Thursday, July 31, 2008

Christmas in July

What is the date today? Anyone? Anyone?

I'm just checking to make sure I haven't completely lost all of my remaining marbles. It is JULY, isn't it?? For some reason I thought perhaps it was November or possibly even October...oh, it could be the fact that I received not one but TWO solicitations today for CHRISTMAS CARD orders.

Now I have no possible excuse for sending cards out late this year except for perhaps the fact that by the time the holidays do finally roll around I may actually be sick of hearing about them. I love the holidays. I really do! But c'mon, isn't July just a little tooooo early to start thinking about them??

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Opus One

Island Boy has created his first musical composition.

While sitting on the music teacher's lap at the piano, inspiration hit and his fingertips danced over the keys to create something actually musical!

I was amazed to hear the teacher recreate his melody. I've always been impressed by people that have the talent to listen to something and play it back on any instrument. Granted, his composition wasn't particularly complex, but she was actually involved in a conversation during his moment of genius, making it all the more impressive when she played it back and later wrote it out for me.

I do admit that the composition could have been shall we say...accidental and it may not be quite the stuff of the Philharmonic (any Philharmonic) at this point, but still...regardless of any of that, it was music to my ears.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shaken and Stirred

We had our first noticeable earthquake in quite some time here today.

I happened to be holding Island Boy when the tremor hit. We stopped what we were doing and waited while our house creaked and our dishes rattled. Island Boy seemed a little rattled as well, but I'm not sure if I should attribute that to the quake itself or to my reaction to it (one naturally tenses up a bit when a quake begins, particularly when one is holding a baby). The shaking was not intense at our location, but it did last for a good long time.

For those of you that haven't experienced many earthquakes you may find it interesting to know that they all feel different. Some start with a thump; some feel like the rolling waves on the ocean and others sound and feel like a strong wind gusting through. This one was the rattly sort.

I always find it funny to think that even though I live in California I experienced my first earthquake in Ohio of all places.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where in the World?

We've been fortunate to have a few good weeks this July (in contrast to last July). We just got back from a long weekend with friends and their four-year-olds on a real family vacation by a lake in the mountains.

Island Boy was in his element spending his days at the beach just like his Mommy did when she was growing up. We enjoyed the long daylight hours of summer splashing in the water, dragging our fingers and toes through the sand, hiking among wildflowers in the mountains and roasting S'Mores over the fire in the evening. We rented a boat which Island Boy insisted on driving and even spent an evening at a local music festival picnicking on the grass and dancing in front of the stage.

Island Boy loved having the older kids to look up to and they had a good time laughing with us as they tried to teach him to say, "broccoli". Listening to Island Boy say, "broccoli", was apparently the funniest thing these children had ever heard and it was a riot to watch them enjoying each other all weekend.

Our hotel was set up with families in mind from the ideal location to the Mickey Mouse pancake breakfasts to the movie theater (which we did not partake of) to the piano in the lobby (which Island Boy simply could not get enough of). The only thing that could have made it slightly more perfect from our son's point of view might have been a resident doggie.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Wrong Way

I cannot imagine the horror experienced by pretty much everyone involved in this situation nor the desperation and greed that led the individual (or group of individuals) to dream up and execute the act that led to this.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer Nights

There are few things quite so quintessentially LA as a summer night at the Hollywood Bowl. It's an experience that takes you away for just a few hours and rejuvenates your soul.

The Hollywood Bowl is more than just a concert venue. It is a gourmet experience. It is an unwritten rule that an evening at the Bowl must involve a picnic with wine before the show. Said picnic can happen at your car, on the grounds surrounding the Bowl, or at your seat. Picnicking at your seat is best for those lucky enough to have a box (typically season ticket holders).

On a perfect summer evening, we were fortunate to be the invited guests of season ticket holders. We had a truly beautiful evening listening to the music of the LA Philharmonic while reconnecting with friends we haven't seen in much too long and enjoying a delicious picnic. What could be better?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunday Supper

In the Italian community, there is a treasured tradition of Sunday Suppers. If you are (or were) a fan of the Sopranos you may remember it. It's a time for sharing good food and quality time with family and friends before rushing back into the work week.

It often involves hours or possibly days of food preparation, but it isn't just about the food. It truly is about the experience and bringing family and friends together. It is meant to happen every Sunday - a feat that isn't easy in current times. Still, whether it happens weekly, monthly or occasionally, it's a very special thing. There is something about sharing a meal with family and friends on a Sunday makes you sit back and relax in a way that doesn't happen in quite the same way on other days of the week.

