Friday, December 30, 2011

Cost of Adoption--Overseas vs. In Pennsylvania

We are keeping very accurate track of adoption expenses, in part because our Church and others are helping with the expenses.  since we are keeping track, I thought I could share how much we have spent so far:

datecategorycostrunning total
11/29/11plane tickets$1,307.40$1,307.40
12/03/11doc visit; HepA vaccine for akc$178.00$1,485.40
12/06/11anti-malarial meds; bug spray$70.66$1,556.06
12/14/11birth certificates--Neil$56.00$1,612.06
12/14/11birth certificates--Annalisa$32.00$1,644.06
12/14/11marriage certificates$20.00$1,664.06
12/17/11airport parking$25.00$1,689.06
12/17/11luggage fee$50.00$1,801.06
12/19/11Haitian market$140.00$1,941.06
12/20/11Newark airport parking$108.00$2,049.06
12/20/11lunch in airport$9.00$2,058.06
12/29/11register FBI clearance$68.00$2,126.06
12/30/11PA Child Abuse Clearance$21.00$2,147.06
12/30/11PA Criminal Background check$21.00$2,168.06
We have not paid for transportation or lodging in Haiti yet, but expect that will be more than $500.
Lawyer's fees begin with a $4,000 deposit very soon.  We are expecting to spend either side of $20,000 before the process is over.

Adopting older kids in PA costs essentially nothing.  Maybe a lot of gas money during the transition, but that is much less than air fare to Haiti.

Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

From Haiti to NYC

We celebrate Christmas in Maryland at my wife's father's house.  Christmas is the most complicated holiday of the year for us.  My wife, our youngest daughter and our two sons leve for Maryland the morning before Christmas.  I leave at the end of the day on Christmas Eve.  My stepdaughter comes from her Dad's house in Virginia on Christmas Eve.  My daughters celebrate Christmas morning at their Mom's then join us in MD for the last part of the all-day Christmas celebration.

But that's on the beginning.

Christmas night at about 8pm, five of the kids and I drive in two cars back to Lancaster, sleep, re-pack and leave at 10am on the 26th for a two-day shopping trip in NYC.

My wife and her daughter stay in MD for those two days.

Now five kids and I plus one of Lauren's friends are in NYC for three days, two nights to shop and see NYC sights.  SOOOOO different from Haiti.  If all goes well with Xavier, he will join us for Christmas 2012.

I wonder what he will think of staying in Times Square!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Haiti Hangover

This morning I was very sad.  I want to go back to Haiti and tell Xavier the adoption will really happen and I want to get him a passport so he can come to America and visit while we are waiting for all the paperwork to go through.

The trouble with going back to Haiti is that any money we spend with unnecessary travel is less we have for the adoption itself.  We want to get the house paid off also.

I laugh at myself at times like this because I remember that patience decreases with age.  The best people when they realize life really does have an expiration date want to use their time the best they can.  The rest of us just want to use whatever time we have to do what we want.  On a good day I am stuck between those two.

I am 58 years old and can still race bikes, run a half marathon, and adopt kids without homes.  I still have a good job, I can still serve in the Army National Guard and right now I am trying to do all these things.  And I want to go back to Haiti.

Between my wife and I, it is me who is the emotional one and she who is rational about what can and can't be done.  My Task List and Calendar are based on a 40-hour day in which I need no sleep.  She organizers her day and gets her Tasks done and really sleeps eight hours each night.

Just to add another level of complication.  I called our adoption counselor in PA today about Emarion.  I know it is pretty much case closed, but I really think Emarion would have been better off in our home with two brothers who thought he was very cool than in a Foster Home with no permanent family.

So I will talk to Amanda and see if there is one more chance to adopt Emarion.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pictures of Xavier in Haiti

We had a small prayer ceremony at the mission run by Heather just before we left.  At that ceremony, Heather announced that Wenky's American name would be Xavier Pierre Gussman.

Xavier and I 

Xavier and Annalisa with me in the Tap Tap that took us to the airport.
Look closely and you will see I am wearing Crash Test Dummy socks--VERY appropriate for the ride to Port Au Prince
Annalisa getting her hair done by six kids at once in mission where Xavier lives.
Xavier and Annalisa at mission where Xavier lives.

More on Annalisa's blog.

Monday, December 19, 2011

REAL Tough Mudder

Tonight I gave my Tough Mudder finishers jersey to a 17-year-old boy at the orphanage where we are staying.  He was passing a soccer ball back and forth with the younger kids.  His right leg is 18" shorter than his left.  He moves fast on the filed and on the ground in a gliding way.  He is a real Tough Mudder.

Often people say to us what wonderful hearts we must have to adopt kids from American cities and from Haiti.  It is embarrassing to hear, both because it is meant in the nicest way and because in a way we are creating a world that does not exist around us.  The norm in America is video-addicted kids who believe the world owes them entertainment.  Our family can be different.

During the time we stayed at the orphanage for kids with amputations and birth defects, I did not see them  sitting in corners saying "I'm bored"  or crying because they did not get an XBox upgrade.  They live in a house with three hours a day of generator service.  They care for each other and have fun with ragged soccer balls and sticks, and even play games that include their battered crutches.

As I write this I am sitting in the office of the orphanage with 75 babies.  Both my wife and our son Xavier each picked one of the babies up as soon as we walked in the door.  Two babies were crying, they picked up the babies.  I am not as good by reflex as they are--not even close.  But I get to live in that kind of family instead of one with kids that whine for their video stuff.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 2 in Haiti

I will download pictures as soon as I can.  We had very little internet service and no cell service in Haiti, plus we did not bring a cable to download pictures.  Back in America I will post pictures.

