Saturday, July 12, 2008

Home Two Weeks...

Sam is carving out his niche in our family and our hearts. He continues to be a mostly happy/giggly little peanut, taking in new experiences with enthusiasm, taking in food with much the same enthusiasm.

This week we visited our friends who have a farm, and he and Zoe had a great time playing with the little chickens, kittens, and horse (did I mention it's a growing horse farm? How cool is that?) Our gracious hosts (thanks, Kathleen, Kate Marie, John!) let Sam play to his heart's content at the horse water trough. Poor little John ended the day on a really low note: ulna/radius fracture, courtesy of that skateboard. We're thinking about you, John, and I'm guessing it won't slow you down much, PLUS you'll be the coolest kid in school because you'll have a CAST.

Sam had his first medical checkup this week, and happily he passed with flying colors. We had a long wait in the waiting room (what is UP with doctors? ha) with spilled cheerios and two bored, restless kids, but we all survived and Sam left with a smile on his face because a lollipop was in his mouth, and the blood draw seemed to have left his memory.

Zoe is doing her best at adjusting, with frequent fluctuations between enthusiastic love for her brother and weeping about the "only child" status she has lost. It's hard on her: instant brother who can get into her stuff, has different rules than she has, etc. We are trying to give her lots of love and support, and for the most part she is enjoying the "big sis" role. Just making adjustments, just like we are.

The communication is still the challenge, obviously. Lots of pointing, attempts we're making at sign language, a few meltdowns (Sam and/or mine). He's got a few words down now (Mommy, ball, book, no, bye-bye), and hopefully in two more weeks, we'll add to the list. But we're doing oodles better than we expected, and feel terribly blessed to have this animated, precious little boy. We'll work out the kinks!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Getting the rhythm...

OK, maybe we don't have the rhythm of the 4-member family down yet, but we can feel the beat of it, and we're closer today than yesterday.

This kid just amazes us. That glue that had him permanently attached to my hip those first few days has started to dissolve a bit. He is venturing around the house with a bit of comfort, playing happily with his toys, and his meltdowns have decreased...unless you count the one today that was triggered by my inability to interpret that the word "MEEEEAAAHHHH" is apparently the Vietnamese word meaning "I would like more Kix cereal please." He is fine with the crib now, which means we got a good night's rest last night. Hooray!

The major change I see in our future is an increase in our grocery bills. WOW. This kid eats. All the time. A lot of food all the time. It is heartbreaking and endearing all at once to see the pure joy he gets from food. At lunch he put a particularly savory bite in his mouth, shut his eyes, and smiled blissfully, saying "Mmmmmm!" (a Vietnamese word, loosely translated, meaning "Mmmmmm!")

He was happy to visit with his buddy Isaac this afternoon, who dropped by to say hello. (Isaac's mom drove.) He now has two cute little helicopters, which he immediately raised into the air and said, "VRRROOOOOOMMMM!", which is Vietnamese, I think, for, well, you guessed it.

We didn't want Sam to get the impression that Mommy cooks all the time (HA!), so it was important that he got the restaurant routine down as well. So tonight we had a wonderful outing with family to Shorty Small's. He got to meet Uncle Tommy, Aunt Nancy, and family cousins, Jim and Carol. He grinned a lot, and ate...a lot. Mainly Poppy's food, but some of Mimi's as well. Happy kid, full tummy.

So a rhythm is may very well fall apart tomorrow, and we'll have to back up and regroup with whatever difficulty he will undoubtably have. I don't fool myself into thinking it's smooth sailing ahead, but these last few days have made it very easy to absolutely fall in love with this little boy, our son.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


What an incredible journey...30+ hours of travel: Hanoi to HongKong, HongKong to LA (13 1/2 hours), LA to Dallas, Dallas to LR. (and LR to Conway---WOW, he didn't like that carseat..the first he'd ever seen of one...) There were countless checkpoints, customs, all ran together. Somewhere in there a fairly pleasant man handed Brian some paperwork and congratulated us on Sam now being a US citizen. Woo-hoo!
We shared the trip with the O'Connors, who had all the same fun with Liam and Ben. We couldn't have asked for any better travel buddies! And my parents, could we have done it without them? Well, we couldn't have. They were perpetually stepping up during our struggles--claiming luggage when we were stuck in immigration so we wouldn't miss our connection, entertaining Zoe or Ben or Sam depending on what we needed. And aside from their help, it means so much that they endured the journey to get a better idea of Sam's world. Pictures and words just can't seem to capture the experience fully.

Had a terrific surprise at the Dallas sister Stacy and her family just moved to the Dallas area (Heath) last week. We had abandoned hopes of her being able to see us during the connection due to time constraints getting us through security, etc. Well, we walk off the plane and there she is! She had bought a one-way ticket to Minneapolis just to be able to get to the gate area and meet her new nephew and visit with us! She brought little goodies for the kids, and thanks to sweet Aunt Stacy who brought Smarties for Sam to try, he had a giant sugar high that kept us (and the rest of the plane) entertained until we landed in LR.
What a warm welcome at the airport from so many friends and family! Luckily, Sam was still up from his Smarties high, and we had our Starbucks buzz from Dallas, so we were all, at least temporarily, UP for the occasion! The crash came later...