On this particular Sunday we were happy to be part of Sunday Supper at someone else's home. Island Boy was perfectly content to enjoy his Sunday Supper around the kids' table with twin four-year-old girls. Photographic evidence indicates that the girls enjoyed playing with Island Boy too. Island Boy even had the opportunity to play a rhinestone-studded guitar. He was in heaven.

The evening was over too soon as it always is, but another wonderful thing about Sunday Suppers is that there will be another Sunday coming around again next week...

Monday, July 14, 2008


Island Boy was in line for his iPhone 3G on launch day. Don't worry, we weren't quite this crazy (nor even this crazy)! We showed up at a very civil hour and managed to get a decent place in line thanks to a friend that needed to abandon his prime spot. In stark contrast to the tortuous wait at the Social Security office, waiting in this line was fun.

Island Boy worked the crowd, greeting nearly everyone and pausing to give special attention to each of the doggies in line. He also cheerfully smiled at anyone that looked like they might be willing to let him play with their phones. The number of people willing to allow our toddler to play with their phones was surprising at first, but we realized the consequences of one of those phones being damaged at that point were small at best. Those people were standing in line to replace the very phones he was playing with so they might suffer with a broken phone for minutes at most. Island Boy had a fantastic time and yes, he does know how to use the touch screen. :-)

He'd been prepping for months - one of his favorite words is, "Apple".

When does he say, "Apple"? Nearly every time he sees something that resembles this:

It still cracks us up every time.

That's our boy!! :-)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Power Play

I thought the hard part was over. I really did. I had no idea that once my child was definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt a US Citizen that there would be no further hassles or questions and life would proceed as smoothly for our family as for any other family.

Riiiiiiighhht!!! What was I thinking? At my age, I should know better.

As I sauntered in to my local Social Security office, confidently carrying a carefully arranged file folder which had been prepared months in advance, I was as cheerful as one could be when facing what was sure to be a tedious and extensive wait. I twiddled with my phone while waiting and was pleased to be called by what appeared to be the nicest gentleman in the place. He really was nice. Oh, so nice.

It turns out he was a volunteer and just "helping out" and completely unprepared to deal with issuing a social security number to a US Citizen sans birth certificate. And here we go...back into the waiting room I went as my two-hour parking meter began to run down and my nerves began to jangle (parking tickets in this part of town are not what I'd call pocket change).

Finally, she was ready for me. I cheerfully presented my orderly paperwork and was blindsided with a very droll, "Why do you need a social security number?". What?! Umm...ok, maybe this isn't going to go quite as smoothly as I'd hoped, but I answered cheerfully and respectfully. Before I could complete my sentence, I was cut off with a recital of all of the things you can do without a social security number and told I didn't need one for any of those things, particularly for filing taxes. Yes, I said I was fully aware of all of the things I could do without an SSN, but there was one thing I needed to do that *did* require a SSN, so I would really like one, please. She insisted I didn't need one. I insisted I did. She then admitted I did need a SSN for the thing that I wanted it for (opening a brokerage account), but she made no apologies or any recognition whatsoever of the fact that she had just insisted I didn't need an SSN. Fine. I'm totally ok with that.

Next issue? According to this lady, I had no proof of my child's US Citizenship! I held a court document in my hand demonstrating what I was told by a JUDGE was proof and what my extensive research told me was proof, but somehow it wasn't good enough for the Wicked Witch of Social Security.

What was she concerned about? Perhaps she was concerned about issuing a Social Security number to a tiny little terrorist?? While I haven't been with my son every second of his entire life, I am fairly confident in stating (even under oath if necessary) that he is definitely not, nor has he ever been a terrorist.

She kept my application and sent me home to collect one additional document. Since by this time I had invested over 2.5 hours sitting at that office, I pleaded with her to allow me to make an appointment to meet with her on my return visit so I could avoid the part about standing in line again. No dice.

On my return visit I brought with me not only all of the requested documents (completed application, Passport for my child, court documents, my ID), I also brought with me documentation from the US Department of State website indicating that my son was absolutely, definitely a US Citizen. She reviewed the documentation and continued to challenge me on his status, refusing throughout the conversation to refer to "the child" as my son. When I pointed out the facts to her she responded by saying, "Well, that's what you say". I said, "No, that is what the US Department of State and the US Citizenship and Immigration Service say." Her final words to me were, "I haven't yet decided whether I will approve this application or not."

