Thursday, June 30, 2011

Silly, Sweaty Americans

I believe that people in China do not sweat. Other than my husband and myself, I believe that nobody in the entire province of Guangxi has sweated since we got here.

Yesterday Ben and I had an incredible, eventful day in our daughter's hometown. We traveled 2.5 hours in a downpour because it rains every day here. Just an interesting (terrifying) side note: in downpours, nobody turns on their car's headlights. When it got to near monsoon levels of water, some vehicles put on their emergency flashers...emphasis on the word some.

Fortunately, we survived the trip and were able to do some sightseeing as well as have lunch. Our daughter's hometown is famous for pearls, so we had decided to buy her a pearl necklace and earrings for when she is older. We thought it would be a special gift connecting her to her hometown.

Our guide, always looking out for our best interest, said she could not verify the quality of the pearls, as she is not an expert in that and that we could most likely spend much less money when we traveled to Guangzhou as opposed to buying right in Hepu. We explained that we knew we couldn't afford top-of-the-line pearls and that we also knew they would probably be cheaper in Guangzhou, but wanted to buy them here anyway, as a memento from her hometown. I'm sure she was thinking, "Silly American", but was too polite to say it out loud.

So we are in the jewelry store, which had the doors to the street open, (no air-conditioning, of course) and there was a brief reprieve from the rain. Humidity was still about 8000%. As we are talking to the nice sales clerk - okay, maybe talking was too generous a term. As we were pointing and grunting, using hand gestures in a very Neanderthal-like manner and the sales woman smiled politely - we began to sweat.

This was not a typical drop here and there, nor was it standard "hot day in Minnesota" sweat. The sweat gushed out of us. It dripped on the display case. Several sales people gathered around to help us. They turned on a fan and blew it at us. They gave us cups of water. They gave us tissues to wipe our sopping faces. As I looked at them, I realized they didn't even have a droplet of sweat on their brow and our guide had her long-sleeved shirt on.

As we were the only non-Chinese people we saw in the town (population 500,000) I am afraid we gave a less than flattering impression of sweaty, sweaty Americans.

I also got visit our daughter's finding place. I'm sorry, but I am not a good enough writer to describe just how that made me feel. Before going, I imagined how I might feel seeing it, but I don't think anything could really prepare me for all the emotion involved in it.

We were also allowed to have lunch with the director of our daughter's SWI (social welfare institude, aka the orphanage she was affiliated with), the head of foster care at our daughters SWI, and our daughter's foster mother. I will post more information about how that meeting went, later. It was such an overwhelming experience, that I feel like I need to mentally process it a bit more before sharing. It was a difficult, but priceless experience that I will be grateful for forever.

Other than the insane heat, things continue to go well with Veronica. She continues to be a delight, and really only seems to struggle when she is tired. She will often scream for a good 10 minutes before bed. It is hard to see her so sad, but I am sure things will continue to improve as our time together increases.

I am still amazed at just how well things have been going.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Swimming - China Style

Anyone who knows my husband knows that he loves to be near, around and in the water. Whether its fishing, swimming or floating along in a boat, he is all for it. So, for his birthday, we decided to take Veronica swimming for the first time.

By virtue of having ovaries, I decide that it is I who must hold her the first time she goes into the water. Ben was sitting in the kiddie pool waiting with a smile. And a swim cap. A very small swim cap.

Yes, people who haven't been to China before, swim caps are all the rage. They are required for hygiene, although after seeing several people hock loogies in the pool, I can't imagine that my hair will cause a huge contaminated outbreak of anything. Especially with my feet just soaking in the kiddie pool. But I digress.

So I decide to sit on the top step of the pool. But my foot slips on the insanely slippery tiles. And I bump on my bottom while holding Veronica. Neither of us were hurt, but it was a very quick plop down and scared her (understandably so). I spent the next few minutes walking her around the pool trying to calm her. It was not quite the introduction to swimming that we had hoped.

