorities struggling to survive in rapidly modernizing countries, there are commonalities that are easy to see.
Friday night was a little scary, as we bought the cheapie tickets for a local train that left a VERY seedy, dark train station. Several drunk men approached us to “assist” with our bags, and one grabbed my backpack, which had my laptop inside, and was so drunk he stumbled and dropped it. We grabbed it and raced onward. I had Shane in my sling while I pushed Jack in the stroller, and Travis carried a huge duffel, 2 backpacks, and some other bags with all our crap shoved inside. So our hands were full, and I was feeling VERY protective of my cubs. We were approached a few other times and I just couldn’t help but scream out “don’t touch us!!” I guess I yelled it loudly enough that it caught everyone else off-guard (including myself and Travis!) and they stopped dead in their tracks.
We finally boarded our train, got in our private little (as in, freakin miniature!) cabin, and locked the door. There were 4 beds, but each one was roughly the size of a twin bed cut in half. So Travis teetered on the edge of one, with Jack on the inside, and I balanced my belly on the other, with Shane against the wall. We’re pretty used to being crammed, since the 4 of us (+ Belly Baby) having been sharing a queen, but the train was tight even for us!
The boys did great - they slept just about the whole way! After they passed out (before the train had even left the station), Travis and I stayed up late talking and having fun. For a few minutes, I think we both forgot we’re late 20’s going on mid-40’s (no offense anyway, it’s just that we’ve felt a little beyond our years lately…ever since we joined the circus). It felt like we were 2 kids, without a care in the world, on a backpacking adventure through SE Asia again…until Shane stirred and we both panicked and pounced - me on Shane, to pat him and keep him quiet, and Travis on Jack, to reassure him and keep him from being woken-up by Shane! Hahaha, good times. Good times.
We arrived into Lao Cai, a border town with Southern China, at 5am and hopped in a car our hotel sent to meet us that drove us up windy mountain roads, amidst SO MUCH fog, and we arrived at our hotel in Sapa at 6am. Thankfully, we got a sweet deal on our hotel and the trip has been absolutely refreshing ever since! This is the view from the rooftop at our hotel at sunset yesterday:
Sapa is very different from what I expected. I had envisioned a Vang Viang, Laos type of small, rural town with only a few dirt roads and no real development. Instead, we discovered a mini-Cusco, with tall buildings, bustling streets, honking motorbikes, and lots of Vietnamese and international tourists. It’s still breathtaking up here, and obviously MUCH less populated than other cities in Vietnam (Sapa’s population is ~40,000), with really clean air, and a very pleasant temperature. As I said before, the similarities between this area of Vietnam and the region of Peru in which we spend a lot of time are just striking. The biggest difference is how fertile the land here is - Sapa is very wet. The mountains are greener, and the terraces much more moist. Contrast that with the very arid Andes, where access to water is a huge issue, and the altitude is much higher.
We met a few really sweet Hmong women yesterday who were so interested in Shane and Jackson. The history of the Hmong people is so fascinating, and, in many ways, so tragic. Travis and I have been wondering how much the Hmong here in Sapa identify as Vietnamese, since their people have been displaced and remain scattered throughout so many Asian countries. When we told them our boys were Vietnamese, they said “oh, you bought them?” Scary as hell, and not the first time we’ve gotten that response in Vietnam, btw! Makes you wonder…but that’s for a separate post. Anyway, we explained that they were living in orphanages and that we adopted them. They were interested, but in a very different way than most Vietnamese when they find that out. It seems that when we tell most people in Vietnam that Jackson is Vietnamese, there is a sense of entitlement over him. It’s something we’ve become very used to here, and we have done our best to try and understand that mentality and be patient with it, rather than being offended by it. It warrants a lot of parenting advice, and sometimes criticism, but I know it is all well-intentioned and that people here are doing it out of a genuine love and interest. But I did notice my parents didn’t get any of that when they were here with my blond headed little brother and sister, although everyone that saw them wanted to come and touch their hair and gawk at them (that was funny stuff!)! But back to what I was saying, the Hmong women’s reactions have so far just been different. I wonder how much of that might be due to the possibility that they don’t identify as Vietnamese as much as they do as Hmong.