Mimi and Poppy, Brian's parents, held down the fort here while we were gone, and had the most scrumptious food stocked in the fridge when we came home. Thanks to them, our dog, the fish, and my lemon trees all looked happy and healthy when we returned!

Trying to recover from jet lag and regain our footing today. Sam is perpetually stuck to my hip--happy about that attachment! And he's eating like a wildman...we got Mexican takeout last night (surprise..we were giddy about real chips and salsa) and I suspect Sam would have chowed on that too, if he hadn't fallen asleep at the table. Lots of adjustments ahead, but we're happy to be making them!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mommy! We're GOING HOME!!!

It's official! We have Sam's visa in hand as of 4:30 this afternoon! We also have airline tickets that tell us we'll end up home in LR at 8:20 Saturday morning, AA flight 3735 from Dallas. We'll have to take their word for it, because we'll likely be in some kind of psychotic stupor by that time, and we might be in Peoria without realizing it! Strangely, we arrive in LA before we leave HongKong by reading the clock. I suspect, however, it won't feel like it!

Happy happy day! We're ready to get Sam--and ourselves HOME!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More Hanoi, more Mexican food hallucinations...

We've had two nice, slow, lazy days, if anything in Hanoi can be considered slow. We've spent time at the pool with Zoe and Sam (and Ben, with Liam happily supervising). We've gathered up food from a local market (Dad and I tried our best to pretend we were in some Rick Steves documentary..getting a taste of the local flavor, as he says. It really didn't work too well. It looks so quaint and charming on the Travel Channel because YOU CAN'T SMELL THINGS ON TV.) In any case, we bought milk in little cartons that were sitting on the hot sidewalk (what's up with that? It tastes ok, but why do I have to keep my milk in the fridge at home?) We later discovered a very clean supermarket in the same building as our hotel later. Ah well. Rick Steves would have been proud of us...

Later in the morning, Mom and Dad and Brian visited the Hoa Lo Prison, aka the "Hanoi Hilton", where John McCain and others were held captive during the Vietnam war. Our hotel is actually on the grounds of most of the old prison grounds. So very sad, the stories contained there; so surprising how enduring the human spirit can be.

We ventured out in the late afternoon to stroll around the lake and went to the water puppet show, an absolute hit with Sam and Zoe. Sam clapped and stood up and was just captivated by the music and the puppets. The water puppet show is a traditional form of Vietnamese entertainment. It was a bittersweet moment for Brian and me--Sam enjoyed it so very much. We are taking him to a new life, a great life, but he is giving up something too: part of his heritage. We hope to help him preserve his pride in his people--people we have observed to be hearty and resilient, and with warm, generous hearts.

We had a pleasant morning with another Conway connection! We fortuitously were able to link up with our friend Lance Kershner, who lives and teaches in Singapore. He adopted Samantha, a beautiful little Vietnamese princess, about a year ago. We got to know him through his parents, patients and friends of ours who shared his story with us before we even embarked on OUR Sam journey. They all happened to be in Hanoi these two days visiting Samantha's orphanage, and we were able to introduce Sam to Sam! Special moments!

Brian and I were able to stroll around some of Hanoi this evening without our dear sweaty children stuck to our hips. Zoe and Sam didn't seem to mind us slipping out for a couple of hours, as they had full grandparent attention. We enjoyed the evening: amazing art galleries, charming shopowners, and of course, the scooters.

Sam is continuing to settle in with us. He is a really happy kid much of the time. Lest I paint too rosy a picture, his heart-wrenching crying episodes still punctuate the day...often precipitated by either a minor disappointment or even nothing we can determine, he just cries inconsolably, almost in his own little sad world, for 10 to 15 minutes...then seems to gather himself together again, or falls asleep. It is so terribly different than the 2-year-old tantrums I had with Zoe. It's just heartwrenching. I can only imagine the frustration and confusion his mind must have. We just love on him and know it will get easier for him. We look forward to being home and giving him a routine.

All things look good for our departure here on Friday night! We have our visa interview tomorrow early afternoon, and are supposed to be able to pick it up at 5 pm. If all things work correctly, we should be home to LR on Saturday morning! YIPPEEE!!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Our Hanoi Home.

Whew! What a day! We just got checked into our hotel here in Hanoi--the Somerset. It is a very nice place, and after the man came and fixed our air conditioner, it seemed MUCH nicer. Zoe had no complaints because she was asleep all the way from the airport.

So, a first for Sam, flying in a plane. He seemed to do just fine...I think the high altitude made him giddy and happier! He was an entertaining little card for most of the 2 hour flight. Or perhaps it was his new-found love: a giant can of Planter's cashews. The kid has munched on them all day long, and seems to have such joy from having them handy. At some point he discovered that he could put a few "spare" cashews in the front pocket of his overalls, and all afternoon you could see him reach in and grab a little snack. We'd heard of this "food hoarding" phenomenon that is fairly typical for orphanage kids, but it is really something to witness first hand.