After several minutes of comfort I manage to successfully sit on the edge of the pool. Eventually she dipped her feet in and smiled. Then it rained.

So after spending 40 Yuan for the swim caps, 1 near death fall, 10 minutes of comforting, another 10 minutes of encouragement, and 30 seconds of single toe splashing, we left the pool.

We took her back to the room to give her a bath and she has had 30 happy minutes splashing and playing in the bathtub. And we could enjoy all this without loogies or swim caps.

Ben's Birthday in China

This has been our first "day off" here in China. We had no baggage to find, no airports to maneuver in and no official meetings or responsibilities.

It's Ben's 35th birthday, and a really terrific wife would have brought a gift for him from the US to China to make him feel extra special. Oops. I'm going to take him out for Chinese food tonight, does that count as extra special?

Just to brag about my sweetheart (even though it makes me look like a pretty shoddy spouse in comparison), he did bring me a gift from home to China. For the birth of each of my children, Ben picked out a special necklace and gave it to me in the hospital. This time, he surprised me just before our adoption interviews with a mother and child necklace. Beautiful. Unfortunately, you will not actually see me wearing it in the photos taken at our official meetings because we were frantically running late and I didn't have time to de-tangle the strand before the meetings. You will have to imagine it around my neck.

Currently, Veronica and Ben are taking their naps. I have also been sleeping a lot. I am surprised by how tired I have been considering how good of a sleeper Veronica is. Last night she slept 12 hours in a row. That is like the sleeping baby jackpot.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that taking care of my girl with her unrepaired cleft lip and palate is easier than I had thought. It takes longer to feed her and longer for her to drink, but she has the system figured out. Other then excessive drooling (which we dealt with with another one of our children) there isn't much difference. She even liked getting her teeth brushed.

I did find out some pretty amazing news. We have been given permission to visit with Veronica's foster mother and the director of her orphanage tomorrow. We will take a 2 1/2 hour drive to her hometown and take them out to eat. We found out her foster mother speaks a local dialect instead of Mandarin. That takes the pressure off me for all the Mandarin words that I didn't learn before coming to China. Veronica wouldn't understand them anyway if she has only been exposed to the local dialect. Fortunately, our CHSFS agency guide can also understand the local dialect. Honestly, these guides are like rock stars. They are fabulous!

Tomorrow will be a wonderful, difficult, eye-opening day. I hope I can hold it together when we are speaking with such an important person in Veronica's life. I can't imagine how I am going to react when we see her finding place.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We Have Veronica

It's official - we have our adoption degree and Qin Ni is now officially Veronica QinNi. But, things haven't gone quite as I have expected.

As many of you have already read on my "Let The Freak Outs Begin" post , I had a huge list of things I was worried about and even more that I didn't even post. But, I really wasn't prepared for the way things actually have worked out.

I wasn't prepared for a child who would give us a beautiful wide smile five minutes after seeing us and share the most adorable giggle within an hour. I didn't imagine that our daughter, who looked so serious and somber in the few photos we had of her, would be quite so silly and want to dance around with her squeaky shoes and "share" her cheerios while laughing. I didn't think she would comfortably plop in my lap when I was sitting on the floor or love having loud kisses on her forehead.

I had prepared my self for a child that struggle with eating, but my beautiful little girl eats everything and anything with no problems. I was ready for a long, sleepless night full of crying and tantrums. Last night she slept soundly from 8:00PM till 7:00AM. She woke up joyfully, ready to greet the day.

While steadying myself for every worst-case scenario, my heart was not prepared for a child as easy to love as Veronica. She is truly amazing. I am completely enchanted and in awe of her. Ben is just as smitten as I am.

Now, all you parents who have already adopted may be reading this and immediately think "honeymoon phase". And, that very well could be. I anticipate the grieving will come and it will be heartbreaking for both my sweet girl and myself. But, I feel so incredibly blessed to have had this window to see her lovely personality.

