Friday, November 26, 2010

Steph's Annual Holiday Shopping Guide

I've been neglecting you. I hope you'll accept my deepest apology (actually I hope you'll accept just a regular apology because I should save the really serious ones in case I do something really dumb.)

Anyway, I wouldn't dream of leaving you on your own to navigate the murky waters of holiday shopping. So I pulled together some stellar products that will delight everyone on your christmas list. You may even want to buy a few for yourself!

Pee and Poo
Products include plush toys, t-shirts, keychains and stationery. I know I've shopped for stationery before and thought, flowers and dots are nice and all, but I wish someone would print stationery featuring feces and urine. And I've been wondering for years why the waste we deposit in the toilet couldn't come in plush toy form. If you ask me, we don't spend nearly enough time thinking about bodily waste.

Feng Shui compass
According to the product description, "it locates and calculates supportive energy fields quickly and easily to align your physical surroundings to help manifest your goals and intentions." For instance, if your goal is to save money, it will be able to figure out a way for you to do that. (On sale for $199.99 plus $49.99 for the carrying case)

The Litter Kwitter
I like this product simply because it might inspire this conversation:
ME: Miso? Are you almost done in there? I really have to pee.
CAT: Meow
ME: Seriously, I've seen you piss in the yard it does NOT take this long.
**(jingle jingle)**
ME: Wait. . . Are you playing with a toy in there?
CAT: Meow
ME: This is ridiculous. I'm using the litter.

Face/Butt Towel
For the friend who doesn't know the difference between the two.

Armadillo Beverage Holder
For the person in your life who needs something to hold their drink besides their hand or a table.

Fart Pads
I spent A LOT of time on airplanes this year. I actually think the airlines should give these out with the headphones.

A Spot in Heaven
Yep, you read right. Is there any possible better gift than a spot on St. Peter's List? Up until now people have had to toil away going to church and treating others as they'd like to be treated. Now there's no need to worry about all the neighbor's wife coveting and taking the Lord's name in vain we do all day. Even if the gift recipient isn't a believer, it can't hurt right? It's like an insurance policy for their soul.
Happy and safe holiday shopping to you all!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Swoosh, Smack, Release

Since I haven't posted in a while, I thought I'd share this little ditty I wrote in honor of my grandpa. He's visiting next week from Ohio and I'm very excited because I miss him dearly.

My friends are usually shocked when I tell them I was on the golf team in high school. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, or because I grew up on the government cheese side of the tracks, or because I wear wedge heels to walk my dog. Nevertheless, the reaction is always the same. “Really?!. . .No seriously. Really?" People simply can’t imagine me partaking in a sport associated with well-to-do businessmen.

I spent my childhood in my grandparent’s house. Every Saturday, if I woke up early enough, I’d see Grandpa at the bottom of the stairs arranging drivers in his big leather bag. It was always before dawn, quiet and still dark. I’d watch him carefully pack cleated shoes into a side pocket, and count out wooden tees in his hand before dumping them into a little sac.

My brother and I would spend the morning accompanying my grandmother to her weekly hair appointment, then get doughnuts, then watch about three hours of cartoons. When Bugs Bunny came on we knew it was about time for Grandpa to get home. He’d put his clubs away, settle into his easy chair and make us change the channel to—golf.

I could not understand it. What was so appealing about this sport? The commentators whispered. The crowd stood perfectly still watching another person basically stand perfectly still. A man would swing a big stick and then they’d all walk across a giant lawn, no landscaping, no pretty flowers to look at. It all seemed so boring. I did not get why grandpa devoted an entire Saturday to what seemed like walking across grass.

When I was thirteen he bought me a set of clubs. They came in a navy blue nylon bag. I ran my fingers over the fuzzy covers on the drivers. I didn’t want to hurt grandpa’s feelings, so I acted excited. But inside I thought, Golf? Blech. There’s absolutely no way I’ll be interested in golf.

He took me to a public course. Three par he called it. He showed me how to position my hands on the grip. It felt odd to interlock my fingers in such a way. He showed me how to stand, where to hold my head, and how to keep my arms straight as I pulled the club back.

On my first swing I lost my grip and the club went flying behind me. On my second, I ripped up a giant clump of earth and grass roots. On the third swing I heard nothing but a loud swoosh and looked down to see my pink and purple ball still waiting patiently on the tee.

“That’s okay,” Grandpa said, “Just keep your eye on the ball and try again.”

On the fourth swing there was a loud SMACK. I felt a satisfying reverberation in the club as the ball made a perfect arc through the air.