Last night, Travis and I both passed out right when we put the babies down to bed at 7:30pm, so I think we’re caught up on sleep now too! We’re really looking forward to tomorrow, when we have a local Hmong guide whose name we got from some friends we met at our hotel. She’s ~20, speaks incredible English, and is really proud of her people.
I’m sorry we’ve been really out of touch here. We are without internet in our room. We’ll check email periodically if anyone needs to get ahold of us. I’ll try and post again before we head back to Hanoi! As always, thanks for following our adventures and for all the kind comments (including the sweet ones from the “new” commentors!). Although I read all of them, I haven’t been good about responding to comments lately , but to really quickly answer a few of the questions from the last post: Lorri - like Joy, we got Shane’s blankie from BabysRus, and we love it! And Dawn - the swaddle takes some time for them to get used to, but we used one for Jack until he was 1 year and plan to do the same for Shane, who already seems to calm when he’s in it. I think it enhances the feeling of safety and security, and also keeps Shane from waking himself up by rubbing his eyes or nervously scratching his face. We are big swaddle fans! And Thao - both our boys are from Vietnam, and we’ve been here almost 6 weeks now but currently live in the US. And Thanh - thank you SO much for the info on where to get the Vietnamese lullaby CDs! For those who haven’t seen, check the comments b/c Thanh put links up to help us find more of that type of music.
January 19, 2008 19 Comments
Well, we’re here in HCMC to get Shane’s medical report and passport. Things have been busy, to say the least, over the last 2 days! As I said in my last post, we expected Shane would grieve. We just didn’t know how much, or what form his grief would take. We have just been hoping it wouldn’t be as severe as Jackson’s, since the transition wasn’t cold turkey. After Jackson’s initial stage of utter shock, his eczema flared like like nothing I’ve ever seen, he screamed 20 hours a day, never slept, would not allow us to console him, and was just miserable. It was pretty awful for the first few weeks.
It seems Shane is dealing with his depression by sleeping about 16 out of the 24 hours a day. When he is awake, he’s much fussier than usual, and seems to stare off into space just to check out from time to time. The first night with him was shocking because he slept through the night (awoke for 1 bottle), and then continued his every 2 hour nap schedule through the next day. I think the longest period of time he was awake yesterday was a 2 hour block, and his shortest nap was 2 hours! Although he’s totally precious when he sleeps, it’s really heartbreaking to watch him go through this. Here he is, doing his thing (sleeping) in my sling, and then hangin’ with his daddy:
Last night things changed. He woke up fussing about every 1.5-2 hours, but was generally pretty easy to put back down. However, the 4 of us are all snuggled up in a bed together, and at one point in the night, Shane woke-up and Travis and I both got up with him (I tried to console him before the crying woke up Jack, and Trav made his bottle). We left Jackson, the wildest tosser & turner, in bed alone. We heard the THUMP from the bathroom, then the tears came! It took us about 1.5 hours to get both babies back to sleep!
One thing that complicates the picture of Shane’s fussiness is this pattern of straining we’ve been seeing. He’s TOTALLY constipated, to a really painful degree, and I think some of his outbursts of fussing are related to that. We had to pull the old Q-tip move yesterday, and that relieved him for a little while. We have a sneaking suspicion that he’s lactose intolerant, and additionally, I am pretty sure the orphanage uses Dielac formula for all the babies there. Yet, since we never made his bottles when we visited (we only fed them to him once Ngoc or Nho had made them), we took the head nanny’s word when she told us after the G&R to feed him Similac Advanced. So I’m pretty sure we also just changed his formula cold turkey, and that probably didn’t help any! Either way, when we get home we’ll switch him to Similac’s lactose-free formula and hopefully the tummy problems will resolve.
Today, we had our first few hours of just fun playtime with Shane, like we used to when we would visited him at his orphanage - he laughed, was content, made great eye contact, and was babbling away to us. I’m hoping we start seeing more and more of that shining through. I know he won’t be himself for awhile, but I am hopeful that his cute little personality will start breaking through the grief.
