Saturday, October 28, 2006

We Have a Court Date

You read it right: WE HAVE A COURT DATE! On Thursday, November 9, Peter and I will become legal parents of K and M in a courtroom in Moscow. YAHOO!

We're setting up our travel plans right now. Assume we'll be out of the country Monday the 6th through Friday the 10th. What we're not sure about is which weekend. We'll keep you posted.

After this trip, we return home for the mandatory twelve business-day waiting period. The earliest we could therefore bring the children home would be the week after Thanksgiving. We hope to get more of a clue in the coming week, so we can start planning that trip as well.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dictionary Dream

I dreamed that K was trying to tell me something and I couldn't understand her. She was speaking mostly in English, or maybe she was using Russian words I knew. but in any case there was one word I just couldn't get. Exasperated, K found a dictionary and looked it up, then wrote down the definition and brought it to me. I thought she'd solved the problem until I looked down at what she'd handed me and saw that it was in Russian: she'd used a Russian dictionary, of course.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

About Waiting

Gosh, this is hard. We dream about the kids but don't remember the dreams. I've dreamed about showing up at the orphanage in my nightgown (i.e. unprepared), with empty supply suitcases (ditto). Every time I try to review my Russian tapes, I choke on memories of when we or one of the kids used this or that particular phrase. I wonder how the kids are, what they're doing, what their Mama is telling them about the huge change about to happen, how they feel about it. I wish we were there to help them understand.

Then I look around the house and see how unprepared we are, still, after so many weeks of work. Yes, the place has been reorganized and a kids' bedroom set up. Yes, we've got spots in our first-choice preschool and a handle on a local pediatrician. Yes, hand-me-downs from friends and family are beginning to trickle in. Yes, we're accumulating books and toys for the trip home (thanks, Cindy!). But--the basement playroom is still an obstacle course; the exterior decking, stone wall, and brickwork are still hazards; we still have plenty of possessions to sort through and give away so as to make room; we still haven't settled on what to bring for the kids on this second trip that will help them adjust to the idea of coming home with us on the third trip.

It all feels too slow and too fast.

A Few Things Not To Say

Increasingly, Peter and I are involved in conversations where the following things are said. Here are some diplomatic and less-than-diplomatic responses.

"Why the (*#& doesn't Russia speed things up so you can get these kids home? What is wrong with those people?"
"Those people" are the government of a civilized country. Like our government, they do things according to their own laws, in their own time.

"Don't they care about these kids?"
Yes. That's why they're following the law. Would you give *your* kids to a couple who lived halfway around the world without due process?

"These kids are so lucky that you're rescuing them from this awful place."
Actually, they were very well cared for before they came to us. And we're all lucky, not just the kids. Please don't EVER refer to our kids' birth country as an "awful place." It's where they come from, OK? They, like you, need to feel proud of their origins.

"How could anyone give away such wonderful children?"
The term is "choose adoption for." You can respect our children by showing respect for their birthparents. Please assume that the decision was made with as much love and heartache as you would make it yourself.

"Were their parents criminals or something?"
We're their parents.

"I mean their REAL parents."
The term is "birthparents." And the kids' birthparents' story is the kids' to tell, not ours.

Thank you. Just wait until the kids get here--the list will grow LOTS longer.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Recommended Reading

Peter and I have both been emotionally distant from adoption proceedings since we got back from Moscow. We talk almost constantly about the practicalities of having the kids here, but we have not given much voice to our feelings, I think because they're so variable and so strong. We usually feel similarly about large issues, so I don't mind assuming he feels the same as I do right now: surprised by the joyfulness of my anticipation of the utter change about to happen in our lives. Every time I imagine K or M running around the kitchen, climbing on the couches, holding my hand as we walk into their preschool, I feel a huge smile inside that soon blooms on my face. I suppose it would also be useful for me to imagine them refusing to eat, crying all night, tantruming, slumping in silent grief or confusion or fear. I wonder whether it's a strange trick of parent-brain that you envision only happy times before you actually have the child.

Anyway, as happened while awaiting word on the date for trip #1, I am drawn to books about adoption. I'm currently reading this:
Kruger, Pamela and Jill Smolowe, eds. A Love Like No Other: Stories from Adoptive Parents. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005.
I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about adoption but who prefers to get information in the form of personal stories. I also recommend it to anyone who just wants to know what it's like to be an adoptive parent.

I continue to recommend these books also:
Hopkins-Best, Mary. Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft. Indiana; Perspectives Press, 1998.
About the psychology and management of toddler adoption. The author has done it and clearly likes toddlers.
Pavao, Joyce Maguire. The Family of Adoption. Beacon Press, 2005.
A must-read for anyone involved in adoption from any angle, including extended family.

