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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Voila! Finally pictures of the boys' new and improved joint-custody-shared room!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hot chocolate. We can now add that to the list of items that Kara – my laptop – has been bathed in. Hot chocolate, red wine, Diet Pepsi and chocolate ice cream. Yes, these are a few of my favorite things. Kara! What a fighter!

Zach gave me a gift this morning; I didn’t realize it was a gift at the time, but now I know. He threw a total fit when we were trying to walk out the door for preschool (for him) and for the gym/spin class (for me). Zach is a strong-willed little mister. And lately he’s been rocking some serious attitude which includes, I’m horrified to report, a little bit of tongue-sticking-out action when he doesn’t get his way or is being reprimanded. So, this morning, he all of a sudden decides a new equation: preschool = torture. Now, I’m no good with the math, but I’m pretty sure that preschool does NOT = torture. As a matter of fact, preschool = rockin’ good times and typically Zach = a preschool-lovin’-boy. So, why today the sudden dislike for one of his favorite things?

Yesterday morning, when we arrived at preschool (in an absolute torrential downpour, I might add), there was a police car parked out front. The teachers, huddled under umbrellas, were approaching cars one by one. I knew this was not a good thing. The school (and church where the school is located) got broken into on Sunday night. As far as they could see the only thing stolen was our teachers’ new set of super-cool walkie-talkies. A bummer, but it could’ve been way worse. So, school was cancelled and Zach and I headed to the gym where he was super-pumped to run and play in the Kids’ Club. Apparently this morning, Zach decided preschool should be cancelled again because he wanted to go to the Kids’ Club with me.

The more I push him (especially if we’re in a hurry – which we were this morning), the more he resists. I don’t usually give into fits, but I did recognize that we were already running late, I didn’t want to just put him – kicking and screaming – in the car (making preschool feel like a forced, negative situation). Plus, getting to the gym late, means that Spin Class will already be full and I won’t get to do it anyway. I might as well, just wait, go to the gym after preschool (with Zach) and use this time as the gift that it is. Voila – the pumpkin spice latte and the marvelous surprise of some writing and reading time. Thanks, Zach!

And I need the writing time as I’ve failed to get up early for my “me time.” I’ve apparently made a horrendous mistake in buying new cozy flannel sheets for our bed. Our bed is so stinkin’ cozy that I’m just not able to get out of it. Literally. I’m not choosing to oversleep; it’s just happening. Today and yesterday I woke up closer to 7:30 (when my alarm was set for 5:45, and I need to get Matthew up at 7 to get him ready for the day). Aaah!! I love sleeping; I hate oversleeping. I don’t like the process of waking up early, and it’s particularly difficult now that it’s so dark in the morn. But once I’m up and I’ve had the “me time,” the whole day is off to a much better start. Darn the cozy sheets.

Sleep is always wonderful but it’s now, more than ever, a welcome respite from the boys. The boys. And the copying. The copying. They’ve learned that it’s annoying. They’ve learned that it’s annoying. And they’re doing it constantly. DOING IT CONSTANTLY!! And then it’s always followed with a “Stop copying me.” “Stop copying me.” “I said stop.” “I said stop.” But yet it just NEVER STOPS!!! NEV…OK, no I’m done. Must put an end to this copying madness. Copying mad….OK, it is actually pretty difficult to stop, I’ll give ‘em that.

This week, I’m looking forward to Thursday and my three-hour individual interview at the adoption agency. Three hours to talk about myself?! What if we run out of time? Mike’s three hour interview – next Monday – will probably be done in two hours.

We’ve completed the fingerprint scanning process (now we await, with baited breath, the results from the FBI). We still have a lot of house-proofing projects that we need to do, but we’ve done a lot of our big paperwork projects. We still have a finance report to do, and then we have family picture/story profiles that we make both for the agency/state workers and potential birth moms. That’ll be fun – I just have to remember to keep our family profile a BRIEF summary, not a three hundred page flowing prose piece. But they do tell us to do something a little different and original from the standard “Dear Birth Parent, we thank you for your gift…” The possibilities are endless! I’m thinking of maybe going the list-route: The Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Pick US!...what do you think?!

