Category Archives: Vietnam blanket project

The Greatest Reward

If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you should be familiar with the Vietnam blankie project that I did with the girls at my church (and then my mother took over). We started in October, and the blankie buddies were finally delivered to Quinn’s orphanage about two weeks ago.

I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but we sent so many blankie buddies over that there were actually too many for Quinn’s orphanage. As a result, the adoption agency put some aside to send to another province. They were delivered this past week.

This is where it gets cool.

Elaine called me yesterday and told me that she wanted to read an email to me from one of her online friends. As much as I’m tempted, I’m not going to write the particulars of what was said since it is not my story to tell. This woman, however, had just received her referral from Vietnam. Among the many pictures she received of her daughter was one with a duck blankie buddy on the girl’s head. The picture was such that it reminded her of another picture–one of someone very close to her that had passed away. And that gave it meaning.

First, it amazes me that I have already been able to see a referral photo with one of our blankies in it. I had wondered if I ever would, so to have one within a matter of a couple of weeks–wow. But to know that there was something about it that really had meaning to this mother? Honestly, the whole project was worth it just for that.

I did share the picture and email with my girls last night. It was one of the few times that they have seen me choke up (honestly, why is it that I would rather have people think there is a cold, dark spot where my emotions should be rather than have them see me cry?). I hope that they are as moved by it as I am.

It has been such an amazing project. I need to find a way to keep it going.

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Adoption Update!

For those of you following along at home, my mom hasn’t been able to post an update. But she was able to get a few emails to Elaine.

The baby is officially theirs! I have a new nephew (again, officially–I’ve considered him my nephew for many months now). I am so happy! After all of the wacko setbacks of the past several months, and the concerns over the chance of people trying to hold up the adoption for personal gains, it is just so good to know that it is done.

Here is what my mom sent in emails (to read the same email with Elaine’s commentary, you can check out her blog).

Greetings from the beautiful Saigon Quang Binh hotel in Quang Binh province, Vietnam.
We went to the orphanage this morning and passed out blankies and chocolate, took pictures of the babies, and brought Quinn back to the hotel with us. Quinn has a nickname at the orphanage – Handsome.  The orphanage director said when they saw Matt’s picture they thought it appropriate for the baby to go with that family, since Matt is also handsome.
I am having a terrible time trying to keep an internet connection so will not post a blog now.  I have tried many times, and I hope this goes through.
We go to the G&R at 4:00, and the orphanage director and some of the nannies are coming too.  Quinn is well loved there.
He has five teeth, is big, is well coordinated, has a good appetite, and is a peaceful, happy , charming child.
The city looks similar to Hanoi only smaller.  This area is also poorer. 
I will write more as I can.

And then, a little later:

Had the G&R with no problems.  He’s officially yours! 
Will be staying in Quang Binh another night to get Quinn’s original birth certificate.  The office was closed by the time we got there today after the G&R.
The birth mother came two days ago to tell him goodbye and wants you and Matt to know she loves him and thanks you for taking him.  She wants updates and pictures if possible.
Her other children do not attend school.  It would cost about $75 a year per child.  Matt wants to pay for their schooling.
Will write when we can get a connection.  It is very difficult.
Mom

 

A few things on a personal note. First, I am really excited that the blankies have been delivered. I can’t wait to see the pictures. It is just so great to know that the project we started so many months ago has finally been completed, and that some deserving little kids will have something new to snuggle up with.

The second thing: Wow, $75 per year for a child’s education, and that is an insurmountable obstacle. Could you imagine? I spend more than that on a birthday party for my kids. It really puts things in perspective. How amazing that Elaine and Matt will be able to give such an incredible gift as an education to their son’s siblings. While nothing could take away the sorrow of not being able to raise a child, at least something really positive will come out of it for his family.

So, that’s all we know for now. I’ll let you all know when more is available. Thank you for the thoughts and prayers that I am sure have been following Mom and Matt. What an amazing blessing to know that, after all of this time, it has finally happened.