Our first full day in Haiti began with me going on a five-mile run and Annalisa reading a book about our favorite TV show--"The Wire."  It was The Wire (Season 4, last episode) that convinced me to adopt more kids.  Anyway, the story of the run is here.  

We went to Wenky's orphanage at 1pm and played with the almost 30 kids that live there.  My wife let a half-dozen girls style her hair.  Their technique involved a lot of pulling.  I played ball with a two-year-old boy and then traded head balls with an eight-year-old.  

The orphanage is run by a local woman on a very small budget and is little more than a few shacks in a banana grove.  After playing with the kids there we switched worlds.  Our local hosts took us to Club Indigo, a lovely place. We passed three sets of armed guards on the way from the first gate to the restaurant.  It was located on the Caribbean with a white sand beach.

Heather, our host, told us that the kids who get adopted in America take American names.  My wife loves the name Xavier, a Spanish (actually Catalan) saint name.  And I got to name Nigel.   So Wenky's American name will be Xavier Pierre Gussman.

More tomorrow.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

In Haiti!!!!

Today we landed in Port Au Prince, Haiti.  The crowding, the poverty, the devastation and everything we read about before we arrived was worse in person.  The terminal is still being rebuilt, so we stopped on the tarmac and took Heathrow-style standing-room buses to customs.  At customs we lined up for papers check, which went smoothly enough, then retrieved our bags.  A guy hired by the orphanage met us in customs--things are thankfully more lax here, and helped us get to our driver.  We walked through an unbelievably crowded parking lot past hundreds of men yelling "Taxi" until we got to the van we were to ride in.

Our driver was awesome.  He slithered the van through jerking and darting cars, vans and SUVs getting us out of the airport without incident.  Clear of the airport we spent the next two hours traveling about 50 miles to the orphanage.  The roads near Port au Prince are potholes, craters and ditches with strips of pavement between then.  Buses, Mack trucks, vans, cars, and motorcycles swing and wind back and forth across the roads.  The buses are packed to the rook with people on top and hanging on the side.  They look like hippos and elephants dancing as they sway and swerve from hole to ditch.

As we got further from town the roads got better and better.  The houses started to have roofs, some at least, and people started to look a little better fed.  The traffic laws are Darwinian--biggest vehicle right of way--but our driver was great.  He passed when he could, hung back when he couldn't and anticipated the near misses with barely a twitch--more difficult in a van that moaned and groaned with shock absorbers long dead or maybe missing and springs at least 50,000 miles past and real rebound strength.

Our host at the first orphanage was Heather, a blond bundle of energy who runs an orphanage for about 75 babies.  All of the babies are abandoned, terminally ill or both.  She has ten adopted children of her own and decided God was calling her to live in Haiti and run her own orphanage.  She left a full-time career in advertising for Haiti, but travels back to the states a half-dozen times a year to work on TV ads and help to pay the bills.  And you can help her out:

We then went to the mission next door where we will stay.  They care for children who are amputees or have birth defects.  Finally we went to the orphanage where our future son Wenky lives.  This orphanage is run by a local woman who was an orphan herself and decided to create her own orphanage after the earthquake.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Time to Pack!!!

Tonight when I get home I will have to pack for Haiti.  Unlike most of my trips, I do not have to dress up for any event, just jeans and dress shirt and I can wear those on the plane to Haiti.

I am not getting an overseas cell phone so I will really be unplugged!  It will be strange to be off email and cell for 96 hours.  I am sure to go through withdrawal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bad Medicine

Monday evening my wife and I took our first dose of anti-malaria medicine.  She would be a great contestant on one of those survival shows where you eat rats and bugs.  She can eat anything.  I, on the other hand, can put my digestive system in reverse simply by eating too much raw food at once.

She has not complained at all.  Everything I have eaten since Monday is making me run to the bathroom or seems stuck in my throat three hours after I eat it.  I talked to a friend who has travelled to many countries far off the Michelin Dining Guide and he said many people get malaria because they can't stand the medicine, quit taking it and get the disease.

So I will keep taking the medicine and hope I will at least be thinner for racing season next year.  I should have skipped dinner tonight.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Going to Haiti Saturday

Wow!!!  It's getting close.  Just four days and a wake up and we will be on the way to Haiti.  I am riding Amtrak this morning with a stomach ache.  I was wondering what I ate that would make my intestines feel as rebellious as a teenager, then I remembered the malaria pill I took last night.  So today and maybe tomorrow my mid-section will be audible from fifty feet, but hopefully back to normal before wheels up on Saturday morning.

Annalisa has pulled together a schedule of friends to take care of the boys while we are traveling.  Kiersten and her friend from Virginia will be house and dog sitting--so our dog K-Oz will not miss his twice daily moment of delight:  "Oh boy!  Dog food!  Again!"

When I traveled overseas regularly for business, I often had people ask if they could stow away in my suitcase.  They liked the idea of travel to Paris,  Perth, or Prague but no one so far has said "I always wanted to go to Port au Prince."

Of course, they like the idea of travel to Haiti better than our 2015 plan of taking the boys to live in a black majority culture.  If all goes well we will spend the 2015-16 academic year in Rwanda.  I had stowaway requests for Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Rotterdam.  None so far for Rwanda.


Monday, December 12, 2011

On Radio Smart Talk WITF FM

This morning I was on Radio Smart Talk on WITF talking about the Iraq War.  Here are the details on my Army blog in case you want to listen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Four Stitches from Dance Move

This morning I took Jacari to the doctor to get his stitches checked.  On Tuesday evening he was demonstrating one of his favorite dance moves in the garage and smacked his chin on a trash can.  My wife took him to the doctor at 9pm to get four stitches in his chin.

