Archive for October 2010

This Thing Called ‘Citizenship’

October 18, 2010

On Friday, HRH and I had the chance to participate in something most people do not.  We were spectators as Princess took her Oath of Alliegance and became an ‘official’ American citizen. 

She and about 95 other people.

And why did she have to do this?  I have been asking myself the same question.

When we adopted Prince, the need for naturalization was a given.  His adoption agency told us we would have to do it.  And we did.  I wanted to wait until he was a little older – when it would actually mean something to him.  And then a story made its way through the adoption web boards about a teenager whose adoptive parents ‘forgot’ and after a bit of teenage rebellion, he was in danger of being deported.  Deported back to a country he hadn’t seen since he was an infant and to a language that he had never really learned.  It was recommended that adoptive parents do the citizenship process as soon as possible.  So we did.

Prince was almost three and at that time, naturalization of adoptees was done at an INS office about three hours drive from where we lived.  We waited for our appointment, took a couple of days off work, packed up the camper – along with Non and Pop – and made a long weekend of the occasion.  We did everything that an almost three year old loved best in the fall….played in leaves, let him go for endless rides on the little train in the camp ground, cooked hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire and watched boats on the stretch of river connecting two Great Lakes.  It was a wonderful weekend that began with a visit to the INS office where I took his Oath of Alliegance and I signed the necessary paperwork for his citizenship certificate.  He was decked out in a sweater my Mom had made for the occasion and was busy thoroughly charming every person that we encountered….and I have the pictures to prove it.

When we adopted the Princess, I expected to have to repeat the process.  Then the Child Citizenship Act was passed in 2000 and went into effect on February 27, 2001.  This essentially gave American citizenship to any child adopted overseas by American parents as soon as they stepped on American soil and was retroactive back to …..forever.  This meant that Princess was an  official American citizen as of October 12, 2000 when we arrived at JFK in New York on our way home from Moscow.

And who – on the face of God’s green earth could resist this?  Are YOU going to tell her that she isn’t an American?  And no one ever did…until the passport issue arose.

Because the kiddos might be playing tournaments on the Canadian side of our border, and Homeland Security decreed that crossing the bridge or tunnel now required a passport, we investigated filing for them.  Prince was fine.  We had his Citizenship certificate.  And apparently her adoption paperwork would not be enough to apply for a passport.  We needed her Citizenship certificate.  Getting one meant we needed to file an N-600 form and include all of the same paperwork we had collected for his and a check that was significantly higher.  (The N-600 fees are set to increase to $600 at the end of November…and don’t get me started in that issue. International adoptions are already an expensive undertaking but even more money for another piece of paper?)

So we filed in January and waited for her certificate to arrive.  In August we received a letter requesting that we bring her to the INS office in our nearest big city.  We thought we would be receiving her certificate but instead it was an ‘interview’  where – after some questioning and review of her immigration intake paperwork from 2000 –  we were told that the INS official was going to ‘approve her application’ and we would receive notification as to when to bring her back for their Oath of Citizenship ceremony.  Huh?

On the way home from that interview, princess was full of questions about what the big deal was.  What did this all mean?  So I began a quest to find out myself.  I asked friends, family, former teachers and blog friends to spell it out for her.  Things started rolling in and I kept the project quiet.  I put all of their letters, comments, email messages and cards together in a little book for her….aptly titled “What’s the Big Deal?”

I wish that I could include everything here….everything people said to her, that is.  She was reminded of everything from being able to worship God as she pleased in America, the advantages of being female in America, the freedom of speech we have in America, the ‘privilege’ of wearing jeans where ever she wants to in America, the ‘great real estate’ (Grand Canyon, Disney World and the largest statue of Paul Bunyan to name a few) that she can claim ownership of in America, the ‘melting pot’ of immigrant history that we share in America and that we have an incredible legal system that she can take full advantage of should she be planning to commit a ‘heinous crime.’  (LOL…and thanks for that one, LC!)  We read the book’s entrys aloud on the way down to the INS for her Citizenship ceremony last Friday.  We laughed and were struck by the thoughtful care that people took in their sharing.  She was ‘amazed that these people were thinking about her.’   About how much affection was being expressed for her.

I was struck mostly by how many people said that they had a difficult time thinking about what to say to her.  How saying ‘yes’ to the proposition was easier than actually writing.  Everyone acknowledged much they realized that they took our very basic freedoms for granted.  How much writing to her had jogged their own realizations as to how much we have in America.   I have to admit that I did too.  So, thanks for reminding my daughter – and my family – what this ‘citizenship thing’ is all about.