“There you go!” Grandpa clapped, “That’s how you do it Stephanie Marie.”
The ball hadn’t even gone that far, but the feeling was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It was like the vibrations from the club had entered my body and created a fizzy little happiness that bubbled all over. I wanted to do it again. For the rest of the afternoon I chased that feeling; that swoosh, smack, release that felt so good. Most of my shots that day (and many days after) were duds, divits and clear misses. But occasionally the ball sailed perfectly straight, up and away, and gracefully skipped down the green. Those shots made it all worth it. That swoosh, smack release was as potent as any drink or drug. There was a calm in it, a swell of happy accomplishment.

I started to think, I could spend an entire Saturday doing this and maybe now understand why my grandfather did. For thirty five years he worked all week in a factory mixing paint. Sometimes I’d visit him and my grandmother there. The building was large and every surface was a variant of the color grey. It was loud and filled with chemical odor. I'm sure he was happy enough there. But on the weekends, I imagine he just wanted to shake off the sounds of whirring machines and noxious fumes and breathe in fresh air. He wanted to walk in the sunshine on freshly clipped grass and sink into the rhythm that can only be found on the green. Swoosh. Smack. Release.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Old MacDonald Had a Drunk Neighbor

So we've been at this gig for almost four months now, and we continue to learn the ins and outs of the little creature we call Andre. We've learned that he likes to climb, laughs at low brow humor, and likes tofu more than hamburger. But one of the most important things we learned is that Andre likes singing. We've yet to encounter a fit of fussies that a round of "Bingo was his name-O" wouldn't cure.

The problem is, the repertoire of songs is short and Danny and I already find ourselves wishing night would fall after four times through "You are my sunshine." (Ever looked up the full lyrics to that song? Seriously, it's like a creepy dude's suicide note.)

While Andre would never get bored with the cow/duck/pig rotation on Old Macdonald's Farm, Danny and I find that we need something a little more than a Moo Moo here and a Moo Moo there. We decided the farm could use some more interesting goings on, so we spruced things up a little.

Here are some things we think may be found lying around Old MacDonald's farm:

Old MacDonald Had a Farm E-I-E-I-O... And on that farm he had a. . .

Drunk Neighbor
Bitch in heat
Mysterious Radioactive substance
An antique gramophone
Studio for making pornographic films
Dental student performing his first extraction
Scooby Doo Gang
Screaming scull
Expert on Scottish Highland history
Hideous mutant
Smaller farm
Frat party
Crack Dealer

Feel free to make up your own. The possibilities are endless. (Old Macdonald has a really, really big farm since he got taken over by ConAgra). Most of the fun lies in coming up with the corresponding sounds. All in all, it makes song time fun for the whole family. At least until he's old enough to realize that no one else's MacDonald has leather whip collection.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Steph's pre-adoption muscle building workout

I really wish we had done this. It is tough for even a relatively fit person go straight to the 20 pounder, so, if you are adopting an older baby or toddler (or expecting a particularly large newborn) do yourself a favor and start building up the needed muscles now, lest you, like us, finish each day feeling like you ran a marathon over a mountain range.
Sure, you could do a regular work out at the gym, but this routine is very specifically geared to the types of motions you will soon be performing.

Needed for this excersize routine: A 20-25lb bag of sand (cat litter or dog food would work too)

1. Carry the bag through at least one international airport while pushing a stroller and carrying a purse. (Walk FAST so you don't miss your connection.)

2. Switch the bag back and forth from one hip to another while you listen to various airline personnel try to explain what's wrong with your (flight/ticket/seat request/child's passport).

3. Stand in line with the bag for four hours.

4. Take turns with your partner bouncing the bag up and down the plane aisles for 10-14 hours. Every four or five hours sit down, rest the bag in the crook of your elbow and remain completely still. As soon as you can't stand it any more and move your arm, resume bouncing.

5. At home. Put the bag of sand in the crib. Take it out again. Put it back. Take it out. Rock it around the room a little bit. Repeat for one hour.

6. Load the bag into and out of a car seat/high chair/stroller at least 15 times a day.

7. Pick the bag up off the floor. Put it back down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Walk the bag over to the window to look at the kitty. Dangle keys in front of the bag. Kiss the bag. Position the bag on your hip. Make macaroni and cheese.

8. Attach a string to the bag. Have your partner pull it around on the floor. Crawl around behind it. Do this for about seven hours a day.

Advanced workout:
Once you've mastered the above excersizes, poke a few holes in the bag. Attempt to keep the sand from spilling out and repeat steps 1 through 10. This will simulate the awkward squirmy wormy positions you will soon assume while holding a child who is not used to being held and is more interested in seeing what the dog is doing than being held by you (but not interested enough to want to actually be put down.)

