Friday, August 24, 2012

Integrating My Blogs

Tomorrow we will be going to visit Chalid.  And it was Chalid who showed me that some things draw every part of my life together.  So I am going to make future posts about being an adoptive Dad on my Army blog.

A lot of what I know about being a Dad I learned by being a soldier, so I will comment on being a Dad, a Soldier and most issues of Life, the Universe and Everything on the Army blog.

If you don't know my Army blog, click here.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Looking Good in Suits

I wear suits for work, but my kids mostly see me in bike clothes or shorts and t-shirts.  Several weeks ago I brought the boys to the Suit Corner Plus men's clothing store near where I work in Old City Philadelphia.  Two of them are just big enough to wear the smallest size of men's suit--36 Regular.  Nigel and Chalid both got suits.  Jacari is too small/short to fit in a man's suit so he will have to wait for his.  He was crushed.  He likes to dress up more than the other two boys.  Luckily we still have a jacket we got Nigel several years ago that fits him.  The pictures below were taken before Church on Sunday.  Jacari was off visiting his former Foster Mom. I'll get a picture of him when he is dressed up.



Nigel and Chalid

All three of us.
Pictures by Mom!

Back to Posting About Being an Adoptive Dad

I stopped posting in May.  I was about to go to pre-deployment training and frankly felt like I was too conflicted to write about being a Dad.  But currently, I am a NO-GO for deployment waiting for a waiver from Army National Guard Headquarters at the Pentagon to serve in Afghanistan over the age of 60.

My odds of deploying are now much lower than they were in May--though it was never a sure thing.  And I will continue to be a father to all my kids no matter whether I go or not, so back to posting.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Going to Afghanistan

Life just got way more complicated for our family.  Since I last wrote, I got a two-year extension of my Army enlistment.  And today at 4pm I got a call saying I will be leaving for a one-year deployment to Afghanistan later this year.  

My wife said she is ready.  When I went to Iraq, our three daughters were in college and it was just Nigel and my wife at home.  Since then we have added two sons and a daughter, and we are in the process--a very long process--of adopting a boy from Haiti.  Our newest daughter is almost 20, lives at home and helps VERY much with taking care of the boys.  She will be a big help during the deployment year.

As will many other people at Church and at Franklin and Marshall College, my wife's family and our many friends.  When your family is two kids from the same gene pool, you can keep the world away and raise them without much outside help.  Every one of our kids has a parent outside the home--some have foster parents, half-siblings and family we have never met.  Our family needs our community so if I am gone for a year, many people in our lives will step in to help.

If you are reading a blog about adopting you could legitimately ask "What are you doing going to Afghanistan?"  I am a father and a soldier and those roles often conflict.  Citizenship and family have always been in conflict.  And for those of us who think the real point of this life is preparation for eternity, Our Lord warned us that citizenship and family may both need to be put aside for eternity.

My kids know the best and the worst of what it means to be an athlete.  They like cheering for me in races as I like cheering for them in games.  But racing means I miss their games to ride.  Racing also means visiting Dad in the hospital and helping him change bandages.  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

At the Richmond NASCAR Race

Tonight we are at the Richmond NASCAR Race.  My oldest daughter Lauren scored tickets for all three of the boys and me through her internship.  We got to meet three drivers:
Bobby Labonte
Brad Keselowski
Ryan Newman

From left in the middle:  Lauren, Nigel, Chalid, and Jacari.  Driver Brad Keselowski is in front.
We are in a skybox with 40 veterans and their families.  It has been raining all day, but the skies are clearing with 30 minutes to go till the start.  Richmond is a 400-lap, 300-mile race on a 3/4-mile banked oval.

We don't know how long the race will run, but when we first met him, Chalid said he wanted to go to a NASCAR race.

