Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oh right, there’s an actual KID at the end of this process.

It does sound overly obvious doesn’t it? But it isn't. After all the paperwork and psychological tests and really big checks and travel, I sometimes forget that at some point someone will hand us a kid and send us on our way. I think about this a lot of course, but it only really profoundly sinks in once in awhile.

For instance on our recent trip, Danny and I left the adoption agency on a cloud of romantic visions of what life with kids would be like that only first time parents to-be could conjure up. Building forts with bedsheets. Pancakes on Saturday mornings. Playful bathtime romping. Giggles and Smiles.

We then went to dinner with my cousin Raechel and her two children, Wesley, 9 months and Joceylene, 2 years. They’re great kids, they just needed the normal toddler tending. Joceylene wanted to sing at the top of her lungs. Wesley wanted to throw things on the floor. Joceylene banged Danny's sunglasses on the table while Wesley ate napkins. Joceylene wriggled out of her booster seat while Wesley experimented with tipping his high chair over.

Meanwhile Danny and I sported the stunned expressions of two people who’ve just woken up from a lovely, lovely garden reverie only to find that they’re in the middle of a Chuck E. Cheese on a Saturday.

At the agency, we’d gone over a dizzying list of expenses and fees. They even had a list of projected expenses when you travel to Russia, so that people wouldn’t forget to budget for such things as eating during their stay.

It occurred to us later however that in all the planning, financial and otherwise, for GETTING the kid, we sort of forgot that we will also need to get things FOR the kid.

It may sound obvious to some prospective parents, but I think the agency should also tell people, “Now, after you pay your fees and travel and other costs, please don’t forget you still have to buy clothes for the baby, and diapers, and a bed, and maybe a few toys and books would be nice. Oh, and remember they will have to eat sometimes too, and probably need medical care, and a coat, depending on what climate you live in. And a car seat, and a high chair and safety plugs for your wall sockets. And how about a trip to Disney once in awhile? And hooded towels, those are cute, kids like those, buy some of those…”

We are just getting to the point where the paperwork is almost done (unless there’s more hiding around the corner that I don’t know about) and I’ve started to dip my toe into thinking about things I will need when the kid arrives. It turns out adoption paperwork is the easier of the two tasks. Which rattle is best? Which nail clipper and grooming kit? Which crib mattress? Plus, some of the items I’ve seen out there are positively baffling.

I’m pretty sure they’ll need a bed, and food, but beyond that my eyes start to glaze over a bit. But it's okay, like all other parents since the beginning of time, we'll figure it out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Home again, Home again...

We just got back yesterday from our little trip. It was 1/4 adoption business, 1/4 family visit and ½ pure vacation, all in four and half days.

Here’s a few days in the mind of Danny and Steph on a trip.

Wednesday—Thoughts on class and entitlement in air travel
What is the psychological profile of a person who reclines their seat all the way back on a 58 minute flight? Two seconds after we reach altitude, Danny’s face is three inches from the grey leather seat of the person in front of him. So we had to wonder, I mean, this isn’t the overseas leg to Paris, it’s not the red eye. It’s an hour hop from Charlotte to Pittsburgh. It did not at all surprise us to find out while exiting the aircraft that the person who puts their seat all the way back is also the person who wears diamond earrings the size of kittens and brought her own cashmere blankie.

Thursday—Off to see the wizards
Giving someone the task of connecting you with your future child takes an enormous amount of trust. After meeting the people at IAG, I believe in them with my whole heart. We have to be ready for disappointments, for challenges, possibly for big, big heartaches, but somehow after spending four hours at the agency going over those possibilities, I felt like a great big balloon of hope.

We left the building wondering what our kid will look like, when to move the furniture out of my office, what time of year we’d get to see Moscow, and what to do with the dog when we have to stay in Russia for six weeks (because our dog is the most spoiled Jack Russell Terrier on the block, that is a fact.)

Friday—A visit to Grandma
It was harder than I thought being in Canton and not seeing my grandma. The hurt of being up that way and not being able to hug her ran very deep. We visited her grave, not far from the house where she raised me, and were reminded of the fleeting nature of life and the importance of enjoying every second and not rushing to the next.

I resolve to enjoy even these waiting times. I will revel in this fuzzy, romantic, sometimes frantic, anticipation period before I’m scrubbing grape jelly off the couch cushions and cleaning up someone else’s puke.