Note about this routine:
Following this excersize routine with a bag of sand will build your muscles. Following it with a child will make you love them so much it makes you a little dizzy sometimes.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dog Food, Bean, or Beetle?

Things I'm always doing:

A. Picking stuff up off the floor. Cheerios, hairballs, dead beetles, soiled diapers, duplo blocks, empty yogurt containers... One of our favorite games now is: "Dog food, bean or beetle?" In this game, the baby eats something off the floor and we have to guess, dog food, bean, or beetle? (The winner is usually announced later during diaper changing time.)

B. Running out of stuff. Bread, bananas, cereal, milk, laundry detergent, bubble bath, paper towels. I need one of those things on the Jetsons where you just say what you want and it comes out of a little box. The internet kind of serves that purpose, but it takes work like turning on the computer and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... I want to just say: "diapers" and have them materialize in front of me.

C. Buckling, snapping and popping. Buckling him into the car seat, the high chair, the stroller, the grocery cart. Snapping onesies and overalls. Popping lids on and off tupperware containers, snack catchers and sippy cups. Most of these tasks are also performed one handed while holding a greased piglet.

D. Smiling and laughing. He has a habit of cracking a big gummy grin and those mile deep dimples make me want to just slurp the love right off his chubby cheeks.

Items purchased since child came home:

A. A bigger refrigerator. To contain the massive quantities of food this little tiny being seems to eat.

B. Dirt devil auto charge hand vacuum. Because we can only pick up so many cheerios and hairballs and dead beetles by hand. And I don't feel like lugging out the vacuum and wrestling the outlet cover off every time I see a collection of dirt and/or insect carcass (which show up more than I could ever have imagined. I guess I just wasn't looking before.)

C. Cheerios. Cheerios. Cheerios. (And little containers for cheerios)

D. Toys that bleep and bloop. Before Andre came home I said to Danny, "We don't need all those bleepety bloopety boppity plastic toys. I am going to have all wooden toys. Classic toys like blocks and stacking rings and lincoln logs. That's all kids really want." Andre was home two days when we took him to the Drs office and he went so crazy for the bleepy bloopy activity table that I worried we were understimulating him and bought him a bleep and bloop table plus three other bleep and bloop toys.

Things that are unbearably cute:

A. He throws food over the side of the high chair and then leans over to wait for the dog to show up. It's his favorite show to watch while he eats.

B. Kiddo waits outside the bedroom door like a groupie and squeals at the slightest hint of activity in the crib. It's annoying, but sweet. We're pretty sure the dog psychology here is that Kiddo thinks the new dog is in trouble because he's separated form the pack and she's worried about him.

C. Little boy chases the cat all over the house. When he finally catches up with the cat, the dog shows up and sniffs the cat's ass sending the cat screeching in the other direction. Then the game begins again.

Official Winner of the Bonehead Maneuver Award:

The other day I tried to give him a taste of my ice cream cone. It turns out those cones aren't as structurally sound as one might think.

Monday, May 17, 2010

First week on the job

It's true there are no words to adequately describe all the things we've been feeling and experiencing this past week, but I'll try. First and foremost is overjoyed. A simple act like watching Danny feed Andre macaroni can move me to tears.

Tiny moments feel huge because it's been a winding, frustrating and exhilarating road to be together. But what moves me even more is that Andre's just been living his little life and today's just another day to play with a paper bag. He's so happy just to explore the way a package of Huggies wipes crinkles in his hands or crawl after a ball. He's already taught us that life only happens right this very moment. There's no two weeks from now or two weeks ago, just what's right in front of us, right this second.

So here's my first week job evaluation. I'm pretty sure Andre will renew my contract as mom, I'll let you know.

Day 1, Tuesday: We pick Andre up from the baby home in the morning. He's happy enough to see us, until we attempt to change his clothes. I learn quickly that putting a shirt on Andre will be a bit like putting a shirt on a disgruntled squid. When we get back to the hotel I feel giddy, like we've just gotten the ridiculously good end of a bargain.

Later we are snuggling in bed. Andre is way too excited to sleep. We sing to him, whatever songs come to mind: Gin and Juice, Papa Don't Preach, Dancing Queen. We put him in the crib at the foot of the bed. He falls asleep almost immediately and we lay on the bed and watch him for another hour.

Day 2. Wednesday: We lay in bed wondering when he's going to wake up so we can snuggle him more. He smiles and laughs at us when he wakes up. We already know that his favorite toys are the wipee package and a 25 cent paper gift bag from Target.

