August 30, 2011

20 years of marriage!

This story is dedicated to my wonderful's to many many more years together!

Once upon a time there was a young girl of 17 from San Diego:

And a much older man of 18 from Eastern Washington:

They both decided to attend Central Washington University in Ellensburg for their first year of college:

They lived in the co-ed party dorm called Barto Hall.  Cynthia lived on the third floor on the right hand side:

Robert lived on the left hand side on the first floor:

Robert was the roomate to one of Cynthia's childhood friends.  They met and became good friends but there was one problem!

Cynthia did not like facial hair at all!  So much so, that she didn't even see Robert as a potential boyfriend but only saw him as a friend.

Robert was a great guy.  He did everything right.  He told Cynthia that he was a morning person too (he wasn't) so that they could take an early morning history class together.  They ate breakfast together every morning.

They suffered through World History together with an elderly professor that said "um....." over 100 times during the hour long class.(Yes, Cynthia counted!)

Cynthia really liked Robert and saw him as a great friend.  Every morning she listened for the clopping sound of his boots as he approached her room in order to accompany her to the dining hall.
And, their friendship continued to grow....but there was no romance in sight.  Until one day, Robert overheard Cynthia talking about how much she hated moustaches and that she couldn't imagine dating someone that had one. 

Out came the razor!

Cynthia was truly surprised when she saw Robert the first time without a moustache.  Hmmmm.....Robert was pretty darn cute!

Robert invited Cynthia to attend a play with him.  He had assisted in creating the costumes as part of his work/study program and had received free tickets.  Cynthia was intrigued and wasn't sure if he was asking her on a date or just as friends. 

They went to see Present Laughter:

Cynthia noticed that Robert was behaving a bit nervously.  She wondered if he liked her a bit more than just as a friend.  She really wasn't sure if she liked the idea of losing his friendship since she knew that there was a risk that it wouldn't work out. 

And then, he reached over and held her hand.

Cynthia and Robert dated for the rest of the school year and were voted "Cutest Hall Couple"

Robert decided that he wanted to propose and began dropping hints.  Cynthia was determined to avoid becoming engaged in a scruffy dorm room and told Robert that if he had anything to "ask" her that it needed to be in a romantic place. 

Robert and Cynthia drove in the dark of night through the ice and snow for two hours until they arrived at a touristy Bavarian town called Leavenworth.  It was dark, still, and thick with snow when Robert got down on one knee and proposed to Cynthia.

The answer was "YES!"

And, so the planning began.....Robert and Cynthia were students with very little extra money so Robert used his experience from the costume department and began to make Cynthia's wedding dress.

And, then came the day in August 1991 that they had been waiting for.

They were married in a gazebo very similar to the one where they were engaged.

Over their twenty years of marriage, Robert and Cynthia have:
  1. Given birth to 7 children
  2. Adopted two children
  3. Homebirthed two children-one very unexpectedly without assistance born into Robert's hands
  4. Experienced the premature death of one daughter
  5. Initiated the adoption of international twins
  6. Lived in two apartments and bought and sold four houses
  7. Became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  8. Rescued and placed countless dogs and cats
  9. Cared for two grandmothers
  10. Watched two adult children leave the nest and head for opposite sides of the United States
  11. Made plans to rest on the porch someday absolutely smothered in grandchildren!

August 24, 2011

So discouraged!

I should start out by saying that I know that I *shouldn't* be discouraged but nonetheless it is the way I feel and I figured that writing about it may help purge these feelings.

We have completed the I-800A and Robert mailed it out via priority mail today!!!!  And, we received a $20 donation and the kindest letter from a complete stranger.  It was so touching to hear her story as well as her heartfelt encouragement.  Thank you!

It is strange to be discouraged and making progress at the same time.  I really am so happy to finally be getting somewhere and yet, the further we get,  it seems that more roadblocks go up.

So, why am I discouraged?

I just learned that the tax refund of $13,000 (per child) is not going to be as helpful as I had once thought.  In the past, the tax refund was fully refundable regardless of the tax that you owed.  Meaning that, if your family didn't owe that much in taxes, you would still get a check for the balance.  That is still true for those who complete their adoption this year.  And, I really didn't think about it much because I had every intention that we *would* finish the adoption by the end of the year.

Well, with the rest of the paperwork and time that it takes to process sounds like we will be quite lucky if we even get the twins home by Christmas.  That had been the worst case scenario and the very latest that I could imagine them coming home before.  Now, I have to be realistic and know that it could be into next year.  Keep in mind that we will get to bring them home after the first trip but we will still have two more trips before the adoption is finalized.  <sigh> We also just found out that we may have to start over with our DOJ clearance and fingerprinting(long story but not very interesting...and definitely *very* frustrating!)