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Breaking the Silence

No, I have not been sick, or had pregnancy issues, or anything of that nature. I haven’t even had a life too dull to write about lately–quite the opposite. I have been so quiet for the past week because I have been SO FREAKIN’ BUSY that I have felt too guilty about taking the time to write. Even this will be a fairly short post with (hopefully) my promised post to Julie appearing sometime tonight or tomorrow.

So, have you ever had one of those weeks when you have to get everything Done. Right. Now.? That is how my week has gone. I have had places I had to go almost every night. I have been working out Christmas gifts for the employees of an advertising agency (through email, no less–not the most effective way of putting together what a client wants and a quote for everything). I have been trying to create a multi-media scrapbook/presentation thingy for a special event we are doing with the girls in my church group next week. I have been toying with the idea of expanding my Vietnam blanket project into a for-profit business that would help support the continuation and expansion of the project in a charitable organization (lofty, no?). Oh, and Christmas. Three kids, a husband, and the grandparents. Need I say more?

Actually, I will say more about Christmas. One of my biggest stressors on this front, at the moment, is Sean’s family. A few Christmases ago, I got the idea to make photo scrapbooks for both families (the one for my family was done with my siblings, the one for his family was done with his brother). My parents seemed to really like theirs. His family (various parents, grandparents, great-aunt–he has more people still alive) LOVED theirs. So much so that it is now the requested Christmas present. This scenario presents definite positives and negatives. Positive: We don’t have to stress about coming up with ideas for Christmas presents–one book, several copies, all done. Negative–the children in my husband’s family consist of him and his brother. Do you see where this is going? Even with easy online tools, they are not the scrapbook-making type of people. Heck, they aren’t even picture takers (there is a reason that so few photographs of me exist–I’m always the one behind the lens). This means that I spend many hours sorting through photos of my family, begging brother-in-law for more photos of his kids, organizing photos of my family and whatever photos I have taken of BIL’s kids, asking BIL if the ex-wives have given him any of their photos of the kids, inserting whatever I DO get out of him, adding captions…and on, and on. And, oh yeah, if I want them in time for Christmas, they need to be ordered no later than early- to mid-December. If I want them in time for when BIL leaves to visit my mother-in-law for Christmas, they need to be ordered this week. If I want them in time for my father-in-law’s family’s Christmas party, well, it’s already too late. Oh, and I’m still in the “begging for pictures, haven’t even started laying the thing out yet” stage. Sigh.

I’d love to talk more about the blankets but, well, time. I will say that it has gone from daydreaming to more of a solid possibility. As in, someone I know with an existing business is interested in incorporation them into her product line. I have been completely redesigning the concept to fit more with what I, as a mother, would want to spend my money on. I finished my first prototype this morning, I think it is adorable. And soft. All of my kids keep grabbing it. W~ has attempted to claim it as his own (the first time I showed it to him, he asked me to put it on his bed, then started referring to it as “my blankie”). Oh well, I’ll tell you more in time.

So much for my “short post.”

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Bits and Pieces of Life

Where Did All this Energy Come From?

Last night was the best night’s sleep that I have gotten in a long time. I slept deeper. I tossed and turned less. I only got up once to go to the bathroom. For some reason, even my kids didn’t wake up until eight o’clock. For the first time in a long time, I got up feeling rested.

Is that why today was so productive?

Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I got so much accomplished that didn’t involve out-of-town guests. I started with the normal, daily stuff: make beds, clean up breakfast dishes, put away all of the stuff that ended up on the floor while I was gone last night. But I kept going–and going. Like some deranged cross between Merry Maids and the Energizer Bunny. Laundry. Vacuuming. Mopping. Scrubbing toilets. Bleaching the kitchen cabinets (honestly, white cabinets with three little boys is like living in the seventh level of hell). I even, finally, decorated our Christmas tree (which has been up for almost a week now).