And then next month, we’ve got two weeks of class-madness: CPR/1st Aid on Monday and Tuesday night, then the PRIDE (Foster Licensing class) on that Thursday night, Friday night, all day Saturday; and then Mike leaves town for a work conference on Sunday, he gets back Thursday evening while I’m at class, and then the last class will be Friday. Meanwhile, I’m going to paint the baby room – two walls “Lilac Bouquet” and two walls a light pink called “Sweet Baby Girl.” Girly enough for ya? Hey, when you know you’re actually having a girl, why wouldn’t you paint with some “Sweet Baby Girl” pink?!

The deeper we delve into the adoption process, the more excited we get wondering just who and where our Sweet Baby Girl is. Can’t wait to meet her! Can’t WAIT to meet her! :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

[For the record: I know that book titles need to be underlined, but the Blog is only offering me an italics-version of life. I apologize.]

It amazes me that I never before made this connection – some of my very favorite stories and/or movies of all time are all based upon the theme of adoption. Annie, the musical (the version with Carol Burnett, Alan Finney, Bernadette Peters) was basically the soundtrack to my childhood. I played my cassette tape soundtrack to that movie to its breaking point. Even at the ever-so-mature-age of 13, when visiting my future all-girls high school, standing on the fourth floor, I peered down over the stair banister (seeing all the way to the basement below), and I could clearly picture our entire student body bursting into, “It’s a hard-knock life for us!” as we scrubbed the stairs and slid down the banister on dust cloth-butt-skateboards. And just the other day when I walked through a torrential downpour into the Montessori School where I teach, I dropped my bags of musical instruments on the floor (not a subtle or quiet gesture, mind you) and with a sweep of my arms, in my most robust chest-voice-belting burst out with a truly moving: “The sun’ll come out tomorrow!!!” (Um, it’s possible that I was slightly disruptive to the Montessori-genius-children who were hard at work, but whatevs, they needed a little sunshine in their day). And if that little orphan Annie doesn’t inspire you with her never-give-up plucky little red-headed self then nothing will!

How about one of my favorite books of all time?! Anne of Green Gables! Anne Shirley convinces sweet Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables to pick her at the orphanage (instead of a strapping lad to help on the farm). Anne is the definition of pertinacious and strong-willed; making a life for herself.

Then there’s Heidi – an orphan who must go to live with her crotchety grandfather – who, in the end, of course, transforms both of their lives.

A Little Princess – Sara Crewe, a well to-do little rich girl, suddenly finds herself poor and alone.

Um, hello!
Harry Potter
, for crying out loud! Now, there’s an orphan who makes a name for himself.

The more unconventional adoption stories must also not go unnamed. Who could forget the moving story of Buddy the Elf? Buddy (Will Farrell) leaves the safe enclosure of his adopted home and adopted father Head Elf – Bob Newhart – at the North Pole and is forced to find his way in a mysterious land called New York while connecting with his cranky birth father, played by the gravelly-voiced James Caan. Obviously, Buddy the Elf has the added gift of Christmas magic and cheer on his side, but how can you not believe in miracles with this little flic?

Then there are the really, really unconventional adoption stories – where the strongest families and bonds are formed from the most unsuspecting parties. There was KoKo the gorilla who fell in love with a kitten named All Ball. The touching story of Owen the baby hippo and Mzee, a 130-year-old giant tortoise epitomizes the idea that love can be found in the most unexpected places. Owen was stranded in the terrible Indian Ocean tsunami that hit just after Christmas 2004. Owen was rescued and provided a home at Haller Park. The scared 650-pound hippo immediately grew attached to Mzee, cuddling and cowering behind the old male tortoise as if Mzee was a mama hippo.

More recently, I’ve been given a picture book that moves me to tears every time I read it: Horace. Horace is a spotted-cat that’s been adopted by striped-cat parents. He doesn’t understand why he looks different from the rest of his family. He even tries to connect his dots to turn them into stripes! After trying to find a place to fit in, Horace discovers that the very thing that makes him so different is what makes him so special.