We walk to Pushkin Square. It feels odd and completely natural all at once, to be walking the Moscow streets, just the three of us. Moscow is gorgeous, all blooming tulips and violets. We sit on the grass next to a large fountain and I feel like the luckiest girl in the whole wide world. I also realize that we've forgotten to bring Andre anything to drink. So while Danny and I enjoy our cold beverages on a hot day, Andre is sweating and thirsty. If he could talk I think he would have rolled his eyes and said, "Rookies."

Day 3. Thursday: We go to the breakfast buffet so we can all eat. It's very convenient. Andre likes eggs, oatmeal, strawberries and baked beans. Later we walk to the grocery store. Andre hasn't pooped, and Natasha recommended prunes. We pick from among the baby food labeled in Cyrillic what we think is prunes. That afternoon we spend hours at the American embassy. We get to talking to the other families adopting children. "You gave him baked beans AND prunes?" One woman says. "You're asking for it sister."

She was right. Very right.

Day 4, Friday: Andre is evolving before our eyes, like one of those aliens that develops at ten times the human rate. When we first brought him to the hotel he was sort of scooting on his belly. Now he moves like lightning and is enamored with every sharp edged and dangerous item in the hotel room. Danny and I get used to always being on the lookout. We have been operating on an IOU nap system for days already.

Being a beginning parent in a hotel room has it's difficulties, like making lunch in the bathroom sink. It does however have it's rewards. We will miss the daily maid service and free breakfast buffet.

Day 5, Saturday: We leave for the airport at 3am. The following 27 hours are like a bizarre parenting hazing ritual. Andre doesn't take kindly to sitting in the same cramped place for hours on end. He doesn't hold his poops in just because we're on an airplane. He doesn't give a rats ass what the other passengers think of his screaming and surprisingly, neither do we.

The Amsterdam airport is a godsend. We were there six hours and they were the best six hours of our day. There is a posh nap club for babies. A low lit haven with cribs and sheer curtains and little couches for mom and dad to sleep, sinks and microwaves to make bottles and an awesome play room next door. It made all three of us very happy campers.

Day 6 Sunday: It feels strange, in a good way, to finally have him home. The little boy whose pictures we snuck glances at, whose face featured in our dreams, is now drooling on our living room carpet. Like most new parents, we do a lot of staring and smiling. Andre stares back at us and smiles in between bouts of exploring. He discovers his dresser has an alternate use as a rock climbing wall. He hangs from the knobs and his little toes try to find purchase in the grooves between the drawers. I'm certain one day I will turn around and find him teetering on top with a big grin on his face.

Day 7 Monday: We visit the pediatrician. She tells us Andre is perfect, which of course we already knew. She checks every diagnosis given to us by the Russian doctor and dismisses all of them. Two nurses come in to take blood and I hold Andre tight as he writhes and screams and cries. I fight tears myself. After the blood draw I don't bother getting him dressed again. It's warm outside and he hates putting clothes on. Nakedness is his treat for being brave. In the car he smiles up at me and I remember that it's okay, because that other moment is gone now and he's moved on to a new one, so I should too.

He has been a brave boy. It's a tough transition for a baby, for an adult for that matter. Everything and everyone is different. It's as if two benevolent aliens came and took you to another planet. We're all doing our best, going on instinct and love (and the occasional looking something up in a book while he's sleeping.) Mostly we follow his lead, going from joy to joy, just like he does.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Home at Last

Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I now pronounce and dad.

We did It! We stood in Russian court yesterday and explained to a judge why we would be good parents for Andre. Once I was able to breathe, it was not an unpleasant experience. Natasha, our Russian fairy godmother, practiced our speeches with us and stood beside us to translate everything to the judge.

Contrary to what most people seem to think about Russians, they are quite warm people. Natasha told us the more emotion we showed in our speeches the better, and that if we were nervous or cried it would be good, because the judge would see we are having the normal reaction to adopting a child.

Danny was charming and cute as always. Everyone in the courtroom cooed and smiled at the pictures of him and Andre together. Just like at the baby home, much ado is made about how much they look alike. Usually the man does most of the talking in court, but for some reason the majority of the questions were directed to me. Questions like: "What is your attitude about the woman who sent the boy back?" and "You are involved in women's liberation. What are you liberating the women from?"

We then talked a bit about my novel and the judge read through our thick file. She stopped at the picture of our dog. She seemed suspicious, "Is he friendly?" She asked. "Yes!" Danny and I quickly answered in unison.

Our hearts stopped briefly when the prosecutor talked about how it's a difficult decision given the current conditions, but in this case, she said, I can see these people really love this boy and this adoption is in his best interests.