Lauren just told me Nigel said, "I don't like Jimmie Johnson.  He's ugly."  I have noticed this before with Nigel.  Drivers he does not like he comes to think of as ugly.  I am not sure why.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chalid's First Bicycle Race--Getting Family Culture

Chalid is adapting faster than a chameleon on a green leaf to life in our family.  He is happily eating dinner as a family, helping with chores and cleaning, thinking of the F&M gym as part of life and riding bicycles a lot.

We are what Chalid's social worker calls an "active family."  Yesterday Chalid saw active means serious about participating in amateur sports.  I entered my fist bicycle race of the year because it was cold and raining.  I put my bike and racing gear in the car the night before and decided if it was pouring I was going, if not, I would just ride.  It rained all afternoon.  At 230pm I put the boys in the car for a 65-mile drive to race in an industrial park in Lower Providence PA near King of Prussia.

When we got there, the organizers were thinking about cancelling the 55+ race.  I showed up at 4pm and said I wanted to race--loudly.  They decided to run the race.  Only five racers lined up at the start.  I have trained so little I was just happy to have a top-5 finish.  We rode together for the first two of ten one-mile laps.  At lap three, the strongest guy took off.  I chased towing my teammate Kevin and the other two riders.  Or I thought I was.  Kevin got a flat.  I towed the other two competitors around, wore myself out and watched them ride away.  I caught third place with two laps to go.  We sprinted for the finish and he won.  

Nigel has been cheering for me since he could walk.  I parked near the course.  Each lap the boys would jump out and cheer as I went past, then get in out of the rain.

On the way home, I could explain to Chalid that showing up is sometimes the most important part of competing.  He wants to race himself.  

I'll ge thim started soon.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chalid's First Day of School

On Friday Chalid and I went to J.P. McCaskey High School in Lancaster to get him signed up for classes.  This morning I dropped him off at school.  He seemed nervous.  He was nervous. And he should be.  Starting a new school is no small thing an McCaskey is a big school.

The teacher assigned to show him around seemed very nice, so I think he will be OK.  One of his sisters is picking him up after school--at McDonald's!!!!  Not Mom's favorite place, but the McCaskey driveway is very crowded and McDonald's is right next to the school so Chlid and his sister will have no trouble finding each other.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

So Far So Great

Today is just six days since Chalid moved in.  He is rapidly adjusting to life here and is clearly the big brother to both Jacari and Nigel.  I have seen him smile more than I have heard him speak in the last six days, but he talks a lot to his new brothers.

On Sunday I changed from No Video Games in the house to allowing the boys to use two iPods provided by their sister Lisa.  These iPods come from her and her boyfriend Robbie.  Both are partially broken and are casts offs--Lisa has an iPhone that serves as her iPod.

But the boys love them.  The caveat on their use is the iPods are MINE.  If they fight over them, refuse to share or ignore family members in favor of playing games, I will take back the iPods since they are not using them correctly.  They also stay in the house unless a parent says otherwise.

Next we have to get Chalid in school.  Happy Easter.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chalid Moved in Last Night

American adoption can be really fast!  We met Chalid two weeks ago and he arrived last night with all of his stuff and moved in!

Chalid is the tall one in the middle.  Nigel is to his left.  Kiersten and Jacari are to his right.  These are the four kids who live in our house right now.  The other three are in Virginia in or recently out of college.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday: Running, Riding, Basketball

We all slept in on Saturday morning--till 9am!!  By 930 the boys and I were up and doing the weekend cleaning.  Within an hour we had the vacuuming, bathrooms, and stairs cleaned and were on the way to the gym.

When we got the gym the tennis team had every court but not the upper track.  We ran two miles.  It was my first run in eight days because I was sick last week.  By the end of two miles all three boys were breathing hard.  Nigel and Chalid were lying on the floor.

We got the bikes out after that.  It was cold but we rode six miles.  After that we went the other campus gym for about 90 minutes--mostly basketball.  After that, I cleaned some more, the boys played in the yard.  We ate dinner--burgers on the grill--then went to the gym till after 9pm.  The boys were up late again, but fell asleep fast.