We visit Put-in-Bay, a little village nestled into the Lake Erie islands. We rent a golf cart and drive around the whole island wondering why we don’t drive golf carts more often. We go to the observation deck at the War of 1812 Peace Memorial and after our visit are sure of two things. One, we don’t know a lot about the war of 1812. Two, elevators to observation decks should institute a no farting rule.

Saturday—14 hours in a theme park
(Because Danny and I don’t just go to a theme park, we wring it out.)

We spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out why it is we will jump out of airplanes and ride rollercoasters that travel 120 mph and drop you straight down 420 feet, and yet, on the big ferris wheel we have to actively try not to freak out. We sympathize with the four year old girl crying and begging her parents not to take her on. If there were some sort of emergency button that alerted the operator to an impending panic attack, we’d probably be the ones to push it.

Later in the day, we identified the different species of douchebags that can be found in theme parks. The variety we spotted in line for The Mantis was the hipster who insists on wearing all his hipster paraphernalia to a rollercoaster park, skinny jeans, leather wrist cuff, back pocket hankie, various necklaces and rings, all worn while snickering that he’s really too cool for this world. Also identified were several people who wanted to punch that dude.

For the second time in a year we realize that we are by far the oldest people in line and have been riding roller coasters since before the majority of other line waiters were born.

Every time we pass the kiddie rides, I mentally plan a future trip with our kid(s) and can tell by the little smile on his face that Danny is doing the same thing.

I used the plane rides home to get started on the 400 page binder of information we’re supposed to read about adopting toddlers. I get stuck on the page of Russian names and their corresponding diminutives and start giving myself and my friends Russian nick names in my head. Stepanoschka, Alosha, Canushcka, Davel, Loruski…

I’m glad to be home and gearing up to start phase two, getting our dossier ready for Russia. We have to do ten hours of online training courses, get a psychological evaluation and take some pictures of our house (which means we have to clean it first and fix the holes I made in the bathroom wall.)

It’s exciting to think that maybe, just maybe, if the stars are smiling upon me, by this time next year I’ll be writing about the latest crazy hilarious situation my kid got into…

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An Ode to Leaving Well Enough Alone

We’re going to sell our house. And in order to sell our house we need to fix some things up first. Most of them aren’t major, but merely cosmetic fixes that might make our home more attractive to prospective buyers.

Like many other sellers, we’re starting with the bathrooms. If you haven’t seen it, the wallpaper in the front bathroom is positively offensive. Look closely and you will see pale pink and green country heart flowers perched atop tiny leaves and stems and accented with little grey dots. It’s only one step up from a splatter paint effect. The plan was, get a little joint compound to cover the seams, paint over the horrid wallpaper pattern, replace the light fixture, and boom, passable bathroom.

The problem is, once you get me in a room with tools and a bucket of joint compound, I start to get ideas. Ideas that far outstrip my abilities.

Here's how things usually go when I embark on a project. Confident I can do it myself, I dig in, only to find out that I can’t quite do it right so I then begin a series of cover up“fixes” that add up to many dollars and several hours (or days) trying to adequately cover up my shoddy job trying to get rid of something that probably wasn’t that bad in the first place.

The big idea I got this weekend was that, if the offensive country heart wallpaper was going, then the semi-offensive 1989 grey ceramic bathroom fixtures would also have to go. The problem is, said fixtures were built into the wall. The only way to get those down in case you're wondering, is to take a swing at them with a sledgehammer. Once I ascertained this fact, the project had upgraded from idea to impossible to resist urge. The idea had already soaked into my brain. There was no possible way I could have lived another minute with that towel holder and its clear plastic bar. So I shut the bathroom door and started whacking. I don’t know what I was thinking, or if I was at all.

A half hour later, not only did I have no bathroom fixtures, I had five big holes in the wall. This didn’t necessarily freak me out. I have never patched a drywall hole but, being of blue collar blood and having seen patch kits on the shelf in Home Depot, something in my DNA assured me I could do it.

Turns out my DNA doesn't know shit about patching drywall holes.

In retrospect, were the ceramic fixtures that bad? No. Should I have thought longer about the decision to bring destructive tools into the bathroom? Yes.

Now, upon entering my bathroom, a keen eye (basically anyone blessed with the gift of vision) will notice three large puffy squares protruding from the wall. The squares are however covered with a lovely sea foam green color and, quite possibly, will soon be covered by a shelf.