We stood up for the judge to make her decision. My heart was pounding so hard and tears were brimming at my eyes. Natasha, an adoptive mother herself, squeezed my hand as the judge announced, "According to Russian law, you will hereby be considered mother and father to Andre Alexander."

So, in a few short weeks, he will finally, finally be home.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lost and Found

The first two days of my trip were spent eating bocadillos and strolling by Spainish art masters at the Prado. Right now you may be saying to yourself, silly Steph, the Prado isn't in Moscow, it's in Madrid. Well, you would be correct. The Prado is in Madrid, just like we were for all of Saturday and Sunday (Monday too if you count the seven hours at the airport.)

Saturday morning we missed our connection due to a long comedy of errors mixed with the Madrid airport staff's "I don't care" shrugs that would put French "I don't care" shrugs to shame. At some point the flight was closed, and I collapsed in tears as I realized my ride to my baby boy was leaving. . .without me on it.

Thanks to volcano Kajagoogoo, there were no available flights until Monday. "Please. We're desperate." Danny said to the ticket agent. "Yes," she said, "So is everyone in Europe right now.Monday is the soonest."

Due to the ash cloud's south eastern travel path, we wondered if even the Monday flight would make it (and almost didn't.) Our bags however were on their way to Moscow, so on top of the creeping fear that we wouldn't make it in time for our court date, there was a "no clean underwear or toothbrush" situation.

Being stuck in Madrid would be a fortuitous event at any other time. I love Madrid. But it was heart clenching when we were desperately wanting to be somewhere else. I couldn't stop thinking that thousands of miles away over mountains and various border crossings, was the little boy we were supposed to be holding.

I did enjoy Spain a little after I stopped sobbing. And the Prado was a very distant second to visiting Andre at the baby home. But we finally made it to Moscow, miraculously got our bags, had a great day with little A, and all the planets are in alignment again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Breathe Deeply

So let's review shall we? What's been going on in Moscow in the four short weeks since we left there floating on a cloud of baby bliss?

First there were the bombs. Our hearts were heavy. We wondered what it must be like for a city to grieve something like that. What it must feel like to go to work everyday or send your children to school knowing that a man has promised more like it in the days to come? It's unimaginable really. We weren't terrified to go to Moscow. But flying in and out of its main airport and traipsing all over the city, well, the bombings weighed heavily on our hearts and minds.

Then, last week, a woman in Tennessee decided she could no longer handle the seven year old boy she adopted from Russia, so she sent him back to Moscow ALONE with a NOTE saying she no longer wished to parent him. A NOTE! She paid a man $200 to meet him at the airport and drop him off at the Ministry of Education. Russian officials of course went ballistic and threatened to halt all adoptions to America altogether. I first read the story on Friday morning. I read it, removed my computer from my lap and walked into Andre's room. I looked at the crib and the rocking chair and the pretty clouds on the wall and I fell to my knees. I prayed. PRAYED. The bars of the crib became an alter rail where I cried, begged and pleaded to the almighty universe. Please, please, PLEASE let us bring him home.

The cherry on top was the plane crash in Russia the next day. The one where an "aging Russian aircraft" killed 96 people including the president of Poland. I read one story describing how the daughter of the Polish president met the aircraft that carried home the caskets of both her parents. She walked out to the the tarmac, knelt before the coffins and wept. I wept with her.

The waiting alone was hard enough without two national disasters and the threat of closing the adoption program thrown in. I'm sure the Russians on our flight will be super excited to see a couple Americans on their way to adopt a baby. I can only hope that our little love seedling can push through the brambles and get through to the other side. I have to believe that it will.

Somehow I've found a place inside myself that trusts the timeline of my life. For instance, I first started trying to get pregnant four years ago, and I never did. But I wouldn't change one single thing about the past four years, not one. I wouldn't change one thing about any of the years of my life for that matter. So I will trust that this will work out, like everything else has. We are still on schedule to go, and can only do what we've always done, and will continue to do: wait and see what happens. It's the only way to live really, it makes things interesting.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Watched Pot WILL Boil

It's a scientific fact. (I checked it the other day when I was boiling eggs.) I've counted every day since our papers were officially filed in Russian court. Our translator said it would be 4-6 weeks until our court date, our agency said 6-8. I of course favored the translator's math. If you're wondering, this is day three of week four.

I've tried to not watch the pot. I tried to bury my head in my work. I had a party, cleaned the garage, planted herbs and flowers in my yard. But during each activity I'd wonder, when are they going to call?