The problem is that the paperwork is so crazy intensive that it takes both an extraordinary amount of time as well as an incredible amount of money for all of the different professionals to handle and put their stamp of approval on everything.  I truly understand that we want to eliminate the possibility of children getting into the wrong hands.  What I wonder is....

........are we accomplishing this or are we increasing the likelihood? 

The bottom line is that there are many very nice families that would take in children and love them wholeheartedly but....they know that it is very complicated and very expensive.  It is a huge burden on the family and most of us are busy enough just taking care of our regular day to day lives to even imagine it.  The paperwork, the fundraising....coupled with a challenged economy means that in the last five years international adoption has decreased by 50%! 

On the other hand, the pedophiles and abusers may be more motivated to bring children into their homes and are willing to go through the expense and trouble. 

It is the same thing that I experienced when I worked as a social worker for CPS.  The foster homes that were made up of wonderful, kind, and enthusiastic families, often burned out quickly when they encountered a broken system that created havoc and difficulty for their own families.

 On the other hand, the foster homes that provided minimal care but were very focused on the monetary benefits as well as those homes who turned out to merely continue the abuse of the children.... were plentiful. :-(

I saw this video of a group seeking to make changes in International adoption.  They show children in Vietnam that are waiting in an old prison....

So....why should we get involved in International adoption?  After all, it's expensive, filled with ridiculous amounts of paperwork and moreover, many of the children have experienced trauma and have challenging behaviors.

Why?  Well, there is the call from Heavenly Father to help those in need and we hear about that a lot within the adoption circles.  I don't want to take anything away from this call as it is essentially important and it plays a large role in our adoption. 

But, I just want to find a way to make it more personal....

 What if I hadn't been born in the burbs in Southern California?  What if I wasn't safe and loved with parents who took me to piano and ballet lessons?

What if I was born instead to parents who were drug addicted and incapable of parenting?  What if my parents died of AIDS and left me alone. 

What if my life was completely out of my control and I found myself in an orphanage before I could remember any other life. 

What if I was often miserable and starving both for food and for affection. 

What if when I turned sixteen I would find myself lost and wandering on the streets....panicked and looking over my shoulder for predators that would surely come.


(This is not the country we are adopting from and I also cannot vouch for this charity but it does appear that they are trying to help....)

If this were happening to me, would I want someone to try to help, to hold out their hand......

 even if it was hard.......

These are the thoughts that have been circling through my mind.  At the same time, this is why I am so heartbroken to question our ability to bring the twins home. 

I will worry about it and then find my stubborn resolve and then cycle back to worry again.

The bottom line is that their futures are so bleak without a family.....and I really believe that we are their family and that we are meant to be together.

So, I will keep trying until there is nothing more that can be done, because I want their story to be like this:(get some kleenex-because these are real stories and real children!)

I know I have been promising this for awhile but I am determined to have our new business website up this week.  I am also determined to work hard and do what it takes to bring the twins home. 

So, here is my quote that I will continue to follow:

"Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks." Phillips Brooks

I promise that my next post will be more husband and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary and I want to dedicate a post to him...... how we met when I was only 17 and that I wouldn't date him until he shaved his moustache!  Ah, the important things in life!

August 15, 2011

Do what we can

Everything is continuing to whirl at lightening speed around here and I really need to clone myself about five times over to keep up!  I hope to have a post any day now to announce our new business and website.  I also hope to post soon that the I-800A paperwork is filed and that Robert has an offer with a police dept somewhere!  But for today, I wanted to share some thoughts to motivate us to see the needs of others.....

I recently noticed how easily I can fall into the trap of only seeing my own little corner of the world and what my needs are while there are others with much bigger struggles and unmet needs.....

I have actually been contemplating this blog post since last Thursday when I volunteered at the hospital.  I have mentioned before that I help out in the Child Life program that assists children who are hospitalized.  This work encompasses children who are in the pediatric intensive care unit with life threatening diseases or serious accidents, as well as those experiencing treatment for cancer, have brain tumors, are experiencing seizures with an unknown cause, have surgeries to remove their appendix or gall bladders, and even down to having short but acute illnesses that just need IVs for extra fluids.

Working there is probably one of the hardest challenges that I have signed myself up for.  And, I am still not sure that I am up to it on a day to day basis.

But there is a need.....
So, let me reflect on what happened on Thursday.  Keep in mind that I cannot discuss *any* details about any child or any specifics lest I would be breaking confidentiality rules.  So, I will do my best to describe *my* activities without any details about the specific children or their illnesses. 

In general, volunteers are often asked to sit with, hold, entertain, soothe, and play with children who are alone.  We are not privy as to *why* they are alone.  And, I try very hard not to stand in judgement as to why a parent would not or cannot stay with their child when they are hospitalized. 

