Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Coming Home

I should warn you that you are not about to read the post that your think you are about to read.

Not. At. All.

There are times in our lives where our bodies have to host such conflicting emotions that it hardly seems possible that our skin can withstand the strain of keeping them all in.  This is one of those times.  From the greatest joy to the deepest sorrow in a matter of a few moments and then back and forth again and again.

We brought Max home on Saturday.  We were so happy to be home (still are, really)!  He did a great job on the plane and Jason and I couldn't stop looking at each other and then at him while thinking, "At last. Our family is together at last."

But for us, the word family has many meanings.

Which is why, when we learned on the car ride home from the airport that our beloved dog, Bella, had been struck by a car and killed during our absence that our joyful moment was shattered.

The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.

Every night Max rocks himself before sleeping -- a sign of nervousness, pain, and a visceral reminder of what his life has been up to this point.  We (well, ok, mostly Jason) go to him and rub his back and try to tell him that he is not alone in the world.

I rock myself to sleep these days too.  And Jason puts his arms around me and we cry.

Too many emotions to process.  The first full day home -- what should have been simply one of the happiest days of my life -- was simultaneously one of the most painful.  I think that to our dying day, Jason and I will wish we could have been more "there" for Max.  We tried.  We really tried.  And Max -- well he is such a sweet and giggly little guy that it should have been easy.  And yet each one of us had to take a few moments throughout the day to fall apart.  It has been three days and I can manage through the daytime now for the most part, but when the little guy is in bed...well, that's another thing entirely.

I know there are plenty of people who won't get this.  But I also know that there are plenty who will.

And so I don't quite know where to go with this post.  I want to tell you all about Max.  I want to tell you about his giggly laugh and the way he follows Jason around the house.  But I also want to tell you about Bella.  I want to tell you about how she came into the world practically on my lap and the way she would fall asleep on the back of the couch with her ball still in her mouth.

To me, those stories are equally important.  And so I think I'm going to stop here for a moment.  You'll get both of those stories.  Soon.  But I have to write them separately.

But the upshot of the week is this: we went to Russia as a family of 5, for a few days we were a family of 6, and now we are a family of 5 once more.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's 4am on a Saturday...

And I can't sleep. Still.

In a few hours we'll be on the plane home -- i can't wait. The truth is that I just want to get our lives started. This past week has been wonderful in so many ways -- whatever made me think my giggle-monster child was shy and serious is utterly beyond me!  He has changed so much over the last few days and we are finally seeing the real Max, who is cheerful (mostly), creative (always), cuddly (especially if got name is Papa), and just plain fun to be around. 

But he probably thinks that our hotel room and the Moscow city streets are the whole of his new life and we don't know quite how to tell him that there is more out there.  I want him to get hugs from his baboushkas and sloppy kisses from his dogs.  He is going to think the animals all over his room are the best thing ever and I can't wait to spend the mornings making monkey sounds. 

As fun as this time has been, it has just been a holding pattern.  And as much as I hate to throw him through another loop, I will be glad to get started on the rest of our lives.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

At Last...

I'm sure there are plenty of you back home that are busily waiting to hear how this week is going (cause I know that I'm pretty much the center of everyone's universe, right?).  Well, at least my parents probably want to know how things are since the hotel internet is making phone calls home pretty difficult.

Right now Max is down for a nap in the front room (on the couch, where he has been sleeping for the last few days since he refuses to sleep in the crib or on the bed with us.  It works out pretty well, actually -- we took the bedding off the crib, put in on the couch, and -- voila -- a toddler bed!  The maid thinks we're insane Americans, I'm sure).  Jason is also napping.  I wish I were napping.  I think I've slept maybe 10 hours in the last few days -- not because of Max (who is a good sleeper!) but because I still can't manage to sleep past about 3am!  Jet lag sucks.

So that's my excuse for not posting.  If the little dude is awake I'm up and about with him, and if he's not, I'm desperately trying (the key word being trying) to sleep.

Also, we can't seem to get the photos uploaded, and I wanted you all to see how stinking adorable this little guy is!