As far as practical matters go, after many conversations and negotiations by both us and our amazing Children's Home Society and Family Services guides, I received my luggage less than two hours before we met Veronica. So, I had everything I needed to take care of her and clean underwear, too. (Don't grimace too much. I had been washing them every day.)

None of us have gotten sick so far, even as we have been sampling some terrific street food. Hooray for bottled water!

It is hotter than sin here and so humid, but we are surviving. We have almost gotten used to the crazy driving and lack of seatbelts (don't mention that to my kids) .

Other than my missing my kiddos at home terribly, I am absolutely content. This has been far more joyous a journey than I had ever expected. Thank you to all my friends and family who have been praying for our family. Please continue to keep us in your prayers during the remainder of our trip.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good News - Bad News

6:15 AM - Beiing China (June 26th)

After our unexpected 12 hour layover in Denver, (and me being the lucky recipient of an "aggressive airport screening pat down") we finally were able to leave for China via Los Angeles. We were transferred over to China Air for the final route to Beijing. We were assured that sometime in the 10 hours between our travel changes and our departure, our bags would be moved approximately 500 feet to our new airplane. Fortunately one bag did. Unfortunately one bag didn't - my bag.

I broke the cardinal rule of packing - always pack a change of clothes in each other's bag. In my excitement, I wasn't thinking clearly.

One bag is still in San Fransisco despite several assurances at various times that the bag was going to be on one particular flight or another. On the positive side, Ben has just about everything he needs.

Unfortunately, the lost bag has Veronica's clothes and toys, some gifts for officials, food, toiletries and medications and all my clothes, contacts, make-up, etc. I have been hand-washing my clothes and was able to borrow a shirt of Ben's yesterday, so I have been able to make-do. Of course I am annoyed by the situation, especially the fact that the airline said that my bag was actually on the same plane as Ben's but for some unexplained reason, taken off the flight. There is a glimmer of hope that I might have the bag by this time tomorrow, but I am not holding my breath waiting.

This has been inconvenient, for sure, but it isn't tragic. I have been trying to keep a positive attitude about it. We can buy replacements for most things in the baggage if necessary. After we fly to Nanning today I am hoping to find a Walmart (yes, they are in China, too) or equivalent to get a few replacement things for Veronica and myself to hold us over till the bag comes. Someday.

But, on to happier things. Even with the flight delays, we were still able to see the Great Wall yesterday. There is a very long, very steep, section with many, many, many steps that we were able to climb. Not everyone is able to make it to the end of this section (especially on such a hot day wearing jeans - my shorts were in my luggage), but Ben and I did and it was spectacular!

Do you see how long that wall is to the top of the mountain? We climbed to the top. Some of the steps were so steep that we had to crawl up with our hands. But, what a sense of accomplishment, especially after my muscles had probably atrophied beyond recognition after so many hours in an airplane.

And even better, even without luggage, we get Veronica tomorrow! We fly to Nanning today and sometime tomorrow get to meet our girl. After all the planning, waiting, speculating, paying and praying I will get to hold her.

I can't wait till I can have all my kids together. I am missing Bridget, Riley, Connor and Sawyer already.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

But This Doesn't Look Like China

I decided to stay awake all night, since I would have to get up about 3 AM to get ready for my flight to China. The original plan had us leaving well before the crack of dawn to take a flight from Minneapolis to Denver. We were suppose to fly from Denver to San Fransisco and then onto Beijing.

Unfortunately, our plane in Denver had a broken brake part. (Come on, brakes are overrated.) After an hour on the tarmac we were told that the maintenance crew wasn't able to fix the plane with parts on-hand. By the time this decision was made, we had missed our connecting flight in San Fransisco. After several temporary ticket maneuverings, we managed to reschedule our flights so that we wouldn't miss our flight from Beijing to Nanning to get Veronica.

So, instead of being almost to China now like I should be, I have been hanging out at the Denver airport. Not that Colorado isn't a wonderful place, but a girl can only watch so many planes taking off before she is anxious to get on one herself.