As we prepare to meet another son, the ones we have are continuing with the life of teen boys--which includes crashing during dance moves.

For the trip to Haiti we will be leaving the boys with friends from Church for the four days we are gone.  Possibly with different families so they get a break from each other and so their occasional sibling rivalry does not flare up for our friends.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Doctor Saturday--Vaccinations

On Saturday my wife and I have an appointment with our doctor to review the vaccinations and medicine we will need for the trip to Haiti.  I got my complete list from the medic sergeant at my unit.  It looks like I am current on everything.  It felt like I was current on everything when we went to Iraq.  I surely got a lot of shots.

My wife may not be so lucky.  We will both need malaria medicine and I will need to bring bug spray.  I am one of those people who attract mosquitoes.

Last night I talked to one of the deacons at our Church--Wheatland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster.  They have an adoption fund so we will be able to get help with the expenses of the adoption.  I had breakfast with one of the elders this morning (relative to me he should be a "Younger" since he is about 20 years my junior) and he said the charitable funds are on a fiscal year basis so we may get additional help next year.  The would be even better.

We were thinking about travelling later in the month, but the plane tickets all but doubled in price over the holidays and through the first part of January.  It also seemed like getting this long process moving would be better than delaying a month or more.

Lots to think about.

Going to Haiti the Week Before Christmas

Annalisa and I will be flying to Haiti for a two-day visit the week before Christmas to meet Wenky.  I know two days in Haiti seems very short, but we just need to meet Wenky and get the adoption process started in Haiti--so two days seems reasonable to me.

Odd things about the trip:  I have traveled to 25 countries on five continents, a total of more than 50 overseas trips.  This is the first time I have been to the Caribbean and the first time I have paid for the ticket.  The Army has given me all-expense trips to Germany and Iraq.  My work has taken me to every continent but Africa and after 58 years I am finally going overseas on my own and the destination is Haiti.

Monday, November 28, 2011

News from Haiti: Wenky Can Be Adopted

Today we learned that Wenky can be adopted so we are moving forward with the adoption.  Before we could actually apply to adopt Wenky we had to sure he was legally available for adoption and the lawyers we are working with in Haiti confirmed it.

The next step is to send an application and a $4,000 application fee.  We should have that completed in a month.  Next is a visit to Haiti sometime this month.  There will be many pages of paperwork to fill out--some that will need to be translated into Creole and notarized.

We will do all we can and make sure the delays are on our end.

Missing Emarion

On Saturday and sunday of Thanksgiving weekend I realized I was planning on Emarion visiting for the weekend and was sad thinking about it.  Emarion loved to ride.  On Saturday I rode toward the outlets and realized he would have ridden with me on that warm afternoon.  He probably would have ridden every day of the weekend, though not Thanksgiving morning.  The Turkey Day race would have been too fast for the tandem and the 60 riders would have been too many for his first time in a pack.  But the smaller groups on Friday and Sunday would have given him a good start riding in groups.

I hope Emarion gets a chance to ride in whatever home he goes to in the future.  He is a good rider and really good on the back of a tandem.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Family Pictures

With three daughters in Virginia, holidays are the only time to take family pictures.  At noon on Thanksgiving we were able to take a family photo before Lauren and Lisa sped off to Thanksgiving in New Hope.

The entire family:

From left:  Iolanthe, Kiersten, Annalisa, Jacari, me, Lisa, Nigel, Peter and Lauren.
Iolanthe is my step daughter, Kiersten lives at our house and tutors the boys.  Her Mom was one of Annalisa's hospice patients a dozen years ago.  Kiersten has gone on some of our family vacations since and is now a student at a local college.  Peter is Lauren's boyfriend.

The kids:

The boys:

Timmy is our neighbor and is also adopted.  He and our boys play together a lot.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Boys' View of Adoption Change

After I heard about Emarion's decision not to be adopted, I had to tell Nigel and Jacari.  They said the news was sad, but understood (better than most kids) that the whole adoption process can be scary.  Then they began to speculate about why he would have changed his mind.

It could not be them.  Emarion could whip them both at wrestling so why would he be worried?  He would want to go to a new home where he could beat his new brothers.

They knew he liked riding with me.  Jacari said, "He was a mad cyclist.  He could ride forever.  Like Dad."

Then they hit it.  Jacari said, "Emarion did not like vegetables."  Nigel said, "Dude, that boy just did not want to eat vegetables."  A cascade of confirmation followed.  Clearly it was carrots that caused second thoughts!

Or not.  But it was fun to watch them process the news.  And now they are happy having arrived at a cause that is outside their control.  "Mom would make him eat vegetables!"

Friday, November 18, 2011

One Adoption Stopped, the Other on Hold

At noon today the social worker who has been our contact with Emarion told us he has decided he does not want to be adopted.


From what little we know, he has a good foster home now and recently left a bad one.  He does not want to change and in his position, I might do the same.  It is sad for us, but we are sure there will be another boy who needs a home.

We also finally got word from Haiti.  The team we are working with is really enthusiastic about the possibility we can adopt Wenky.  But they have not yet answered the question "Is Wenky free for adoption?"  Until then, we can't go forward.

Our social worker was really supportive and happy we are not discouraged.  She said she will get to work on finding another child.

More soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Feelings, Duty and Adoption

This morning my wife and I were talking about the process of adopting Emarion.  Later today I will call his social worker and try to arrange a time to bring him to our house for next weekend and over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend.  Next weekend is Nigel's birthday.  Thanksgiving is when his sisters will be in town--a rare occurrence happening just a few times a year.  