The truth is that he is adjusting far better than we could ever have hoped so far.  He sleeps (with a bit of effort), he loves bathtime (to the extent that it might be too much fun to make part of a bedtime ritual), he thinks going on a walk to see the cars on the road is about the best thing in the world, and he's pretty much as easy-going as any standard toddler (yeah, take that just however you want!).  Oh and he's a really good eater -- as long as the food is bread, cheese, banana, hot dog, or scrambled eggs.  Porridge (which we all assumed was a staple of his diet) is out, and any food from America (including goldfish!) gets spit out immediately.  Oh well. (Although I admit I tried some of those "toddler snacks" and I completely agree that freeze-dried fruit is nasty).

He thinks the sun pretty much rises and sets with Jason.  (Heaven forbid I try to put on his shoes!)  They are so cute to watch together -- I think having a man in his life is such a novelty for Max that they might always be best buds. 

He's picked up a few words of english, though all he actually can say is Mama and Papa.  But he can point to his nose, and sometimes his mouth, and he'll turn his head for a kiss when we say, "Kiss, kiss."  It's pretty stinking cute.

And it's all worth it -- though we feel pretty awful about uprooting him again in a couple days to head back home!  As for myself, I'll be happy to know that when I go to the grocery store I'll be able to find diapers (we visited 3 yesterday before Jason had the idea of trying a pharmacy!)

Anyway, that's it for now -- I'm going to try to get in a nap!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Twas the Night Before Parenthood...

...and we did nothing to celebrate.

We might be too nervous. 

We got into town this afternoon, checked into the hotel, slept way longer than we should have (ugh, this time change keeps killing us!), braved the outdoors to find food, and then came back to the room.

My little brother told me we should have ordered in pizza and watched rated-R movies...I told him that the only DVDs we have with us tended heavily towards Thomas the Tank Engine...

We caught up on emails and Facebook (and the blog, obviously) and every once in awhile we turn to each other and say, "Oh my gosh, we're going to have Max here with us tomorrow night."

I opened the package of bubbles.  I got his clothes ready to take to the baby home (2 sets since he's totally between sizes).  I got out the playdough mat.  We checked out the little neighborhood park across from the hotel.

Just biding time -- which is something we have gotten very, very good at.

What I'm not sure about is what you do when the wait is finally over.  

Friday, February 17, 2012


Tonight Jason and I had our last meal as a free-and-easy childless couple in the USA.  (Burger King was on the menu -- I know, I know.  That was even with a gift certificate to PF Chang's.  It's just that there has been so much to do!!!!)

So instead of telling you all about how nervous/excited/overwhelmed/overjoyed/terrified I am about welcoming Max into the family this week, I thought I would tell you about what I did this week:

1: Organized Max's clothes.  We have awesome, generous friends, so there were a lot of clothes to organize.
2: Organized Max's toys: see above
3. Re-glued, re-stained, and refinished the parquet floor that Irene killed last August.
4: Laid a new tile floor by the front door (where the Irene damage was a bit too much to just repair)

It looks good, right?  I'm ridiculously proud of myself at the moment.

5: Thoroughly cleaned my living room FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE HURRICANE!!! (The room now looks like a real room instead of a between-disaster-zone...finally.)

6: Put the laundry room more or less back together (if you've ever seen my laundry room then you'll understand why less tends to be more.)
7: Taxes (well, mostly)
8: An ENORMOUS amount of shopping -- who knew that one little boy could need so much stuff?  (Oh and here's a question for you all: at what point did your kids start using a pillow?  I couldn't find any toddler-sized pillows and I am wondering if that's because I clearly know nothing about kids or whether I'm just blind)
9: Brainstormed and brainstormed ways to keep a little dude occupied on the 10-hour flight home next week.
10: Tried -- largely unsuccessfully -- to use all of that other stuff to distract me from the fact that Max is coming home.  The other shoe hasn't dropped, and at this point it seems unlikely that it will.  Amazing,  Incredible.

We're coming Max.  Your Mama and Papa are almost there.  Your family is coming.