I am currently running on caffeine, refined carbohydrates, and thirty minutes of sleep, conveniently broken up into 10 minute increments. I am so ready to leave.

We will be flying out about 7:30 to go to LAX. We have a four hour layover in Los Angeles and then go onto Beijing.

Correction. I just this minute found out our flight was delayed. We leave at 9:00 PM.

Did I mention that our luggage is in San Fransisco?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Last Minute Frenzy

I leave for the airport to head to China in approximately 33 hours. Unfortunately, my to-do list comprises about 50 hours. So, if I can't find a modified Dolorian and a Huey Lewis sound track, it looks like I am stuck darting around the house frantically trying to assess where the time is best spent.

Okay. Packing should rank high on the list. No I haven't packed yet. Don't judge me.

Getting Veronica's room set up and washing, folding and hanging 3 different sizes of clothes was a priority, mainly because it was so stinkin' fun. At least I can check that off the list.

We still have last minute travel things to do, too - having a witness sign our will, head to the bank for money, etc.

And then there is getting the house ready. Have any of you had other people stay at your home for two weeks when you weren't there? Normal rules of guest preparedness no longer count. It isn't okay to shove things in your laundry room or stack papers in bags and shove them in the bottom of closets.

My in-laws have been kind enough to agree to watch the kids for the first week and my parents are coming for the last week. I know they would truly want me to relax for the next (now 32 3/4 hours till we leave. They love me and I know would volunteer to scrub bathrooms, vacuum floors and do laundry. But, I admit, my mother-in-law washing my skivvies just makes my face red just thinking about it.

Anyone nice enough to volunteer to watch my four bundles of energy and take care of the house deserves a clean slate when they start. I don't want them to come to a yard in need of mowing and toys ankle-deep.

Now that I have caught my breath with a bloggy break, its time to start scratching things off the to-do list again.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daddy Day Do-Over

To my sweet, wonderful, handsome husband (who will never read this because he doesn't follow my blog):

First, thanks for being super-dee-duper great. I can't imagine wanting to raise five kids with anyone else.

Now, you know how seriously I take Mother's Day. I love the kids singing "Happy Mother's Day To You" sung to the tune of "Happy Birthday" dozens of times a day. I love having a day that I can choose to do anything I want. I love that I have no child-care responsibilities at all for that day (unless I am nursing a baby - you haven't quite stepped up to the plate on that one). And I love that you understand that it is never truly a perfect Mother's Day unless I can ditch the kids for a few hours to spend on my own. Yes, I realize the irony.

So Father's Day is here. I think you deserve nearly as much wonderfulness on your special day. Usually this involves a hunk of red meat that you can grill and an afternoon of fishing. Oddly, you choose to take the kids on this outing, but I suppose everyone's got their own idea of fun. Some sort of gift with lots of ribbon is also involved.

Unfortunately, this Father's Day won't live up to the hype. The preamble to Father's Day was a week with several vomiting children. Poor sweet hubby, you caught what they had on Friday and have been fairly miserable ever since, but fortunately you are beginning to be on the mend.

Being the good parent that I am, I conveniently waited to get sick until you were feeling a bit better.

Last night I had been unable to sleep because of an upset tummy. How fortunate for me because I was already awake when our carbon monoxide detector went off at 2AM. After testing with our other CO detector, we were both fairly sure that we were safe. But those pesky flu-like symptoms that CO information sites warn people about made me bug you enough to call the gas company to check. And, you were right. Our flu-like symptoms were from the flu.

Not a great start to Father's Day.

My laying in bed moaning from an upset stomach today probably wasn't part of your plans, either.

In light of this, I make a public pledge that you get a Father's Day Do-Over.

