Thursday, August 21, 2008


The Godone-Maresca kids

The Godone-Maresca family at fast-food restaurant shortly after Thomas and Nicholas' arrival

Thomas and Nicholas are finally home!!! I was in Haiti from July 4 to July 8. I just have some time to start this blog now, after the move. Some people think that adopting a child is a challenge--and that adopting an older child is an even greater challenge. Some think of adopting two unrelated children as a double challenge. What about moving at about the same time the two new little family members arrive home? Both boys are 7, but not twins.

I hope nobody will judge me negatively if I confess that initially I had felt disappointed upon getting first-hand knowledge of Nicholas’ developmental issues, which were more significant than expected. I did know he had c.p., though, but must admit that my expectations were different. I will credit it to Catherine to have encouraged me. In reply to a desperate e-mail I had sent from Haiti she wrote, “He’s now your son and our brother, and together we'll make everything work out fine.” She said she loved all the kids at the S.T.A.R. Program where she was finalizing her third (and last) internship, and where she now was offered, and accepted, a P/T. position, and that Nicholas would be "our very own shining STAR".

Well, I did witness a miracle: in less than one week, Catherine, Gerard, and Warren managed to engage him in play—and Catherine even got him to help her pack some books. Nicholas got the idea of what to do really fast, and was delighted to be able to help!!! He understands much more than it looks like, and is happy to be treated as a typical child. Once again, it was all the love, support, time investment, and trust he got from Catherine and the twins what worked that miracle. They even taught him how to make the Sign of the Cross-and he learned very quickly!!! Because of his articulation difficulties, and finding that people had trouble understanding him, in Haiti he would refuse to speak at all—but now he’s already saying some words, despite having switched languages!!!

Thomas is very cuddly, and covers all of us with kisses. He loves to be hugged, and is in great need of human contact. He’s really bright, and, although diagnosed with hemiplegia due to c.p. (cerebral palsy), it’s mainly the use of his right hand that is affected. If he does something wrong he will say, “I’m sorry.” And he'll truly mean it. He speaks Creole, but also a good amount of English, and understands everything.

In only one week, all problem behaviors had decreased beyond expectation. Without exaggeration or embellishment, after three weeks, all forms of really maladaptive acting out had completely vanished. For the first couple of days, Thomas used to say some bad words in Creole (the person to whom I had asked had not even wanted to translate those for me). Towards the end of the very first week, he'd say such words much less frequently, and after two weeks we never heard any bad langauge ever again. There is no more hitting, kicking, or biting. During the first two or three days I had gotten some marks on my arms-but now don't get anything other than tons and tons of hugs and kisses!!! Just to test the situation, a couple of times when Nicholas was really upset I purposefully placed my hand almost touching his teeth as his mouth was open while screaming and sobbing--but he wouldn't even try to bite me. Thomas may say "no" when he doesn't like something, but is never angry with any of us, and only a moment after will come to give us a kiss.

Catherine getting Nicholas grasp the idea of packing

The kids managed to make the move result in family time


I must admit that I needed to postpone our move seven times--or maybe eight? In the end, the moving company would refuse to reschedule without first sending an employee one day in advance to make sure that everything was, indeed, packed and ready to go. I felt really embarrassed. We had been renting our old residence for over five and a half years, but the lady who owns it (who became a friend, and who needs some prayers) is now in a comma, and the sale of the property was desperately needed for the conservatorship to be able to keep on providing for her medical care after the end of the insurance coverage.

Although we intend to move out of state, still there are a few things I have to take care of in San Diego County. Catherine needs to remain here at least till the end of the year because of her last two graduate courses pursuant to her Psy.D. One is actually a dissertation prep course, and, in addition, she also needs to do her required therapy hours. She's 22, with a master's since May 2006, only two weeks after her 20th birthday, two P/T. jobs, very strong parochial involvement, and an inordinate amount of volunteer work--but neither can she be far away from the rest of the family nor can we be far away from her. Yet, the very strong need that we may have for each other is nothing compared to how much Nicholas needs Catherine to be around. If unable to see Catherine for a couple of months, without that very special way she has to stimulate, encourage, and support him, Nicholas may regress and lose part of even all that she achieved for him over the last six weeks.