Chalid Comes for a Weekend Visit

Today is Chalid's first visit to our home.  He is spending the weekend and if all goes well, will move in during Easter weekend.

He really likes riding bicycles which is great for our family.  Chalid arrived just before 4pm.  I had to do some work before the end of the day, but just after five the three boys and I went riding.  At first Chalid rode with me on the tandem, Nigel rode his sister Lisa's road bike and Jacari rode Nigel's  mountain bike.  After a few miles we switched riders putting Nigel on the tandem and Chalid on the road bike.

At 530 I stopped and called Cycle Circle to see if he had any road bikes in stock that were the right size for the boys.  He did and after dinner we rode 9 more miles each on road bikes.  Nigel and Jacari got road bikes with the older style downtube shifters.  Their hands are too small for the more modern racing shifters so it worked out well for them.  Chalid has big enough hands for the racing shifters so he did fine on Lisa's bike.

Kiersten made Lasagna so we had a good dinner.  After dinner we tried to go to the gym, but relay for life had the the whole gym till 5am.

The boys and I went to the grocery store and got potatoes, apples, hamburger rolls and other stuff for grill dinner tomorrow night.

The boys all slept together in Nigel's room for their first night together.  So far they are getting along great.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Talking About Trayvon Martin

Later this week I will be talking to my sons about Trayvon Martin.  And when Xavier finally gets here from Haiti, I will have to tell him about Trayvon.

My sons own hooded sweatshirts and in the wrong place, wearing that sweatshirt with the hood up is enough to put them in danger.  When I see them with the hood up on their sweatshirt, I know I am looking at polite young men who are no more "Gangsta" than their parents.  

But tens of millions of people in America look at my sons as threats.  And I have little hope I can actually convince my sons of that.  But it is so easy to take appearances as truth--even when the opposite is true.  When my sons have trouble with another kid at school, I have to encourage them to stand up to loudmouth or bully.  They are not the kind of boys who are looking for a fight.

Ten years ago I read Uncle Tom's Cabin to my daughters while their one-year-old brother slept in the next room.  They knew in a vague way about America's past, but the book made vivid the reality that 150 years ago their little brother could be sold like a bushel of potatoes at an auction.  The injustice was so ridiculous that the girls had a hard time accepting it was really how life was in their country.

But the racial divide lives on in crazy ways.  Could anything but mistrust and hatred lead to a situation in which a 240-pound, 28-year-old man armed with an automatic weapon and patrolling his neighborhood can say (through his lawyer) that an unarmed, 140-pound, 17-year-old boy somehow made that man fear for his life?  

So when I talk to them, I will let them know that if they pull the hood up on their sweatshirt, they could give a racist all the excuse he needs to pull a gun and kill them.  No matter how much they are loved by their family and friends, when they are away from home, they have to be aware that just being a young black male scares and provokes a big part of our country.

Chalid on NBC 10 Philadelphia

Chalid was on a recent segment of Wednesday's Child on NBC 10 Philadelphia.
Take a look.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Next Child, Completely Different Schedule

Yesterday we met Chalid.  He needs a home, he likes his new brothers and if all goes well he may move in our house over Easter weekend.  Two weeks away!!!

Here he is:

 With us
With Nigel and Jacari

With all of us

He's a nice kid.  Kind of shy.  there is a video of him on Wednesday's Child I will share on the next post.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Change, Another Child

The two boys, J and D, who needed a new home in a hurry got one last week.  So they will not be moving to our home.  On Friday last week, Annalisa and I drove to Allentown PA to meet with the social workers of a boy named C.  He is looking for a permanent home and his social worker (and our case worker) thought C might be good for our home.

To be sure we had all the information we needed, there were a total of six social workers in the meeting with us.  It seems that C is a good kid and they folks on his case really want him to get a good home.  Until we meet him, I should not say  lot more, but we have seen a video of him and he looks like a really nice kid.

