Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reading the Road Signs

I am a fairly well-seasoned traveler, as I think I have mentioned before.  When I add it all up, I think I have spent more than 3 years of my life in places other than the US.  It can be a disorienting thing.  Some things are small and fun -- learning British slang for example.  (Though my little brother might argue with the harmlessness of the slang-change, having once had a conversation with his schoolmates about his "pants."  Oh well).  Other things are more jarring -- like trying to make sense of an Austrian fourth-grade classroom where the gym locker rooms were co-ed.  (I admit, this one kinda scarred me...)

 It took me longer than I want to admit to be able to consistently read the street signs in Athens.  I didn't even try in Egypt.  I am inordinately proud of being able to at least sound out most of the Russian ones.

I mention all of this simply to say that I viscerally remember what it is like to be completely outside my American comfort zone.  And I also mention this to point out that it takes a LONG TIME to be fully comfortable in a new place.  I think that's just natural.

And I admit it, when I looked down at the Verrazano Bridge from my airplane last week, I let out a huge sigh of contentment.

This all relates back to Max, and something that has been on my mind for the last several days. I've been trying to figure out how to get these ideas out in words, and I'm not sure if it will make sense or not, but here goes...

We had three visits with him last week.  He started out every single visit with a a several minutes of nervous whimpering (and real crying on the last day).  It was generally easy to jolly him into a better mood, but it was perfectly clear to us that he was outside his comfort zone. More to the point: WE are outside his comfort zone. We don't speak correctly.  For Pete's sake, we don't even make ANIMAL NOISES correctly!  We probably smell weird.  He is fairly easygoing about it, and is happy to look at books with us or put together puzzles with us, but there is a clear divide in his mind -- his people are the ones on the other side of the door.  Whenever there was a noise outside the room -- a crying child, familiar voices, even a pair of footsteps -- he would turn expectantly to the door.

This breaks my heart just a little. Not for me, but for him.  He is comfortable where he is.  It is familiar.  We have become so accustomed to thinking of orphanages as these horrible, lonely places (and by the way, this perception is not universally true!) that it takes a bit of effort to remember that for him -- this is home.  It's all he knows.  He feels a sense of belonging to the world on the other side of the door.  And I know -- I know -- that this sense of belonging is a temporary thing, that in another two years if not sooner he would have all new caregivers, and once more his world will tilt on its axis.  And yet it breaks my heart to see that he will be taken away from all this.  In another month, he will leave his comfort zone and be forced to to go home with this funny-sounding, funny-smelling, (and let's face it!) funny-looking couple who spent a few hours playing with him a few weeks back.

I am preparing myself for a very upset toddler in a few weeks.  And let's face it, upset toddlers can give upset teenagers a run for their money.  All I can do is pray for compassion -- the ability to say to myself while he's having a temper tantrum on the floor, "It's OK.  Remember, he hasn't a chance in the world of being able to read the road signs yet."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Week in Pictures

Day 1
Finally some father/son bonding!

Day 2
Yup.  That's exactly what you think it is.  You could even eat in!  AND they had the yummy garlic sauce that is the whole reason to get Papa John's in the first place.

Day 3
Trying to turn Max into a dog person.

Day 4
Max: "Hey, if I point at the fire engine I can get that funny lady to make some really weird noises!!"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I'm sitting in our hotel room in Moscow with no real idea how to begin.  For a day that has completely changed my life, the hours have been oddly anti-climactic.  We woke up in the dark (ok, that makes it sound earlier than it really is -- you don't get any real daylight here until almost 10:00), went to court, and were back at the hotel by noon.

That's it.

No balloons, no planes in the sky, no fireworks.  And yet as of this morning, Jason and I and legally parents.  We don't get the hands-on part of the job for a few more weeks, but the official part is done.

It was surprisingly easy.  Astonishingly easy for what it all means.  Jason and I each answered questions about ourselves, our motivations to adopt, and our ability to care for all of Max's needs.  The director of his baby home and Max's social worker both spoke about Max's situation and the appropriateness of the adoption.

It was all over within 45 minutes.

It seems like such a cut-and-dried thing.  Brief testimonies and a reasonably swift decision to utterly change the course of three lives -- mine, Jason's, and Max's.