All I know and see is that they are alone.....and there is a need.

They are often experiencing many feelings..... pain, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, and perhaps most of all, a loss of normalcy.

So, I started off my morning in the PICU with a very very ill child and a lot of anxiety on my part as I tried to do what I could to help comfort and assist the child as well as offering a helping hand to the nurse.....who was doing all that she could do, to care for her patients.  The nurse looked weary and appreciative of my help and kept repeating words of thanks.  There were further complications and activity around this beautiful child who was truly struggling.  At this point there wasn't anything else that I could do and I went back to the playroom with a feeling of angst and concern nagging at the back of my mind. 

The activity of the day was to make collages with the children and most of what I did was to bring the kits to the bedside because most of the children were too ill to come down to the playroom.  It was busy but it felt good to see the children light up at the idea of playing with sequins, fancy papers, and glue.  Something fun....and something normal.....something that other children get to do.

After playroom, I was requested to sit with another child who was young and in a crib and unable to leave the room.  What relief was all over this child's face when I entered into the room!   And, there was an excitement of wanting that crib rail brought down right away!

We watched Barney together and sang and clapped.  It is interesting...the sound that is made when gloved hands are clapping.  The child thought so too, and stopped clapping for a moment and looked down at my  hands.

And then something pivotal happened that was both not that big of a deal and yet very important to me....the child reached over and held two of my fingers....and our eyes locked with mutual appreciation and fondness.  I had that little hand wrapped around my fingers for the rest of my visit.

And then, I had to go....and I *really* couldn't stay longer because I had to pick up my husband at the airport.  But, there was no other volunteer there yet.  And, the nurse was assisting another patient. 

As soon as I started to pull away, the panic started.  Amidst tears and flailing, I had to put back up the side of the crib....and leave.  And my heart sank........

I went and got my belongings out of the locker.  I found that I couldn't resist the urge to walk back up to the room to see if the child had calmed.  Thankfully, the nurse had entered the room and was attending to the medical equipment.  But, the child was still crying......

So, I am writing this blog to appeal to all of you to do what you can...... as there are people, both big and small, all around us that NEED us! 

I'm not suggesting that everyone volunteer at a hospital or that everyone adopt a waiting child.  What I am suggesting, is that all of us are here to be the hands and feet of God.  We can all contribute something and help in some way. 

We had two wonderful talks in church yesterday.  The first talk relates very well to my topic and we were all urged to be in service of our fellow man.  And that, in fact, when we decided to be baptized we agreed to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and to do our Heavenly Father's work. 

I realize too, that some of you that read my blog aren't particularly religious but are also very committed to reaching out to others and paying it forward with kindness and compassion.  I want to applaud everyone's efforts and strongly encourage us all to keep going!

Do what you can today....offer your service to someone.....because there is need.

August 6, 2011

I can't believe it has been two weeks since I have written anything down!  The problem with that is that so much happens in our house these days that it is like months or years passing is like living in dog years. Lol!   So, I will list the items that have happened and you may decide if you actually want to subject yourself to reading all of it. ;-)

1. The gorgeous walnut orchards around our house were leveled (this you should see, we have video of the mature wonderful trees being shoved over like toothpicks.)
2.  Lauren became ill in Hawaii and came close to kidney failure.
3.  Robert gets some leads on police work
4.  Corinna awaits deployment and becomes engaged
5.  We received our official homestudy approval!!!!!
6.  We received our new digital garment printer(the same day....coincidence, I think not!!!)
7.  We are getting ready to kick off our new business and start a giveaway on an ipad 2!!!!
8.  We must fundraise until we drop!!!!
9.  Mary's great adventure-she was selected out of hundreds of children to attend J Camp(Asian American Journalism Association camp) and is travelling by herself to Lansing Michigan!

1.  Trees-Many of you know that our home is nestled amongst several walnut orchards and thus where the name of our business, Walnut Grove Traditions, came from.  Most of the windows of our house face these beautiful orchards.
We LOVED them! Even more than just looking at them, the children enjoyed their quiet adventures through the "forest".

Every spring, the orchard is filled with bright yellow wildflowers and the entire living room is just radiating with yellow light! 

So, when we noticed huge equipment and tractors beginning to invade the outer edge of the orchard we were not entirely pleased.

It seemed somewhat threatening but I held out hope that maybe they were just going to take a few diseased trees out. 

But, onward they came....and we had no Lorax to speak for the trees!

Here is a picture just before the trees were demolished:

Here is the demolition video.  We understand that this is what happens to aging orchards but it is still so sad!

