Thursday, May 21, 2009

Two Months Since Gotcha Day

Today marks the two month anniversary of our Gotcha Day. Wow!

What an amazing two months it's been. It's hard to believe that it's only been two months because it seems like Camille's been with us for such a long time. In fact, the other day, Lauren said that she doesn't feel like Camille's adopted. According to Lauren, it feels like she's always been part of the family. Amazing to think that just 90 days ago (which seems like a lifetime), we were frustrated beyond belief, unsure of when we were going to travel, etc. I guess it's true that once the baby is in your home, you forget about all the grief you went through to get to that point.

We continue to pray for all the families out there waiting to adopt.

Two months down, and a lifetime to go.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First Post Placement Visit

Yesterday was our first post-placement visit by our social worker. Regina spent all day cleaning the house spic and span, and Camille was looking particularly adorable. The meeting last about 45 minutes. We discussed our trip to the PI, how Camille is adjusting, etc. We showed the social worker the Lifebook that was given to us by the orphanage, and she seemed very impressed by it. She asked a bunch of questions about where Camille sleeps, her health, her adjustment, etc. She also answered all our questions about the formal adoption process.

All in all, the meeting was very positive. I suppose we "passed" because our social worker left wiht a big smile on her face and a very upbeat attitude.

Successful post-placement visit + Laker 40 point victory = very happy family.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Future of the Blog

As you can see, we haven't updated out blog in weeks. We'd like to update it regularly, but with five kids, we simply don't have the time. Instead, we've decided to post blogs and pictures about once a month in case anyone is still interested in our adoption journey.

Right now, we are frantically cleaning the house for our first "post placement" visit by our social worker. We will have three or four of these visits in the next six months. After each visit, our social worker will write a report to ICAB advising them of Camille's progress. If the reports are positive, ICAB will then give us their official consent to adopt Camille. We'll take that consent form and present it to the family court here in the States so that we can officially adopt Camille. Until then, we are her legal guardians, and her name is still the name that appears on her birth certificate. Sooooo ... if all goes well, she officially and legally and finally be adoption by the end of the year.

As for her adjustment, it's been great. In fact, the person with the biggest adjustment issue is 3-year old Kyle. Camille has replaced Kyle as the baby in the family, and Kyle has definitely noticed. For the first few weeks, he threw tantrums, crawled into our bed at night, and was always asking for his mommy. He's a little better now, but he's definitely still adjusting to NOT being the baby of the family.

Other things: At first, Camille was very, very particular about what she ate (and didn't eat). In fact, for the first few weeks, she'd only eat white rice. Yes, it was easy to feed her, but we were concerned about her lack of well round diet. Over time, her pickiness has gone away, and she's almost to the point where she'll eat anything in front of her. But, unlike our other kids, Camille definitely eats a lot. She eats often, a lot, and takes huge bites. Hopefully, she's just eating so she can "catch up" in size, since she was definitely on the smaller end of the height/weight charts at the doctor's office.

Camille used to afraid of swings, but now she loves them. When we first took her to the park, she freaked out when we put her on the swing. This happened two or three times. So we replaced our regular swing in the backyward with an infant-style swing shaped like a dolphin. She rode that for a while, and now we can't get her out of it. When she went to the park yesterday, she happily sat in the swing for almost the entire time!

Anyway, we have other observations that don't come to mind right now, but we'll be sure to include them in our next update. We'll also post some pictures really soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We finally did it....


we traded in our truck for a suburban. Now we can finally fit a family of seven and also all the backpacks, sports gears, stroller, etc. Actually we can fit in a few more kids if we really wanted to. But the big question is, do we really want to? Mark is such a great sport for making our mini-van his commuter car. He's such a team player!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Comic Strip Says It All

Found these comic strips ... thought they were pretty appropriate. If you have any you want to add, please comment to this post with the link to the comic strip/cartoon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Possible Breakthrough ...