Beyond the flurry of cleaning, I also did dinner from scratch (not unusual), and made banana bread out of some bananas that were turning brown in my fruit basket (totally out of character for me–they would usually go right in the trash). I honestly didn’t stop moving all day long, except when I gave into N’s obvious need for attention and took some time to do flash cards and read Shel Silverstein poems to him.

My house is still nowhere close to perfect–especially the family room, where the kids were exiled during my flurry of activity. And, of course, some of my efforts have already been undone. But, after weeks of feeling a total lack of motivation to do much of anything, it really felt great to be so productive. I’m guessing that tomorrow I’ll be about as active as a toad.

Pregnancy Update:

For someone who thought she’d start a blog to have a place to record my experiences with this pregnancy, I sure don’t talk about it a lot. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that it isn’t “new” to me. I don’t have difficult pregnancies. At this point, I fear that I am turning into one of those people that drove me crazy back during our fertility struggles–I pretty much take the process for granted.

But I have definitely been noticing the effects of this pregnancy on my life more in the past week or so. For starters, at over 27 weeks, I have reached the point where my stomach enters the room before the rest of me does. Although, amazingly, someone I have known at my church since I was a teenager just realized last night that I’m pregnant.

Along with looking bigger, I am feeling it. I already mentioned the tiredness–both physically and emotionally. I’m also getting out of breath at crazy times (like walking up the steps from my basement, or making beds). My upper back is now joining my lower back in an effort to completely sabotage my daily comfort.

But the really telling stuff goes on in my head. This morning, I opened my refrigerator door and was hit by a feeling of panic when I saw a half-consumed bottle of orange soda. For a fleeting moment, I was convinced that one of the boys had cracked open the bottle of glucola waiting for me to get around to my gestational diabetes test. Then I remembered–I got a diet Orange Crush from a soda machine last night. Tuesday night, I was watching The Real Housewives of Orange County (I can hear your opinion of me dropping from here). One of the women had arranged for a couple’s massage with her fiance. I watched them being pampered and thought, “Man, I wish I could lay on my stomach.” How sad is that? My thoughts weren’t about the joys of a massage, or a wonderful evening of romance. I just wanted to lay on my stomach, too. Sad.

Kids:

Earlier today (during the cleaning frenzy), W~ came upstairs with light sabers for him and C~ to “fight” with. I instructed them to take it to the family room. As they conducted their sword fight on the way down the steps, I heard W~ say “Obi Wan has taught you well.” Kids amaze me. Who would expect to hear a 3-year-old say that to his 20-month-old brother (heck, who would expect them to be sword fighting down the steps with one another–I defy all of the “experts” who claim that kids only parallel play until school age to come hang out at my house for a day).

Blankies:

Last night, we had our second youth activity to assemble Blankie Buddies. The youth leaders for the boys asked me on Sunday if I would mind if they participated with us (apparently, the boys were “missing” the girls). Wow, that made it interesting. I didn’t realize just how many Young Men we have. Honestly, we ended up with way more kids than we had things to do (especially considering the fact that I was still the only one who really seemed to understand what needed to be done).

The really bizarre thing was that, somehow, my table to embroider faces ended up being occupied almost entirely by 12 and 13-year-old boys. Um, yeah. Some of them did surprisingly well. The others–well, let’s just say that it may take me more time to undo what was “accomplished” than if I had just done it myself to begin with. These activities truly do test every control issue in my body. I spend a lot of time preparing for them, then things don’t get done exactly how I want, or how I would do them. I just keep reminding myself that this is a service project, and doesn’t have to always be done my way. The important thing is that the kids are learning to do things they didn’t know how to do, helping others, and having a good time. As long as I focus on that, I can be really happy about how things turn out (even while I’m stitch-ripping).

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Life Doesn’t Always Turn Out As You Planned

I’ve had several things waiting for me to talk about as I got through Thanksgiving. I had planned to write about the radio interview on Saturday. I was going to tackle the next installment in my journey to motherhood (now that Julie is in labor and I don’t have to worry about scaring her with my less-than-perfect hypnobirthing experience), I’ve been mulling over the concept of “minority rule.” I’m not going to go into any of them right now, though, other than to say that the radio interview did go well. We were on for about half an hour and we covered the blankies, domestic adoption, and international adoption. And, yes, I got the opportunity to mention my teenage girls and the women from my church more than once. So I was happy with the outcome.