While at first I thought she hated her job, the more I thought about it the more I realized she absolutely loves her job. There are few positions at this level I can think of that wield more power than this one. She believes that she holds the power to prevent a person from getting a social security card. While that may or may not be true, why would she want to prevent a baby from getting a card? Perhaps just to make her job interesting or to get back at the world for some injustice she suffered. Whatever her reasons, she's the one that needs to live with them.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Timely Article on an Untimely Case

The timing for this article in CNN is interesting since it highlights the issue of citizenship just a day after my post on the topic. In this particular case there is an issue of citizenship for a very different and very serious underlying reason than is the norm, but the concerns surrounding US citizenship for children adopted abroad are very real and this case highlights the worst of the "you don't want to know" consequences of not getting things cleared up and finalized quickly.

There are more than a few interesting details beyond the most obvious within this story. The first being that complicated cases take WAAAAYYY too long to resolve. A few extra months in a court process seems unreasonable when a child's life is involved, but fourteen years?! What excuse on earth could possibly justify that amount of time passing? Surely if they are looking for someone, that person either doesn't exist, doesn't want to be found or they have been using some very poor detectives to do the search. You have to figure over a period of fourteen years this case has spent its fair share of time stashed away at the bottom of various stacks of cases on the desks of various judges waiting for that singular human that is willing to say, "enough is enough" and do what is necessary to reach a resolution, whatever that may be.

One of the things I found most touching in the article was the feelings of the girl about her family and her case. The girl herself wishes the same resolution for the case as her family. She doesn't seem concerned about what may or may not have happened to her in the short period after her birth. She is content and happy and everything sounds right with her world except for that little issue of the threat of deportation. I don't think her feelings are surprising or unusual. I just found it very touching and wonderful that she and her family are very happy together. For the sake of everyone even remotely affected by this case, I hope it is soon resolved. I cannot imagine what it must be like for that family going through life with that particular dark cloud overhead.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Is He or Isn't He? Adoption and Readoption

Readoption is a strange concept. Even the word "Readoption" makes you say, "huh?". I mean you've already adopted, so what the heck does it mean to "re"-adopt??

Fortunately for me, I didn't really realize just how confusing it all was until it was all behind us. Although it is behind us now, it bears explanation for those of you that haven't yet been through it or for those of you that wish to gain some sense of what we (and many other families) have been through (or are still going through).

The first thing you need to know about Readoption is that it's not entirely clear what it is or how to go about it. The second thing you should know is that you may (or may not) be required by law to do it. Readoption happens here in the US and it happens at the state level, so procedures (although hopefully not results!) vary from state to state. Your agency should help to guide you through.

The basics of Readoption are that it involves more paperwork, of course, and culminates in an actual court appearance (for many of us the first and only of the entire multi-year adventure). In a nutshell, Readoption is the process of a US Court confirming that any decisions made in a foreign court were valid and appropriate. Shockingly, there are some states that do not recognize foreign adoptions so your child could be denied legal rights without the readoption. What kind of legal rights? These range from inheritance issues to "you don't want to know".

Here's the problem: although the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was supposed to clear everything up and streamline the process of how and when your child becomes a US Citizen, it does not seem to have done a very thorough job (on the other hand, prior to the CCA, things must have been even uglier, so I'm sure it was a great improvement). If you read through the information here (copied from the US Department of State website) it all seems very helpful:


On February 27, 2001, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 becomes effective. The aim of this law, which, among other things, amends Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), is to facilitate the automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship for both biological and adopted children of U.S. citizens who are born abroad and who do not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. We are pleased to note that, because of this law, U.S. citizenship will be conferred automatically upon thousands of children currently in the United States.


The following are the Act's requirements:

  1. At least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen, either by birth or naturalization.
  2. The child is under the age of 18.
  3. The child must be residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent after having been lawfully admitted into this country as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence.
  4. If the child has been adopted, the adoption must be final."
And this, copied from the USCIS (formerly Homeland Security) site, sounds similarly helpful:

"Does my child qualify for automatic citizenship under the CCA?

Under the CCA, your child will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship on the date that all of the following requirements are satisfied:
  • At least one parent is a U.S. citizen,
  • The child is under 18 years of age,
  • If the child is adopted, a full and final adoption of the child, and
  • The child is admitted to the United States as an immigrant."