Friends and family: If we're going to see much of you, please consider reading at least one of these.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reality Bites

It's been over a week since my last posting. I think one reason for this gap is that my emotions are so strong right now that when I sit down to write I need to be sure I have the freedom to experience them fully. I haven't had that freedom, and that's because of all the other reasons I haven't been posting. Here's a selection:
-Someone has been in the house to repair damage to the bedroom ceiling that an insulation team caused right before our first trip. He's been doing an OK job on the ceiling, but he's been damaging the furniture and the floor. At every opportunity I must be upstairs reminding him to put down dropcloths and not to drop his tools on the bed. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of each day moving all our bedding, etc out of there and at the end of each day airing the room out and moving it all back. The floor might end up needing refinishing in spots, but I think I just can't handle one more person in the house right now. I'll have to, of course, since we need to have some electrical and carpentry work done, but, well, those guys aren't returning my calls, so maybe I won't have to deal....
-My laptop, which traveled to Moscow, has a mysterious hardware problem that puts it to sleep at irregular and unpredictable intervals. It's almost impossible to use. Since it also has a smashed optical drive, it is impossible to run CD-based diagnostics on it. I have spent more time than I like to think about on this problem and will have to spend more. I might have to replace it. Doing so will require getting some data off it that I don't usually back up, which will require the frustration of working with it between shut-downs.
-I am typing this entry on another laptop, which I can use temporarily. I have set it up to use while I sort out the other's hardware problem. In doing so, I discovered that my Office: Mac CD is gone. I spent about a day scrambling to find another. (Thank you, Neil and Liz!)
-I need Office: Mac because there are some literary journal submission deadlines I need to meet before the kids come home, because I'm teaching a class for which I need handouts, and because I'm editor of our synagogue's literary magazine, which is about to go to press for the first issue this year.

I think that's enough complaining for now. If it isn't, ask me for my task list. At last count, it was longer than I am tall.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Back to Reality

The reality is that we still have to get our home ready for two incoming children. Peter was working this past weekend and I'll be away over the coming one, so we've had to make our task list, divide, and conquer. There's still plenty to do--Ikea boxes are scattered all over the house, and we've still got plenty of stuff to sort for giving away--but we are both starting to believe we'll be ready when the time comes.

One thing we haven't been neglecting is each other. I'm so grateful for Peter's wisdom in this arena. My tendency is always to keep the shoulder to the wheel and work, work, work. While this tendency got me through college, two graduate degrees, any number of jobs, and a difficult course of therapy, it also is what I believe landed me in therapy in the first place. Therefore, when Peter says it's time to knock off for a while, time to go socialize, time to take a weekend away, time for just the two of us, I have learned to say OK. Yes, my husband is teaching me to procrastinate. I'm grateful, since this tendency got him through college, grad school, medical school, and any number of jobs *without* therapy. The key seems to be knowing when to do it, and how much.

We intend to keep taking time out for ourselves once we're parents. We'd like to have regular commitments to each other--date nights and the like--starting right away, so the kids are never unaccustomed to this behavior.

Send It On!

Although the adoption is still an "if" rather than a "when." we are finally ready to accept the things you've been saving for the children. We're looking for:

-girls' clothing, 3T (and up)
-boys' clothing, 2T (and up)
-shoes and boots, though we're not entirely sure of sizes
-toddler- or preschool-size backpacks (check with me first; we might be getting some through Freecycle)
-toys of all kinds, including outdoor toys. We already have one tricycle. Anyone have kid snowshoes they're no longer using?
-an "umbrella" stroller, preferably double; will consider single
-a swingset!

-The kids seem accustomed to having few things, but of good quality. The clothes we've seen on them are probably cotton (including denim) and wool, in plain, classic styles and colors. We will choose these out of whatever you give us, to help the kids look and feel familiar to themselves, unless they show preference for brighter, flashier, trendier stuff.
-Please try to keep "character" items to a minimum: the kids won't know the characters, and we might not introduce them for some time for our own sanity. :-)
-Please, no dishes unless you keep kosher.
-Please, no bedding. We've got allergies; best to let us buy new.
-Please, no stuffed toys. Ditto.
-Toys that make noise ARE allowed! The kids like to sing. If they're musical, they gotta start somewhere. :-)

Do let us know what you'd like done with items we can't use. Donate? Give back? Freecycle?
If you're shipping to us, please let us cover your costs. It's the least we can do.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

How It Feels

I can't believe I how much I am longing for these two little people who will so completely wreck my life as I know it.


I can't believe it's been nearly a week.

We were told on Friday, after M wrecked my sandcastles, that Mama had asked the children the previous night whether they might like to live with us. Apparently K answered "Yes!" and M answered, "Only if you come too, Mama." This dialogue might explain why they'd been so shy with us that morning. In other words, I may have been correct in believing that M didn't want to respond to me because of his fear that I will replace his Mama. ("If I don't look at her, she doesn't exist.")

After Peter and I signed the adoption papers, we gave Mama a photo album for the children to remember us by and a stuffed world globe to help them locate us. (The globe disappeared shortly. Maybe one of the older kids took it to play soccer with.) At present, the album contains only a photo of the two of us and a photo of the exterior of the house. We'll bring more photos later. (We had brought a photo of the kids' room, but we decided not to leave it because it shows a crib for M. He sleeps in a bed now, so we don't want to insult the little guy.) Mama showed both kids the house photo and asked whether they'd like to live there. K said, "Da!" M smiled, but that was enough.