Jackson is doing pretty well on day 3 as a big brother. There are times Jackson clearly doesn’t want one of us holding Shane, and it really kills me to hear his little voice saying “mama, mama, mama” to get my attention. We’re trying to always have 1 parent devoted to Jackson at all times right now, and then when Shane is sleeping, to both be giving him as much 2 on 1 attention as we can. Also, as expected, he’s taken quite a liking to all Shane’s things. His new favorite toy is Shane’s glow worm. And surprise - he also likes a binky, all of the sudden! He’s also just learned the terrible word “MINE!”
Jackson has also taken to wearing my sling around. He’s got his own style with it and likes to shove his baby dolls, or his panda bear beanie baby, Manchu, inside it:
Since Shane naps pretty much all the time right now, it’s been really easy to get them down together. Here are the boys napping together ye
Here they are as I write this post:
We said goodbye to Hoi An this morning, hopped on a plane, and are now in HCMC again. We’ll be here until we’ve completed Shane’s medical visit and gotten his Vietnamese passport. At that point, we’ll fly to Hanoi to submit all his paperwork to the Embassy. They require a 48 hour hold before they will allow you to have your visa interview. Most likely, we won’t be able to get our paperwork to them until close to the end of this week, and since they’re closed for MLK Day on Monday, we won’t be able to fly home until the middle of next week (Tuesday or Wednesday). That means we either have 6 days in Hanoi, OR, we take a weekend trip somewhere…like, oh, say…Sapa?!! We haven’t decided yet if we’re going to try and head up there - the trip involves an overnight train, which might be painful. I know we’ll kick ourselves and be bored out of our minds if we’re in Hanoi AGAIN this trip for that long. But I’m worried we’ll kick ourselves once we’re stuck on an overnight train with our 2 unpredictable babies. We’ll see. It’s the 1 place in Vietnam we’ve never ever been, but have ALWAYS wanted to go - it’s up in the mountains, on the border with China, and is really well-known for the ethnic minorities who live there and produce gorgeous dyes and textiles. There’s also a peak there we’d love to climb, but we’ll have to save that for another year!
Speaking of climbing peaks…2 of my little brothers successfully summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro a few days ago and just got home from Africa yesterday, safe and sound! I am really proud of them! Thanks to all of you who supported their charity climb and wished them luck on their adventure.
January 13, 2008 20 Comments
POST UPDATED 1-12-08 with G&R PHOTOS
Well, guess what?! It’s official! Shane’s Adoption Day, 1-11-08, will forever be a day our family celebrates.
I cannot describe how impressed we are with our agency’s in-country staff and operations, or just how grateful we are to the provincial authorities who accommodated our very short-notice G&R request. Here’s are some pictures Quoc took for us during the G&R, and on the car ride back from the G&R:
This G&R was actually very involved and formal, compared to Jackson’s G&R last year, which is a blur. I remember being rushed through some paper signing, don’t remember being introduced to anyone, and at the end, a curtain was quickly pulled so our picture could be taken in front of the red background with Vietnamese writing that was never read to us. This time around, we met the orphanage director, the head of the Dept. of Justice for the province, the head nanny met us there with Shane, with the manager of the orphanage accompanying her, and there were several other parties present as well. Quoc translated everything, and it was all very personal. The head of the DOJ told us they are happy to see how well cared for our first child is, and that they hope we also take good care of our second son, and the baby who is not yet born. They explained how important it is to them we raise our children with a knowledge of Vietnam, Vietnamese customs, and hope that we bring them back one day. They also confirmed our commitment to adhere to the post-placement reports so that the orphanage can follow our son’s growth, development, and upbringing. Everyone wished us luck with all our endeavors and, of course, our family, with the coming of this new year. They concluded the ceremony by pronouncing Le Viet Dung our son, officially. It was ~40 minutes, all-in-all, and that was it…Shane came home with us!
We are now back at the hotel after a several mile walk on the beach with both boys passed out in our Hotslings - Jack in Travis’, and Shane in mine. Shane is slowly warming up to being in a sling, which is good!