Last week we woke up to the news that two suicide bombers killed 39 people in two Moscow subway stations. In Gainesville that would be the equivalent of bombing the football stadium or Satchel's, something lots of people use and are very proud of. Our first thought was for the people we know there, their families and friends. My heart ached and worried for them. A silent prayer floated from my mind hoping they were all okay. But then, I couldn't help but wonder how this would affect us. Would it keep us longer from Andre? Make it harder to get in and out of Moscow? Would they stall adoptions altogether?

So Danny and I held our breath and continued to distract ourselves. We washed baby sheets and baby towels. We bought a new camera. We saw a cheesy movie. We impulse bought a magnolia tree. And yesterday, while I was out, Danny got "the call."

I won't say here exactly when we're going in case any of you are inclined to come to my house and steal things (like our $75 fat box TV). I won't make the same mistake I made before our last trip, when a woman came to the house selling meat out of her van and I said, "No thanks, Ms. Stranger-Selling-Meat-Out-of-Your-Van, we're about to leave the country for a week."

We'll have to make one more trip after this to finally bring him home, but we've rounded the corner and I can see the finish line. This time when we leave Moscow, we'll know exactly when we're coming back.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Few Moments in the Life of a Temporary Muscovite

Last Tuesday at this time, I was standing in a centuries old church watching old babushkas cross themselves while a priest walked back and forth across the floor. He swung an incense ball to the melodic chanting of robed men in a far corner.

Now, I'm in the new Millhopper library (which is quite nice by the way). I'm trying to get back on my own schedule, for what might be the last time in awhile I have a schedule that’s purely my own.

After our heartache in November, we left for this trip with a cautious hope in our hearts, a hope that's now grown so big I barely have enough room for it in my chest. Here are a few of my favorite moments from the last week...

Sunday--Somewhere over the Atlantic, I discover the woman in the seat next to me was adopted at the age of eight months (the same age as the little boy we're going to see).

Tuesday--We go to the ministry of education to get our referral. We park in front of a cell phone kiosk and make our way down the street. As we walk, Natasha, our translator, turns to me and says, "We have a few minutes before our appointment. Would you like to go across the street and see the church where Peter the Great was Baptized?" The church looks like a big colorful wedding cake with piped white icing and golden domes perched on top. Tsars and tsarinas were married inside. I smile thinking that a centuries old historical landmark is sandwiched between a cell phone kiosk and a Kwik-E-Mart.

Wednesday--Andre is asleep in my arms. He's tightly clutching the little elephant blanket we brought. His little fingers are wrapped into the folds and the elephant's ear is in his mouth. I brought the blanket so we could bring something back for Kiddo to get the baby's scent. But when the caretaker comes to take him back to his room, I can't bear to take the little elephant away. The caretaker smiles at me and keeps repeating, "Zaftra, Zaftra". When she leaves I look it up and learn that it means, tomorrow.

Thursday--Danny and I are watching an episode of Friends in the back of Pasha's car. The traffic is worse than usual today and Pasha has cleverly wedged a portable DVD player in between the two front seats so that we can watch Joey and Chandler banter about their overly large entertainment unit. Though he can't see the screen, Pasha laughs at all the funny parts.

Friday--I'm topless. A strange man is feeling my boobs. It's the third time in an hour I've had to remove my shirt for a doctor. It's starting to feel a bit like Mardi Gras. First there was the pulmonologist, then the dermatologist. I didn't have to take my shirt off for the psychiatrist, just give him travel tips about visiting Florida. Now there is an oncologist looking at my nipples and calling questions over his shoulder so Natasha can translate from behind the screen.

Saturday--Our last day with Andre. His head is tucked in the crook of Danny's arm, he reaches a hand up to Danny's face and babbles a string of syllables. When they come to take him away he smiles at us. I do not cry, because I know we'll be back in the blink of an eye.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I've Got Big Problems

I was working at Starbucks today. Naturally, after sucking down a large latte in ten minutes, I had to use the bathroom.

I can't believe I'm about to type this but, if you read this blog you may be familiar with the Starbucks bathroom since I've written about it before. (Really, with everything going on in my life you'd think there'd be more to write about than the Starbuck's bathroom, but I guess not.)

Anyway, it's a single bathroom and to get into it you have to go up to the bar and get a key. So I did, as I have on many other days.

Except today when I went in the bathroom it was, well, kind of apocalyptic. The toilet was stuffed with toilet paper, poo and all manner of bloody horror. So I pivoted on my heel and walked right back out. But here's the kicker. I DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING TO ANYONE. I put the key back on the bar and walked back to my seat. I have no idea why. Maybe I didn't want them to think it was me. Maybe I was still in shock. Maybe I wanted someone else to bear the bad news to those nice boys who have to clean it up. Who knows.