For the past three weeks, we've been trying really, really hard and super-duper consistently to teach Camille to say "please". This has turned out to be a very frustrating task because until two days or so, she flat out refused to say "please". We're not sure if this was a language thing, a comprehension thing or what. We tried lots of different tricks. For example, we'd point to each kid one at at time and have them say "pleeeaaassseee". Then, we'd point to Camille hoping that she'd do the same. Nada. Sometimes even a shaking of her head as if to say, "No way, Jose!" We even bribed our kids, offering $1 to the one that could teach Camille to say "please". We even had to be kind of mean ... denying her whatever it was that she was asking for because she didn't say "please".

Well, today, we gave Lauren a dollar because Camille consistently said "please" when asked. She actually says, "eeaaasssee", ... but we think she gets the concept. We'll see if she continues this tomorrow and forever. We're crossing our fingers.

We also picked eggs at the local park and painted eggs at home. Today, she met Uncle Mel, and tomorrow, she'll meet lots more relatives while we celebrate Easter.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Disneyland!

To celebrate Camille's first week in America, we decided to take her to the Happiest (and most expensive) place on Earth -- DISNEYLAND! Camille was a trooper the entire day ... never crying or getting overly restless. In fact, despite the crowds and long lines, all five kids were amazingly cooperative. We had two strollers, and at one point, we had two kids on each stroller while the fifth walked close by. Quite an adventure. Thanks to Ate Rowena for hookin' us up!


One cool thing that happened was that during the High School Musical 3 show, Lauren was chosen to dance with the performers. Since she LOVES HSM, she was clearly in heaven!

Here are some other cool pics:


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The All American Past-Time

Today, Camille did what every red-blooded American child does -- go to Chuck-E-Cheese! That's called "instant Americanization". Camille had fun observing, observing, observing. Although she didn't like riding any of the rides, she definitely enjoyed putting tokens into the machines, then walking away. That didn't last long. She also enjoyed going up and down the slide, and exploring in the over-head tunnels.

Get used to his place, Camille. With all the birthday parties we attend, this place is basically our home away from home.

Here she is in her first of many matching outfits with her Ate Lauren:

Let the Fanaticism Begin (Part 2)

Go Lakers!!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Earrings for Camille

After church, we headed to the mall to get Camille's ears pierced. Not easy. As you can see, it started off easy enough ...
until she realized that something weird was about to happen ...
then the big time wailing began ...
But after a few minutes, the crying stopped, and the smile was back ... earrings and all.

Our First Adventure

Today, we travelled outside the home for the first time as a party of SEVEN. We went to Daniel's Championship basketball game which was played at a nearby school. We have a minivan, which seats seven. We put three car seats in the back row, Jason and Lauren in the two middle row seats, and Mommy and Daddy in the front. Getting the two littlest ones in and out of the back row will take a lot of getting used to. Before, to get Kyle in and out of the car, we could simply reach in from the outside. But now, we have to literally get into the car to get Camille in and out of her carseat. Not too bad right now ... but, of course, today it wasn't raining and there were no backpacks, sports equipment, instruments, or grocery bags on the floor of the van. There's got to be an easier way. If it doesn't get easier, we may need to upgrade to a giant, gas guzzling "van" van ... or maybe a Suburban (assuming I win the lottery or if someone can spot me $40,000). Maybe we can get a school bus ala the Partridge Family. Hmmm ... Any big car suggestions, anyone?

Anyway, Camille did as well as expected at Daniel's basketball game. Most of the team moms knew that we were adopting, so when Reg and Camille walked into the gym, they were greeted with quite a bit of enthusiasm. When the game started, Camille sat quietly in her mommy's lap, mesmerized perhaps at what she was seeing. Then, after about a quarter and half, she started to get somewhat restless. So Reg watched the rest of the game from the side of bleachers near the exit door. Camille played in the general vicinity as the older kids watched over her. Good news: Daniel's team won the championship!

Here's a couple shots from the game! The second shot captures Daniel's only made shot of the game. Nice form, little man!




