Jackson is doing really well, all things considered, as is his little brother. We’ve only had to intervene a few times when Jackson considered exploring the temptation of stepping on Shane…but give him a break, it’s his first official day as a big brother;)
Shane is doing well too. Before today, I think I could have counted on 1 hand the number of times I’d seen him cry hard. That has changed today, but we expected him to grieve. We’re just thankful he’s been consolable by us thus far. Interestingly, at one point he was crying pretty hard, so I played the video of Nho singing that lullaby to him. He wheeled around to face the music, wide-eyed, and stopped crying!
Here’s Jackson, seeming to get the concept of “quiet, the baby is sleeping…” only to start yelling at the top of his lungs seconds after saying “shhh,” and making the hand gesture:
It’s funny because over the past month we’ve been spending a few hours a day with him, so you’d expect that we’d gotten a handle on Shane’s daily routine. Not so; per the nanny’s request, we always visited from ~10am - 12:30pm. So we still really don’t know if he actually has a routine or not, or what he does each day outside that time block. So far, it seems he has to nap roughly every 2 hours, as if he’s a newborn! On that note, there are actually a few things about Shane that make me wonder if he was a premie. For one, his weight when he arrived at the orphanage was only 4.5lbs. Keep in mind Vietnamese babies are typically smaller and shouldn’t be plotted on US growth charts, but even so, that seems small. Shane now weighs about 15lbs at ~6.5 months old, seems healthy in general, but is a little behind in terms of gross motor development. Judging by his progress over the past month, I think he’ll catch up fast.
Also, his nannies have always told us he does NOT sleep much at night, so we’re really looking forward to finding out exactly what that means! We’re eager to find out all his little idiosyncrasies, and just so happy that he’s actually here with us right now. I’m sorry this post wasn’t exactly inspiring or articulate. We’re pretty exhausted from all the emotional ups and downs over the past few days. I’m sure we won’t be catching up on any sleep any time soon, but I will write another update later this weekend! Thanks again to all my awesome friends, family, and readers for the outpouring of support. And a special thanks to M Lam for translating Nho’s lullaby in the comment on my last post! That is absolutely priceless to my family.
January 11, 2008 50 Comments
These past 24 hours have felt like the Christmas we missed! We went from stressing about debt, worrying about Travis’ medical education, feeling burned out, freaking out about Travis and Jackson having to fly back and leave me in Vietnam, super pregnant, to complete Shane’s adoption on my own…to getting what we thought was the most incredible news yesterday with the i600 approval, then finding out Hillary won NH primaries, both of which were then topped by a phone call from our in-country agency contact this morning telling us we have Shane’s G&R scheduled for TOMORROW morning at 9am!!! Oh. My. Gosh. What a crazy string of good news for us.
Our agency has 8 families who were issued i600 approvals yesterday, and while we would have loved to share the G&R day with those families, having ours this week means the difference between completing Shane’s adoption together and flying home as a family versus me having to get the Power of Attorney and staying in-country to complete it by myself so Travis can fly back with Jackson in time for his exams. So, if all goes smoothly from here on out, we will have our G&R tomorrow, then fly to HCMC Sunday to take care of Shane’s passport and medical, then head up to Hanoi on Thursday of next week to submit our paperwork to the Embassy, then wait the mandatory 48 hours for the visa interview. Unfortunately, President’s Day falls on Monday, so we probably won’t get out until the Tuesday or Wed. after that IF ALL GOES ACCORDINGLY. The important part is, no one has to worry about me traveling 33 weeks pregnant by myself; I’ll be with my boys. All of ‘em!
Today was strangely bittersweet. We visited Shane’s orphanage one last time. When we decided to travel on our own to Vietnam, prior to i600 approval, we never imagined we’d end up volunteering for a month at our son’s orphanage! And while the visits are exhausting, and we have gotten slightly burned out on trying to keep Jackson content each day we do the 1:15 drive to and from Shane’s orphanage, it has been an incredible opportunity. From a bonding perspective with Shane, definitely incredible. To ease Jackson into having a new baby around, also a great thing. But there was also tremendous personal reward for us in connecting with Shane’s nannies, growing to know and love the other babies with whom our son has “grown-up” thus far, and being able to reach out to their waiting families to offer updates on all the milestones we watched their babies meet, share pictures and tidbits about each of their personalities, etc.
