Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Prepare to Fall in Love...

A couple of things to watch for.... random part where she goes up an octave. The shoulder shimmy at the end. And just how cute she is....

Guest appearance by Aunt TiTi and Ollie...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Super Nate and Ballerina Jess: Nature or Nurture?

Our friend made a superhero cape for Nate and a ballerina tutu for Jess. She said, "These are small and lightweight and maybe the kids will have fun playing with them." I have to admit, I was a bit concerned about what they'd think since they've not seen cartoons or ballerinas or anything like that, but we took them down anyway.

I'm happy to report that some things are apparently born into our DNA.

Nate thought the cape was cool and he toddled around in it quite happily.

He might be the cutest superhero I've ever seen... but I could also be biased!
Pretty soon he was wrapping his arm up in the cape and flipping it down, just like a pro. (I took it off of him before he got any ideas about jumping off something higher than the bed. :) )

When I put the tutu on Miss Jess, she just stood there for a bit, looking at me like I had weeds growing out of my nose. It was not like anything she'd ever seen before, that was for sure.
Then we went over to the mirror so she could see how pretty it was on her. She started to catch on.
First she had to get used to it. Here she's figuring out that she can pull the tulle pieces up and let them drop.

And this little pose? Not staged, not coached. She just walked over to the doorway and started posing.

And in this one, it was like she was trying to see if her hand lined up the way she wanted it.

So you tell me how Haitian orphans in an orphanage without TV can somehow know that you do stretches and poses in a tutu and that capes are for flipping and running.

Thanks, Marcie! They had a lot of fun with them!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cheerleading Starts Early

Our friends, Bambi and Adam captured this little clip of Jessica and two of the older girls goofing off at the hotel cafe.

I have NO IDEA what they're chanting, but it reminds me of a high school cheer. It's something about a crying baby. At the end of it, they make this "crying sound" and they run their fingers under their eyes down their cheeks like tear tracks.

For some reason, the older girls and Jess were the only ones doing this little jig. I think the older girls think it's funny that Jess copies them, so they like to make her do the dance with them. I don't know which part is more funny - the chanting or the fact that the girls get themselves laughing so hard that they literally can't stand up any more.

Jess has a dynamic personality. I think she's just what two homebodies like Brent and me need. She's happy, she's singing all the time. She loves people and she loves to play.

And I'm reminded often that on that day when we finally get to bring her home and our joy is full, her world will be ripped apart. She'll be leaving her mother (who works at the orphanage helping to care for the kids right now), she'll be leaving her 68 best friends. She'll be coming to a place with those two white people she's seen a few times but the house we have here will be SO QUIET in comparison to what she's been living in. The smells will be different. The food will be different. But she'll be leaving her momma and I can't imagine what that will be like for both of them. I've met Darlynn. I can see from her smile where Jessica gets the vibrancy of her soul.

We'll be rejoicing and she'll be grieving and confused and so very sad. We'll help you work through that, Miss Jess. We want this to be as smooth as possible for you. We want you to feel like you're coming home and that you're comfortable here. Daddy has plans for your room, but I'm making him wait to start on them until we get a bit closer to having you home.

I hope you take care of your little brother, Miss Jess. Nathan would follow you anywhere. He thinks you walk on water. He wants to be loved by you. Will you keep an eye on him and help him to be happy in the coming heat and awful weather? Will you give him hugs and kisses when Mommy and Daddy can't? Miss Jess gives pretty good kisses.

We love you, Miss Jess. We look forward to adoring you all the rest of your life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Help! My Eyelids Have Fallen and I Can't Lift Them Up!!

Our sweet Nathan has the most luscious lips and luxurious lashes! It's seriously unbelievable.

I've noticed, though, that he often looks sleepy. I kept getting pictures of him where it looks like his lashes are too heavy for his poor little eyelids:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Welcome to the Family

On our first trip to Haiti in Jan 2008, my youngest brother's wife had their first child.

On this last trip to Haiti, my only sister gave birth to her first baby - and the first grandson born into the family.

So, while we were out gallivanting around in Haiti, Mr. Rocco Dean Larsen was born. We haven't been to see him yet as we're trying to ensure we don't have any random Haitian bugs before we start kissing on new babies.

But until we get our own pics of the little guy, you can enjoy these with us.

Welcome to the family, Rocco. I hear wonderful things about you and can't wait to give you hugs myself!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How Was Haiti?

This was a very different trip for us. One of our good friends came with us and she ended up being just the little TLC that another little sick child at the orphanage needed. There were a few "extra" kids at the orphanage that all needed various forms of nursing to get over whatever sickness they were fighting at the moment. Our friend volunteered to nurse little "Olly" so they let us take him back to our hotel room for the week. We had 3 adults, and 3 children under the age of 2 in 1 room for the week. There are 2 "queen" size beds in the room and T and I shared one with Olly and Nathan and Brent and Jessica the Aerobic Sleeper took the other.

Olly had a fever and a cough and he wasn't eating and was very lethargic. I think he slept 16 hours that first day we had him with us. By the end of the trip, he felt well enough to play a bit and he was eating a bit and we got him to smile and laugh so T's time was well spent, I think.

