Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 30, 2012

Exactly one year ago, we were preparing to leave the country and travel around the world to meet and bring home our youngest son.  All the cliches apply, especially the one about feeling like it was yesterday.  It was, to date, the most emotional, amazing, difficult 2 weeks of my life, and I remember every small detail, especially the way Bangkok assaulted all of my senses and the way this little man got into my heart so deeply, so quickly.  I'm forever grateful that God gave me the energy and desire to blog throughout our trip, b/c those memories are priceless to me, and I love looking back on them.  I hope to have time to process in writing what it means to have spent a year as a family of five, but until I can do that, I've decided to re-post the blog entries from last year on this site, since they were on a separate, password-protected blog, and we no longer have to keep up that level of privacy.  Thanks to so many of you who traveled this journey with us, who kept us afloat with your words and prayers while we were 8,000 miles away, and continue to love our family.  
Originally posted on May 30, 2012:
Tomorrow morning at 6:45 am we leave our house for the airport.  We travel a total of about 23 hours and arrive in Bangkok on Thursday night after 10pm.  I have lists, they are checked off (well mostly–sorry to the family staying here with the kids.  The floors did not get mopped and the freezer did not get cleaned out).  I’ve checked and re-checked the travel document check list, have my organized binder in the carry on, have my PEOPLE magazine crossword puzzle book, my paperbacks, my snacks (thanks, C!), our borrowed iPad with the newest season of Sherlock downloaded, a DVD player with some comfort movies just in case, and my husband!  I guess we are ready to go.  Of course on the way home we’ll need very few of these things and will instead be focused on yogurt melts, baby einstein videos, play-doh and crayons.
A friend of mine who traveled in February said she couldn’t believe when she stood in her bedroom over her suitcase and realized the weight of this moment:  I’m no longer waiting.  I mean, obviously, the child is not in my arms yet, but the long, drawn out process of months of ups and downs is over.  We’re leaving. On a jet plane.   Some moments I’m thinking really deep thoughts about the heaviness and importance of this once-in-a-lifetime trip.  Other moments I just keep saying to myself, “Don’t forget your passport.  Don’t forget your passport.”
Since Sunday I’ve had a pretty constant nervous, anxious excitement in my gut.  The butterflies came and they have not yet left!  I’m running on adrenaline and having a hard time sleeping.  Which works OK, because I’ve had a trillion details to take care of.  My emotions are all over the map.  One minute I’m crying because I don’t want to leave my big kids and the next minute I’m crying b/c they are driving me crazy and I can’t wait to leave them and then I’m crying b/c I feel guilty for having such a thought and I know i’m going to miss them SO MUCH!  See?  Do you feel sorry for my husband right about now?
Several people have asked what the schedule is for the next week or so.  We’ll get a firm itinerary on Friday, but we do know that on Sunday, June 3, we will meet Asher.  A social worker will pick him up from his foster home and bring him to our hotel.  She and he will hang out with us at the hotel for a few hours.  Then she will take him home.
It is possible that we will go to the foster family’s home that same afternoon.  That seems like a lot of outrageous emotions for one day, but we’ll do what we’re told!  Sometimes the families go on Sunday, sometimes on Monday.  When we visit his home, we’ll meet the foster family, give them gifts, take lots of pictures and video for Asher to see when he is older.  We’ll have a translator and be able to ask questions and convey just an inkling of our gratitude and love for them.
On Monday, the social worker will bring him to our hotel again.  We’ll all get a ride to a big mall and have forced public interaction for a few hours.  :)   It sounds like this is often a rough time, but it gives the child and parents some more time together.  If we haven’t gone to the foster family on Sunday, we’ll go after the mall visit.  Then Asher will again return to his foster family.
On Tuesday, the social worker will bring him to our hotel for good.  We will have custody of him from that day forward.  That is Tuesday, June 5th, and I’m sure it will be another crazy emotional day.  Just a heads up, it usually seems to also be the day the bloggers fade away out of exhaustion and lack of time to update.
The rest of the week is filled with meetings that I’ll explain later, with getting to know each other, and figuring out what makes our little guy tick.
We applied for this adoption 29 months ago.  I distinctly remember standing at the mailbox with a huge paper envelope and kissing it.  I know it’s cheesy, but I did.  Now we are at the end of this life-changing wait and the beginning of our new and improved family.  Surreal doesn’t really cover it.  As if the truth of those thoughts weren’t enough to break me, the AMAZING love and support we’ve received surely leaves me breathless.  I cannot thank you all enough.  I mean it.  I can’t!  Each little comment on a blog or FB, each hug, each smile, each question, each prayer…they ALL have been a part of this journey and made it more bearable and more exciting.  THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.
One last thing…my 4 of 4 prayer request is pretty basic: safety and health.   Call me old-fashioned, but it’s no small thing to travel around the world.  It’s hard to leave my babies on one side, even if it is to go get the other baby.  And health for me, Trent and Asher.  Trent is worried for me, b/c I’m very predictable: stress and lack of sleep= sick.  Usually hoarse.  So we’ve been downing the airborne and emergenC.  Will it help?  No idea.  But this is going to be challenging enough in full health–I don’t want to see what it would be like sick.  Pray that Asher, too, will stay healthy.  He’s going to have enough on his plate!  Thank you so much!  See you on the flip side. ;)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spider smackdown