The reason that I can’t bother with any of that at the moment is that I finally heard back from T’s mom, P~ (T~ is N’s birthmom). P~ and I talked for about an hour. Well, mostly she talked, and I listened. I have been concerned about the fact that I had tried to call her five different times since mid-October without a reply. Sean told me last night that he suspected that something had to be going on–they have never hesitated in calling us back. He was right. Like me, T~ is pregnant for the third time since N~ was born. Apparently, she is due just a few weeks after I am, at most. This means that there will only be a little less than 2 1/2 years between her oldest and this one. From what I gathered, her parents found out (for sure–they had suspected) right around the first time I tried to call.

P~ admitted to me that she hasn’t called back because she needs to be in “the right frame of mind” to think about N~. She told me that, as T~ continues to have more children, it becomes harder for her to not regret their decision for her to not parent N~. Basically, she is involved with her other grandchildren, which makes her miss the idea of being more involved with him. Obviously, I already knew all of that. And I am glad that she feels comfortable enough to share it. It is still hard to hear, though, especially given the reason.

The thing is, all of us viewed N’s adoption as a second chance for T. She had goals for herself–things that she wanted to do and be. But she didn’t. And I know that is part of what is hard for P~. She supported the adoption because she wanted her child to have a different life. Now, T~ is in pretty much the same place (all three kids do have the same father, but it isn’t an ideal relationship), and is still raising kids. For P~, nothing necessarily improved for her daughter, but she at least still has the relationship with her grandchildren.

And I guess that is the hard part for me. P~ seems to regret based on the fact that nothing has really changed–I am so grateful because nothing has really changed. Don’t misunderstand–I don’t think that T~ is a bad person. And I don’t think that she is a bad mother. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t talk about her at all if I thought poorly of her. But, the reality is, she isn’t in a good situation and, given the choice between our situations, I’m glad N~ is where he is.

I know that you can’t really look at where she is and assume that it is where she would have been if she had chosen to parent him. Honestly, that is part of what I can’t stop thinking about, too. P~ gave me some information about N’s birthfather today that I didn’t have before. It really scares me to think that he may have worked his way back into T’s life if N~ were with her. There is no question–that would not have been good for either of them.

Anyhow, it has just been kind of a weird day, emotionally. I am sad for them. I’m sad that things didn’t turn out as they hoped for their daughter. I am sad for her–all that she has been through and all that I’m afraid she may still go through. Sean thinks that I should respect their apparent need for space right now and just let them call us when they want. That is hard for me because I really do care for them. Even if we didn’t have N~ in common, they are people that I would want to know. Because we have N~ in common, I think that it is only natural that I wish I could fix their problems.

I’ve always said that, when it comes to our relationship, I’d play it by ear.

Right now, I feel tone deaf.

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The Newspaper Article

Well, I got one more surprise in relation to the newspaper article on the blankies. When I read it last night online I supposed, based on its relative brevity, that it would be buried somewhere in the “Local” section. My mother brought me the paper this morning and, well, it wasn’t buried. Actually, it is the lead story on the front page (OK, we live near two SMALL cities, and this is the paper of the smaller one, but still–I really wasn’t expecting this). So I am torn. There is a part of me that acknowledges that it is kind of neat for them to make it a “big story,” but I still wish that it was a story that included all of the people who are helping to make it possible. Especially now that it was on the front page–how cool would that have been for my teenage girls?

Anyhow, I have been debating whether to post the text of the article all day. Partially because it isn’t the story I would have written and partially because it is full of identifying information. I decided that I could replace full names with just first names for adults, and just identify the kids by their blog monikers. So, after redacting enough information to make the Clinton library proud, here is the full article:

National adoption month

‘Blankie Buddies’ give comfort, security for orphans

By Bridgette

Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

B~ TWP. — Nine-month-old Tank Boy came to the United States from Korea with only the clothes on his little back, one extra diaper and a bottle.