In some ways it was like we were on a trip by ourselves this time. Our group was so large that dinners at the small hotel cafe were beyond chaotic. With three toddlers, it just wasn't worth the fight to try to keep them happy while you wait on "Haiti time" for your meal to arrive (the one night we did brave the cafe, we waited 1.5 hours for 2 ham and cheese sandwiches. Did I mention they weren't even HOT sandwiches?? I get the whole European "go slowly and enjoy the experience" thing about eating and ordering. I've experienced it many times on business trips overseas. But trust me... this is just ridiculous!) We ordered a lot of our meals via room service (I'd packed a little broom and dustpan, just in case) and it made meals much more peaceful and enjoyable for everyone. Plus we were able to keep better track of who was eating what which is always a good idea with sick little kids.

The big reason we spent a lot of time in our room this trip was so the kids could run at will and we were able to play with them uninterrupted. I think, in that respect, it was a better trip. We had more quality family time. They were able to toddle and do what they wanted and Mama didn't have to worry about anyone falling in the pool again this trip. Our kids weren't too keen on the pool anyway, although Jess did enjoy the one time that Papa wasn't busy being the human jungle gym for all the other kids.

There were political demonstrations all week long in the Presidential Plaza which is right outside our hotel. That's the other reason we didn't venture out much. One afternoon the hotel manager came around and told everyone that they needed to go back to their rooms immediately because the Haitian police had used tear gas on the demonstrators outside and we needed to wait inside until the air cleared. Another afternoon some of the parents wanted to go see the little market across the street in the plaza. One of the coordinators on the trip went to check things out and make sure it was safe. She asked a Haitian man on the street if it was safe to be out right then. He responded with "There's been a small bit of shooting. Maybe you wait a bit..."

Small bit of shooting? Isn't that like being "sort of pregnant"?? We found out later that the police had shot and killed someone in the plaza so it was a good thing we didn't go out.

Our kids were pretty healthy over all, but I'm really, really worried about our friends' daughter, Avrie. She's really struggling right now and is super tiny for a 2 yr old. Please keep Avrie in your prayers. The hot season is just starting and we haven't even hit the hurricanes yet. Sickness always gets worse when you add those factors.

The one point of good news is that the water filters are FINALLY hooked up and working. It only took 6 months because they don't have access to a Home Depot or Lowe's or the like down there. Brent brought down every part he could think of that might be what they needed to hook them up and somewhere in that he hit the mark. So at least they'll have access to clean water during the coming hot months.

Brent also got the solar panels hooked up, but given that everything needed to charge, we weren't able to validate everything was working before we left. We did get a couple of fans down there so hopefully the hot months will be a bit more bearable this year.

On the donation front, we were able to give the orphanage several thousand dollars from everyone's combined efforts. Those of you who donated or raised money for a generator, please rest assured that those funds are still set aside for that purpose. We found out in recent weeks that there is a very high rate of theft with conventional gas powered generators in Haiti. Another orphanage we know of had 3 stolen in the last year. Given that we don't have or want armed guards at our orphanage, we're trying the solar panel route to see if we can give them SILENT power. Solar cells are new enough down there that we believe they should be very secure as the general population wouldn't know what they were anyway.

We took down about 1400 lbs of Feed My Starving Children rice/soy mixture which should last the orphanage for a few months. We were also able to take down about 200 lbs of clothing, which is hard to come by in Haiti. Between the financial, food and clothing donations, along with finally having clean water, hopefully some of the stress will be eased for the next few months.

And us? We're already counting down to our next trip.... this whole process can't end soon enough for our tastes!

Oh, and congratulations to my blog friends who have been able to go to Haiti to bring their children home! Several people have finally finished the process over the last few weeks! Congratulations!

Here are a few pictures of our sweet kids:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I'm Walking Today

A few random thoughts...

The discussion on names yesterday reminded me of a kid I knew a long time ago whose immigrant parents named him "Great". He used to joke, "Some people's parents get their names out of the Bible. Mine found my name in the dictionary." He was a wonderful kid and definitely lived up to his name. That might be a lot of pressure to put on a person, however. :)

I can't really explain the emotions one goes through at this point in the adoption process. There's no end in sight, but you'd do anything to spend time with your babies again - even if it means walking away and leaving them again. You almost get a euphoria at the thought of spending some precious moments with them again. It's like one big Christmas Eve. And at the same time, there's the hovering black cloud that something could still go wrong, like it has so many times before. There's that constant reminder that they're not legally mine - YET.

For some reason, I've been thinking about a random experience I had many years ago when I was volunteering as a missionary for my Church. I was serving in Southeast Florida. We spent a lot of time "tracting", or going door-to-door looking for people that might be interested in hearing about the Gospel.

I'm fairly certain that if you polled the general public, 99% of people hate it when random folks show up at their door. I know I hate it and I've been on the other side of the equation. At the same time I've met so many interesting people (like the guy I refer to as "Naked Box Man" and the man who told us a very lengthy story about how he and his horse had been reincarnated as horse and rider on at least 4 occasions - including participating in the Crusades and the Civil War - and that the horse had communicated with him so that he knew that the horse knew that he knew they had been together before) and had so many unique experiences from it. (The last part of that sentence seems redundant after the part in parenthesis before it.)