Look at me!  Two posts in two days!

I was looking at most of my posts in the last year and they've all been so serious.  Although there was the one about cleaning up barf.  Heh. Which, by the by, after I got all preachy about what an expert I am, I overloaded the washer with Syd's pukey comforter, broke the washer and we had to get a new one.  Expensive lesson in pride.  And basic laundering technique.

To be honest, I have not completely felt like my light-hearted self this year.  It's been a bit of a serious year, starting even before Asher came home.  Not a lot of brain space left to be funny.  At least not in prose form.  (But you should hear my one-liners to myself in the kitchen!  Knee slappers, I tell you!)  It's probably a lot like when you add any new kid to a takes a long time to get to a new normal.  I remember feeling like I surrendered body, soul, mind and social calendar each time I had a newborn, and it took about a year to bounce back, so maybe by next month I'll feel very witty.

We did have a funny situation last week that I think is blog worthy.

Asher and I were home alone, and were headed out to make some copies of some adoption files.  We're still waiting to be finalized.  (Oh, and also?  The paperwork never ever ever ends. Just FYI.)  I'm not proud to say that the file was temporarily housed at The Dump.  What's the dump, you ask?  Well, it's the 18 inches of counter space (already a hot commodity in this house) between the stove and the fridge, closest to the entrance of the kitchen.  It's home to all manner of important items and junk and everything in between.  It gets organized and cleaned less than I'd like.  Right now I can assure you there is a cell phone, a headband, a spelling list, a lightsaber, junk mail, a recipe book, my purse and a field trip permission slip.

So, last week I went to get the special blue folder with adoption papers from The Dump, and I opened it up to double check before we left.  When I opened it, my heart straight up stopped.  And I screamed.  Loud.  A  huge and---I cannot emphasize this next part enough--extremely hairy spider was sitting there right on my petition to adopt.  I jolted back with catlike reflexes, and grabbed a couple of paper towels.  But in those 4 seconds, big hairy spider had left the blue folder and was crawling through The Dump.  I cannot explain what happened next, other than to say I lost my mind. I had one thought: I COULD NOT LOSE HIM.  I started shoving things frantically off the counter onto the floor.  I would think I had him, then he would crawl under something else, so I would scoop greater amounts of household junk with greater panic, therefore shooting them further and further around the kitchen.  With each jerky movement, I would let out a very girly shriek.  Finally the entire counter space was empty and I had him cornered, and I let my paper towels do the talking.  Triumphant in my victory, I yelled "AHA!" and held up the bug guts in the air.