More soon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Guest Post on Adoption Paperwork--The Complete List!!!

From my wife Annalisa here's the entire catalogue of paperwork Haiti needs for adoption!!!

This is the abbreviated list of items we need for our international adoption.  There are fourteen (count ‘em, 14) different categories of things on this list. After 2-and-a-half months of chasing these things down, we’re really, really close to being done with this list.

         1.  3 passport pictures of recent date of you and your spouse

         2.  request for adoption (you will need to write a letter explaining how you are your husband are willing and ready to adopt)  Include a picture of your family and home.

         3.  birth certificates- long form (of the parents; 2 originals of each)

         4.  marriage certificate (NEED 2 originals)

         5.  power of attorney

         6.  detailed medical exams for both parents and any children in the home

         7.  employment verification letters (stating when you started working and that you plan on working after finalization-on employment letterhead)

         8.  letter from your bank stating that you are a customer in good standing, amount of money deposited last year, how long you have been a customer

         9.  letter from your cpa stating that you are financially stable to adopt and possible reasons why. 

         10.  homestudy (NEED 2 original, notarized, copies)

         11.  psychological evaluation-  this is an evaluation done by a licensed psychologist or psychiarist

         12.  police records for the county you reside in

         13.  2 notarized reference letters

         14.  translation attestation (this is done by the person that translates your documents into french)

Are you tired just from reading these?  The two things we still need are item 10 (the homestudy), 11 (the psychological evaluation), and 14 (the translation attestation).

For 11 (the psych evaluation), I think all that’s left is to pay the bill and pick up the paperwork; the bill came out higher than we’d been told, so I’m trying to figure out how to negotiate that without jeopardizing the whole adoption. 

For 10 (the homestudy), our social worker is just waiting on a doctor’s note to say that Kiersten is free of communicable disease.  As you might imagine, the homestudy itself had a lot of paperwork that goes into it, but we think we’re just about done with our end. 

And the translation just needs documents to translate.  We roll forward slowly.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Meeting Next Week with New Kids' Case Worker

Our case worker for Pennsylvania adoptions is setting up a meeting next Friday for us to talk with the case worker for J and D, the brothers that we may be fostering, adopting or maybe just meeting.

My wife will get more specifics on their situation in the coming week.  I am out of town on business so I will get the pass-along emails.  As we get more info, I will pass it along.  

My wife offered to do a guest-post update, so I may be putting that on the blog soon.

In the meantime I am flying to Orlando for a scientific instruments conference.  It may not be your idea of a good time, but 20,000 people from all over the world come to this meeting every year.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

No News, Then News Non-Stop!!!

The last few weeks have been sad.  Nothing to write except more paperwork.  Nothing happening in Haiti, nothing happening in Pennsylvania.  Then all at once we are inb the process of looking at four different boys!!

First though, there is no news about Xavier.  We are still waiting for our mental health evaluations and for a couple of pieces of medical paperwork.

But there is lots of news in PA.  In the last two weeks we heard about two boys, ages 12 and 14, that might be right for our family.  They are both in relatively stable situations now, one in a foster home and one in a group home, but both are looking for adoption.

We decided to talk to both boys and told our case worker we would like to meet them.  We decided to let both boys know they will be moving to a home where school and sports are what we do.  We are not the right parents for kids who want to excel in video games.

But before we could arrange those meetings, our case worker sent us an email about two brothers with a very sad story.  They were adopted, the parents (I think just the Dad) changed their minds about the adoption and gave the boys back!!  They were placed with a youth pastor and his family, now he wnats to end the placement on short notice.

So we may be taking in two brothers who may not want to hear about adoption.  If it works out, we can offer them a home and talk about adoption later.

If this works out, we could be parents of five teenage boys within another year.