Three years later, Tank Boy is a happy 3-year-old surrounded by everything a growing boy could need — namely love.

But his family still remembers how one little Korean baby came to a foreign place with nothing to call his own.

“When the kids come here, they come with nothing,” said Katie, Tank Boy’s aunt. “They don’t have toys or blankets or any kind of comfort objects.”

Katie also has an adopted son, N~, from the U.S., and thinking of a community service project for her church inspired her to do something for orphans.

She enlisted the help of her mother, B~ Twp. trustee Nancy, and Tank Boy’s mother, Elaine, to make “Blankie Buddies” for orphans.

The two-month project comes right on time too, as November is National Adoption Awareness month, Nancy said.

The mother-and-daughters team hope the blankets, which resemble a stuffed animal and a quilt rolled into one, will be given to orphans in a grass roots effort to provide comfort they can keep with them, Katie explained.

Tank Boy will soon be getting a little brother from Vietnam, in addition to his three sisters who are biologically Elaine’s, and some of the blankets will go to the Vietnamese orphanage.

“They’ll take as many (blankets) as can fit into their suitcase,” said Elaine about her husband and her mother, who will go pick up six-month-old Quinn from Vietnam as soon as they cut through all the red tape of international adoption.

Nancy hopes “Blankie Buddies” project makes people aware that everyone can help children in need, even in a small way.

“There’s something we all can do,” she said.

The article was accompanied by two large pictures–one of my nephew holding a blankie, the other of my mother sewing with all of my and my sister’s kids around her. In all, it took over half of the front page. Incidentally, Sean thinks that the article is good. Maybe I’m just too attached to what I wanted. I just heard all of us say things that I wish she would have included.

*As I was typing this, my phone rang. The article was apparently good enough to catch the eye of a local radio talk show host. He called my mother, wanting to know if we might be willing to be interviewed on his show this Saturday. I’m excited again. Live radio doesn’t allow for editing. I’ll be able to give my girls the credit I wanted them to have.

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Late Night Emotions

It is past midnight, and I’m too upset to fall asleep. This is not a problem that I usually have. Sleep tends to come pretty easily when you’re getting increasingly large and still having to chase around three little kids all day. I suppose some of it could have to do with hormones, but it is mainly something else. Disappointment.

Earlier today, a local reporter came to talk to my mother, sister, and I about my Vietnam blanket project. I was really excited at the prospect of a story being written. She spent some time interviewing us, the photographer took pictures of my mom sewing with all of the grandkids around her, and they told us the story would run tomorrow. After they left, I told my mom that I feared that they weren’t going to focus on the actual project.

I came home from a meeting tonight and, out of curiosity, went to the newspaper’s website to see if they run all of the individual stories there (since I don’t get the newspaper). I was surprised to see our story already up on the paper’s website. I was not surprised, unfortunately, to see that it ended up about as I figured it would.

The article isn’t long, only twelve paragraphs. Five of those twelve are centered on my sister’s family. Not that that would be a bad thing if it were supposed to be about her international adoption. But, honestly, other than the fact that we are donating these blankets to the orphange where her son currently is, she just isn’t involved in this.

Other than a brief mention that this “started” as a charitable project for my church, the people who HAVE made a difference in this project (aside from my mother and I) are completely ignored. There is no mention of the fact that all of the materials have been either paid for or donated by generous members of our congregation–that we have already met our orginal goal of 15 to 20 blankets and still have enough fabric to do at least twice that many more again. My group of 12 to18-year-old girls who are helping to assemble them was completely ignored.

I suppose that is the part that is breaking my heart the most. When I found out that there would be an article, I was so excited to share it with my girls. I wanted to be able to tell them, “Look, you really are making a difference. They even wrote a story in the newspaper about what you are doing.”

I don’t think I’ll even tell them that the article was written.

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