I do think we’ve made lifelong friendships with other families whose babies have lived with Shane all this time, and those relationships, I hope, will provide something from which our children will derive as much benefit in the future as we parents have in the present. Saying goodbye to the nannies and the other babies was difficult, and Travis and I left the orphanage today feeling such a range of intense emotions. I am so happy a few of Shane’s little buddies will be leaving the orphanage next week, and so sad that the others are still waiting on i600’s. I also felt so sad for the nannies today, who were genuinely happy for us, but so sad to hear several of their babies are leaving them.
These women have given SO MUCH of themselves to care for our babies! I worked in daycare the year before I started medical school, and let me tell ya, that is one of the hardest jobs with the highest rates of burn out. But these women do it for 10 times as many babies, day in and day out. They sleep there, they eat there, they spend almost every waking moment changing babies, washing babies, feeding babies, singing to babies, soothing babies, playing with babies. They truly truly love each and every one of them. Here’s Shane with the 2 nannies, Nho and Ngoc, with whom we’ve spent nearly everyday for the past month or so (I promise this will be the last time you see him in this Christmas outfit;):
It is SO exciting that the next time we see Shane, we won’t be leaving him after just a few hours. He’ll be with us forever now. Here is one last parting gift from Nho to Shane and us. Is this voice not the most comforting sound you’ve ever heard?!
My last shout out goes to my friend Emily, who has been such an awesome friend throughout our adoption journeys. She has been at the other end of all the changes and crap, and has stayed strong and supportive of others who have received good news while she received the crappy news. There are SO FEW people in the world who are able to be genuinely happy for others, even in the face of really sour news for themselves, but Emily is just that kind of person. She has been waiting AGES for travel (already 6+ months I think), has been skipped, leap-frogged (by many, us included), had to watch her baby grow through photo updates, and we’re now just praying she gets her approval and her precious little girl home before Tet. This family deserves some good news more than anyone!
January 10, 2008 28 Comments
Yup, this is the post where I tell you we FINALLY got our i600 approval. Just came home from buying puzzle mats for Shane’s orphanage (the nannies LOVED them and requested more) at the market in Danang, checked email, and guess what was there?!! The freakin highly coveted email from CIS / State Dept. saying congrats, you’re son qualifies as an orphan and you may adopt him. Somehow, on day 51 of our 60 maximum, the State Dept. surprised us with an approval. After all the disappointment they’ve caused in taking their sweet time with this, we are left feeling ecstatic and thrilled that we’ve received a favorable determination prior to the 60 day limit they set for themselves!
I’ll write an update on our G&R and travel plans when we know more. Thank you EVERYONE for your incredible support, prayers, and all the optimism you’ve passed along.
Here’s to becoming a party of 5! CHEERS!
January 8, 2008 76 Comments
I know I say this every time we visit him, but today was really awesome - we saw Shane this morning and Jackson was the cutest little big brother ever! He helped Daddy feed Baby Shane and everything! Jackson even stuck his finger in Shane’s ear to try and help him go to sleep (remember when I wrote about Jackson’s special “off switch -” the finger in the ear that puts him to sleep?).
Shane was his usual precious self today. He is such a funny little guy - he has to be one of the laziest babies ever! Our translator from our very first visit to meet Shane told us this is because he was born in the year of the pig (2007). Either way, when your big brother is Jackson, your mom and dad really appreciate that quality in a baby. Maybe it’s not so much laziness as it is just contentment. Shane is just not in a hurry to do anything, he’s not antsy, he’s not particular. He’s just easy.
The most hysterical part of the visit came at the very end, when Shane was falling asleep and one of his nannies put him in his rocking crib. Jackson showed interest, so she plopped him into the crib next to Shane. She sings these lullabies in Vietnamese and has the most incredible, melodic, soothing voice. I told her again today, her singing even makes me want to hop in a crib and drift off to sleep! Jackson actually laid there with her singing and swinging his crib, and probably would have taken a nap had we been able to stay long enough. It was a riot. So here are my boys, swinging side by side:
And here’s Jack, actually entertaining the idea of a nap! I already got this nanny’s permission to record her singing this lullaby, but does anyone know where I could get one of these cribs back home?!