P.S. Just in case you were wondering, the newly reglued and retiled living room floor now officially marks THE END of Hurricane Irene reconstruction.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


So I don't remember my dreams very often.  Maybe once a month, maybe less.  When I do remember them, however, they tend to be crystal-clear (if often quite bizarre -- I remember once on my mission I dreamed that I was about to be a human sacrifice while touring around on a yellow submarine.  Like I said, bizarre.)

This morning I had a dream that was a bit different.  For once it actually had something to do with what's going on in my life.

I dreamed that I was adopted.

I'm not sure how old I was -- certainly I was an adult, since I was still about to adopt Max, but I think I was also a bit younger (Jason was nowhere to be found).  So in this dream I do the total cliche thing -- I find some document among my mother's things that shows that I was adopted. I confront her about it, of course and I don't remember how that conversation went.

What I remember was all of the rationalization that went on in my mind as I tried to make sense of this news.  I thought about a photo of myself, my mother, and my aunt, in which we look like blonde, brunette and red-headed triplets and wondered how on earth such a strong family resemblance could have happened.  I thought about my sister (who is 6 years younger than I am and still looks like my twin in the right circumstance) and asked about it.  (The answer to this one was that she was also adopted, we were half-sisters.  Apparently my dream-self still couldn't figure out how to get out of such a strong resemblance.)  All of the stories about my birth ran through my head -- picking out my name at Burger King the night before I was born, my father gabbing with the doctor about all the cool machines while my mom was in labor, that kind of thing.  Even in my dream these things confused me -- how could my parents (who I know love me) have lied to me about this?  Why make up all these stories?

I am not telling you about this dream to trivialize the experience of being adopted -- obviously my weird dream-self doesn't know what it's really like any more than my real-life-self.  But for a little while this morning I believed otherwise -- and it totally rocked my world.

I'm not sure how much I really buy into the whole interpretation of dreams thing.  But I know what this was about -- because that was the next part of the dream.

Enter Max stage left.  (OK, there was no stage, just that misty dreamscape).

My dream-self was able to talk to Max about the experience of being adopted in a way that I only hope that my real-life-self will be able to.  Empathy and shared experience was the order of the day.  We connected through our adoptive stories.

In real life this is something that I can't do.  And I think that is what this dream was really about.  Not so much about adoption itself, but about the desire to connect with my son on some deep, fundamental level.  I will have to find other connections instead.  I don't know what they will be yet.  But we will find them.

Together, we will find them.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Two Weeks

In two weeks from today we will be back on a plane to Russia -- this time to bring Max home.  This pulls together so many different emotions for me that I can hardly keep them all in my poor little brain.  (The capacity of the human mind to simultaneously hold completely contradictory emotions utterly amazes me).

Honestly, it feels a lot like two weeks before my wedding day.

(Obligatory wedding photo coming right up)

That photo was taken 8 1/2 years ago, but I still remember the emotions.  Excitement and anticipation were right up there.  But so was nervousness and a little bit of plain old-fashioned terror.  Was this the right person?  Was I ready for this?  Mostly: was I unselfish enough for this?

Some people talk about the first year of marriage as the hardest one they ever went through.  That wasn't the case for us.  That "honeymoon" phase is something that I will always remember with a smile.  That's not to say it was easy.  I had space issues.  He had a terrible time being separated from his family.  He was trying to work from home which was a really bad fit for him.  I was studying for my candidacy exams and was in the library far more than either of us liked.  We discovered (to our continuing frustration) that he likes things clean and I...don't care quite as much.  But love smooths over a lot of rough edges.  

Adjustments.  A thousand of them.  (Mostly little things like learning to buy toothpaste with attached lids.)

The ins and outs of taking two separate people and carving out places in each person for other to fit. Today I can't remember what it was like before Jason.  I would never want to return to that life.  I forget too often to tell him that I would marry him again in a heartbeat.  

Two weeks.  A first year of parenthood.  

I know I'm not ready.  I'm not sure anyone who has stepped up to the edge of the parenthood cliff is quite "ready" to step off the edge, not really.

But we will carve out spaces of ourselves -- Max-shaped spaces -- and in a year I imagine that I won't be able to remember how life was without him.