But, not before we leave for China. We'll be too busy. And not in China because you're already going to have your birthday then and it would seem a little greedy to get two special days on this trip. And not right when we get back, because I'll just be in survival mode for a while. In August is my birthday and I know you don't want to infringe on that, because you are so super nice. By the time thing settle down, it will be school time and it takes a while to get adjusted to the schedule. And not right after that because it is Thanksgiving and Christmas and that will be busy. And you know we have four kids birthdays from January through April. I'm sure you don't want to take away any joy surrounding their days. Then, in May is Mother's Day. And you all know how big of a deal that is to me.

So, it looks like you get your Father's Day do-over next June. Hey, that's regular Father's Day. We could just sing to you twice as much next year and call it good.

I'm so lucky to be married to such a patient and understanding husband.

Happy Father's Day!

I love you!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Countdown - Mine and Hers

Today is Day 6 of the countdown till we travel to China. I will be holding Veronica in 10 days.

Everyone keeps asking how I can control my excitement. How could I possibly stand to know that the end of the journey is so near? But in reality, my journey with my new daughter is just starting, but there is another journey ending. And it is causing me to feel incredibly sad.

Unlike most children waiting for families in China, my daughter is not in an orphanage. She has been placed with a foster family since she was 2 weeks old. For over a year and a half, another mother has been comforting her when she is hurt, holding her hand, giving her baths, feeding her, reading to her, loving her.

And while I have a countdown going of eager anticipation, I know that she also has a countdown going and it is not nearly so joyful. Thinking about her makes my heart ache.

I asked a friend who has been a foster mother for many, many children about this. She told me, "If you're doing it right, it always hurts when they leave."

Judging by the progress Veronica has made, from the medical and developmental information we have, her foster mother is "doing it right".

It is so difficult to know that my joy is tied up in another person's pain. Of course my thoughts have been heavy for her birth family. I have been praying for this unknown mother and father since I knew I was going to adopt, so for nearly a decade. I knew that there was some woman, somewhere in the world who would have to make a gut-wrenching decision and place her child for adoption.

But, I didn't feel any responsibility for having caused that situation.

I know that my decision to accept Veronica's referral has shortened her foster family's time with her. It feels like much more of a direct correlation. The logical part of me understands that this was the plan all along. The foster family knew they would have a relatively short time to care for this child, in preparation for adoption. That knowledge still won't stop their love for her or their pain when she is gone.

Unfortunately, the current policy holds that we can't have contact with the foster family. I am not technically allowed to give the foster family updates or pictures. I can't take away the worry and wondering the foster family may have, even if we would both wish for such a relationship. I can't tell them just how incredibly grateful I am for all they have done for my child and promise them that I will continue on with what they started.

I know I have mumbled and grumbled through some of the adoption - paperwork, delays, inane procedures and redundancies. But, the bittersweet reality of the countdown, my joy tempered by her foster family's sadness, has been the most difficult part so far.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

We're Moving - Sort Of

For all my friends and family who have politely inquired over the past two and a half years, I can now proudly say, "Yes, our home addition is done. Sort of. Done enough. For now."

We had hired a contractor (the same day as the market's major free fall two plus years ago - great timing!) to build an addition to our home over the garage. We added a sun room, two bedrooms and a bathroom. They roughed in the construction and we have been finishing it off as time and money permit.

The bathroom remains roughed in with plywood floors, no toilet or sink. Once we are rolling in the dough in a few more months - insert sarcastic chuckle here - we will continue to finish it off ourselves. The other rooms are finished with the exception of completed baseboard and window trim.

We are calling it good and moving Ben's and my bedroom into the new section so that Veronica can move into our current room. Just to complicate things some more, we are putting different furniture into Bridget's room and moving Bridget's bedroom furniture into Veronica's room. And the crib that Sawyer is no longer using is going to Veronica's room. We are playing musical heavy furniture.

Clearly we have nothing better to do before we leave in 7 days for China.

Clearly we are wait-till-the-last-minute kind of people.

Clearly we'll be skipping some sleep to get the whole switch-a-roo done quickly.