Annalisa wants to get Emarion moved into our house as soon as possible and get him fully integrated into our family.  For her, adopting is providing a home for a child who needs one.  So once Providence, circumstances and the foster-care system has put a child in our lives, she wants to get on with the adoption process and get it done.  For me, providing a home for these boys is the most clear path I have to doing God's Will in my life--which I am not very good at otherwise.  So I also think we should keep the process moving.

The rest of the world clearly thinks feelings have a much more prominent role in this process than we do.  How does Emarion feel about the whole thing?  I don't know.  Chances are he doesn't either.  With us he will be a member of a family, have brothers his own age and have a place to call home while grows up.  When he goes off to college, gets a job, and finds his way in the world, he will have a place to call home.  

For anyone coming out of the foster-care system, moving into a permanent home has to feel weird and uncomfortable.  Annalisa and I think the faster this process moves the sooner everyone can get on with life.   

Friday, November 4, 2011

Next Steps with Adopting Wenky from Haiti

I have been out of town on business each of the last two weeks with a snow storm in between.  But we have managed to make some progress with adopting Wenky.

I spoke at some length with one of our pastors and our Church does have a fund to help with adoption expenses.  Before we were introduced to the possibility of adopting Wenky, we had planned to stay within the Pennsylvania adoption system.  When we adopt through the state, many of the very important issues are taken care or their status is clear.

Since our first intent is to provide a home for boys who need a home, it is important for me that parental rights are terminated.  We do not want to be in a protracted dispute with the birth parents in the future about custody.  With both of our sons and the boy we are in the process of adopting, the parental rights are terminated, so we do not have that worry about the future.

Pennsylvania also takes care of all the legal fees for children adopted through the state system.  This is no small potential expense.

With Wenky, we are paying for legal expenses, which by our current calculations will be a minimum of $8,000.  The total expense of the adoption will be close to $18,000 as a minimum.  Since our future plans include me working less in order to be home more, more expenses means being home less--we have to earn more money.

So our next step is to confirm Wenky is legally free for adoption and willing to be adopted.  You might be thinking "Shouldn't you know that already?"  We don't.  If adoption looks simple and straightforward from the outside, it's not.

IF Wenky can be adopted, I will go to Haiti to meet him and confirm (as well as I can) that he wants to be adopted and we will go from there.

More later. . .

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Haircuts!!!!!

The boys asked their Mom for Halloween haircuts.  I want to say right away these haircuts were not my choice in any way.  My guess is they will be asking for a full head shave tonight after Trick or Treating.  In case it is not clear on your PC, Jacari has a checkered pattern on his cranium.  Nigel chose a dragon for his skull.

Happy Halloween!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October Snow Cancels Visit

Emarion was supposed to visit today and tomorrow, but the now-normal extremes of weather cancelled the visit.  Snow from Virginia to Boston meant the long drive today and tomorrow were out of the question.  We hope to see Emarion next weekend.  My wife is speaking at Penn State and hopes to swing by Eamrion's foster home and bring him to our home overnight.  I have an Army drill that weekend so it will be a scheduling feat for Annalisa or me to make the long return trip.

Most of last week I was in Texas on business.  My current job has me out of town regularly.  Annalisa and I have been talking a lot about what I can do to be home more if and when we have one or two more boys moving in.  

Those same weather extremes that are more and more the normal of life make my business trips longer and longer.  I woke at 345 am in Texas to take a 6 am flight and be sure I was back for a 4pm meeting.  The first flight was on time.  Rain along the east coast delayed the second flight and I was an hour late for the meeting--canceling it and rescheduling for next week.  I went to dinner.  The trains were delayed and I got home just after midnight.

My daily commute to Philadelphia is also getting longer.  Amtrak upgraded their equipment, but snow, floods, and someone committing suicide by train every other month has me regularly hours late getting home.  

I am complaining, no doubt about that.  But I am also thinking out loud about what it means to be unreliably home with boys who need their parents reliably present.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Talking About Driving

Each month when I got to drill weekend, I leave a half-hour earlier and drop Jacari off with his former Foster Mom Melissa.  She raised Jacari for more than three years and as it happens, she lives just six miles from the base where I train.  So when I go for my Army weekend, Jacari spends the weekend with Melissa and her family.

Melissa is well connected in the Foster Mom network and gets free passes to Hershey Park and discounts at many fairs and festivals.  Jacari always gets some kind of special event during a weekend at his former home.

During the drive in the dark from Lancaster to Fredericksburg we talked about driving.  I told him when he could get his Learner's Permit and how his sisters did on the test--both the written test for the permit and the road test for the license.

In just three years, Jacari will be eligible for a permit.  That should be interesting!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Emarion Loves to Ride

Emarion will be a teenager boy in February, so no big surprise he can eat.  What was a pleasant surprise is how much he likes to ride bicycles.  When we got to the house he asked if he could ride.  I set him up to ride Nigel's mountain bike which meant raising the seat about six inches.  He rode that bike about five miles till first Jacari then Nigel decided to go home--we were riding on a one-mile loop near the house.  Emarion and I rode five more miles together then went home to get a drink.

Then at my wife's suggestion, I took Emarion for a ride on the tandem.  We rode five miles to the east side of Lancaster, ate pizza and rode back.  I decided at that point Emarion needed a good helmet, not the one we got him from the garage.  I was going to drive to Bike Line, but Emarion wanted to ride.  We bought the helmet. Emarion rode 26 miles with me on Saturday afternoon.  He pedals steadily and is strong.  