The worst part is, a few minutes later another woman went in there and, being the upstanding and responsible citizen that she is, she promptly alerted the staff. So I sat in my chair and realized now they DEFINATELY think I was the one responsible for all that horror.

It's a really big problem right? I know, my problems aren't as big as whoever had to clean that horror show. That person deserves an extra day off. But I'm not sure I can ever show my face in there again. Which cements my guilt even further (non-guilty people don't run).

Maybe I'll write a letter:

Dear Baristas of Downtown Starbucks,

A) It wasn't me. (I swear!) I have a strict "no pooping in public" rule. And even if it had been me, I would have taken up residence in that bathroom forever rather than have one of you clean it.
B) I'm heartily sorry I'm a freak and left that nastiness for another innocent pair of eyes to discover.

Steph (aka "grande non-fat latte with two Splendas")

At any rate, any hope of getting work done was shot, so I started gathering my things up to go.

As I packed up, a homeless man came up to me and said, "People watching is my favorite hobby, and you. . .are a very special person."

Special. Yes. That's the word to describe me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Decade According to Steph

So we're already a month and change into 2010 and I'm still trying to figure out what will culturally standout about the last decade. Some people are saying the last decade isn't over yet. I think those people need to form a math club for purists and just keep to themselves.

Event wise a lot happened: 9/11, devasating hurricanes, the first black president. But culturally? What will be our bellbottoms? Our Beatles? Our neon leg warmers and Madonnas? I still haven't quite figured out what we took out of the nineties. People keep saying grunge, but I think it's just because they don't know either. Kurt Cobain just cannot be the cultural lynchpin of an entire decade.

So in the absence of any insight on what was culturally important to the world in the last decade, I'm going to focus on a more important analysis. The decade according to Steph. Here are some random moments from my last ten years.

2000: 12:02 am, January 1st, Madrid. I am nearly crushed in a crowd of rowdy Spaniards shouting Ole! My feet leave the ground momentarily. My life passses before my eyes, and inexplicably, it's in Spanish, so I don't understand any of it.

2001: My boss calls me in the morning before I go in to work, asks if I've seen the news. I turn on the TV to silent journalists and two crumbling towers in New York. I start to cry uncontrollably.

2002: Danny reminds me to put on my "poker face" before we go look at houses, so we'll be able to negotiate a better price. It turns out I don't exactly have a poker face. The third house we walk into I gush, "Oh my god I love it!" The following month we're living in it.

2003: It is four days before my wedding and my mother-in-law has come up to visit. I've left my to-do list on the kitchen table. She takes one look at it and says, "If I had a to-do list that long I'd shoot myself."

2004: I am in a hospital room. Every surface is covered in paper and plastic. A nurse in gloves and a surgical mask takes a pill out of a lead box. The pill will fill me with a radioactive substance that will eat my cancer away. She watches me swallow it. Three days later she measures me with a Geiger counter and tells me I can go home.

2005: I'm sitting on freezing concrete with eight other women, blocking the entrance to the FDA headquarters. Officers from the Deparment of Homeland Security are standing behind us. Reporters in front of us. I've worn my favorite low-rise jeans. As the officers get ready to drag me to the armored truck, I can't stop wondering if my butt crack is showing.

2006: It is the sixth month in a row I think I am pregnant and the sixth month in a row I am not. I have memorized all the signs and symptoms of early pregancy, and I have all of them, every month. I take the little plastic EPT test and smash it under the heel of my shoe like the irritating vermin that it is.

2007: Danny and I are sitting on a sidewalk in Chelsea, sharing a burrito. We're waiting with a hundred other people to get into a tiny improv theater underneath Gristede's grocery store. When we get inside we see that the surprise special guests are Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers. We decide that having dinner on a surface that was likely peed on recently--was totally worth it.

2008: Alisa and I are in an apartment decorated by old superman sheets and cartoon character lunchboxes. We've responded to an ad that said, "Puppet Band needs members: Will train." We sit on a couch watching two men introduce us to various alien puppets. An IV bag filled with red liquid hangs on the wall behind us.

2009: I'm eating quesadillas in a Moscow restaurant, sitting underneath a large wagon wheel. The only words the server and I have in common are, "hello" and "thank you." My heart is broken into a thousand tiny pieces that sit uncomfortably in my chest. I am numb with loss, but I look up on the wall and see a framed picture of Donald Duck, and it makes me laugh.

All in all, it's been a good decade. Sure, I've had some radiation, some heartache, and been sliced open two or three times, but all that pales in comparison to the amount of living, loving and laughing I did in the past ten years.