Here’s a sneak peek of a matching outfit I have for my boys. Jackson LOVES wearing his bear hat around:
And so all my babies are included in this post, Belly Baby is now 30 weeks! S/he now weighs ~3lbs, and is over 15 inches long. I can’t believe how fast this pregnancy is flying by! This will be one well-traveled kid by the time s/he arrives - conceived in Peru, spent trimesters I and II all over the U.S., and a good chunk of trimester III in Vietnam. Here’s Belly Baby at week 30:
We’re doing well, hanging in here the best we can. We’re closing in on our 60 days Jan. 18, so hopefully we’ll hear something good soon. In the meantime, Travis has been studying a few hours a day to keep up with medical school, and I’ve been in contact with my family doc via email so if anything comes up, I won’t feel quite so far away from medical care for this pregnancy. My doctor is awesome, and totally laid back too. She feels fine about me traveling 33-34 weeks pregnant. Let’s hope I won’t have to push it beyond that…because then, even I’ll be a little nervous!
January 8, 2008 19 Comments
I’ve had some pretty weird moments in my 27 years, but today, in one 10 minute span of time, I might’ve topped all of them. We went for Travis’ last custom jeans fitting and it just seemed they couldn’t get the “boot cut” concept down for him, although they did it perfectly for my pants. I finally just borrowed a scissor and cut the little slits in the vertical seems to make the bottoms fit cutely over his shoes. Anyway, we finished and they called us a taxi.
Jackson had totally passed out in a stroller, and as I was wheeling him to the taxi, a really old woman appeared with dark red stains all over her mouth (probably from chewing beetle nut). She started grabbing at his legs and yelling something. At that point, I just wasn’t feeling very tolerant of having my exhausted, finally passed out, toddler woken-up in a startle by a woman who looked like she’d just finished drinking the blood of an animal. Since she didn’t pay attention to me saying “shhhhh” and motioning that he was sleeping, I sort of ran away from her, pushing the stroller towards the taxi and successfully kept him asleep through it all. What is it with people here trying to wake up babies whenever they see them sleeping?! It’s happens EVERYTIME Jackson finally passes out - someone approaches to point out the obvious, yelling “baby sleeping! baby sleeping!” and grabs some body part of his or squeezes his cheeks or something. Babies here must be MUCH better about napping, be much heavier sleepers, or else people must not value sleep the way I’ve come to!! I’d find it amusing, except that my kid just doesn’t nap. So on the rare occasion that he does pass out, I am SO protective of his sleep!
Anyway, we drove all of 1 block, and our CRAZY ass taxi driver started to pull the car into a dark alley. He stopped and said “ok, 5 minutes!” We were like, “uh, no, take us to our hotel.” He insisted several times “5 minutes, 5 minutes!” When we said “NO!” again, he got out some pack of unidentifiable medication from the glove compartment and motioned that he was going somewhere either to get or give medicine, or something like that. So we were like “uhhhh…ok, we’ll get a new taxi.” He then negotiated down to “ok, ok. 2 minute” (while holding up 3 fingers!). Travis was like, “um, I’m pretty sure nothing just changed about the length of time needed for your little transaction, so we’ll just go ahead and find a new driver. Can you open the trunk?” I got out slowly so Jackson would stay asleep on my shoulder, and Travis got out on the other side. Before the driver opened the trunk for Travis, he honestly tried to drive off with all our crap! Travis grabbed the door handle and yanked the back door open, so the guy stopped. I opened all the other doors, and by then, there were several on-lookers. So the driver popped the trunk, we grabbed our stuff, and walked hurriedly the opposite direction, back to the jean tailoring store. We had them call us a new taxi, and what’da’ya know…while we’re standing on the curb, Captain McShady drives by AGAIN and sees us waiting. I guess he was done with his “transaction.” He pulls over with the biggest grin on his face, motions for us to get in, and calls out “ok, ok, we go now!” Travis waves him off and he eventually speeds away. Honestly, did he really think we were going to get in after all that?? In the 5 minutes of waiting for a new taxi, a dude on a motorbike drove by with a squealing dog in a satchel, only its poor little head sticking out. Then, we ran into TWO Vietnamese people we know on the side of the street. One guy who drove us to Shane’s orphanage, and a lady who once did our laundry. I know this is a small town and all, but it kinda makes me feel like we’ve been here a little too long when we start seeing people we know on the street.