On Sunday we only had a half hour after Church before he had to go back to his foster home.  We rode seven more miles.  He was proud to know he had ridden 33 miles this weekend.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Emarion Visits for the Weekend

This morning I drove to Mifflintown PA to pick up Emarion for his first visit to our home.  Mifflintown is roughly halfway between Emarion's foster home and our home, so we picked up Emarion at a Burger King  in the middle of Pennsylvania.

On the two-hour ride home it was quickly clear that Emarion has very sharp eyes.  The boys started playing Punch Buggy No Punch Backs (identifying VWs on the road) and Emarion beat Nigel and Jacari about 10 to 1.  He really knows cars.

Halfway home we stopped at Fort Indiantown Gap.

When we got there, a unit was firing on the rifle range at pop-up targets.  Emarion was fascinated as we watched the targets drop as the shooters went through their prone and kneeling firing positions.  We then drove along the ranges to see if anyone else was shooting.  Not today.

Next we went to the hangar and the boys got to see Apache, Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters.

More later.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Race Bad: Boys Awesome!

The Army Ten Miler was a mess--but the boys were awesome on the whole trip to DC, VA and back.
Here's a report on my other blog.

This makes three weekends in a row that the boys have spent at least 8 hours in trains and cars to cheer at races and meet their new brother.

This coming weekend, Emarion is coming to visit us, but it will be a 5-hour round trip to drop him off on Sunday.  

Nigel and Jacari are awesome travelers.  

Here they are trying on Halloween costumes after we got back from the race:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

With the Boys in DC

Today we drove to Washington DC so I could pick up my number for the Army Ten Miler.  This makes three weekends in a row the boys will travel a long way in cars and trains to go to races.  Last weekend my wife and I ran a half marathon in Lancaster then drove to State College and back to meet Emarion.  The weekend before, the boys went with me to a half marathon in the Hamptons.

This weekend we will stay at Grandpa's house in Silver Spring MD before driving to the Pentagon for the Army race.  The boys will have a little less time to wait than the last two races because this one is shorter.  These trips are a lot of driving, but the boys love eating junk food and every trip with Dad leads to junk food at some point, so they trade boredom for grease.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Talking with Another Couple Adopting from Haiti

My wife got an email yesterday from another couple adopting a child from Haiti through the same agency we are using.  She will be talking with them tonight about their experience to date and what we should be careful of as the adoption process goes forward.  She does not expect to learn anything earthshaking from the call, but adoption with two sovereign governments involved has to get complicated and so we should learn some good tips on how to keep the paperwork going and keep all the officials happy.

More when I know more.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

German perspective on American Adoption

At my day job are visiting scholars from many countries.  Today I mentioned our adoption plans to a young woman who is working at our library for a year on a post-doctorate fellowship.  I mentioned something about our family possibly adopting two more boys.

"More," she said.  "How many do you have?"

"Two," I said showing her a picture of Nigel and Jacari with Emarion.  She said, "I hope I am not being to intrusive but could you tell me. . ."

she asked where the boys came from, why we were and are adopting, how many children we wanted, how our families (parents, siblings) felt about our adoption, how the boys felt about being adopted, and maybe 20 more questions.  She said she is at an age when many of her friends are having kids and was curious about the whole idea of adoption.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

First Visit with Emarion

Today we drove to meet our new son Emarion.  He lives in the Phillipsburg area so we drove to State College and met Eamrion and Josi his social worker at a local restaurant.

In all of the photos, Emarion is on the left, Jacari is on the right in the top two and in the middle in the bottom photo.  Nigel has a Juniata Soccer sweatshirt.

Both Nigel and Jacari liked Emarion a lot and hope he can come to live with us soon.  The next step will be a visit to our house in two weeks.

In the top photo we all smiled for the camera.  In the other two, I was showing the boys army pictures.  Boys don't seem to get tired of looking at Chinooks, Blackhawks and guns!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Filling Out Adoption Forms

Last night my wife and I filled out some of the many forms necessary for our adoption from Haiti.  Along with all the family background data, the Christian group we are working with asked to questions we could answer with a paragraph or more.  The questions and the answers follow:

My relationship with God

All of us live every day by faith--we know nothing of the future but can only live in the present moment by the Grace of Our Lord.  In a faith relationship, exact history is difficult to pin down, but I believe my relationship with God began when I was four years old.  I watched "Davey and Goliath" puppets on TV.  It was 1957.  I was Jewish, but my parents did not attend synagogue or talk about God.  Davey and Goliath introduced me to the life of faith.

I was Bar Mitzvah at 13, but did not think very much about God again until I was 20 years old.  Then, in 1972 I joined the Air Force. By 1973 I was on a live-fire missile testing team.  I got a Christian roommate.  He took me to his Church.  I thought his Church inhabited by lunatics (it was Pentacostal) but he was a great guy.  

On November 9, 1973, I was blinded and had many other injuries in a missile explosion.  I did not make a confession of faith until the following February, but while blind, I could see that God was real.

Since then, I have by much Grace and effort been following the Lord Jesus.  Suffering has brought me closer to the Lord over the years.  I have been blessed with amazing brothers and sisters of faith and continue to be blessed by the Lord's presence and people every day of my life.

Why I am Adopting

The two words that best describe why I am adopting are Ability and Obedience.  

Ability:  I have had the delight of raising three brave, strong--sometimes overconfident--daughters.  I believe I can do the same with boys.  I am currently serving as a sergeant in the Army National Guard.  I have spent almost 15 years in the military, much of it as a tank commander.  The Lord has given me excellent training to be a father of boys who need homes.  I plan to do the best I can at this calling.