Then came time to leave. Mama had taken both kids to get changed for their nap. Peter and I got up from the table and put on our coats. I hoped we would be able to see the kids one more time. My hopes were realized, but when Mama led them out to say goodbye, I was astonished to see K scrubbing at her eyes. She was crying! She uttered something I didn't understand which someone translated as, "I'm sad."

I knelt down and gathered her into my arms. I told her, "Ya toja" ("Me too").

K said something else. Someone translated: "Don't go!"

Peter was by now on his knees with his arms around M.

I heard someone mention the words "Dasha" and "Peter" and "America." K and M listened, then K said, "Come back." (In Russian.)

"Da," I said. Then, with tears in my eyes, I kissed her soft cheek and said, "Ya tibya lublu" ("I love you"). I heard Peter say the same to M. We traded places. When I said this to M, he finally looked at me.

Parting from Mama was a little easier, but not much. We hugged and kissed her at the top of the stairs. As we descended, she leaned on the railing and watched us go.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Unexpected Family

The last real narrative I've given is of our final visit, when M, who had suddenly begun rejecting me, took my hand and jumped off the side of the sandbox.

When we got the children into the apartment, K appealed to me for help getting off her coat and boots. I felt, as I was now getting accustomed to feeling, that she was checking items off her 'parent' check-list. This item might have been simply, 'Will Dasha take care of me? I have been so grown-up for my brother's sake that I sometimes miss being a little kid."

(Note to pre-adoptive parents of kids old enough not to need much physical assistance: everything we've read indicates that a child who asks for help that requires physical closeness isn't seeking the help; she's seeking the closeness. Give it.)

We sat down to tea and cake with the children, their Mama, and Nadia. We were waiting for Elena to arrive (our agency's Russia-side coordinator) so we could sign papers stating our desire to adopt. Our conversation was casual. Then Mama asked whether we intended to come back--that is, whether we wanted these kids. Stunned, I looked at Nadia and asked, "She doesn't know?" Then I turned to Mama, put my hand on her arm, and said, "Da! Da, pajalousta!" ("Yes! Yes, please!")

At that moment, Nadia's phone rang, and she got up from the table. Mama took the opportunity to ask me either, "Will you love them?" or, "Do you love them" (It was in Russian, so I wasn't sure.) I told her as best I could, "I love them, and so does Peter," and tears came to her eyes.

When Nadia came back, it was with papers. Apparently Elena had been delayed and couldn't make it. Once she seated herself and poured more tea, Mama asked "which denomination" we were. She meant which religion, Nadia said. We told her Jewish. We had to explain to Nadia what it meant--she'd thought it a branch of Catholicism--but Mama understood. I ought to note that Peter and I had been mildly nervous our entire time in Moscow about our Jewish background and had therefore not brought it up. We weren't hiding it--it's on the front page of our homestudy--but, on the advice of friends, we agreed not to discuss it unless we were asked. The adoption papers were sitting in front of us, unsigned. We held our breath, waiting for Mama or Nadia to call the whole thing off. It didn't happen. Mama simply nodded and told us that the children had been baptized Eastern Orthodox but she saw no barrier to conversion. She also told us that, though she herself was raised Eastern Orthodox, her mother was Jewish. Under Jewish law, this makes Mama Jewish as well.

So, as the children played under and around the table, Peter and I signed copy after copy of papers indicating our desire to adopt them. I had to stop a few times to wipe my eyes, and next to me, Mama cried too.

Mama told me--intending to be reassuring--that the children would soon forget her once we got them home.

As of this writing, Peter and I have decided to ask Mama whether she would like us to say kaddish for her mother. The mourner's kaddish is a Jewish prayer that the family of a deceased person says every year on the anniversary of their death. Mama's mother, having raised her kids Eastern Orthodox, has no one to do this for her, and we would like to do her this honor.

Regardless of what religion she or we or anyone else is, Peter and I have also decided to ask her whether she'd like us to teach the kids to think of her as their Russian grandma, and therefore not to forget her.

(In case you're shocked: read any current literature on open adoption--loosely defined, adoption where the child integrates rather than loses his or her pre-adoption relationships. Grieving, guilt, identity issues, and a host of other later-in-life issues all are greatly reduced when the adopted person has contact with as many of the characters as possible from all the different chapters in the narrative of his or her life.)

Bill of Health

We're home now, having left Moscow Saturday morning about 7:30 (Moscow time). We're both still processing everything that happened to and within us last week.

Something I forgot to mention was our communcation with Tufts-NEMC about the medical information. Briefly: they say the photos, video, and notes we sent indicate that the kids are in fine health. Tufts-NEMC see no signs of FASD in K and M's faces, and what we reported about their interactions, physical abilities, and so on all seem to indicate that the kids are developmentally right on target. We should still bring them into the clinic when we get them home, and again for whatever follow-up is recommended, but what we all believe on such slight acquaintance is that Peter and I won't have to have an intervention team waiting on our doorstep when the kids arrive.