This is what I remember from our last two adoptions.  Nothing seems to happen for a while, then lots happens.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Latest Delays

In an hour I will be going to get part two of my psych evaluation to be sure I am not too crazy to adopt.  We need to send some additional paperwork to the people doing the home study and then the paperwork should be done.  

In another month, the paperwork should be on its way to Haiti.  Visiting Xavier seems like it happened a year ago.  I don't know when we will be back in Haiti, but it can't be too soon for me.  Spiritually, this whole process is very good for me.  I can't do much but wait.  In most of my life, I crowd out the spiritual by talking and doing.  In this process, I can do neither.

So will take this as a blessing--like the blessing of suffering, I will try to remain grateful, and hope it ends.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

SGT Dad and Weight Gain

Six weeks ago I decided my younger son was getting wider faster than he was getting taller and this situation needed to change.  My wife suggested we work both sides of the weight gain equation.

Food minus Energy Burned equals weight gain or loss.

Less food means less energy burn.  But 12-year-old boys are not the best candidates for limiting food intake.  So I decided to work on the 2nd varaible.  Five nights a week, the boys and I go the the track and run two or more miles.

Is this enough?

I will know in a month or two.  Right now younger son seems a little less of himself than he was at New Year's Day.  My older son runs also. He works on speed and usually finishes a half-mile ahead of us.

We'll see how it works.  But I dislike the idea of a teenage (almost) boy on a diet and wnat to have him eat like a teenage boy and burn the calories.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More on Paperwork for Adoption

Guest post from my wife, Annalisa

Why does it take so long to get our adoption paperwork done?  I like to think I’m a super-organized person, so it’s agonizing to me that it takes this long.  [How long so far?  I figure that since about Christmas time, I’ve spent about a half-hour a day, on average, pulling stuff together, and I’m still going strong.]

Here’s one example of why things take so long.

Item number 12 (of 14) on our list of needed-paper work is
            “12. police records for the county you reside in”.

Sounds fairly simple, right?  For us, this has meant the following steps.

1.  Get an FBI background check.  We registered on-line at Cogent (, paid our fee, and printed out our ID numbers.  Then we went to our local Fed Ex store and got the actual fingerprints.  We’ve done this several times now, so we’re getting to be “pro”s, but we’ve always found this visit takes at least an hour out of our day – fingerprinting never seems to work right the first time. 

2.  Get a Pennsylvania Child Abuse Clearance.  This involves filling out a form that includes all our former addresses since 1979, plus the names and ages of all the people who have lived with us since then.  Again, because we’ve done this so many times I now have a spreadsheet. Gathering all those addresses and names of people is a pretty intensive endeavor, really.  To pay for this, we have to have a money order (no checks allowed), so that involves a trip to the bank.

3.  Get a Pennsylvania state criminal background check.  Another form, another money order. 

Steps 1-3  are required for the home study process, so we got them done fairly early – my records say we had all the money orders taken care of by December 30.  Are these three things enough for Haiti?  Are any of these pieces of paper, “police records for the county you reside in?”

We asked our Haiti adoption folks.  No, they said; we need a letter from our County Sheriff.  (I’ve now learned, finally, how to spell “sheriff”: one r, two f’s.)  I spent about two weeks calling our sheriff and leaving messages, asking for a criminal background check for both me and my husband.  No call backs.

After two weeks, Neil took over and called.  He finally got through to a real person, who told him that the county doesn’t do background checks; only the state does.

Back to our adoption folks: can we get our state to do the background check on us?  This time, the answer is “yes, but only if it’s a certified background check”.  We figured, great! We already did this! (See step 3 above).  We went back to the folks doing our home study – can they send us the state background check from their files, and is it certified?

Alas, the version they have is NOT certified; we have to do this over again.  So we hunted around on the web, found a bunch of forms, and finally found a web-based version at site looks like you need to be registered with the state agencies, but if you read it carefully, you’ll see you only need to have a credit card.  This is good, because it means we didn’t have to go to the bank for a money order).  So we ordered our certified Pennsylvania Criminal Background checks, and about a week later they showed up.  Yay!