Yesterday was a good day--we hung out with the kids in the morning at the hotel. Very strange, calling them "the kids". We've always had "the kid". It feels great to say it! (fast forward a little while: Hey, do you think my parents will keep the kids this weekend? ha) We sent Mom and Dad out to experience the town, and they had an exciting rickshaw ride around town. Mom looked a bit weary when they of course we let them have a relaxing afternoon in....with the kids. In the afternoon, I took Brian to experience "the market". I really expected him to be disinterested (even though it was a a cultural experience, it was still SHOPPING, not a popular thing with him). HOWEVER, he surprised me! The guy haggled with shopkeepers for watches, snake wine (!), and all variety of other items...I hate to admit I really had a hard time keeping up with him.

We had a dinner planned with Dillon staff and all of the traveling families last night. It was a beautiful restaurant, and there was lots of authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Sam used the chopsticks much more skillfully than I could manage (did they teach him this at the orphanage?) We didn't last terribly long...somehow, little kids and an organized evening meal just don't end up making for a relaxing dining experience.

This morning, I spent the morning hanging out with the kids in the room, trying to pack. (One might ask, where was Brian? The guy went BACK to the market...apparently my dad had experienced the fresh meat side of the market and told Brian about it, and I guess he felt like he had missed out on the visual and olfactory experience there. Because of this experience, I believe my dad is now considering the positive aspects of vegetarianism.) There was this one fairly brief but sweet time in the room this morning where Ben and Zoe were coloring in their coloring books on the floor, and Sam was arranging bathroom toiletries. They were all lined up so happily on the floor playing together. Sweet, sweet, sweet!

The flight here was fine, but did anyone ever mention how flying with two kids is infinitely more complicated than one? The two hour flight was just fine, but we kept thinking: HOW ARE WE GOING TO DO THIS FOR A 15 HOUR FLIGHT? EEK!

Tomorrow I think we get to take in the Hanoi sights a bit--I believe our visa interview is Thursday. Loc, our nice Dillon staff member here, feels fairly sure we'll have the visa in hand Thursday MAYBE, just MAYBE we might get to come home a few days earlier. We'll see! Hanoi exploration tomorrow.

Thanks for everyone's prayers and kind thoughts! We are hallucinating about Mexican food....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sensory overload!

OK, more for us than for Sam. HE seems to be doing just super. We're still reeling from a day of sensory overload, otherwise known as: the MARKET. What a crazy fun day we had!

We woke up to a little boy who seems to be feeling much better. I mean, MUCH better. It is amazing to see this little guy open up and show us his personality, little by little. This process seems to be facilitated by the antics of Ben and Zoe, who quickly taught him the joy of jumping on the bed (Yes, well. We'll unteach bad habits later. It was just so darn CUTE!)

First thing this morning after breakfast,Brian went with the other husbands to pick up Sam's new passport, and Mom and Dad and Sam and I headed for a walk to the open air market. We browsed along the shops on the way there, and were so well entertained. Scooters have this ability to be everywhere: driving down the sidewalk, parked IN shops, etc. We found one of the most precious linen shops with cute little embroidered everything and, of course, helpful staff! Then we meandered some more, ending up at the market: narrow aisles and stacks and piles of, well, everything: clothes, trinkets, purses, and food. Lots of strong-smelling food! No square inch wasted in this place: At one booth we saw people having their nails done at the same place they were selling shrimp. Nice combo! Everyone so very anxious to sell you things, and it was a little overwhelming for the munchkins, and Papaw.
So I brought Sam home, and Zoe came back shortly with the grandparents. She was quite happy with her purchase of a little Vietnamese doll and a lovely fan.

We got back and Brian took over for a couple of hours for Zoe/Sam watching--Mom and I went back and did some serious shopping. What a fun time! We ran out of energy, which, to those of you who know us, is really saying something.

Sam napped a bit this afternoon. He's doing great most of the time. Happy, giggly, easy-going. Who would have known a ziploc bag and plastic cups would be so darned fascinating? He has had a couple episodes we struggle to interpret--anguishing, back-arching crying spells, that usually turn off as quickly as they arrive. We aren't sure if they are related to his tummyache yesterday, or if they are part of his own "sensory overload" that he's experiencing. His sleep is often very violent: tossing about, unable to settle in. Again, we can only guess the cause, and try to love on him till the stormclouds pass.

Funny moment this evening. We ordered him a plate of chicken and veggies and rice. We were spooning it in his mouth, bite by bite, and he started pointing at a little the end of the meal, he had moved two little bowls in front of him and was quite adeptly spooning in the bites himself--with his left hand, no less. We had to go get Papaw and show him how his namesake was more and more like him every day: kinda messy, thin hair on top, and a southpaw! Brian has always thought most of my disorganized, scatterbrained qualities he could blame on MY lefthandedness. I'll have to tell Sam he got it "honest"!

I'll try to post some pics in the morning, but it's dark in here and I can't find the camera cable. I better get some more sleep: who KNOWS what adventures we have in store today?