Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Six Flags/David Crowder


Saturday afternoon, we headed down to Six Flags again.

Did I mention that we got season tickets for Christmas this year? That explains why we are spending so much time there.

Anyway, Saturday was our Youth Group's annual trip to the park. The David Crowder Band was performing there in the evening.

Did I mention that it was 100 degrees on Saturday?

It was.

But we had fun anyway. There are no lines for the rides when it's that hot.


One of the funniest things is that every time they play the Six Flags theme song, Cupcake starts dancing. The music just bubbles up from inside her. It brings such joy to my heart to see her so happy. You can't really hear the music in this video, but you can definitely see the delight in her dance.

video

The concert was outstanding.

Did I mention that David Crowder rocked the house?

The first 20 minutes or so, the sun was still up and blistering hot. But after that, it cooled off enough to breathe.



We were able to see about an hour of the concert before Cupcake started getting restless for another ride.


video

We stayed for the parade and closed the park down.

I don't think we've ever spent so much time having fun as we have this summer. It's been really enjoyable. We should lighten up more often. :-)

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Monday, June 29, 2009

Scout Camp

Last week, the boys survived the brutal heat at Summer Camp. It was the hottest week of the year. Every year, they get a patch that says "I survived the Freeze-Out" for camping in freezing weather. I think they should get an "I survived the Bake-Off" patch for Summer Camp this year.

Thursday is "Parent Night", where some of the parents come down, bring food and watch the "Order of the Arrow Call Out Ceremony". I debated about whether or not to go. The boys have been going for several years now, so homesickness is not an issue. I really wanted to go, but Daddy had a late meeting that day, so it would just be the girls and me. It's about an hour and a half drive and then a pretty good hike through the woods to get to the campsite. I was really missing the boys, but the thought of trudging through the woods at night with a weak ankle and two sweaty girls was more than I could handle. So, instead, I baked some chocolate chip cookies and sent them with a friend that was going.

As I was leaving the house to deliver the cookies, TE called to ask if I was coming....

"No (sigh). Do I need to?"

"Well, I forgot my Order of the Arrow sash and my uniform socks."

"No problem. I'll send them with my friend."

"It's good you're not bringing the girls. It's too hot."



Well then, I made the right decision. Yessiree.


Did TE happen to mention that his BROTHER was a candidate for Order of the Arrow?

Noooooo, he didn't.

For those of you unfamiliar with Scouting, Order of the Arrow is a service organization within Scouting. The boys are elected by their troop. There are a limited number of spots available each year. Those that are chosen should be servant leaders.

That is Sunshine to a "T". Of all my kids, he is the tender-hearted servant.

So, when they got home Saturday, the first thing Daddy noticed is the Order of the Arrow thing around Sunshine's neck.

Sunshine got Order of the Arrow!

I spent Saturday afternoon kicking myself for not going down on Parent's Night. I would not have missed that FOR THE WORLD. I could just cry. I am so proud of my son. If only I could have a do-over. At least I sent them fresh baked cookies to celebrate with. :-)

In other news, TE made the rank of Life Scout this week! That means he is now working on becoming an Eagle Scout. We have 9 months to get a lot of work done. I'm sure I'll talk about that more in another post.

I am so proud of my boys. They bring honor to our family name.

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Phew!

It's been a whirlwind of activity around here. The boys got home from Scout Camp Saturday about noon, and this is the first 5 minutes I've had since then. I have about 8 blog posts floating around in my head, so I'm going to try to squeeze them out in 5 minute chunks over the next couple of days.

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Baby!


Who are these kids? They look to be about 14 years old, don't they?






Twenty-two years ago today, we pledged our allegiance to one another. We've had a wild ride of it - not too many dull moments. At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. :-)

I love you, Baby, with all my heart. Thanks for being my knight in shining armor.

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Plans Change

So, last night, we arrive at 6 Flags at 6:05.

The plan was to spend no more than 2 hours at the park, head home, and crawl in bed by 8:30 - 9:00.

We found a parking space in the FRONT ROW! We enter the park and head straight to the water park. The big sign out front says, "Hurricane Harbor Hours 10:00 am - 6:00 pm".