Obedience:  In the Church today, many people talk about taking the Bible literally by which they mean something far away from them--like Genesis or Revelation, not the tough stuff like giving away possessions.  Our Lord promises we will suffer if we obey Him.  To my wife and I, no command in Scripture is more clear and compelling than the command (both Old and New Testaments) to care for widows and orphans.  

For me, I can care for orphans and be sure I am obeying the Lord.  He cares particularly for widows and orphans in their need.  And as to suffering for the Faith, if adopting and caring for three teenage boys does not cause me suffering, then I will just have to adopt more.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bring Your Own Spectators

This morning I ran a half marathon in East Hampton New York.  I have never been to Hamptons before.  The marathon course was so far east that we ran along the eastern tip of the island near the end.

Our hotel was a 90-minute drive from the hotel, so I got the boys up at 530am to eat at 6am.  The hotel had a free buffet.  And the buffet was much better than I expected.  I thought I would just eat a bagel or two, but the coffee was good, the eggs were good and so was the bacon.  The boys ate three sausage patties each, eggs and about 10 strips of bacon.

I should not have eaten the bacon.  I felt fine at the beginning of the run, but at mile four I felt pressure.  At mile eight I sprinted to a Port-a-Potty and lost six minutes.

After the stop, my pace dropped from 10:30 to 9:30 per mile.  I caught up to and then ran ahead of my running partner--she was slowing and said go ahead.  My sons were waiting 100 yards from the finish.  I finished then went back to them and the three of us ran back to Kristine.  We all ran toward the finish together.  I hung back so I would not go through the finish cameras twice.

Jacari waved to the crowd like her ran 13 miles instead of a half mile.  He is a ham!

We ate some post race food:  bananas, hummus, blue corn chips, sport drinks, and drove back toward the hotel and showers.  The traffic was so slow a mile from the race that I got out and walked a mile beside the road.  I had to wait just before a traffic light for Kristine and the boys to catch up to me.  After the shower stop, the Kristine took us to Queens.  We got on the Long Island Railroad, went to Penn Station and ate pizza before traveling on NJ Transit to Trenton.  then we drove to Lancaster.

A long day but the boys were very happy.  Since they eat well most of the time, a 24-hour holiday of TV and junk food is a real treat.

Friday, September 23, 2011

McDonalds! ???

Kids make up words.  Sometimes they stick, some burn away like dew off morning grass.  Both Nigel and Jacari decided to use their own word to mean "Awesome!"  Their tutor/honorary sister Kiersten uses "Awesome!" and "Rad!" to indicate something is better than good.  Last week Nigel decided to use the word "Pesto!" instead of copying "Awesome!"  Jacari uses "McDonalds!"  

So when someone coins a new word, the first test is will they use it in public.  Ridicule limits additions to language.  

Today, the boys and I went to New York so I could run a half-marathon on Saturday morning.  We drove to Trenton, took NJ Transit to Penn Station New York and met my running partner Kristine Chin.  We ate in Penn Station at a place that combines KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Tim Hortons.  I got the boys personal pizzas, then hot wings and chicken fingers.  Kristine and I ate sushi.  She could not believe how much the boys could eat!!  They were so happy putting hot sauce on the chicken.  When the chicken and pizza were done, Jacari said, "Can I have a taco?" 

I said, "Sure."  

He said, "McDonalds!!"

"No Jacari, Taco Bell." 

Nigel said, "He means Awesome."

"Yeah McDonalds," Jacari said flashing a huge grin.

Nigel returned to his chicken which he said was "Awesome!"  Not "Pesto!"

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jacari's Adoption

Nigel (left) and Jacari

The last two weeks in June of 2009 time flew past faster than a bat in a swarm of mosquitoes!  Those two weeks were my 15-day mid-tour leave from Iraq.  One afternoon of that highspeed week, my wife Annalisa and I went to an adoption "meet and greet" event at the host resort.  Prospective adoptive parents met children who were eligible for adoption and descriptions of kids not at the event.

We had pretty much decided to adopt when I returned from Iraq, but this meeting helped to put some reality in our plans.  We heard about Jacari in the fall.  Annalisa set up a class I could take just two days after I was released from Fort Dix after deployment.  I was discharged on Thursday, January 23, 2010, and went to an all-day adoption seminar on Saturday, January 25.

We met Jacari at his foster mom's house three weeks later.  He and Nigel got along great so we arranged for Jacari to spend weekends with us and the school week with his foster family until the school year ended.  Since June of 2010 Jacari has lived with us full time.

In a luck coincidence, Jacari's foster family lives just six miles from Fort Indiantown Gap, where I go to Army weekends.  On those once-a-month weekends, I drop Jacari off at his foster moms house and pickup him up on the way home Sunday evening.

We adopted Jacari in April.  This Sunday, he will turn 13 and make us a family with teenagers again.  Right now the boys are 11 and 12 and the girls are 20, 21, and 22.  No teenagers for three more days.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sabbath Thoughts

My wife actually honors the Sabbath.  From sundown Saturday to Sundown Sunday she shuts off the computer and does no work outside the house.  An Orthodox Jew might have a problem with the gardening, canning and other work she does, but she is more observant of the Sabbath than I am.  I go to Church Sunday morning.  I work out on Sunday afternoon.  But I look at email in between.

So since I am on line on the Sabbath anyway, I will try to keep my Sunday posts about faith as it relates to adoption.

There are as many reasons to adopt as there are people who adopt.  My reason for adopting began with faith.  I am a Believer, orthodox (with a small "o") which means I can describe my faith with the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds.

At this point if faith is not part of your interest in adoption, you should skip to tomorrow's post.  For those of us who believe God is Lord of the Universe and us, we do our often stuttering best to do His will.  And in that, some of us go crazy.