BTW, Lauren also got a trophy because her All-Star basketball team won a couple of tournaments while we were gone. We were soooo happy for her when we learned about her team's success when we were in the PI. We were just really, really sad that we missed the games. At least we were able to see her trophy presentation. That's her on the bottom row, far right.
We also went to get a haircut for all three boys. They needed haircuts even before our trip, but I was simply too busy to give them haircuts or to take them to a barber. So when we got back from the PI, my three sons all looked like Mowgli from the "Jungle Book". Camille also got her bangs cut. Cute na cute talaga!

We also stopped by Reg's parents' house for lunch. Camille let her grandpa carry her for the first time. Reg's dad is one of those old guys that kids seem to adore. I'm sure he and Camille will be best buds in no time.

While we were out and about, whenever Camille would get restless ... in the car, at the gym or at the barber ... we'd pull one of the oldest parenting tricks in the book. Bubbles! We've learned over the last ten years that all kids LOVE bubbles. Little kids love popping bubbles and slightly older kids love blowing bubbles. Assuming you're not at Church or anywhere serious like that, blowing bubbles is one of the best distraction tricks of all time. In fact, we often carry little bubble bottles with us just in case. It worked today for Camille, because when she got cranky in the car ... we had Lauren blow bubbles and viola! The crankiness stopped, and the giggling and laughter from Camille and Kyle began.

All day long, Camille continued to have a blast exploring the house. She spent a lot of time in the backyard, going up and down the slide structure with Lauren and Daniel. Lauren has been an absolute angel, watching over Camille every step of the way. One time, I watched Camille just walk around the entire inside of the house as I followed her from about ten feet away. She didn't know I was behind her, and I observed her walk all around ... looking into each room ... running around the kitchen table ... going in and out of the toyroom .... all with a huge smile on her face. I wonder what she was thinking.

During dinner, Camille was literally falling asleep in her high chair. She'd rub her rice-filled hands in her hair and fight to keep her eyes open. So, before she fell asleep, we gave her a bath and put her to bed. Again, we simply gave her a bottle, lied her in the crib and told her to go to sleep. We walked out of the room, and she put herself to sleep.After that, Reg and I talked about how blessed we really are because this transition has been about as smooth as possible. I know it's super early, but so far there have been no meltdowns, no constipation/diarrhea commonly associated with newly adoption children, no illnesses, no complicated adaptation issues at all. Just the typical child rearing issues you'd expect from having an 18th month old. Today, she didn't hit, whine or throw a toy. I don't know if it's her personality or the way the orphanage raised her ... or a combination of both ... but she is such an easy going kid, we feel a bit spoiled. Needless to say, we also feel truly, truly blessed.

BTW, we still haven't adjusted to the time change. We were so sleepy today, we just had to take a mid day nap. In fact, it's now 2:50 a.m., and we've been awake for over and hour and half. Camille is also still on Philippine time. She woke up at 1 in the morning, so we sat her in our bed and layed out about ten books for her. She'd pick up a book, open it up, and babble out loud pretending to read. She had a blast doing this, giggling up a storm. I'm just glad the other kids didn't wake up from all the giggling and singing she was doing.

Oh well ... I should try to sleep. Good night.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

First Day Home

Today was Camille's first full day at home with her forever family. Reg and I were still very jet lagged and we had a very hard time keeping our eyes open for most of the day. Camille is still on Philippine time as well, as she slept from about 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. When all the kids were back from school, they bombarded Camille trying to get her attention (particularly 8 year old Lauren, 5 year old Daniel and Camille's 10 year old cousin, Rochelle). At times, she was a bit overwhelmed by the attention, but after everyone calmed down a bit, all was well. In fact, it was absolutely fantastic because as Reg and I unpacked, tidied up, and tried our best to re-energize, Camille was totally pre-occupied with exploring her new home with her new siblings. The only downer was that I wasn't able to capture all those precious moments on camera or video. Here are a couple of shots I was able to take. As you can see, Camille was constantly surrounded by the others (especially big sister Lauren) who watch over her like a fragile doll.