NO WAY! AAARRRGGG!!

So, we had a change of plans.

Okay then, we'll walk around and ride some rides. Cupcake handled it well - better than I. She was a little confused and still wanted to wear her swimsuit, but overall, she rolled with the punches.

It was oppressively hot when we got there. The upside is that there were no lines for any rides. It was Cupcake's first time on the mine train. It was also her second, third and fourth. :-) Her bubbling laughter was contagious.

She was feeling very adventurous, so we rode lots of thrill rides. The girls even rode Tony Hawk a few times by themselves.

Then we found a spot to watch the Glow in the Park Parade. It was fun.

On the way home, we stopped at McDonald's for a potty break and had some ice cream (a reward for only spending $1 while at 6 Flags - I had to rent a locker for our stuff for one of the rides.)

We got home, showered, and crawled into bed at 11:00.

I still got my personal time - which was my plan all along - the girls were crashed until 9:00 this morning. :-)

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Plan...

I fear my plan is failing...

The boys are at Scout camp this week and Daddy is on a business trip.

My plan was to run the girls so hard today that they would fall into bed at an early hour, leaving me some personal time. Here it is, 5:00, and I'm exhausted. I have a cold, and I didn't sleep well, and we're still going to go to 6 Flags tonight - only the water park - and ONLY because I already promised.

If I could revise my plan, I would be renting a movie and curling up on the couch for the evening.

Oh well.

There's always tomorrow.

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Thursday, June 18, 2009

...About That Proofreading...

Prepare to be confused. ;-)

The names have been changed and changed and changed to protect the innocent.

Let's go back to the beginning.

Cupcake's birthmother gave her a name that is common in both English and Spanish, but she used an unusual spelling. Her given name was something like "ARRIANNA MARIA RIVA LOPEZ" with two 'R's and two 'N's in the first name. When we were matched with Cupcake, we decided to keep her original first and middle names with the unusual spelling as a way to honor her birthmother.

In English, the common spelling would be ARIANNA. (one 'R', two 'N's)
In Spanish, the common spelling would be ARIANA. (one 'R', one 'N')
Her official name would be ARRIANNA. (two 'R's, two 'N's)

Got that?

So, on our pick-up trip, the morning of the Embassy appointment, our lawyer arrives with the paperwork. After nearly three years of adoption paperwork, we knew one thing...ALWAYS CHECK EVERY DETAIL AT LEAST FIVE TIMES. READ IT FORWARD. READ IT BACKWARD.

Guess what?

When Cupcake's birth city issued a new birth certificate listing us as parents, they misspelled her name. They spelled it "ARRIANA" (two 'R's, one 'N'), which is misspelled in any language. Her official name was now "ARRIANA MARIA SMITH". Unfortunately, all the embassy paperwork uses the birth certificate, so her Passport, Visa, and Cerificate of Citizenship are all spelled wrong. Our only choices at that time were to stay indefinitely in Guatemala to fix it, or fix it in America after the fact. We chose to come home.

Our best option here in Missouri was to proceed with the hearing which took place yesterday. As we were proofreading we noticed something. On the paper that dealt with the name change it read, "The minor child, ARRIANNA MARIA SMITH f/k/a (formerly known as) ARRIANNA MARIA RIVA LOPEZ...will be known as ARRIANNA MARIA SMITH." That first name should have only one 'N' because it is the misspelled name that is being changed. So, our lawyer took the paper off and had someone white out one of the 'N's. Then we were called into the chambers.

After the hearing, the bailiff handed us our papers. As we proofread them again, we noticed that they had whited out the wrong 'N'!!!!! They had whited out the second 'N' in the second name. Can you say, "PANIC!"? Our lawyer had already gone into the chambers for the next hearing. We waited for him to come out. We pounced.

"Don't worry," he tells us. We've heard that before.

In fact, they were able to white out the correct 'N', type a new 'N' where the old one had been whited out, and refile it. All in about 15 minutes!

YEAH!!! I love America!

Her name is officially correctly and properly changed, though the court documents are not pretty!