This is the moment when I finally realized I had an audience. Standing on what was now a completely littered kitchen floor was my son, staring at me wide-eyed and mouth gaping.  I cannot even begin to imagine what was going through his mind.  His freak of a mother was waging full-on war with....paper?  I mean, he's had a lot of "firsts" in the last eleven months, but this one had to be in the top 5 disturbing experiences.  Then, just because I hadn't traumatized him enough, I found his expression and shock downright hilarious, and I was doubled over laughing at myself and what an idiot I had been.  Asher very slowly started to give me a half-smile, but it was definitely the hesitant kind of smile you give to placate a crazy person when you are worried they're going to detonate a bomb.

Between this story and my self-proclaimed hi-larious stand up routines, it seems I am still quite funny in my own kitchen.  So come on over everyone!  Don't mind the spiders.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lifebook Schmifebook

Oh blurg.  I kinda forgot I had a blog for a while there.

The strange this is, I LOVE writing. I love blogging.  But no matter how much I tell myself that my posts don't have to be long or witty, I get stuck in the trap that if I don't have a solid 30 minutes to write something thoughtful, then it's not blog-worthy.  Turns out I NEVER have 30 minutes to write something thoughtful.  So I just gotta write.  Whenever. Whatever.  Starting now.

This week I approached Asher's lifebook with a new determination.  For the third time.  Or seventh.  I've lost count.  I always get stuck.  In fact, choosing to write this blog post is a form of procrastination.

Background: "lifebook" is a special adoption word.  Common best practice research tells us that adopted children benefit from a simple, honest explanation of their story--the story of how they became part of your family.  The most ideal way to "tell" a child that they've been adopted is to start before they're cognitively able to even understand what that word means.  These days it's very rare (and unadvised) not to discuss a child's adoption openly in the family.  The lifebook is a way to write out the information in a way that is accessible, matter-of-fact and age-appropriate.  By reading this book often, you send a message to your child that their story is important and is not a taboo topic.

From my own interactions and readings, this much is widely agreed upon.

However, the exact contents of the lifebook, the wording, the pictures, the detail, the emotion, the point of view, the format, the material of the actual book binding itself....all of that is up for debate and varies from family to family.  I normally pride myself in being a very decisive person, never at a loss for words--as my close friends and family will gladly testify with rolled eyes.

But there's this lore around the lifebook.   Oh, the pressure!  I've heard of children sleeping with it under their pillow for years.   I've read of children who mistook subtext in their lifebook and therefore misunderstood basic aspects of their adoption story, but never bothered to ask clarifying questions until they were much older.   I've heard that you should not say it was God's plan.  I've heard you should say it was God's plan.  Something about choosing words to tell my son that his biological mother did not choose to raise him, then putting those words in permanent ink in a hardback book does not come easily to me.

I don't think it should.

And there it is.  That's what's so hard.  The lifebook is just one of a hundred tangible reminders that adoption is born of loss.  It's complicated to articulate, because it's...complicated.  I love making little shutterfly photo books at the end of each year, and I let myself be reminded of the fun and happy times we've had.  But although this storybook will end in smiles (mine and his), it begins with unimaginable heartbreak (hers and his).  We're so very blessed to have a photo of Asher's birthmother, and I'm going to include it in his lifebook. I've read my instructions to just add captions with basic facts that are known, and not project emotions.  But as an adult, as a mother, I CAN'T HELP IT.  I can't look at the face of this 16 year old girl and not want to hold her in my arms and sob with her.  I can't help but assume her solemn expression masks deep, profound sorrow.  I can't help but wonder--if family situations and financial situations and cultural expectations were different...would she still feel like she had no other choice?  And I have to assume Asher will ask the same question and many more.

It's important to me, because I think it's going to be important to my son, so I will, therefore, press on.  The dichotomy of adoption will never fade.  It's ugly and beautiful.  It's bitter and sweet.  It's loss and redemption.  It's pain and healing.  And it's all those things at once.  I'm suddenly very glad that I'm only having to write this book for a toddler level of understanding.  This grown up has a hard enough time wrapping my brain around it all.

Asher Saran has been home for 11 months.  Eleven!  Prepare yourself for many nostalgic and emotional posts next month.  Maybe by that time I'll have made it to page 2 of the lifebook.