Yet, here I am on the computer. Procrastinating about the work to be done, but secretly (or not so secretly if I am posting it on this blog) thinking that if everything is a rushed frenzy before we go I won't have time to dwell on the adoption. If I am a busy bee, I won't stare at the clock, mentally willing the minute hand to move faster.

Once we move our things to the new bedroom, we will set up Veronica's room. Her clothes will hang in the closet. Her bed will be neatly made. The toys and books will be put away in anticipation.

And every time I pass by, it will be more apparent that someone is missing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Call me "Tom"

I have come to believe that most of parenting is just marketing - trying to convince your child that they actually want what you want for them. This theory works great, especially with chores. A friend of mine who has witnessed this phenomenon has called me the "Tom Sawyer" of parenting. Remember how happily he got his friends to paint the white picket fence for him?

The thing about kids is that they want to do "work" and they want to be helpful. Anyone whose child has enthusiastically helped cook or vacuum knows what I mean. At this age, all work seems fun (at least initially) and its a good time to teach them how to do chores.

This is actually much easier than it sounds. Here's a real-life example that worked for me.

1. Build enthusiasm. "No, you are not quite yet big enough to clean out the litter box. But, maybe next month." The children began to look longingly at the forbidden litter box.

2. Demonstrate your own enthusiasm. Don't let them see you grumble or complain about a task. Then they believe they shouldn't want to do it either. They have heard me say, "I get to clean the litter box now. It feels so good to be able to take care of our cats."

3. Never bribe your child to do what you want and expect them to do. Kids are smart. They know that if you are desperate enough to give them a treat or a toy to do something that it must be a big deal and they have leverage. They are as astute at wielding power as politicians. Don't give them the opportunity.

4. Switch things around and use the chore as the reward. "Okay kids. You have been making very good choices and showing me how responsible you are. I think you can clean the litter box soon." This is met with enthusiastic cheering from the kids.

5. Perfect your high pitched "happy" voice. Imagine a Chihuahua eating a handful of pixie stix under a rainbow with glitter and dancing unicorns all around. Seriously, seriously happy and excited. Adding dramatic pauses helps build anticipation. "Okay kids....Today...we get to...........CLEAN THE LITTER BOX!!! HOORAY!!!!" It helps to throw in a little dance move here to convey the appropriate level of joy.

6. Make the chore a game. Our cleaning the litter box demonstration involved me with a pirate accent looking for buried treasure, matey. There may have been costumes involved.

7. Always praise the child's genuine effort. Don't redo what they have done. If it is a job you have very exacting standards on, perhaps that isn't the job to pass onto the kids. Lower your standards.

My children were begging to clean the litter box again for several weeks after they learned.

Yes, I'll admit the enthusiasm can wear off when they realize that they aren't actually pirates digging for buried treasure but instead scooping out stinky poop. One child came to me a couple of weeks later saying, "Mom, you know cleaning the litter box isn't really all that fun." She seemed genuinely surprised that the joy didn't last.

I gave my child a big hug and a smile and said, "I'm sorry you feel that way. But, you are an important, helpful part of the family and I'm so glad you know how to do it anyway. And I think it needs to be cleaned."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Travel Approval

We have met the last major adoption milestone with China's issuance of our Travel Approval. Our agency has requested a consulate appointment and we will find out in a couple of days when we travel to get Veronica. It looks like we may be leaving on June 23rd or June 30th - just a couple short weeks away!

Many people, especially in the adoption community like to track other people's timeline specifics. People want to know how long the process took, but that is a tricky thing to answer. Just where does the timeline begin?

In retrospect, I can see that God has been preparing us for this even before we knew it, so how far back should I go?

Does the journey start when I knew I was going to adopt someday? This was nine years ago in April when my first child was born. I look at her sweet face and knew instinctively, like all mothers around the world, that the world was a better place for her being in it. I knew that if something tragic ever happened to both Ben and myself, she would still be cared for by family and friends who loved her. My heart was broken knowing that other mothers feel the same love for their children, but may be unable to parent them. It was then that I knew I was going to adopt.