And….ten years and three days from the moment she stepped foot onto American soil, my daughter pledged allegiance to America…and became a United States Citizen.

And yes, Non……..she wore the sweater……

A Screeching Halt

October 1, 2010

Had been planning to write a blog about her soccer playing skills for a couple of days.  About how much fun it was to watch her on the field these days.  About how she is playing on two teams – something we couldn’t even fathom getting through last August….TWO teams – two practice/game schedules AND the high school soccer practice/games schedule for her brother AND the start of the new school year AND a new position for me covering three schools AND her first weeks of high school….all at the same time?  Toss in the fact that we are buying a new house and one would expect teeth gnashing, hair pulling chaos.  But it was all working out.  There were only a couple of conflicts, lots of driving and a relatively calm adjustment period….for all of us. 

And so the planned blog entry was going to be about watching her.  Just watching the sheer joy on her face when she plays on the soccer field.  She is a tiny little thing compared to most of her team mates and the girls they play against.  And she is fast.  And competent.  And confident.

I think it flat out surprises players when she whips the ball around their feet and heads for the goal net.  Surprises them when she is blocked or butted by an opposing player and doesn’t budge.  I know it surprises HER when she kicks the ball with such force that it throws her off her feet and she lands on her fanny in the grass….and the mud.  Once in a while a coach will catch on and ‘double team’ her.  And her team mate, A, who also drives the ball down and has a big foot for kicking.  But then, that just leaves to field open to T….and D….and K…..and S….and M. 

This team is a blast to watch.

Ask anybody.

Even an accidentally kicked ball to the wrist during practice and a mad dash to the ER and a purple cast couldn’t stop my girl.  She just counted her blessings that it was only a bruise to the soft tissue, gamely wrapped her cast in bubble wrap for games and played on. 

For a week.

The purple cast was removed after a week and she gave a sigh of relief and got back on the field.  And that very next game was a wonder to behold.  The opposing coach finally just put his hands on his hips and shouted, “Okay…that’s enough!  You’re playing for US next year!”  Yeah right.  Like THAT’S gonna happen.  Not.

She was on top of her game the next day too.  The weather was cooler and damp for an 11 am game.  The sun was out.  She dribbled and giggled and tripped and scored…twice.   Just after half time she was right back at it.  She got the ball and was driving it straight toward the net…..through the grass….around her opposition…..drew her foot back to kick……and came to a screeching halt.

She collided with the goalie and they were both on the ground in a tangle of legs and cleats and writhing screams. 

It was one of those moments that an athlete’s parents fear.  A ‘lump in the throat be stoic’ kind of moment.  Your child is on the ground and surrounded by coaches and referees and managers.  The lump lessens when their goalie is led limping off the field as people on the sidelines are clapping in relief.  But grows bigger and harder as yours is carried to the sidelines.

We have had to deal with monor injuries before.  Usually the aches and pains are taken care of with an over the counter pain relievers, ice packs, heating pads, gels and wraps.  I am not one that deals with whiners well.  I don’t baby my athlete kids.  They usually get the standard, ‘if you want to be an athlete this is going to happen….suck it up and get on with it’ response.  I know they are in good condition.  I know what to be really worried about.  I check the internet.  Often.

And here was my child wrapped in a bundle of collected blankets, grinning through her tears, trying to ‘suck it up’ as her non playing teammates and parents gathered ’round in concern.  Someone gave her the over the counter tablet to reduce swelling.  Someone else brought yet another blanket for her to sit on.  And the game went on.  Twenty minutes later we were tucked into the truck and on our way to the emergency room.  X-rays, soft cast wrap, prescription for pain meds, crutches and forty five minutes later we were back at the field to watch her other team losing their first game in two years. 

A screeching halt.

But is now not even a week later….and she is running.  Not to the same level that she was last Saturday…..but running.   She is determined to get back into the game this weekend…and there are three of them.  We are following up with our doctor this afternoon so we shall see. 

I have to wonder if this has anything to do with that surprising moment that we caught her coach praying over her?  Quietly….privately…..as she sat in her bundle of blankets in the wet grass on the sidelines…smiling through her tears and trying to ‘suck it up’….surrounded by concerned parents and teammates…..I caught him closing his eyes and quietly praying. 

THAT brought me to a screeching halt. 

Pleasantly.

And now she is running again.

Heh.