As part of our adoption home study process, we’re required to read at least three books (or watch three videos) pertaining to adoption. Well, months ago I received a box full of adoption books from my aunt (who spent 40 years working in the adoption biz). So, while I’ve already done plenty of research on the topic, I never even realized that I’ve been preparing for the adoption my entire life. I’m not saying that knowing every word to all of the Annie lyrics makes me an expert or that rereading Anne of Green Gables every couple of years prepares me for raising an adopted daughter, but, well, it is extra credit and it sure couldn’t hurt!

Monday, October 12, 2009

First of all: whenever I see my list of 'followers,' it cracks me up that somehow I managed to become my own follower which just seems awfully pretentious and self-involved. But, if I remove myself (if I even figured out how) would that be indicating low self-esteem tendencies?

And it seems all of a sudden that my Blog is judging me, and I'm only allowed to post/view one entry at a time. Is it saying that I'm just a bit too wordy? Why can't I scroll down anymore to see previous entries? Can you? I have to click on "older post" to see my thoughts of yore and yesteryear (actually more like thoughts of 2 minutes sure to scroll down or make the commitment to click on "older post," as the "older posts" are actually quite new. Woah. Deep.)

I extend a most sincere thank you to my followers (those that aren't me 'cuz that'd be dumb and weird to be thanking myself for...following...myself).
I didn't realize I had so much blogging to do tonight! Be sure to scroll down and see 'older posts' since there's actually new stuff...

We’ve had some good times mingled with rough times in the last few days. We’ll start with the rough: we’re sick. Matthew woke up with a nasty cough-snot-fever combo on Wednesday. Then on Friday morning Zach started rockin’ the cough-snot-fever (would that be Cosnever? Cotver? I’m just trying to Bradgelina this sickness we’ve got to spice things up). Well, we kid-decongested the boys on Saturday morning so that we wouldn’t miss the Open House at our local fire station. Darn it, I’ve seen that sign up EVERY YEAR (since having kids and caring about things like Open Houses at fire stations) and not once have we been able to go. So, this was GOING to be the year.

We had a fabulous time. Matthew had drawn an amazing picture complete with aerial ladder fire truck, ambulance and burning building. He got to give it to the Captain who immediately put it up on the wall! The boys both got new firefighter helmets (although Zach went prepared wearing one we already had); they got to see all of the equipment and sit at the wheel of the fire engine and the ambulance. All very cool. I, however, was quite disappointed with our station’s lack of pole. Apparently most new fire stations are being built minus the pole as the pole could cause injury. They just have to go down the stairs at our station. They don’t even slide down the banister! (I asked). I suggested a twisty-slide. They seemed impressed with my idea. I will expect to see one installed next year at the Open House…though one of the firefighters told us that we don’t have to wait to the Open House – we can just stop on by any ‘ol time. Hmmm, this is a problem as we drive by the fire station everyday (it’s directly across from the entrance to our neighborhood). Matthew has reminded me of this firefighter’s kind offer EVERY time we’ve driven by. (“But Mom, remember he SAID we could!”).

When the boys were getting dressed for the big outing (both in fire truck-themed shirts), Mike and Zach had an interesting conversation (which I happened to hear from out in the hall and immediately wrote down); it went like this:

Mike: “You’re cute.”
Zach (very serious): “Yes, I know.”
Mike: “The girls are going to be all over you.”
Zach: “Yes, but they’re going to boss me around.”
Mike (laughing): “Oh really?”
Zach: “Yeah, ‘cuz they boss everybody around.”

Now, why Mike was telling our three-year-old that the girls are going to be all over him is beyond me. Take that one up with him. I guess we don’t need to be concerned as it sounds like Zach doesn’t care to even mingle with the bossy ladies at this point.

I just discovered this video while uploading photos. The boys were showing off their new pirate-themed pajamas. You can tell that they aren't camera shy.
I'm a bit behind on some updates...we 'did the Puyallup' (a big, annual fair) with the fam. We met up with my brother Tim and his wife Rebecca (as well as my parentals and brother Chris). The boys thought the Star Wars guys were so cool that they're both going to be Clone Troopers for Halloween.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mike and I managed to say three things that probably top the Top Ten List of What Not To Say During a Home Study Visit With Your Adoption Specialist.