Perhaps the adoption journey doesn't really start until Ben knew the plan. I waited four years later till after Connor was born before I dropped that bombshell on Ben. Let me set the scene. Throughout another horrific pregnancy I told Ben, "I will never do this again. If I ever say I want more kids, you may laugh at me and say, 'absolutely not.'" This was a month after my little baby had been in the NICU for nearly two weeks and we weren't sure if he was going to survive, and two years after both myself and another child faced the possibility of death because of a placental abruption at the end of the pregnancy. I had told him that I could not bear the worry and heartbreak of another child.

So Ben and I were sitting on the couch watching mindless TV (I think it was Survivor). With no preamble, I turned to him and said, "Ben, I think we should have another kid and then adopt. What do you think?"

He paused. Took a breath and said, "I like kids." Thus began nearly five years of saving for adoption, a home addition, and another kid.

So adoption has been in the plan for many, many years. But, for those who want official numbers, here are some of the milestones:

Application sent to Children's Home Society and Family Services

Home study approved

I800A paperwork sent to US Government (I800A is documentation showing we'd
be swell parents to a generic child)

I800A paperwork approved by US Government

Dossier sent to China

Received LID (Log in Date - official start of wait for referral)

Referral of Veronica

LOI sent to China (Letter of Intent - acceptance of referral)

Pre-approval received from China (Oodles of paperwork look okay, but more oodles
of paperwork showing we'd be swell parents still need approval.)

LOA received (Letter of Acceptance from China saying yes, we give permission to adopt this

I800 Approval (not to be confused with I800A. This US approval says we have permission to adopt Veronica specifically, not just approval for a theoretical child like I800A)

Article 5 (Hague related approval for adoption)

Travel approval

Now we wait to find out when our Consulate appointment is and make definite travel plans.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Are You Bleeding, Choking or on Fire?

"Are you bleeding, choking or on fire?"

I ask my kids this about once a week. This is the only response they will get from me when I am in the bathroom and their tiny little fists pound on the bathroom door. It doesn't matter if I am showering, putting in contacts or tinkling. These are the only situations that I allow to interrupt me.

I have had other mom friends lament the fact that they have not gone to the bathroom alone for nearly a decade because one of their children follow them in or weep inconsolably at the door. Their children just can't live without them for any amount of time.

I believe that the 23 1/2 other hours of non-bathroom time that I devote to my children assure them that I do indeed love them and are available to help, hug and listen. I don't believe any moderate crisis can be solved by my shouting through a wooden door and also believe that any minor skirmish can be successfully dealt with after a thorough washing of hands. Major catastrophes such like bleeding, choking and flames, however will be dealt with promptly.

Full disclosure - I have never been an open-door policy kind of gal. I still lock the bathroom door, even if I am home alone. I run the fan and water so nobody can hear me tinkle. If I am feeling particularly bold, I will skip the running water if I am home alone. Maybe.

Other families don't mind a little company in the bathroom. Good for you. My opinion is not a one-size fits all families type of edict.

But, if like me, you want a little time to yourself, take it. Your children will survive. It might be good to learn basic boundary issues so they don't rush into their boss's bathroom stall in a couple of decades.

From those who say it wouldn't work with their kids, I politely disagree. Bathroom locks were invented for a reason. And, with consistency, they will figure it out. They are smart kids. And, like my kids, they will stop knocking (or slink away when reminded of what constitutes a bathroom interrupting emergency).

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Big Game

As much as I love to compete, I've always felt nauseous before sporting events. When I played basketball, I would feel queasy till about second quarter. When I used to be a fast-pitch softball pitcher, I would pitch nearly an entire games worth of pitches in warm-up before I calmed down enough for the game. And, when I played college rugby, I was jittery and sick to my stomach until my first really hard tackle.