But just as I was celebrating, thinking we were done . . . we had our home study visit.  And our social worker tells us that even though Haiti doesn’t care about this, for our home study we’ll need background checks on the 19-year old gal who moved in with us over the summer. So we still have to repeat steps 1-3 above for Kiersten. 

Total time working on this to date:  I’ll estimate about 6 hours, so far, with another 2 hours ahead of us.

Total money spent on background checks:  $130 so far, with the future needing probably $55 more for Kiersten’s background checks and $90 more for the apostilles. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

On Sanity and Adopting

On Friday I am taking at test to see if I am sane enough to adopt.  My roommate from cold war Germany left the military to become a Monk in Germany.  Cliff Almes, now Bruder Timotheus, is still in Germany.  Here is his view of the test:


just finished catching up on your blogs. The idea of you having to pass psychiatric testing is intersting. So much of what you write openly about says to so many that you are absolutely nuts. In your blogs you are absolutely transparent. If the shrink gives you an ok then it says more about her than you. For the boy's sakes I hope she does.   

God bless,   

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meeting Another Boy from Pennsylvania Soon

In the coming weeks my wife and I will be meeting a 14-year-old boy named Trevon who is currently living in a group home and looking for a family.  When we meet Trevon we are planning to tell him abut our family as it is and to ask if our family is what he is really looking for.  If he wants to go to college or to do the best he can in school we are the place he wants to be.  If he is a serious athlete, he will find a lot of support to be the best he can be in whatever sport he wants to pursue.

If he wants he wants his own choice of food and electronic entertainment, then he should look for another family.  Kids who need TVs, iPods, and McDonalds will hate living with us and should hold out for something more to their liking.  Not to mention if we spend the academic year 2015-16 in Rwanda, all edible and electronic comforts will be history for a year.

One of my roommates at Fort Sill when we were training for Iraq said that depriving my kids of video games and TV the way we did was going to make them weird.  For him it was like child abuse.  He did not even know my wife served vegetables every day and never took the kids to McDonalds.

Since there were no secrets in a 4-man room, I was painfully aware that his boys whined on Skype for new video games.  At the time, two of my daughters were students at Brun Mawr and Juniata College.  The third was just about to graduate third in her high school class and made the state meet in cross country.

We are sticking with vegetables and video deprivation for the boys also.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More Complications

In the pile of papers my wife is compiling to move the adoption forward is a police background check by the local sheriff's office.  I called and they don't do background checks.  My wife thinks she has found the proper agency to do it, but we're not sure.  I know it is important to check the background of people who are adopting.  In addition to the background check we are working on now, we have been checked by the PA State Police and the FBI.

Xavier is healthy enough to return to school in Haiti.  We hope to get an update next week about his health in general when he is examined by an American doctor visiting on a missions trip.  A woman from our church is also traveling to Haiti and will be able to take things for Xavier with her.

More soon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

More News from Haiti

This morning we got an email from Haiti saying Xavier was well enough to return to the orphanage.
Heather at said they will have a US doctor at their facility in two weeks and he will be examining Xavier to make sure he is recovering well.

We are still a few weeks away from completing the application.  Our home study is scheduled for February 14 and the next part of my wife's psych evaluation will not be complete until the end of the month.

Meanwhile millions of microbes could be swimming in every cup of water Xavier will drink.  And once we get Xavier safely to America, his life expectancy will go up by decades, but what about the other kids in his orphanage and other orphanages?  What about the kids who live with their families and drink the same wretched water?

Ignorance is underrated.

Before I went to Haiti, all that suffering was an abstraction.  Pictures of suffering don't feel and smell like suffering.