And the moral of the story is: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS PROOFREAD YOUR DOCUMENTS!
THEN, PROOFREAD THEM AGAIN!


Blessings to you,
Mamita

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Special Day

Today, we had a special day. It was the court date for our Missouri Recognition of Foreign Adoption hearing. We had a hard time explaining what this was all about to Cupcake. Heck, I'll have a hard time explaining it to you.

"Now your adoption is a little more official"? ....naaa, it's already official.

"Now the State of Missouri says it's official"? ....naaa, what's the state of Missouri?

"Now your name will be spelled right on all your important papers"? ....naaa (more on this one later...)

"Now you get a Missouri issued birth certificate and we never, ever have to ask the Guatemalan government for another thing"? ....naaa, what's a birth certificate?

How about...

"We promised the judge that we love you forever and we promise to take care of you forever. And the judge said 'YES!' to that."



Poor Cupcake woke up stressed. We've been talking about the court date for a week now. We've been trying to explain that it's another official promise. But something deep in her gut made her fear this day. It was not a pretty picture trying to get all four kids out of the house this morning. We had to leave home by 8:30. Thankfully, the big kids got up and got ready with little prompting. (The getting-up part is the hard part for them. :-))

But Cupcake...oh my...3 hairstyles, 2 dresses, 2 tantrums, no earrings, no breakfast.

We arrive at the courthouse in plenty of time. Cupcake rode with Grandma and Grandpa. She's a pretty happy camper at this point. We meet our lawyer, finish signing papers, proofread everything, go over the routine, and wait...




And wait...

And wait some more...

Fianlly, we get called in. Cupcake walks in the chambers and immediately puts her head on the table, looking absolutely dejected. All of a sudden, it hits me. She's been in a courtroom before - That day when she was 3, almost 4 years old. That day was, in some ways, a great day for her. That day, she was officially set free to be adopted. But that day, she heard grown-ups talking about her and her birthmother. They made decisions that she had no control over. That day, she heard words like "abandoned", "rejected", "unwilling to care for her", "no family", and "orphan".

I reached over and told her once again that we were promising to keep her forever. She perked right up and became her usual spunky self.

The hearing went quickly and smooothly.

This day, she heard that she is our daughter forever. This day, she heard that she is loved. This day, she heard that she will be cared for. This day, she heard that she has a family. This day, she heard that she has an inheritance. This day, she heard everyone clap and give congratulations all around.

Then the judge gave her a lollipop and let us take a picture.



It doesn't get any better than that. :-)

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Missouri Botanical Garden

The boys needed to visit a National Historic Sight for a merit badge they are working on (Boy Scouts). We decided to go to the Missouri Botanical Garden because it's close...and free on Saturday mornings.

We saw some of this...

And this...

I call this one "Onions Floating on Water". Doesn't that sound poetical?


Then we saw more like this...



Even the trash cans were happy today...

More beauty...


And now, this is our tired look...

These are the "stop taking my picture" pictures... :-)




We walked some more, and fed the koi in the Japanese garden...


Aren't they beautiful kids?



A rare find...all four kids in one picture...


About halfway through our walk, we saw everything set up for a wedding. Cupcake asked and asked about the wedding.

No, no, we weren't invited. No, we don't know when it starts. No, we don't see the bride. No, we can't wait for it to start.

Just before we left, we stopped in the restroom, and guess what? There was the bride, fresh from her wedding! We congratulated the happy couple and turned to leave. We'll, the rest of us turned to leave. Cupcake just looked and looked at the bride with big-eyed wonder. She almost tripped down the stairs, because she was not looking where she was going. As we walked out to the parking lot, Cupcake stopped and gazed some more.

So, the bride walks up to her, and says, "Would you like this?"

It was her flowers! She gave Cupcake her bouquet! Isn't that sweet?

Here is Cupcake and the beautiful bride...

A little princess had her dream come true this morning.

And the boys fulfilled on more requirement on their merit badge.

Life is good.

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Monday, June 8, 2009

Perspective

The next time I want to complain about the service at Denny's or the fact that my steak is not cooked to perfection, I will remember Renald and be thankful for all that I have.