In summary, everything was sent to storage with a large moving company, and we're temporarily at a house that rents month to month, with only basic furniture and basic personal items. I must confess that for the time being I feel a great relief as I don't need to worry about the fate of any family heirloom. Those are all safe in dish packs, at a large storage facility from one of the companies that are considered the largest and most reputable. They're safe from eventual wildfires, as said storage facility is located in a business park, with lots of concrete all around, and are also safe from adorable little fingers, which pose a less dreadful but much more immediate danger. Yet, I'm entirely sure that had little fingers broke anything important, there would have been a little big heart as sad as I'd have been. Both little ones are really good, with good feelings, good intentions, good hearts.


Gerard and Warren volunteering w/Kids Korps to prepare lumber for an orphanage in Tijuana, 2006.

Catherine, Warren, & Gerard volunteering at equestrian therapy program f/challenged kids, 2005

I can't thank God enough for the family He gave me,including my parents and generations before me as well as all my kids. Quite often I feel I don't deserve to have a family that cannot be more loving, more caring, or more cohesive than it is. In some people's opinion it may be too close knit perhaps, or even, borrowing from the sociology jargon, enmeshed. One social worker arrived to tell me that I teach my kids more to help others than to be happy themselves. Well, I don't agree. That's the way I was raised, and the way my parents, grandparents, and ancestors were also raised. It may sound too naive or too goody-goody to say that none of us ever had to deal with a bitter divorce, with any drinking problem or even social drinking, with any family feuds, sibling rivalry, or just any teenage behavior that didn't meet with parental approval. It's not that we're perfect, but simply that we live our Catholic faith, and that we put each other's interests before our own. In our family bonds don't become any weaker as kids reach the age of 18, but, on the contrary, family remains family forever.

Despite being widowed, when talking about adoption, I always used, and keep on using, the plural due to how totally, extremely, fully involved my three biological kids and my mom were in the process from Haiti and are now in trying to adopt again.

May I brag a little (or a lot) about my kids?

Catherine is 22. She just finished her third (and last) internship, where she worked with kids with special needs, and where she loved every single minute of it--and keeps on loving it, as she was offered a part-time job with that same agency, and truly has a very special way for special kids. She is also an inspirational speaker for youth, an active participant in the Pro-Life movement, teaches Religious Ed at two different parishes, and does lots of outreach work with her parochial Young Adults group. Yet, she lives at home, and is much closer to all her younger brothers than words can say. Like the rest of the family, she's eagerly waiting for, and helping with, trying to get two more little miracles home.

Gerard and Warren are 11-year-old twins who, the same as their older sister, have very strong parochial involvement with extraordinary volunteer work. They were only six years old when they joined Kids Korps, and always enjoyed every single project. They're altar servers and active members of the Junior Legion of Mary, which also involves helping those less fortunate. They used to assist me when I was teaching Religious Education (I can't volunteer this year). They simply adore their new little brothers, and are thrilled at the idea of having even more little siblings to love.

Despite her age, my mom's mind is as clear as ever--and her heart is as big as always. She now has a broken knee that impairs her mobility, but keeps on getting nervous if Catherine or I are going to be late for an appointment, work, or class, and continuous taking care that we don't fall asleep on the computer keyboard if working past bedtime, or that we take a coat when going out because it may get cooler after dark.

What about me? By profession I'm a licensed attorney. I have a Ph.D. in Psychology, but I'm not a licensed psychologist. Since my childhood I have a passion for writing. Yet, I prefer to describe myself as a homeschooling mom. When preparing for the move and going through old files, I myself felt astonished at the amount of cases I did handle as an attorney, although working from home. I also teach some etiquette workshops for children and adults. As already said, I used to teach Religious Ed, but can't volunteer this year. I self-published four books: on inspirational poetry, inspirational short stories, homeschooling, and etiquette.