Joy arrived on Monday afternoon to a spotless home. We joked (she as well), that homes are always the cleanest on her first visit, then families realize she’s not actually here to judge our housekeeping skills, so they start living like normal people again. (Normal people actually HAVE dust in places and toys scattered about, for the record. I’m pretty sure they’ve done studies).

I heart Joy. She is AWESOME. She’s young, fun, totally down-to-earth. I had my completed Autobiography for her, plus another paper that isn’t required until later. She was VERY impressed with everything that we’ve gotten done already, and she started glancing over my autobio, and said, “Are you a writer?! This will be so much fun to read!” Why yes, yes, I am. Did I mention I heart Joy?!

As is the name of the game with this adoption stuff, Joy arrived with yet another packet full of paperwork for us. This one included the Holy Grail of adoption paperwork though – I might just put it in a padlocked, protective display case on the wall – it’s the Adoption CHECKLIST. Every single item/action that we’ll need to do to get a completed home study is listed and accounted for us complete with a place to put the date on when you completed it and a handy little box for your neat check mark. Ahhh, I love a good list. And I already got to cross off about a third of the items! Some of them – our CPR/First Aid class, PRIDE Foster Training class, Trans-Racial Awareness class – won’t be able to be crossed off until November and December when we’ve completed all the trainings. But at least we’ll have all of our stuff done by then.

OK, so the visit. This first one was just for us to have the chance to meet, Joy to deliver the paperwork packet and Mike and I had to fill out the background check/clearance forms (then we wait for those to get processed, THEN we get fingerprint cards, get fingerprinted, those get submitted to the FBI and that can take between a few weeks to a few months).

And now for the Top Ten List of What Not To Say During a Home Study Visit With Your Adoption Specialist. (Mike and I chose to only go for three on this first visit; we don’t want to over-impress her; we’ll save some for the future):

1.) Talking about something that criminals do: When discussing the fingerprinting process with us, Joy asked if either of work with our hands. Mike explained that he’s a software engineer and I said that I play the flute and shake shakers and stuff. Well, that’s all very nice and good, but what she meant was REALLY working with your hands like a masseuse or carpenter. Apparently people in very handy (haha) occupations can actually wear down their fingerprints over time and they don’t print and scan well. Huh! Who knew?! Well, Mike proceeds to add all nonchalantly, “I know that criminals sometimes dip their hands in acid to burn off their fingerprints.”…………………………………………………………………………………………….
(that would be the awkward silence that followed). OK, first of all, how do you even know that? WHY do you know that? And why would you admit, right now, in front of our home study/Adoption Specialist, that you know that?!! Great! She thinks that we run and mingle with acid-hand-dipping criminals. Excellent!
2.) Announcing that you’re a stalker: I have a kind of funny relationship going with Emily, one of the gals that works at the Amara Agency office. She was the first person to have the pleasure of receiving emails from me. These weren’t just ‘so how does your agency work’ kind of emails, these were detailed, lengthy emails with lists of questions, requests for statistics, etc. We’d done plenty of research into the adoption world already by the time we contacted Amara, so I knew what questions to ask. Some of my questions she couldn’t answer and had to ask of the agency director. Anyway, Emily has been very patient with me. I’ve spoken to her on the phone several times as well. The first time she called (to confirm our Pre-Application Interview), I joked with her about her last email which had said, “You’re coming up with SO MANY great questions!!” This was really just her nice way of saying, HOLY CRAP when will this crazy Jenny Martin lady stop asking me questions?!! She laughed and was, of course, very nice about it. Now whenever she calls we joke about how she sets aside extra time, etc. lest I keep her with more questions.
We’ve been in the agency building several times now and have seen pictures on the wall of all the staff members, so I knew what Joy and Emily both looked like. I proceeded to tell Joy, how great Emily’s been, and how I think I saw her leaving the building the last time we went for a class, because I’m a stalker and I’ve seen her picture a few of times and I know what she looks like…and I know where she lives. (OK, now that last part). Yes, I told our Adoption Specialist that I’m stalking an employee there. Stupdenous!
3.) Having no clue where your children are: When Joy stood up and was just about to leave, Mike suddenly looks around and says, “Where’s Zach?!” I give an uncomfortable little laugh and Joy tries to mask a look that clearly says: “Dude, you don’t even know where your kid is?!” I say to Mike – in an over-the-top joking way, “Haha. I thought YOU had him! Huh….real good, honey. Losing the kids like this. Ha…um…ha. He went to Andrea’s to play, remember?” Mike wrinkles his nose, trying to search his memory, “Oh yeah, now I remember.” Then as an explanation to Joy he says, “I was working on the computer downstairs. Anything can be going on around me when I’m working, and I wouldn’t notice.” Um, great! So, like the kids could be stolen. The house could be on fire. I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t trust people like us with a kid! Wonderful!