Even when we finally get Xavier here, I will know just how many people in Haiti are one good water treatment plant away from living 20 years longer with much less suffering.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Xavier is Getting Better

Sorry to be so long with updates.  We are not hearing much, but the news is good.  The antibiotics are working.  Xavier is getting better.  We are still much involved in the morass of paperwork necessary to adopt from Haiti.  By saying we, I mean Annalisa is plowing through all the paperwork and I am making the occasional phone call or signing one of the many papers.

I will post more news when I get it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

No News from Haiti

I am out of town today.  I called to see if I could get an update on Xavier's condition.  I am hoping to hear later today.  I will post any news I get.  It seems like antibiotics should take care of it.  Then we will have to decide what to do next.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prayer and Illness and Overseas Adoption

The CEO of both Japan Air Lines and Kyocera Corporation, Kazuo Inamori, is a Bhuddist monk.  This very talented guy also is the founder of the Kyoto Prize in science and literature.  Although he is the head of two very technology dependent companies, he knows technology has a price.  He said that western technology corrodes spirituality everywhere it goes.  He is right.  Especially here in the west.

Many of us who are are believers worry that different parts of "secular" culture are corrupting our society.  Yet we barely pass a moment disconnected from computers and advanced communications.  Xavier's illness reminds me that technology really separates us from our spiritual lives is in medicine.

Let me cite a movie to make my point.  The most famous line from the 1993 thriller "Malice" is from Alec Baldwin who plays surgeon Jed Hill.  In the movie Hill says "I AM God" walking past the hospital chapel where families of patients are praying.  Hill says they are praying to him.  Hill is playing an arrogant SOB, but he's not wrong.  Those desperate people want results.  We may admit God's will is the greatest good, but when a son, wife or mom is at the point of death, we want results.  And the results of medicine are more reliable than prayer.

People tepidly pray to "guide the hand of the surgeon" but given the choice between prayer and a surgeon, we go to the doctor.

Before modern medicine, everyone knew life was short and apt to end in agony at any moment.  Before antibiotics (1930s) ANY infection could be lethal.  Before anesthesia (1845) any surgery could be worse than the disease it hoped to cure.

I am writing this as a believer and a HUGE fan of modern medicine.  I keep a spreadsheet listing 30 broken bones, 17 surgeries, and my many hospital stays, ambulance rides, concussions, and a MEDEVAC ride.  I will pray for my injured friends, but if they have an injury that can be treated with surgery, I almost always say get the surgery.

One of the many messy corners of my spiritual life is medicine.  I can barely pray for a sick neighbor.  I can pray for their family and friends, but I am not seeking healing from God.  Medicine works too well and I don't want to pray insincerely.

With Xavier in Haiti I can pray for his recovery, but I admit the first thing I wanted to know:  "Is he getting antibiotics?"  He is.  With that question answered, I started scheming about whether he could recover in America, when I could visit, and what I could do.

Prayers followed plans.  I say all this as a believer.  I pray daily.  But I pray for things out of my control.  I came to faith recovering from being blinded by shrapnel--physical helplessness made me aware I was spiritually helpless.  If I lived in a world without modern medicine, I would mostly likely be dead, but if I were alive, I would pray more fervently for the sick.

Adoption, especially overseas adoption, reminds me how little control I really have.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Xavier has Typhoid Fever

Yesterday we found out Xavier has typhoid fever.  Typhoid is a bacterial infection so with the right antibiotic it can be cured.  We found out this morning that Xavier is in a hospital in Haiti and getting the antibiotic.  He should be better soon and completely cured in two weeks.  

That's the good news.  The bad news:  our son has a deadly disease in a very poor country.  My first thought on hearing the news was 'I wonder if he can get treated or recover in America.'  The short answer  is neither.  Xavier cannot travel while he is contagious--that makes perfect sense.  He also cannot travel overseas while the adoption is in process.

So we wait.  

When we first thought about adopting Xavier I thought about 'This seems OK unless he gets some nasty tropical disease.'  When we visited Haiti this thought became vivid.  