Everyone in my family shares real concern for the physically challenged, and that concern is more like a call to action. For those I love, such call comes solely out of their huge hearts. To me, it goes back to my school days and to something that did cast a big, huge (or, actually, oversized) cloud on what otherwise might have been a perfect, magical, fairytale childhood. In appearance, I had it all: I had the unusually simultaneous privileges of an upper class upbringig and of having parents and grandparents who, far from being busy socialites, were totally, absolutely, completely, unconditionally devoted to me (maybe too much). On one hand I was taught all the etiquette rules, but on the other was primarily taught by word and example that social sensitivity and social justice should always take precedence over socio-economic status and social profile. On one hand I was raised with the strictest, most old-fashioned family values, but on the other was taught to be open to, and friends with, others from all walks of life. I was only 15 when my mom told me that to look down upon single mothers was tantamount to promoting abortion. It seemed that I couldn't have asked for more. Yet, my self-image was far from being the one I wanted. Despite a very athletic appearance, I was never good at sports--and, although not actually disabled, I did perceive my inability to jump higher or run faster as a true disability. That always made me feel very deeply towards any child who could not jump, run, or climb at all--or who could not even walk. As an adult, I tried to deal with those feelings of inadequacy by trying a tandem parachute jump (I jumped harnessed to my instructor) and becoming a seven-time bungee jumper. I didn't need great coordination for any of those: all I had to do was to make the Sign of the Cross, release the bar, and let gravity do the rest. Yet, although I won't deny that those brief incursions into extreme sports were some sort of self-esteem booster, they were not as fulfilling as expected. God had a much more important, much more meaningful, much more permanent call for me. Without having had the actual, real physical challenges that many courageous little ones face, I did have similar emotional experiences--and feel inside my heart a strong, compelling desire to raise children with those challenges, comfort them, encourage them, and call them my own.

I have children who care for each other and for others more than I can say. They have been featured in the news several times due to their volunteer work. In the Rancho Santa Fe Review they appeared over ten times already. Although I don't have a Midas touch at all, and my present situation is very far from being what it was in Italy in the old days (long before I was born), thanks to my kids still nowadays our family can contribute to the community--because it was them who showed me that you don't actually need the old glory in order to help. You don't even need any funds at all, but just the desire to donate a little time, have a smile on your face, and roll up your sleeves.

Catherine, Gerard, & Warren praying Pro-Life Rosary in front of abortion clinic, 2007

Participating in Pro-Life walk, 2006

From the beggining, Thomas and Nicholas already knew how to share (at the Miami Airport, 07/08/08).


I do apologize if I can't avoid showing off my kids and my family too much. They deserve much more than I can do for them. All that remains from the past is the name of our ancestors. I can't give my kids anything even comparable to what I had when growing up. Yet, these two further adoptions are in our dreams, in our prayers, and in our hearts more than words can say. If you can add a prayer to ours, all of us will thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Also, could you kindly visit my blog entitled, after my poetry and short stories books, To Serve the King Who Came to Serve? You can find it under From all of us, thank you so much in advance, and God bless everyone!


Hugging Jonathan at C.O.T.P., 07-06-08

Most of you know how very much we all wanted to add three children fron Haiti to our family. Many of you know about Jonathan, that little boy with severe c.p. (cerebral palsy) but whose smile can light up an entire room. And I'm sure all of you know how many sighs, how many tears, and how many prayers we shared as a family for him--since the very moment the home study agency unilaterally decided that three children with special needs all at once would be "too much" or "too many". Back in the late 2006, for days and days we were unable to hold our tears every time we passed in front of a large framed picture of Jonathan in a small inflatable pool, lovingly embraced by Thomas as well as also supported by an adult, as otherwise he wouldn't have been able to hold his head up. That picture was in our hallway in our old house, and will be always with us in our future home.

Then we prayed, and prayed, and prayed. My mom was even praying to die---not thinking that God might want her life as a trade-off in exchange for a home study approving me for three kids, but anticipating that had something happened to her at that time due to stress, that might have made the agency change its decision.

Children of the Promise supported our determination to be Jonathan's family no matter what, and we'll never forget that. Yet, a couple of days after returning from Haiti with Thomas and Nicholas, I got a message from Robin. She had something to discuss with me. When we finally talked, she explained to me that in the light of the new adoption policies being enforced in Haiti these days, in all likelihood I wouldn't be able to adopt Jonathan with five children in the family already. It'd be a difficult and lengthy fight, and if we lost it, it'd be too late for Jonathan. I asked Robin to kindly request any prospective adoptive family to be agreeable to keeping in touch with us.

When Catherine had returned from L.A. Congress (for Catholic youth) earlier this year, she had brought back home with her one Jesus' bear (bears bearing the Cross) for each one of her new little brothers, including Jonathan--but the bears had been five, as opposed to just three.