The problem lies with that bit about the adoption being "final". Unfortunately, a consistent definition of "final" regarding the adoption process is left up to the interpretation of the reader. So is the adoption "final" when a foreign court decides it is or when a US Court puts its blessing on the procedure via the process of Readoption? It depends on who you ask - even the people that really should know don't provide consistent answers. The US Department of State seems to acknowledge that an Adoption Decree is all that's needed for the adoption to be final and they don't seem to be picky about whether that comes from a court here or there yet not every government employee agrees on that.

If all of that isn't unsettling enough, you may be surprised to learn that once the Readoption is completed and the question of citizenship should no longer be an issue (if it ever were to begin with), your child is still listed as holding an immigrant Visa with USCIS. Awesome!

Even after the Readoption is complete you have no proof of your child's citizenship other than a state-issued court document until you either order an optional Certificate of Citizenship (by filling out yet another form and shelling out $420, learn more about that here) or until a birth certificate arrives (and that that can take another year or more!!) or until you get a US Passport for your child - probably the fastest and easiest option. Only one of these options - the most expensive one, natch, actually results in USCIS changing the status of your child's citizenship in their databases. I'll be posting more on all of this shortly...

There is one shining light in this entire process: the court appearance. Surprising, I know, but if you're fortunate enough to require this particular court appearance, know that unlike many court appearances that you can imagine or may experience in your lifetime, this one is truly special. Our judge was warm and kind and truly seemed to enjoy his work. It was a joyful experience for our family and one that we will always treasure. For us, it was the perfect end to a wonderful beginning.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Island Boy experienced his first fireworks this year and our little American boy loved it!

We watched from a vantage point affording views of at least seven shows up and down the Southern California coast. We started him out with a few "starter shows" - these were off in the distance, so not too overwhelming and lovely to behold. While these shows were entertaining, it wasn't until the *real* show began about thirty minutes after the others that the fireworks really got Island Boy's attention.

This particular show probably wasn't the biggest in the area, but for us it was by far the most impressive since it was happening nearly right on top of us. Although we had already been watching fireworks for at least thirty minutes before this show started, it started with such an array of sounds and colors it made us want to applaud. Island Boy was captivated from the first BOOM!! This show was soo close, he actually held on tight for the first few minutes. He did relax to enjoy the show pretty quickly. When it was all over, he wanted more! MORE!! BOOM!! More boom please!!

Happy Birthday, America!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Apricot Season

Apricot season has arrived in our backyard and by apricot "season", I mean a period of roughly 5 days.

Our treasured apricot tree produces the most delicious apricots I've ever tasted. I am only half-joking when I say that I married my husband because of this tree (I joke that the other reason was the incredible fig tree! ;-). It even worked out that apricot season was in full swing over our wedding weekend and yes, we did just celebrate another very, very happy anniversary! While eating (and eating and eating) from this very tree over our wedding weekend, our nieces and nephews dubbed my husband the very appropriate, "Uncle Apricot".

There is one small problem: all of the apricots arrive at the same time and once picked, they last only a few days at most. So during our brief season in addition to enjoying all the fresh apricots we can eat, I am frantically picking fruit, sharing it with friends and family, and furiously trying to find time to bake and make and eat every fresh apricot recipe I can think of: Apricot Puree, Apricot Souffle, Apricot Ice Cream, Apricot Pie...

Of course the squirrels often get to them first - taking a single ruinous bite out of each one just as it begins to develop that irresistible sun-ripened rosy blush. In years past, we had our faithful dogs to assist in combating the varmints. They somehow knew (well, one of them did) to guard that tree when it mattered and we didn't even have to ask. Without their help this year, we were forced to take preemptive measures. We had the wires removed that served as a "Squirrel Highway" over the top of the tree and we wrapped sheet metal around the base so the little critters couldn't clamber up as easily from the ground. These measures haven't been foolproof, but seemed to help. Still, we really miss our dogs (and that has very little to do with apricot season).

I hope you were able to guess that that is not Island Boy in the second photo. You may not have guessed that the photo of the pie was not taken at our house. We had an absolute blast visiting the home of our "guest pickers" for an impromptu baking party where we made this beauty. And yes, it was delicious!

Island Boy has had a glorious week parked under the apricot tree or in our kitchen enjoying one of the best things about living where we do. It is no wonder that he quickly learned to say the complicated word, "Apricot" - very, very clearly and with great enthusiasm!! Ah, yet another reason why we are sad to see another apricot season come to a close...

p.s. If you've got a favorite fresh apricot recipe to share, please let me know...there's always next year!