Anyway, that was our evening. Our day was much calmer than that, thankfully! We visited Shane and he was such a cutie today! I didn’t realize how much I’d missed him until I picked him up and felt his sweet little face all snuggled against my neck. He was so happy to see us too, which was an awesome feeling, and he was very playful and talkative today. He has this adorable, raspy little voice, and I just love hearing him babble and giggle. We went with a driver who spoke a tiny bit of English, which was helpful. Through him, the nannies told us that Shane used to be a very easy baby, but now, since we’ve started visiting and holding him all the time, he cries constantly, doesn’t want to be put down, and doesn’t sleep at night because he just wants to babble to anyone who’ll pay attention. Hmmm, why is it that we have that effect on babies?? We stayed with Shane for awhile, then came back and took Jackson to the beach. It was a really really nice day, and we can’t wait to go back and see him again tomorrow. Sorry, we didn’t lug the camera, so we don’t have any new pictures from today’s visit:( Maybe tomorrow!
Here are a few hilarious videos of Jackson just being wild and crazy, egged on by Mommy and Daddy. We have no idea why he’s so energetic and we have such a tough time calming him (that’s called sarcasm;)…
And here’s one of Jackson getting a real kick out of Daddy’s imitation of me barfing! I still haven’t been able to catch Jackson’s impression of me on film yet, but it’s pretty hysterical as well. Happ
y to be able to provide others with such joy and laughter!
January 7, 2008 13 Comments
Hey everyone, just wanted to let you all know we’re still here. I’ve gotten a few worried emails from people, so I wanted to reassure you that we’re alive and well;) Yesterday was a crazy day, for a multitude of reasons I won’t get into now. For one thing, as most of you already know, there was good news in the sense that some approvals were issued. I am SO happy for my friend E., who was an 11/19 log-in family and received her approval yesterday, along with a few other families. Hopefully all the 11/19 families have now received their approvals and the next batch will be going out to the 11/20 families, us included.
My father-in-law also left Vietnam yesterday. We’ll miss him very much, but he stuck it out with us for a full month, and it was time he headed back. It was a pretty emotional goodbye, and yesterday was a really hard day for us. Flights home are very hard to come by lately, and 1 seat opened up on the flight from HKG to LA, so he jumped on it pretty last minute (as in, we had a 2 hour notice that we needed to get him on a flight from Danang to Hanoi!).
So, now it’s just us. We’re taking the weekend to just lay low and relax. I’m really missing Shane, but I think it’ll be good for Jackson to just have some downtime with Mommy and Daddy. We are considering moving to a cheap hostel closer in to town, which will be difficult, but will save us a considerable amount of money (read: debt).
Since I’m here with only 1 real pair of pants (my maternity jeans), and after the devastating failed attempt at having a dress made, Travis and I splurged for Yaly Couture custom fit jeans, for $30 each. I mean seriously, where else can you go, pick your trendy denim, have them measure every body part, and custom fit you for jeans for that price?! Mine are extremely low cut, so the waistband will sit under the belly. I went for a fitting yesterday and we will go again later today to pick up the final product. I’m pretty excited. In case you’re planning on being in Hoi An ever, Yaly is the name brand as far as the custom tailoring stuff goes. It’s usually super expensive for suits, dress shirts, leather jackets, etc., but I think their jeans are well worth their price.
Jackson got a few new toys yesterday when we stopped by the market in Danang to get some goodies for Shane’s orphanage. Here he is with his favorite new toys…baby dolls and a mini stroller!
Anyway, we’ll post when we’ve got more exciting things to share. Thanks again to all who have followed us and been cheering us on. Your sweet comments and emails are keeping us positive!
January 4, 2008 21 Comments
Nada. Nil. Zip. Zero. Ziltch. Freakin NOTHING at all. We’re pretty bummed, to put it lightly. We saw Shane this morning, then got “home” in time to spend the afternoon hitting the refresh button in hopes the I-600 approval email would roll in eventually. But, it didn’t.