It's time to give out the news--even though I'm still concerned, afraid, terrified that something might go wrong: we're adding to our family two more little ones, one from Uzbekistan and one from Russia!!! From Uzbekistan it's an adorable four-year-old boy described as loving, caring, bright, vivacious, and friendly, who's missing his right arm and leg. From Russia it's been an even more painful, more shattering ordeal than it was with Jonathan. It was going to be a little five-year-old boy missing two limbs as well--but it was impossible to find an agency to do a home study immediately, with two adoptions still in process. Actually,from a legal standpoint, Thomas and Nicholas were members of our family already (since June 2007, when their adoption decrees had been signed) but were still waiting in Haiti for the processing to be finalized at the M.O.I. and then at the U.S. Consulate.

I may be a writer, but can't properly summarize the extent to which we all suffered for that little one. Although in our last Christmas pictures we may look happy opening presents, the tears were right there, ready to be shed at any time. Anything seemed a good excuse for a good cry--because the reason was that little boy so very far away. On October 23, 2007, the day when the wildfires were getting near, and when common sense was telling me to stop everything else and start packing those family memories I love so very much, still I had gone to Kinko's to send a fax needed in order to apply for his adoption.

After wasting time with an agency that behaved very unethically and kept monies they had never earned, and after unsuccessfuly trying other agencies whose executive directors seemed to have rocks instead of hearts pumping the blood inside their veins, Life Adoption Services, in Tustin, CA, agreed to do a new HS even though Thomas and Nicholas were not home at that time yet. But it was too late. Why hadn't I resorted to Life Adoptions first?

To make the story short (it's actually long already), after the murder case in Utah, the region where that adorable small boy is seems to be no longer an option. It was also an issue around the incresing disfavor towards independent adoptions. Life is fully accredited in Russia, but the prospective placing agency was not. Still we're waiting to hear if there is something to be done, which seems very doubtful. What is certain is that for years to come we'll wake up in the middle of the night to think what that little boy's fate was. Unfortunately, those who purposefully delayed the commencement of the process and those who could have helped but refused won't have their sleep disturbed as we will. Or perhaps a Voice from above will whisper into their ears that, whether they identify it or not, they have something to feel guilty about? Please don't misunderstand me: I don't wish wrong to anyone. I don't wish remorse to anyone. But if more people could realize that doing a job is more than following procedures, things would be much better on this earth. If more people could realize that quite often we need to take chances, to risk making an unlikely mistake, to expose ourselves to eventual trouble, to even jeopardize our license, position, or business for the sake of a worthy, deserving, compelling cause. I ask you please to believe me that I don't expect from others more than what I would have done in their place.


No matter how much time may go by, these little ones will remain in our hearts. They may never be part of our family, but somehow they will be with all of us. Even if they were never home, even if no application even arrived to be filed, the pain will still linger somewhere deep inside us--and that goes for us all.

I already explained that my mom arrived to even pray to die, thinking that if something happened to her, the agency might agree to approve for Jonathan as well. That photo of Thomas holding him in a small inflatable pool in Haiti will always be in our home and in front of our eyes. One of my PIN numbers still includes the letter j--a J for Jonathan.

We all prayed, and I don't know how very much I begged, for this little one also--but four children together was deemed almost crazy, and he was referred to another family. Yet, before going home to his new mom, he was called Home, and is now in Heaven with Jesus and His Blessed Mother--who is the Mother of all. For sure baby Jed has a loving, devoted Mom in the eternal Land.

There was that 6-year-old boy in Russia, with underdeveloped legs--but no agency would agree to do a home study for one more adoption with two adoptions (Thomas and Nicholas) still in progress. In the end, Life Adoptions, after looking at extensive information about our family and about my children's extraordinary volunteer commitment, did agree to do that home study--but by the time I found them it was too late already. The doors closed before the process could even get started--and it did hurt so very much!!! It did hurt then, and keeps on hurting still.

Uzbekistan closed to international adoptions, and Sunshine, out of Ohio, closed doors as well.

She couldn't be either . . .

but our new adoption quest is still on!!! When something goes wrong, some people tend to interpret it as if God was telling them that it was never meant to be. On the contrary, I can feel God saying that it's a matter of not giving up, keeping on going, and being strong--because another adoption miracle is the very best way for all of us to dry our tears. It is unbelievable how attached a family can arrive to be to children with whom there was no real contact, no legal commitment--nothing else other than what we felt deep inside our hearts.

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