Check out this big smile:










Here, Daniel is putting tiny Lego men into his new toy Filipino tricycle.

Camille's hitting has almost completely stopped, but she still whines when she doesn't like something, such as a food or a toy. She also threw some toys (which is a total no-no at our house), but I suppose that's just her being a 18 month old. As for the whining ... well, she's learning the hard way that it simply will not get her anywhere in this house. At the kitchen table, Lauren tried to give Camille her sippy cup. Rather than just shake her head, Camille whined and whined. Mommy Reg told Camille "no whining!" and put her hand up, as if to say "stop". Camille's reaction was to cry, so I told the other kids not to soothe her. After about four or five minutes, she realized that her crying was getting her nowhere so she just stopped. Just like that. We went through that similar routine about two or three times today. I'm sure that in time, she'll adjust. She just needs to learn how to communicate her feelings in a non-whiny way. (Yikes! This is beginning to sound like an article from one of the ziliions of parenting magazines to which Reg has subscribed over the last ten years).

Before dinner, Camille was visited by her Auntie Sarah who came to pick up some gifts from the PI. And since Auntie Sarah is a regular blog reader, I just had to include her picture with Camille. Awww! How cute.









And here is the very first of a bazillion pictures featuring the three ladies of the house: Reg, Lauren and Camille.









As you can see from the next picture, Reg had a field day in the PI buying Filipino snacks for dirt cheap. I think she plans on opening her own sari-sari store (super tiny, "variety" stores throughout the streets of the PI).


And here's a picture of the calendar we made for the kids while we were gone. Each day, they'd check off a day, giving them a visual image of our return date. Every few days, whenever the kids seemed to really miss us, my parents would give them pre-wrapped gifts which we bought for them before we left.









Good night, Camille!

Friday, April 3, 2009

WE'RE HOME!!!

On Thursday, April 2 right before 10 p.m., Camille finally met her brothers and sister. When we got to the house, my parents were there with all four kids. Many of Reg's family was there as well, ready to give us a big welcome home. It was funny because I walked in first, video camera in hand. My five year old, Daniel, walked right by me, did a double-take, and said, "Oh. Hi, Dad." He casually walked to me and gave me a hug. He's given me much, much bigger welcomes after coming home from work.

Anyway, the homecoming was very, very much a blur. I was frantically trying to take pictures, take video, reconnect with my kids whom I haven't seen for two weeks, catch up with my family, etc. In the end, I could tell you this:

Camille fit right in. All four kids surrounded her, trying to get her attention, showing her their toys. She was a wee bit overwhelmed because of all the attention, but she reacted not by shying away or throwing a fit. She would just move on to the next person or toy to play with. She totally loves our toy room. She seemed to enjoy sitting in the toddler sized chairs, playing with everything from the Littlest Pet Shop dolls to the play-food to the blocks. She was also a bit mesmerized at the kids' toy room computer. Isn't it a treat to see the look of wonder on a child's face?

Here's Lauren with the baby sister she's been waiting for her whole life:Here are Daniel and Lauren fighting for Camille's attention:
As for the relatives, all was great. I was tickled when Camille immediately let my mom carry her. She even sat in my mom's lap a couple of times. When that happened, my mom had a grin from diamond encrusted-gold earring to diamond-encrusted gold earring.

After about half an hour of mingling/bonding/catching up, Reg sat on Lauren's bedroom floor surrounded by all five kids. When I walked in, Reg said to me, "Look, I have all FIVE of my kids!" Then she gave them all a big, group hug. Sayang (too bad) I didn't have my camera or video camera with me. That was a pretty precious moment. If I were the emotional type, I probably would have cried. But I'm a manly man, so I didn't.