I wish that Max could have been in the room with us.  It's not like he would have understood, but it was odd to go through this proceeding without him -- the keystone of the whole arch.  I wish he could have seen for himself the faces of everyone in the room who -- I truly believe -- were concerned about his welfare.  Again, it's not like he would have understood it, or even remembered in far into the future, but his was such a compelling absence in it all.  When I tell him about his story and get to this point -- the point from which the rest of it hangs -- how strange is it that this was the one part that he was never present for?

And yet that isn't quite the truth either, is it?  He was there in the testimonies of those that have loved and cared for him for the past two years.  He was there in the testimonies of those who will love and care for him for the next ninety-nine.

It's quite true that there was no shy, rather solemn two-year-old in the courtroom this morning, but Max was with us all the same.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Butterflies in my Stomach

I think I'm more nervous for this trip than the last one.  Not for any good reason, mind you: Max and I have met and I adore him, the trip is shorter than the last one, there are far fewer unknowns this time, whatever.  It might have something to do with the fact that I have to stand in front of a judge on Tuesday and tell him/her my life story and then hope and pray that he/she decides that the three of us will be a good fit.  I mean that's really a bit terrifying.

But I had a great time last time.  I *like* Russia!

And those butterflies have been migrating from one side of my stomach to the other for days now.

Maybe it's just that the reality is finally beginning to hit.  We've waited and prayed and waited and waited to become parents for SO long -- it's so much harder than I ever would have imagined to turn get those brain pathways moving in a new direction!

I wonder if this is something every new mother experiences?  Worry for the unknown.  The knowledge that snow is on the forecast but not knowing whether to plan for a blizzard or a flurry.  The hope that all will be well right alongside this shadowy fear of inadequacy.

I had a dream a few nights ago that Max was crying because I had forgotten to feed him.  I woke up horrified with myself and thinking, "Am I really ready for this?  What do I know about being a mom?" When I told Jason about it the next day he said, "Well, he won't let you forget to feed him!"  No, of course not, but I'm not sure that's what what the dream was about.

The butterflies keep fluttering.  But I'm beginning to think that they won't suddenly stop once the judge pounds his gavel (I wonder if they do that?) and tell us that we are about to be parents.  I think the gavel-pounding might just make it worse...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hurricane Redux

So it rained last night.

It's not the first rain since Irene, of course, but at around 10:00 the lamp on my bedside table flickered.


As in the threat of a loss of power.

As in the threat that the sump pump would stop working.

As in a flood in my nearly finished, newly awesome basement.

Jason and I could barely sleep for fear that the power would go out.  I got up at 1am and went downstairs to check that (even though we had power) the sump pump was working.  It wasn't, but that was because the water table was so low that it was utterly unnecessary.  Jason reports that at 5am he woke up to check that the digital clock lights were still on.

The funny this is that my folks got us a generator for Christmas so that I never need to lose sleep over this again!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

That "Extra Room"

In every house that Jason and I have ever lived in we've always had an "extra room."  In Michigan, this extra room was only one room of a two-bedroom place and so it became a shared office/guest room whatever.

In our current house, the extra room is like 4 rooms.

Upstairs we had our room, a guest room and a "man den."  On the main floor is a kitchen, family room, and living room.  Downstairs is a big room that has generally been a TV room and then my office/craft room/stack of piles.

Clearly this is NOT a house meant for two people.  And of course we never meant for it to have just the 2 of us -- in every place that we have ever lived, we have on some level been planning for kids.

But this is the very first time -- in eight years of marriage! -- that we now finally have a fully decked out kids room!  That's actually why the blogging fell to the side over the last couple weeks.  I have been covered in paint and spackle dust and my fingers are literally dented from those little allen wrenches that you use to put together furniture.

But this has been by far the most productive Christmas holiday ever!

First was the office/craft room/stack of piles now turned super-duper man den/library/guest room:

And I would like to remind you that 4 months ago this rooms looked more or less like this: (thank you, Irene)

(This photo is actually from what used to be the downstairs TV room soon-to-be playroom, but that's 13 inches of water no matter how you look at it...)

And finally, saving the best for last is Max's new room (which was thankfully NOT affected by the hurricane since that would have meant 13 feet of water rather than 13 inches:)

We hope he likes monkeys.