Tomorrow is another big game and I am already nervous.

After several summers of alternating between pregnancy and nursing a newborn, a few years ago I was able to join our church's co-ed D-league softball team. We have fun, but, struggle to win more than one or two games a season. You would think this lack of expectations would lower my stress level, but no. My adrenaline still works overdrive.

So, tomorrow's game will be the big showdown between my team and Connor's preschool teacher's team. Clearly the stakes are very high. And tackling someone early in the game to relieve nervousness (my former rugby strategy) tends to be frowned upon.

Its silly, really that I am so worried about letting down my team or making a foolish mistake. But, I still want to do my best at whatever I do. I want to impress my kids when they are shout "Go Mommy, Go!" really loudly.

As a at-home mom there isn't much chance for competition, other than the occasional Scrabble game with a friend. Here's hoping that I play my best at tomorrow's game. Without vomiting or tackling anyone.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Let the Freak Outs Begin - Preparing For the Worst

In each of my pregnancies I had two major freak-out sessions. Although none of my children were surprises and all were desperately wanted, my first reaction to the extra line on the pee stick was "Oh, no! What have I done!" Once the irrevocable decision had been made and there was no backing out, I panicked.

Then, shortly before the birth of each child, I thought, "
Crapola! What have I done?" I second guessed my ability to parent another child. I thought about how perfect I thought things were and that any change might throw the delicate balance of life off. I worried about my lack of sleep, lack of time, lack of patience, lack of super-momness. I felt sorry for this poor child who was going to come into the world stuck with a woefully under-prepared parent.

Each time I got over it by the time the child was in my arms and I knew everything was right with the world.

I hadn't had this freak out with Veronica's adoption. Until now. I believe the initial panic was avoided because there were so many steps that brought us closer to her, but not one irrefutable "no turning back" point. At any stage, we could have placed an adoption on hold (not that we wanted to, but the option was there). But now, as I am waiting on word for our travel approval and know I am in the final stages of this paperwork pregnancy, the panic is setting in.

Please don't misunderstand. I am extraordinarily excited to move forward. I am also slightly terrified. This new experience is similar to looking down at my giant belly at 9 months pregnant and realizing where that baby is going to come out. Logically before pregnancy I knew the mechanics. But when faced with the reality it seemed like a cosmic joke. Only in this adoption I will hop in a plane, travel half way around the world, and be handed a toddler (who will be pretty freaked out herself) and told, "She's yours." What then?

In adoption, especially adoption of a child with some medical quirks, the adage "Hope for the best but expect the worst." is repeated constantly. Seeming like sound advice, I have mentally prepared myself for the worst. At some point, I had myself convinced of the following:

She will be deaf. (some usually mild and correctable hearing issues are fairly common with cleft-affected kids)
She will hate me.
She will hate my husband.
She will hate all our other kids.
She will be allergic to our cats and we will have to get rid of them.
I will not be able to feed her because, although she is a good weight, there must be some magic trick to it.
I will lose her in a China market.
She will flail on the plane and accidentally hit a passenger near us, resulting in a law suit.
She will not smile at us for at least a year.
She will need every potential cleft surgery and they will all fail, every time.
I will get food poisoning in China and be too busy throwing up to hold her.
Our airplane will crash.
I will make a stupid joke (like I often do when nervous) during our consulate appointment and they will determine I am not a fit mother.
I will forget important paperwork in the US
And I will come home to my 4 other children at home and they will hate me, too. (Although I am not sure how this last one works in if there is a plane crash involved.)

It think the advice to expect the worst, but hope for the best has sunk in a little too much!

Since I have mentally faced the worst, I am ready to indulge in thinking about the best: I will have another child to love and watch grow into an amazing person. I will get to help another child to reach their potential and see the world through her eyes. I will get to be a mommy again, and will just deal with whatever comes my way.

I'm more of a glass-half full kind of gal. I think this line of thinking suits me better.