The rest of the night was spent trying to catch up with the other kids, while simultaneously making sure Camille was okay. It was a school night, so we put the kids to bed at little after 11. As I've done almost every night since she was born, I sang "Butterfly Kisses" to Lauren after all the kids said their prayers. For some weird reason, Daniel started crying after he said his prayers. When I asked him why he was crying, he couldn't explain himself, and he ended up sniffling himself to sleep. Overwhelmed with happiness? Or is he sad that the Dad the Disciplinarian is back? Hmmmm.....

It's now 4:20 in the morning, and Reg, Camille and I have been awake for over two hours. We're all still on Philippine time. Reg has been unpacking while I've been blogging and uploading pictures (2300 pics or so in two weeks. Don't you just love digital photography?). Camille is walking around the living room and kitchen exploring everything in sight. Aside from all our boxes and luggages, the house is immaculate, thanks to my mom, the house sitter.

Camille really seems quite at home here. Maybe it's the Filipino love songs she hears playing on the kitchen Ipod player ... or the walis (Filipino broom) she sees in the corner ... or the rice cooker she sees atop the counter. Whatever it is, she seems to fit right in. And that, my friends, makes me one happy daddy.

The Flight Home

I'm sitting here on the airplane as Camille sleeps next to me. The airport experience was a "good news/bad news" sort of situation. The "bad news" was that at EVERY SINGLE checkpoint, my mother-in-law was stopped and interrogated. Her overly-stuffed boxes and bags were all opened, and she had to surrender some canned goods (which she could have bought anyway at any Filipino or Asian market five minutes away from her house here in the States). After a bit of a hassle, she got through ... but not without a little bit of stress ... and grease money.
The "good news" was that while my mother-in-law was having her boxes opened and inspected, Reg spotted a couple of famous Filipino movie stars -- Richard Gutierrez and his mom, Anabelle Rama. Reg was playing it pretty cool on the outside, but I could tell that inside, she was as giddy as a teenie bopper at Jonas Brothers' concert. Too bad for Reg's mom though. She gets totally giddy and star struck at the sight of a famous Filipino actor/actress. But as she was trying to grease the baggage guy, Reg asked Richard for his picture:


For Reg, that picture with Richard was the perfect ending to a fantastic and unforgettable trip.

In the airport and during the half hour or so before we took off, Camille was a bundle of energy. I may be wrong, but I think she sensed something special was taking place. I also think that she was totally overstimulated by all the hustle and bustle. As a result, Reg was kind of pooped out even before the plane took off. Camille wasn't crying or anything. She was just restless, and, of course, she would only let Reg carry her. Poor Reg. She fell asleep five seconds after Camille did. So, now I'm sitting here while the two of them are fast asleep. I hope Camille sleeps throughout the flight!

OK, I'm back. The flight is nearing the end. Camille slept for about 9 of the 13 hours. During the four hours she was awake, she was understandably restless -- wanting to walk, wanting to sing, wanting to grab anything and everything in sight. It was tiring for Reg because the Cameleon didn't want to be carried by anyone other than her mother. Reg was a trooper, and in retrospect, Camille was fine. We were waiting for a total meltdown, but that never happened.

In flight movies: "Bedtime Tales", "Quantum of Solace", "Marley & Me" (Dude, Jennifer Anniston is babe-a-licious).

Here are pictures of Camille on her flight to America!!!

And one last thing ... just like on our flight going to the PI, all requests to join the mile high club were soundly rejected by Reg. Arrrgghh!

After we landed, we spent about an hour in various lines, including immigration. When the immigration officer handed us Camille's approved paperwork, he congratulated us and explained how to get her social security card, green card, etc. Unfortunately, things were happening so quickly, I don't remember anything he said. I guess I'll just google it.

After getting through all the lines, we were greeted by about 8 of Reg's family members who were so excited to see Camille. Camille didn't seem too fazed about all the attention, and she sat quietly in her baby Bjorn as we trudged our way out the airport.

Finally, we drove home, and for the first time in her life ... Camille sat in a car seat!!!! We expected her to resist being harnessed down, but she only mildly protested. For most of the 40 minute drive, she sat quiet, looking out the window. Here's a picture of the monumental event:
Welcome to America, Camille!