The main reason I am adopting kids, especially boys, is because I think I can do a good job being a father to them.  Granted, the bar is not high.  Boys who are available for adoption mostly have not had fathers in their lives, so I am an improvement simply by being here.  As a matter of faith, I can feel very confident that in this one thing I am obeying the Lord.  If there is any command in Scripture that is clear it is the command to care for widows and orphans.  Old Testament, New Testament completely agree we are to care for widows and orphans.  And there are plenty of widows and orphans around, since it is much more popular to take Genesis and Revelation literally than the book of James or the Sermon on the Mount.

From a faith perspective, I think it is safest to take the Bible literally when there is a real cost.  Visit prisoners, care for the sick, give your money and possessions away--these are not the popular parts of the Bible to take literally.  I haven't done any of those yet.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Army Picnic--Foster Mom Visit

Today I got Nigel and Jacari up at 530am for a long, complicated, fun day.  Each month when I have a drill weekend with the Army National Guard, Jacari spends the weekend with Melissa--his foster mom of three years before we adopted him.  Melissa is an adoptive mom of a boy with Downs Syndrome and foster mom of a teenage girl.

For Jacari this weekend often means some kind of special trip or treat--Melissa gets tickets for Hershey Park and other amusement centers through her network of foster moms.  I dropped the boys at Melissa's house at 7am and drove 6 miles to Fort Indiantown Gap.  The first order of business for this weekend was the annual Fitness Test.  I was really looking forward to this.  I have scored close to perfect on the last five fitness tests--between 288 and 297 on a 300 scale--but never made the maximum score.  Today I hit 300!

After the fitness test, I took pictures of a Blackhawk and a Chinook helicopter landing in a field to bring officer candidates on board.  Then I went back to Melissa's and picked up the boys for the annual unit picnic.  Nigel, Jacari and I ate hamburgers, hot dogs and cookies.  After the food, I took the boys through the hangar where helicopters are are repaired.  Then they went back to Melissa's and I returned for some late afternoon work.

At 730pm I picked up Nigel and drove home.  Jacari stayed at Melissa's till I picked him up the following evening.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Discipline 1

Today my wife and I were both out of town.  I got a call from the young woman watching the boys that Jacari had refused to help make dinner and gone off to the park after being told No several times.  The woman who tutors our kids and sometimes watches them is very nice but had had enough and called me.  At the time I was on the train home and about 45 minutes away.

She put Jacari on the phone.  We have a full length mirror in the living room.  I told Jacari to go and sit infront fo that mirror till I got home.  He could lok at a boy who was in a lot of trouble.  When I got home Jacari was sitting on the floor.  I told him to get up and sit down several times--just to be sure he understood instructions and, more importantly, who was giving the instructions.

Next he did 25 pushups and remained in the pushup position while I walked in a circle around him and explained how he would obey those in charge of him in the future.  I also asked him how much fun his trip to the park seemed right now.

After this he took a shower and got ready for bed.  When kids willfully disobey they need to be corrected--and corrected enough that they have real consequences to stop them the next time.  Parents who "explain" the rules to a defiant child are sending a snowball of trouble down a big hill.  It will be an avalanche someday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Adoption and Work

My wife works 2 blocks from the campus where she teaches.  She walks another two block on campus to get to her office.  She has a commute anyone could love--ten minutes each way, no car, bus, or train.  

I am 72 miles from my office--two hours each way four days each week.  It used to be two days each week, but my boss and my job changed while I was in Iraq.  I love my job and even if didn't, I would not want to turn my back on a good job in a bad economy.  

But if we do adopt two more boys in the next six months, we will have four teenage sons this time next year.  If that happens, the 85/15 split my wife and I have on who is responsible for child care could get even worse.  I will have to figure a way to work less.  

Just thinking out loud now, but the decision will be facing us if the adoptions go through.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Not Too Old to Adopt

Wenky will be our first international adoption.  The rules are different in every country.  For instance, some countries have minimum and maximum ages for adoptive parents.  We certainly meet the minimum ages, but we did wonder if I was over the maximum.  It turns out I am still OK to adopt, even at 58.

When I got my annual physical last Friday, my doctor said he knew a couple that were not married, but decided to adopt together.  They were adopting from Ukraine and the father was over the age limit.  But they allowed single mothers to adopt.  They were planning to be married, but put off the ceremony until the adoption was final.

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Visit with Emarion

Our social worker is working to set up a visit with Emarion.  We will visit him at his foster home.  The tentative date is October first.  My wife and I are running a half marathon that morning, so driving three hours after running 13.1 miles should make for an interesting day!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Going Home on 9/11

The Richmond trip made the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 into a family weekend.  We spent Saturday night with my oldest daughter at the race and saw her apartment afterwards.  Sunday morning we walked around Cary Street with my youngest daughter, who is a student at the University of Richmond.

We were going to go to Brunch with Lisa, but she mostly a vegetarian--a social carnivore as one of her friends says.  Since the boys and I were staying at a Holiday Inn Express, I got them up to eat the free buffet before we met Lisa.  They got to add ham, eggs and sausage to the previous night's NASCAR buffet.  I saved about $50 taking them to a place their sister would like.

So we had coffee and walked.

When the boys and I got home it was time to run.  I run the boys at least twice a week.  More if my work schedule allows.  Jacari is a fast and talented runner.  Nigel suffers with every step.  We ran a 3-mile circuit.  Nigel ran two and waited for us at a bend in the loop.  Jacari ran three.  Near the end Jacari announced that when we went to the gym he was going to run more.  Jacari likes to show off and will say he is going to do things, then not do them.  He gets good feedback for this, especially from teachers, social workers, etc.