Today, though, I'm thinking about the door in an apartment building in Miami. It was hot, it was humid and we'd had slamming doors all day long. At this particular door, we knocked and the door was opened by a smiling elderly woman wearing a purple muumuu and not wearing her teeth. Before we could even introduce ourselves, she exclaimed, "I'm walking today!" and lifted the bottom of her muumuu to show us the braces on her legs. She explained that she'd been having so many health problems the last few years and that she'd been completely immobile for the last several months. Medicaid and her doctors had finally been able to get approvals and she had new braces and today was the first day in a long time that she was able to answer her door when someone came to the door. She was SO HAPPY that she could stand and walk again and very grateful for every little thing in her life that she could do again. We had such a good visit with her and sang her a song (random, I know, but it was a sweet moment for all of us) and we were all better for the time we'd spent together.

Today, I'm just thinking about how I'll be a mom next week - for a few days at least. Before you respond with "but you ARE a mom....", I know what you're going to say and I "get that" but it's honestly not the same as having a particular little person that calls YOU "Mama" and means it just for you.

I'm trying to remember that even if my kids are in an orphanage, they have food and clothing and medical care. They're relatively healthy based on recent reports.

We're walking today.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Name Game...

It's early, but I'm so excited. My dear friend and next-door neighbor is in labor so I'm over waiting with her kids (who are still sleeping and oblivious that their dear, sweet mamma is in labor!)

Which brings me to a discussion we had at work the other day about names. My friend at work's baby girl's name is the same as the middle name we're using for my Jessica (Afton is the name). He has some hilarious stories about how his in-laws completely freaked about the name and would only refer to her as "Baby Girl" for some time because they hated the name and would rant and rave about how they should have had "voting rights on the baby's name" as the child's grandparents.

One of my favorite kid name stories involves a family that I met several years ago when I was living in Southeast Florida. The woman had twin girls she had named Shaquir (pronounced "sha-keer") and Shaquira. She would get so annoyed when people would say, 'Why did you give them the same name?" I remember her saying, 'Can't they hear the difference? Shaquir... Shaquira... they're totally different."

That reminded me of a story that one of my coworker's told me some years ago. She was telling me that she was outside in her yard talking with her neighbor. The neighbor was a young woman who was expecting her first child. My coworker asked her if they'd picked a name for the baby.

The young neighbor replied, "Yes. We think we're going to name her 'Cinnamon'."

My coworker replied with, "So... are you going to teach her how to strip right away or wait until she's 18... how does that work, exactly?"

Not surprisingly, the neighbor baby did NOT end up with the name "Cinnamon".

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears....

This last weekend my company had a Family Zoo day. We stole our niece and made her act as our proxy child for the day. She had a great time. Here are a few shots:

A thought the giraffes were AWESOME....

She rode the carousel with Aunt Lori.

Rode the train - You can see this was the end of the day and we'd had a "diaper overflow" by this point. Yeah... we rock as parents!

And this was what she looked like about a minute and a half after we pulled out of the zoo parking lot. I think that means it was a great day!

That evening, we got together with some of Brent's best friends from high school. Can't believe it's been 20 years.

Can you tell which 3 were on the basketball team?

It was great to see the guys and their families. They had a great time playing basketball together. The part where the rim at the park was only 8' high didn't hurt at all either!

Fun day all around!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Thank You for Visiting the Pit of Despair! Have a Nice Day!

Today is like Christmas except there's no snow on the ground and no tree and Target doesn't have aisles of impulse shopping items.

Today we found out that our file is finally out of IBESR (or, as my friend and fellow adoptive momma, Melissa, calls it "The Pit of Despair"). Approximately 6.5 months later and we're finally (read that "FINALLY!!!") done with the first Haitian government office.

Two more to go. Plus USCIS. Plus lots of waiting. I'll update the timeline on the side so you can see where we are and where we have to go.

But, we've checked off a box - one item down on our very slow "to-do" list before we get to bring our babies home.

We also received pictures today.

Did I mention today was like Christmas?

So, to answer all the questions that are going to flood at me from both of my readers:

Q: Yeah! You're done with IBESR! Does that mean you know when you'll bring them home?
A: Unfortunately, no. It just means we have a required step completed. Think of it as passing a level on Donkey Kong. You're closer, but you still have to save the Princess.

Q: Are you so excited that you get to fly to Haiti at the end of next week?
A: Why, yes! Yes, we are VERY excited. I hear that Haiti is hotter than Hades right now. An internet friend is there picking up her little boy right now and she says it's miserable hot. We can hardly wait! My good friend, Tia, is coming as well on this trip and will be helping out at the orphanage. We're so excited for her to meet our babies. She'll be the first person from our "pre-Haiti" life to actually meet them and it makes it seem that much more real for me.

Q: How can you possibly stand how cute they are?
A: It's a tough job, but we try to bear it up as best we can.

Q: I love Nathan's lips! Where can I find some like those for myself?
A: Oh, sweet friend.... on this I cannot help you. You've either got it, or you don't!