May God hold this little boy in the palm of His hand. And may He bless the Livesays for welcoming him in Jesus' name.

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Little Fish

I wish you could've seen it. Cupcake is very close to becoming a little fish.

All three big kids learned to swim years ago. They are now all great swimmers - far exceeding their mom's abilities. For years, I just enjoyed the water and checked head counts every so often, with nary a worry.

Along came Cupcake.

She loved the water, but really, REALLY had no concept of breathing air and not water. Inevitably, she would take on water and barf. Every time. Last summer, we stayed close to the edge, so we could hoist her up to toss her cookies on the side of the pool. She hung on pretty close around our necks and used her safety swimsuit or water wings all the time. By the end of summer, she could put her head under the water and hold her breathe - AT THE SAME TIME! - at least most of the time...

Fast forward to this summer. She's jumping off the side without anyone to catch her (in the shallow end.) She wants her water wings off so she can dive for "fish". And today --- she learned to swim under water - about 6 feet! That was cool! And then...she started doing front somersaults under water! The first one was an accident. But she did two more in a row on purpose!

Near the end, she did suck in some water and tossed her cookies. But still...I'm pretty sure that we've got a little fish on our hands. :-)

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Back on Your Knees, People

Remember this girl? I'll call her Baby A.



We were expecting news any day now that Baby A's parents would be traveling to Guatemala to pick her up after three and one half years.

They've had the kind of case where you just want to shake your head and say, "That family has had the worst time bringing that girl home."

It got worse.

Long story short of it is this.

The Department of Homeland Security(DHS) is involved in immigration. They have certain rules that they actually follow when it comes to allowing people to immigrate here. In order to bring an orphan here as an adoptive child, that child must be defined as an orphan. It's a precise legal definition.

A child can become an orphan in several ways, not just if both parents are dead. A woman can chose to give up her child for adoption in hopes of a better life for that baby if she can not provide for it and there is no one in her family that is capable of providing for it. She must do this of her own free will and she must understand what she is doing.

Baby A's birthmom is deaf. She doesn't speak Spanish. She doesn't speak sign language. Early on, their case went south because of this. The officials ruled that a judge should look into this since it was unclear if this birthmom was capable of making this decision. So for 3.5 years, this lady was interviewed, evaluated, examined and questioned. Finally, the judge ruled that
  • Yes, The birthmom knows what she is doing.
  • Yes, She is doing this of her own free will.
  • No, No one in the birthfamily can provide for Baby A.
  • Yes, Baby A is available to be adopted.
Therefore,
  • Yes, My friends are now the legal parents of Baby A. The adoption is final and binding.
Enter the DHS. They open the paperwork. The first thing they see is, "We are not sure if this birthmom is capaple of making this decision."

DHS sends my friends an email stating that they need to appear at the embassy in Guatemala to sign something in person.

Then the embassy will formulate their NOTICE OF INTENT TO DENY (NOID)

The embassy intends to deny Baby A a visa to come to America!!!

Now, my understanding is that my friends can submit a rebuttal and appeal this and, eventually, they should be able to bring Baby A home, since she is legally their child.

But, for crying out loud, how much more can one family take?

Please pray for this case. Pray that the officials in Guatemala City would have mercy on Baby A and listen with open hearts to the pleas of her parents. May they move swiftly to resolve this problem and send Baby A on her way home ASAP. Pray that my friends would have the strength and endurance to continue to fight for their baby. Also, pray that the father would be able to do everything himself in Guatemala, as they have 4 kids at home (one recently adopted from China) and the mom does not want to have to take the whole family down for an extended stay to resolve this issue.

Blessings to you,
Mamita

Bahamas Tall Ship Adventure - part 2

And here we have more sights from the Bahamas...


TE and the Captain





If you look closely, you can see the dolphins jumping...


This is the inside of one of the hulls...



This is the GPS tracking map of where the boys went...




The whole group at the Hopetown Lighthouse...


TE and his sand art...
At the end of the week, Sunshine was just plain tuckered out.
But, when they walked off the plane, the first thing out of his mouth was, "I would love to do it again!"

Blessings to you,
Mamita