I thought we’d be a tad cheered up when we went for the fitting at a tailor for Travis and his dad’s dress shirts, and the dress I had made for $14 - in a fleeting moment of optimism, I thought it’d make a pretty G&R dress. My night only got worse when I put that thing on and realized it is possible to find a garment that could make my boobs appear even more amorphous and shapeless than they already seem to me at the moment. Not only that, but the dress was so thin it actually accentuated the dreaded “pop” of my belly button that is now grotesquely underway. On that note, I’ll add that my morning routine begins with a quick jaunt to the mirror to make sure the feared stretch marks haven’t yet appeared. Thank gosh I’ve evaded that one thus far, but much to my horror, my once cute little belly button is now totally dysmorphic. Oh boy, this is fun! Travis has taken to reciting the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty,” and actually tried to take a picture of me in that God-awful dress today. He got SUCH a kick out of me with that horrid thing on. Thank gosh it was cheap; the laughs it gave us might’ve been worth that price! And don’t even ask- the “picnic table” bathing suit was one thing, but don’t expect a photo of this one!
Anyway, back to the I-600 thing. There’s been an interesting turn of events since no approvals seemed to go out on Thursday. I was feeling so numb I couldn’t even muster tears today. It’s this horrible feeling of defeat. To the point where Travis and I talked about how we couldn’t even imagine finding that approval in our inbox at this point. There’s no “celebration” when we do eventually get it because it’s so damn overdue and is just about at our worst worse case scenario as is! We’re now on day #45 since we received acknowledgment of our I-600 submission from USCIS, meaning we’re getting damn close to their 60 day max. The first wave of approvals went to families after 2 weeks of waiting post-acknowledgment! Those of us logged 1 day later are almost at 7 weeks now?! That’s wild, if you ask me.
So, that’s that. I guess all bets are off now. Maybe they’ll issue a big wave of approvals on Thursday, January 3rd, at night, Eastern Standard Time! Hahaha, that must be the confusion. And all this time we thought they were talking about Vietnam time. So I guess we should all check tomorrow morning, Vietnam time, or tonight EST. That’s probably the mix-up. Phew, I feel so much better now that that’s cleared up. You can’t really expect government workers to get it all right all the time. Ya know?
We’ll keep you posted if we hear anything else on that front. In other news, we got our VISAs extended (b/c our 30 days runs out this week) without any trouble. The funny part about that is that when we went to the VISA office by ourselves, the guy told us it costs $40 and would take 4 business days. We got the applications to fill out and brought them back to the hotel, where everyone knows us by now and Jackson is something of a celebrity who goes by the name “Bao” around here (his Vietnamese name). The extension requires a Vietnamese sponsor, which the hotel front desk staff was more than willing to be for us. One of the women offered to accompany us back to drop off our applications for VISA extension, and somehow, in her presence and with her mediating, they only charged us $20 for each, stamped a new date on them, and the whole transaction was done in a matter of 5 minutes!! You really gotta love how things work in Vietnam!
On Jackson news, he has a few new antics that are just an absolute riot. I have a few on video, but we forgot our software at home to get the movies off the camera onto the computer. My favorite one is this hilarious routine where Travis asks “Jack, what does Mommy say?” Jackson responds with “blaaaaaaaah,” tongue hanging out of his mouth and all. Then they die laughing together. Glad they got such a kick out of me barfing my brains out! As I mentioned in his 18 month update, he LOVES to wear our shoes around. Here he is sporting my running shoes and getting a real kick out of himself:
On other random news, my Step 2 board scores came in today and I passed! Actually, I did pretty well, which was a pleasant surprise. I beat my Step 1 score by a few points, which is nice since I’ve been rather out of the loop for over a year now. I am so so so glad I got that out of the way before all this chaos erupted, before we finally do get home with Shane, and before Belly Baby is close on the horizon in addition.
Well, that’s it for now. Thanks for all the prayers and positive thoughts. Hopefully they’ll bring good news soon! In the meantime, don’t worry about us. We’re bummed and frustrated with how things are going, but at the end of the day, there’s only so much that’s under our control and we wouldn’t change any of our decisions; this time has been really valuable for us as a family in the long-run and hopefully it’ll all be a happy memory soon enough.
January 3, 2008 24 Comments