Some predictions for the next decade. At some point I will:
-Have poop on my hands and not care
-Paint a room red
-Buy a strobe light
-love someone so much I can't see straight
-meet a C-list celebrity
-eat a kiwi
-star in an infomercial

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Laming out

I've been ignoring you all. Sorry. All my creative energies are sinking into fashioning a new ending to my book, a new facisination with watercolors and trying to think of things to do that will distract me from wondering every second of every day when we'll be going back to Moscow.

So I'm laming out, and posting one of those MEME surveys I do on Facebook when I'm searching for anything to do other than write dialouge. (Thanks Whitney)


Things come in threes!
Here's what you're supposed to do...and please do not spoil the fun. Copy, paste in your notes, delete my answers and type in your answers. Then tag a few good friends! The theory is that you will learn a lot of little known things about each other.

(Steph's comment: Over use of exclamation points aside, I have to wonder about the author of this survey. Firstly, I get inappropriately annoyed when people instruct me not to 'spoil the fun.' I highly doubt my failure to pass on this survey would greatly disappoint masses of more fun-loving people. Secondly, I'm pretty sure most people understand the "theory" of this excersize, but I suppose it was nice of them to lay it out for the slow folks in the back.)

Three Names I go by
1. Stephanie
2. Oxcart
3. Bob "The Buttcrack" Jones

Three Jobs I have had in my life
1. Hotel Maid
2. Giant Penguin
3. Crazy Bitch

Three Places I have lived
1. Crete, Illinois (1987-1995)
2. Avignon, France (Summer 1999)
3. Sister Lucille's Psychiatric Institute for the Deeply Disturbed (2005-Present)

Three TV Shows that I watch
1. Dexter
2. Mad Men
3. Local Access channel. (This channel has very important information. For instance, a few years ago I saw an ad put out by Alachua County Animal Control looking for the two women who brought in an injured bat they'd nursed back to health. Turned out the bat had rabies. Since then I'm wary of strange women with foam on their face.)

Three Places I have been
1. Louis the XIVth's bedroom
2. The final resting place of President McKinley
3. A Pornographic video store in France (I didn't buy anything. There was a lot of horse porn though if you're into that. In French, but that might not make a difference because they're horses.)

Three People/Sites that e-mail me regularly
1. Adoptive families magazine
2. My mom
3. Discount Witchcraft Supplies

Three of my favorite Foods
1. Anything with cheese and tomato sauce
2. Anything chocolate
3. Soylent Green

Three things I am Looking Forward to
1. Going back to Russia
2. The 3D Piranha movie I saw a trailer for last night. Spring Break. Blood Thirsty Fish. Concernced Scientists. It's got something for the whole family.
3. My plan for World Domination coming to fruition.

Three of my all-time favorite Songs:
1. King of Carrot Flowers, Neutral Milk Hotel
2. Stinging Velvet, Neko Case
3. Mr. Plow, Homer Simpson

Three top Concert experiences:
1. Camping out for tickets to Dave Matthews (back in the days when people actually physically had to go somewhere to buy tickets to things. I also walked uphill in the snow barefoot for those tickets.)
2. Eighth grade concert band, Calumet Mall Christmas show. We rocked the pants off those jingle jangle holiday tunes!! (Sadly the band broke up shortly thereafter to go to highschool.)
3. Esthero, NYC (Where Candi and I got so drunk I danced with a janitor and rode home on the floor of a cab.)

Three Places you want to see or visit in this lifetime (places you haven't seen or visited):
1. The Grand Canyon
2. London, England
3. I'm using this slot to just wonder what the difference is between "seen" and "visited." Do we really need the distinction here? Does anyone ever say, "You know, I saw Paris, but I wish I would have visited it instead."

Three Things that make your SKIN CRAWL:
1. Spiders of all shapes and sizes, but especially the pregnant ones who throw their overflowing fertility in my face by giving birth to thousands on my kitchen floor.
2. Possums. These nasty creatures are the devil's minions, I promise you.
3. My dog getting her anal glands squeezed at the vet. If I had known anal gland care was part of dog ownership, I might have just gotten a goldfish.

Three Things that calm me down when I am stressed:
1. Narcotics
2. Green Tea
3. A nice walk around the block.

Three Most Dangerous things I have ever done:
1. Skydiving (no wait, Ferris Wheels)
2. Hitchhiked rides from strange men as a teenager (seriously, how am I not chopped up in the trunk of a Toyota Camry somewhere?)
3. Called my mom a bitch when she had a hot curling iron in her hand.

Now, Don't spoil the fun!!!! Keep the survey going!!!
It's fun!
Come on!
What's wrong with you?
Don't you like fun?