Here is what we used to see out of our window:

Here is what we see now:

It is really sad, but I have to see the silver lining.  We do have more light (enough to blind someone) on that side of our house.  And, we can now see the view of the small mountain range near our house.  We are hoping that they decide to plant walnut trees again.  Maybe we will soon be posting about all of the little green babies we can see from our windows!

2.  Lauren-She became sick a few weeks ago and had told her friends that she felt too sick to make it to the health center.  Her friends told her that if she felt too sick to go....that she definitely needed to go!  One offered to roll her there on her longboard if she had to!  LOL!  Good friends are so valuable!  It turned out that her GFR was 26 (healthy is over 90 and kidney failure is at 15)  So, we opted to fly her home where we could get her access to better medical care.

Lauren and Mary reunited!

  She has had a host of other symptoms and other tests but I will be brief and say that she has an appt with a rheumatologist to rule out an auto-immune disorder.  Prayers would be welcomed.

3.  Robert- He has finally gotten some activity on his applications closer to home.  Both West Sac and county of Sacramento have called him in for further testing.  He placed twelfth on the hiring list for Signal Hill(near Long Beach) and he was requested to go test in Longview, WA.  It should be soon and we really *need* it to be soon!  I knew that the timing would be interesting for all of this to coincide with an adoption and truly that is why I started out against going forward.  But, I know that we are doing what is right and what Heavenly Father wants us to do.  The rest is just small potatoes and hassle and I can deal with it(most of the time, that is!)

4.  Corinna-she told us a couple of weeks ago (about the same time when Lauren got sick!) that she was being deployed the next day!  So, one adult child was heading to the hospital while the other was heading to Pakistan.  I am not kidding when I just have to complain once again that parenting adult children is the HARDEST part of parenting...not terrible twos, or the shuttling around or even the teen years! <sigh>  The deployment has now been put off until January so she has a bit more time to prepare. 
Speaking of having more time to prepare....she also became engaged, and I am proud of her and her fiance that they chose to wait a year so that they could be married in the temple.

Sacramento Temple

 We really like him and find that he has been more respectful and polite than most young men you would ever meet in today's standards.  The planned date, at this point, for their wedding is August 25th, 2012. 

5.Official Homestudy approval-We have the real and official paperwork to submit our I-800 forms now to immigration.  And, I believe we can also send in our dossier ahead of that approval to save a little time (that will be Monday's question to our adoption agency)  What does that mean???  Well, it means that we can get them home soon.....but that also means that we have got to get our fundraising going!!! 

Unfortunately our financial thermometer is accurate. :-( 

We have had great success in having many faithful readers of our blog but no success so far with donations other than one great friend and my parents.  Admittedly, we also haven't put as much energy or effort into raising funds since our focus was on the homestudy.  Hopefully, that is soon to change as we will have many t-shirts and personalized items etc (read next paragraph!) and we will have an incentive giveaway of an ipad 2!

6,7,&8.  Our digital garment printer is here! 

It is truly amazing how fast it is and what it does!  It will produce a custom printed t-shirt(anything on your computer screen will be printed onto the shirt or other clothing in about a minute)  This is an industrial machine and its intended use is for business (rather than hobby) and will produce a nicer shirt than even screen printing because it doesn't leave the heavy plastic type feel on the shirt.  It actually dyes the shirt and then it is heat pressed at 350 degrees to set the ink.  We are so excited about the unlimited possibilities of what it can do! 
Here is Amelia in her swimsuit with her own drawing digitally printed on to the suit:

*Stay posted for the website and our ipad 2 giveaway details!!!!*

9.  Mary-She has made it to Lansing, Michigan as I was writing this blog. 

She traveled on a red eye with two plane changes and had no problems.  This equals a relieved mom and a 16 year old with increased confidence.  Hooray for Mary!  She had already met with some of the other kids at the Detroit airport and sounded like she was having a good time.  This camp has a great reputation and has had reporters such as Ed Bradley from 60 minutes visit in past years!  The AAJA pays for the trip in its entirety for all of the participants(free is always a good thing!)   On the last day, they will have a chance to meet and interview with many of the top representatives from various companies in newspapers, magazines, and even television news broadcasting such as CNN.  Congratulations Mary, on your first big step towards a career in Broadcast Journalism!

Whew!  Thanks for making it this far....I promise to try hard not to let things go this long again!!  I really appreciate everyone's support!  Many of you may not know that there are folks reading our blog from all over the world!  Some of you are from areas that I had never heard of before....

  It is such a wonderful thing to have so many supporting our journey to bring our twins home!  I have to express my gratitude for our Heavenly Father's guidance in bringing us all together and I just pray that our family can hold up our side.  Hopefully very soon, there will be two less orphans in the world and we'll have our precious little ones in our arms.......