But boys need to become men.  I told him not to say that kind thing to me.  If he wants to show me he is tough.  Show me.  Then tell me what you did.

I ran another three miles, then we went to the gym.  Jacari started playing basketball, then ran two more miles in the indoor track.  I stopped him at lap two and five of twelve to do 10 then 25 pushups and he kept going.  (The pushups were for talking back to their tutor on Friday.  More on discipline in a future post.)

After running Jacari joined Nigel on the gym floor playing basketball with three college students.  Nigel hit three three-point shots and was elated.

We all ate well at dinner.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Richmond International Raceway

The boys and I had a great time at the Richmond NASCAR race.  We got to sit with veterans and their families and watch one of the best races of the season.  The Richmond event is the final race of the NASCAR regular season before the ten-race championship begins.  Most of the 11 of the 12 drivers were sure they were in the championship when the green flag fell, but one was not--Dale Earnhardt Jr. who drives Army National Guard car.  He had to finish 20th or better to make the championship.  Not a big challenge--except he got caught up in a big wreck less than 20 laps into the race.  Then another one.

The nose of Earnhardt's car was crumpled.  He was last car running in the field.


We cheered Earnhardt for the remainder of the race.  He was a lap down and got his lap back.  He would slip back below 20th place because his crumpled front end hurt the handling of his car.  But enough cars wrecked in front of him that he finished 16th by the end of the night and made the championship.

Nigel and I have been watching car racing since he was very young.  Jacari is only mildly interested, but tonight's event made him a fan.  Now the three of us can follow the ten-race championship together.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our Family

My wife and I have a yours-mine-ours family.  She has a daughter, Iolanthe, from her previous marriage.  I have two daughters, Lauren and Lisa, who are both in college.  We adopted Nigel in 2000, three years after we were married, when he was 6 weeks old (the adoption was final just after his first birthday).  We adopted Jacari this past April.  He started living with us in June of 2010.

Iolanthe just graduated from Bryn Mawr College and is living in Virginia with her Dad.  Lauren is in a Master of Social Work program at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Lisa is in her junior year at the University of Richmond.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NASCAR. . .With a Lot of Help from My Daughter

On Saturday night, if I do not get called up for National Guard duty because of the floods in Pennsylvania, my boys and I will be going to the NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway.  My oldest daughter is in graduate school in Richmond and scored tickets for us for the NASCAR feature event.

The boys watch races because I watch them on TV, but the spectacle of a live event is something completely different.  I have to work in Philadelphia Friday night and I am racing in Milton PA on Saturday morning, but I did want to miss this chance for a big memorable event with both the boys and their sister.  Of my three daughters, Lauren is by far the biggest motor head.  When she was growing up she had boy rock stars and kittens on her wall, but she also had her wall and ceiling covered with pictures she cut from Autoweek magazine.

She put the Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati pictures right above her head so she could wake up and think about driving.  That's the sister you want at a NASCAR race.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nigel and Jacari

We currently have two adopted sons and are in the process of adopting one or possibly two more boys.  More on that in the next few days.

We adopted our son Nigel at six weeks old back in 2000.  At the time we had asked for a two-to-four-year-old boy, possibly a boy and girl sibling pair.  At the time our three daughters were nine, ten, and eleven.

Our intention in adopting was to provide a home for a child who needed one.  We decided to go with the State Wide Adoption Network (SWAN) and adopt a child from Pennsylvania.  I wanted our first adopted child to be as young as possible, my wife was not as concerned about age.  But we both figured two was as young as we could hope for.

We completed the adoption classes in the Spring of 2000 and expected to begin the adoption process soon after.  We waited.  We got pictures of kids ready for adoption, but the boys were eight, ten, even older.  Not happening.  Then just before Christmas we got a call about Nigel.  A teenage girl walked into  a crisis pregnancy center in Pittsburgh and decided to put her so up for adoption.  We got the call the Thursday before Christmas saying we could pick up Nigel on Monday.

Then they told us Nigel had a stroke when he was born.  I started talking like Porky Pig.  Annalisa saw no problem.  We had plans to take the girls on a Christmas vacation, but we drove to Pittsburgh when we got back and brought Nigel home.

Nigel's name is the only request we had from his birth Mom.  She wanted his name to be Nigel.  I was elated.  I am a Formula 1 car racing fan and my favorite drive is Nigel Mansell--1992 World Champion.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Meeting Our Next Son

Today we drove to State College in three hours of rain to meet with the social workers of a boy we may be adopting.  His name is Emarion.  He is 12 and is currently with a foster family north of State College.  We did not expect to meet Emarion today, but the visit was scheduled in a Barnes and Noble and for reasons too complicated to explain, one social work took Emarion around the store to look at books while the other one met with us.

We got to see Emarion interact with the social worker.  He seems like a great kid.  He smiles a lot and talks a lot--good signs when kids are from difficult backgrounds.   We asked questions and talked with the social worker A for about 45 minutes, then she went with Emarion and we talked with social worker B.  A and B were comfortable with us, so she allowed us to meet Emarion, simply as adoptive parents. We showed him pictures of our boys, then of our whole family.

He was shy.  He had asked for a toy helicopter as his reward from A and B.  I could tell him I fly in Blackhawks and Chinooks which really got his attention.  He was wearing a "Tap Out" shirt, so I could tell him about "tapping out" in combatives training when I was in a match with a 22-year-old who is into martial arts.

So we have something in common right away.

While we were waiting we got an email from the people who are connecting us with a 12-year-old boy from Haiti.  His name is Wenky Pierre.  If all goes well we may adopt him also.

More later.