Ten years ago I had a job that took me overseas every month.  One of my colleagues was a very funny woman named Karen who traveled a lot also.  But she had a clear line she would not cross on where she would and would not go:  Before she booked a ticket she made sure the place she was going had water treatment plants designed and built by American, German or British companies.  Clean water, she knew, equals a healthy trip.

When Xavier gets out of the hospital he will go back to his orphanage and live in a country where Karen would not go.  

So we wait.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guest Post on Overseas Adoption Paperwork

The following is from my paper-pushing wife about just one difficulty in adopting from Haiti:

Lots of things are easy after you know how to do it, but nearly impossible before you know how to do it.  Getting an apostille is one of those things.  I've spent several months wondering, "What the heck is that, and how do we get it?"  Heck, my spell-check program doesn't even recognize the word, so how official can that be?

We're adopting from Haiti, which is not a signatory on the Haag Conventions.  Ordinary notarized documents aren't enough, we have to get things "super notarized" -- that's what an apostille is, a super-notarization (if that's a word).  Here is a specific example of how this worked in our case.

We need to have two official copies of our birth certificates.  You can get those from a commercial document service, but I went the cheaper route.  To get Neil's birth certificates, I  googled "birth certificate Massachusetts" and looked for a URL that includes a ".gov" address.  From there, I followed the directions on the web site, mailing in a check and a self-addressed envelope.

The birth certificates arrived in about two weeks.  THEN I needed to send them back to Massachusetts.  (Every document has to be apostilled in the same state where it was made official, so we can't apostille this in our home state, Pennsylvania).  Again, I went to Google, typing in "Apostille Massachusetts".  Again I skipped over the commercial sites and went for the ".gov" site.   I cut and paste the information there to come up with this letter:

January 12, 2012

Secretary of the Commonwealth
Commissions Section, Room 1719
One Ashburton Place
Boston, Massachusetts 02108

Dear Commissions Section:

I have enclosed two copies of my birth certificate, for which I would like an apostille.  We are hoping to adopt a child from Haiti.

I have enclosed a check for $12, made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I have enclosed a self-addressed envelope for return.

Thank you very much, 

Neil Gussman
[return address]

Different states charge different amounts.  In Massachusetts, where my husband was born, it's $6/document.  In California, my birthplace, it's a whopping $20/document.  In Pennsylvania, where the bulk of our documents will need to go for apostille, it'll be $15/document.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Parent Outside the Home--Update from Friday

Yesterday I wrote about how every one of my kids has a parent (or more) outside the home.  Today that fact was clear in the New York Times.  My youngest daughter Lisa and her Mom published a letter together in the NY Times commenting on and article about toys.  You can read it here.

In the evening my oldest daughter Lauren and I went to Starbucks in Lancaster.  The barrista Jamie knows my family (Except my wife who does not go to Starbucks) and Starbucks sells the Times, so we told Jamie about the letter.  Then we had one of those awkward parent-outside-the-home moments when we explained who was who.

Explaining who is related to whom and how is a regular part of life in our family.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Everyone Has a Parent Outside Our Home

In our family everyone has a parent outside the home.  Before we adopted, I would not have considered this a great advantage.  But in a yours, mine and ours household having a parent outside the home makes adopted kids just like biological kids.  I would not have known this was an advantage till several years ago when another Dad told me he was having problems with his adopted son feeling different.

The couple had four kids of their own then adopted another.  We had three before our first adoption.  But since our three had one parent elsewhere they could identify with a boy who was no longer with his biological parents.

Because of this experience, when we adopted again, we told our son everybody has parents outside the home, just like him.  In fact he has a Foster Mom he still sees one weekend a month which is fine with us.  When Xavier joins our family from Haiti, he will leave behind a country for his new family.  That will be another level of challenge for us.  I have lived outside the country serving with the Army, but I had no plans for permanent relocation.  Xavier will definitely get homesick.