Friday, October 02, 2009

We are part of the newly-formed Marriage Prep team at church. The other night, we went to a lovely couple’s home for a dinner meeting. They were an awesome, fun couple who have four children – three boys, one girl – two of which (the youngest son and daughter) are still living at home and in high school. After some conversation, we learned that the daughter (who is the youngest) was adopted from Romania when she was four. The mom was telling us that during their home study visit, one of the young sons was asked by the social worker if there was anything else that he’d like to share about his family. The little three-ish-year-old thought for a moment and said, “Just that there’s a lot of love.”

The parents, still beaming with pride that’s lasted for thirteen years, say, “We didn’t even tell him to say that!” I smile and nod. Yes, that’s touching. Meanwhile, I’m wondering what little pearls of surprising, unexpected wisdom our boys will share with our adoption specialist. I hope it’s not anything like the conversation I overheard them having last week.

The boys had been told repeatedly to clean up the toys downstairs and then they’d get to watch a short show. Well, instead of cleaning, they were being all sorts of crazy and wild. (And yes, I realize that, here, they’re already having a good time and I’m telling them to clean up so they can sit and watch TV. Not cool parenting. Yeah. Yeah.) So, because the boys had been getting more and more wild, were not listening to me at all, and had already received a couple of warnings, I finally just said, “OK, no show, and you need to go get ready for bed.”

Matthew and Zach are in the bathroom, going potty and brushing teeth. Like two old men wallowing in their misery sitting at a bar, I hear Matthew grumble, “Do you feel like we’re in prison right now? I feel like we’re in prison.” Zach glumly agrees, “Yeah, we’re in prison.” Well, I realize that I had a choice; this could’ve gone a few ways. At least I didn’t jump straight to the ‘ol: Oh, you wanna see prison? I’ll show you prison alright! (I’m pretty sure saying stuff like that would not bode well for our fostering/adoption license process). So, I decided to be a really good mom and use this as a ‘teachable moment’ – an invitation to grow and learn.

I storm into the bathroom and say, “Would you like to see a prison?” The boys stop, mid-teeth-brushing and stare at me with saucer-big eyes. “We could go see a prison. If you’d like to know what a real prison looks like, we could take a field trip to one.” Matthew shakes his head as quickly as possible, eyeballs starting to flood with the potential onslaught of tear-release. Zach’s just standing there. You can tell his weighing his options, thinking: hmmm, that kinda sounds cool, but Matthew doesn’t think so; I’d better agree with him and vote no on this one.

“Well, I just want you to know,” I continue, “That our home is nothing like a prison. So, we could go to a real one if you need to see that.”

Matthew starts stuttering, “N-n-n-no, no I don’t want to go to prison!” I can see Matthew’s thought bubble: Please don’t make me go to prison. I’ll never say that this home is like a prison ever again. Just don’t make me go!!

Oh-uh. My little plan seems to be backfiring. I try to reassure my sensitive little boy, “I’m just trying to say that we could go to a prison, not that I’m going to make you go to one.”

“S-s-so we don’t have to go to prison?” He asks needing a little more reassurance.

“No, prison, Matthew. We’re not going to a prison,” I say, hugging him. Yeah. So, what I thought was this great, creative, teachable moment ended up being an excellent learning-lesson for me. DON’T THREATEN YOUR CHILDREN WITH FIELD TRIPS TO PRISON.